Renowned violinist Zvi Zeitlin is no stranger to travel - in the process of a career spanning over seven decades, the New York-based musician has performed with orchestras throughout the world.
But Zeitlin's trip to Russia last month under the auspices of the Ars Longa International Music Festival held particular significance for the 84-year-old musician, who's been called "one of the violin world's grand old men" and a "true musical Methuselah." The trip to Moscow marked the first time in 82 years that the master musician had been back to the country of his birth.
In 1924, the two-year-old Zeitlin was banished from the then-USSR with the rest of his family - punishment for the Zionist pamphlets that had been found in his father's possession. The performer, who in the intervening years has taught master classes in Japan, China, Korea and across Europe, had been scheduled to visit Russia with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1967, but the trip was cancelled after the Six Day War broke out.
Zeitlin, who has also taught at the Jerusalem Music Center, said he saw his recent trip as "arriving full circle."
"I've always wanted to return to Russia. It's such an integral part of who I am," he said, adding that he would be accompanied on the journey by his daughter. Her presence, he said, would give the visit an added poignancy. "It's so important that my children have an understanding of their heritage," he said.
His family's history includes the turbulent 1924 arrival in Palestine. His father's connections within the Soviet communist party had enabled him to escape internment in Siberia, and after bringing his family to Palestine the elder Zeitlin carefully nurtured his son's talent for violin. At 11, the younger Zeitlin became the youngest ever scholarship student at New York City's Julliard School, where he completed his musical studies before returning to Palestine. His skills would come in handy during the Second World War, when Zeitlin was recruited by the Royal Air Force to perform for Allied troops stationed in the Middle East.
In the years since, Zeitlin has played with the New Yok, Los Angeles and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras under conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta and Rafael Kubelik. He currently holds the Distinguished Kilbourn Professorship at the Eastman School of Music, one of the top-ranked music programs in the United States.