Taking it to the max

Renowned musician Maxim Vengerov has his hands full with a lot more than a virtuoso violin.

Maxim Vengerov 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Maxim Vengerov 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘These last three years of my life were extremely interesting and productive,” says violinist cum conductor Maxim Vengerov, speaking from his Monaco home prior to his performance in Tel Aviv on September 18. The concert will take place at the Smollarsh Auditorium (which serves as a temporary home for the Israel Philharmonic during the Mann Auditorium renovations) with a program that features Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Brahms’s Fourth Symphony.
Vengerov will be accompanied by an ad-hoc orchestra, composed of the Israeli orchestra players, led by Evgeny Tzirlin.
Three years ago Vengerov, one of the leading violinists of the younger generation, announced that he was temporarily quitting his busy solo career and switching to conducting. But he has recently returned to violin playing, combining both activities, and earlier this year he performed Brahms’s sonatas in Israel with his first conducting teacher, Vaag Papian.
“For me, these three ‘sabbatical’ years have been extremely productive,” he elaborates.
“During my entire life I’ve been learning a lot, and not only about violin playing. For example, there was a period when I discovered the Baroque violin.”
At the time he had said in an interview, “Its voice is so beautiful, I cannot imagine my life without it.”
“Yes,” recalls Vengerov. “I was teaching music and occasionally conducting. But I soon I realized that conducting was not something one can do like a hobby; it demands your total dedication. Whatever I do, I want to learn from the inside, and that was the reason for the temporary halt in my solo career. I entered the class of maestro Yuri Simonov from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He belongs to the Russian-German school of conducting and traces his musical roots back to Gustav Mahler,” he says.
“Now that I’ve conducted quite a few symphonic pieces, I feel it’s time to return to the violin, enjoy my two musical professions and be able to express myself through both. For example, I have pieces like Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in my repertoire, where I perform all the violin solo parts. By the way, there was only one musician who did it in the past, Eugene Isai, who was not only a virtuoso violinist but also a very good conductor.”
Vengerov is about to start a concert tour with Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, “which is rather a chamber orchestra, that of the Beethoven kind. I will play and conduct Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and in the second part of the concert I will conduct his Eroica symphony, which more or less represents the typical framework of my concerts nowadays – a violin piece followed by a symphonic one.”
He has also resumed teaching. “I just signed a contract with the Yehudi Menuhin Academy in Gstaadt, Switzerland, as music advisor. It involves lessons, masterclasses and performances with the Academy Ensemble. I’m also negotiating with the Royal Music Academy in London, and I lead the annual Musica Mundi International chamber music course and festival, where I work with 45 young talented musicians aged eight to 26.”
Among his numerous activities, the busy musician has inaugurated a 10- day master course in Gdansk, Poland.
“Studying with 27 young violinists was a sheer pleasure, and the course organizers asked me to continue next year. Hopefully, it will become an annual event.”
And as if this were not enough, Vengerov will head the jury of the 14th International Veniavsky Violin Competition in Poznan, give two concerts with the Moscow Philharmonic in Moscow and St.
Petersburg, tour Poland and appear with the Prague Philharmonic and pianist Fazil Sai in several venues in Italy, Germany, Lichtenstein. And he hasn’t abandoned his Baku orchestra, either.
So try to catch him here. It seems it may be quite a while before he has time to return.
Maxim Vengerov performs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto under Evgeny Tzirlin on September 18 at 8:30 p.m. at the Smollarsh Auditorium in Tel Aviv. www.cartis.habama.co.il