Sometimes a star on stage, the concertmaster is always a worker behind the scenes
By Peter Alexander Oct. 4 at 11:15 a.m.
If you have attended a classical orchestra concert, you’ve seen the concertmaster.
He or she enters after the rest of the orchestra is onstage, to polite applause. They ask the oboe to play a note, and the orchestra tunes. Once the music starts, they play any solos that are written in the orchestra score.
But what else do they do?
Quite a bit, it turns out. They serve as leader of the violin section, and by extension all of the strings; they help the conductor achieve his or her interpretation; they facilitate communication between conductor and players; they audition new players; and sometimes they represent the orchestra to the public. All of this work is done behind the scenes, which makes the concertmaster a very important person. It’s also why the conductor shakes the concertmaster’s hand at the end of the concert.
But the devil’s in the details, and to get the details, I talked to four current and former concertmasters. One of them is Glenn Dicterow, retired concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, who was in Boulder the last week of September for CU Bernstein at 100, the ongoing celebration of the Leonard Bernstein Centennial at the CU College of Music.
I also talked to Chas Wetherbee, concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic, who held the same role with the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony; Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra in Santa Cruz, California; and Calin Lupanu, concertmaster of the Colorado Music Festival orchestra in the summer and of the Charlotte (North Carolina) Symphony.
Read more in Boulder Weekly.