When curtains of The Granada Theatre part on the evening of January 27 and kick off the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s latest performance in Santa Barbara, the local crowd will be in for the treat of seeing seeing a conductor and soloist rolled into one, the orchestra’s principal guest conductor Pinchas Zukerman.
Between two Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky pieces that will bookend the performance, the conductor will lead the ensemble on his violin rather than with his conductor’s stick on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219,” also known as “Turkish.”
As the concerto is a piece that he has played often, Mr. Zukerman told the News-Press that the Mozart number is the perfect one for him to simultaneously demonstrate his two most tantamount skills.
“It feels fitting that I will be acting as both soloist and conductor for this one, as it’s a piece that I’m comfortable with and feel I can lead well,” he said.
Over the course of his five-decade career, Mr. Zukerman has earned a reputation as a world-renowned violin soloist and according to the RPO website, joined Great Britain’s national orchestra as principal guest conductor in 2009. He has also worked as a conductor for the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa and the symphony orchestras of Toronto and Indianapolis. To Mr. Zukerman, leading orchestras and playing his instrument of choice are of equal importance to his musical knowledge and complement each other. As he explained, being a conductor demands studying every part of a musical score, which he believes has made him a better musician over the years. Additionally, years of performing on violin and viola prepared him for becoming a conductor because understanding musicians is a necessity for leading orchestras.
“To be an effective conductor, you must know how your orchestra thinks and works; and to know that, you must be a musician,” he stated.
Before and after Mr. Zukerman breaks out the violin to play Mr. Mozart’s “Turkish” concerto, the RPO will showcase Mr. Tchaikovsky’s “Polonaise” from the opera “Eugene Onegin” and “Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.,” respectively. If there’s anything tying the evening’s three pieces together, it’s all-around admiration. According to Mr. Zukerman, Mr. Tchaikovsky admired Mr. Mozart’s works and even referred to him as a “Musical Christ.” Despite the fact that the two Tchaikovsky pieces featured during the concert were not well liked by critics at the time they premiered, Mr. Zukerman feels the same about both composers.
“Just as Tchaikovsky admired Mozart, I admire both of them. I really enjoy working with their music and feel that these pieces flow nicely together,” he said.
Referring to the featured pieces as “great works,” Mr. Zukerman is confident that the Royal Philharmonic’s renditions will resonate with the Santa Barbara audience and hopes the crowd “likes the feeling of music that comes off the stage.”
Tickets for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s January 27 performance cost between $41 and $121 and can be purchased online at www.granadasb.org. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. at the Granada Theatre, located at 1214 State St.