Making music with Mintz

Internationally acclaimed violinist Shlomo Mintz adds another string to his bow, as he performs with the Ra’anana Symphonette this week.

Mintz 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Blue Press)
Mintz 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Blue Press)
This week, the Ra’anana Symphonette will have the rare privilege and pleasure of performing under the baton, and bow, of internationally acclaimed Israeli violinist-conductor Shlomo Mintz. Although Mintz and the orchestra have shared a stage once before, this will be the first time they will do business together on a more extended basis.
Mintz and the Symphonette will perform three concerts this week – tonight, Thursday and Saturday, all starting at 8:30 p.m. – with works by Glinka, Mendelssohn and Dvorak.
Mintz says he is delighted to finally have the opportunity to get to grips with the Ra’anana Symphonette, although his path has crossed that of some of the players in the past.
“We have not had the opportunity [to play together] so far mainly due to time constraints,” he notes. “Of course some of the musicians I know from further back from different occasions.”
Mintz was born in Moscow in October 1957, and made aliyah with his family at the age of two. He began studying with Hungarian-born Holon resident Ilona Feher, one of the last representatives of the renowned Central European Violin School, at an early age. Feher introduced Mintz to Isaac Stern, a prominent violin virtuoso known for discovering new talents who soon became Mintz’s mentor.
“My parents discovered my talent, and I followed afterward,” Mintz observed several years ago. His path to stardom was nothing short of meteoric and he began his stage career at the age of just 11, as a soloist with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and he was soon in high demand by various orchestras, tenderness of age notwithstanding.
In terms of cultural baggage Mintz and the Symphonette appear to be a snug fit, but the violinist prefers to focus on the job in hand rather than national roots.
“I find that the common denominator between musicians should always be about the music itself and not their country of origin,” Mintz declares, adding that his place of birth does not have much bearing on his choice of composers.
“In my opinion, every musician who works on different levels and encounters different forms of music, needs to suit himself to the specific situation. This has a lot to do with will.”
Despite his periodic visits to this part of the world, Mintz was also not given to passing judgment on the state of health of the classical music community in Israel, and whether the influx of large numbers of Russian- born musicians, in the mass aliyah of the early 1990s, has had a strong bearing on the standard of the art form here.
“I believe that situations vary all the time and it is difficult to answer this question, even without attempting to do so in a diplomatic manner. It all depends on the will of the conductor and musicians to create. The preparations for the concert have much to do with the attained quality. We should examine the situation individually and not in general.”
MINTZ MAINTAINS a very tight performing schedule throughout the year and spends much of his time globetrotting between concert halls and festivals. He even manages to fit in some festival artistic director duties.
Does that leave him any time to take a look at new works, composers and musicians? “Yes and no. It mainly depends on the time and willingness to find something new. I am occupied with various other issues that are not part of promoting creation, or discovering compositions. I have limited time, as I also manage festivals, music academies, competitions and other projects.
Still, I am always glad to hear about a new musician with surprising abilities or a new piece that actually introduces something new.”
Mintz was not the first musical wunderkind and, of course, there are plenty of examples of talented kids devoting most of their waking junior hours to some discipline or other. But there have been some dismal instances of youngsters experiencing burnout and eventually dropping out of the race. Mintz believes it is very much a matter of how the individual copes with the pressures of achieving success at such a young age.
“Next year, I will be celebrating my 50th anniversary on-stage. During these past 50 years, I can certainly say that I have experienced many highlights but I also have encountered difficulties. In the end, the artist should develop his or her own personal career, as well as maintaining the qualities that derive from the essence of being an artist, and coping with difficulties that are not necessarily music related.”
With that in mind, does Mintz ever wish he had embarked on a career at a later stage? And does he have any hindsight-supported tips for other talented young musicians? “I do not have any specific advice, as any advice I could give might not necessarily be applicable. Every young artist should acquire the intelligence for recognizing his weaknesses as well as his strengths. It is important to note that any advice I might have [to give] is related to [my] past experiences and situations and might not be suitable and practical in the ‘Internet Era’. For this reason we should examine each case in its own right.”
With his early start to his career, and the time he spent with Feher and Stern, Mintz naturally feeds off earlier musical sensibilities.
“I have always been known for closely adhering to the original work and the composer’s instructions. But, certain things are bound to stay the same, even in our ‘Internet Era’, such as the morning sunrise. Having said that, there are many accompanying elements that can assist and improve, and even make slight changes, but they will never change the main principal of recreation.”
Shlomo Mintz and the Raanana Symphonette will perform at the Raanana Arts and Music Center tonight, Thursday and Saturday, at 8:30 p.m. For more info: http://www.mishkanraanana. com. For tickets: (09) 745-7773.