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Violin legend Zvi Zeitlin has died

The great violinist and teacher Zvi Zeitlin has died in hospital at Rochester, NY. He was 90 years old and gave his farewell recital in February. Here he is playing Mozart, just two years ago:

I first heard him on a recording of the Schoenberg concerto, conducted by Rafael Kubelik, still a cornerstone of the work’s interpretation.

Below is his bio from Eastman School at the University of Rochester, where he taught for 45 years:

Born in Dubrovna, Belarus, Zvi Zeitlin was raised and educated in Israel, where he attended the Hebrew University in Judaic Studies (1940-43). At age 11, he became the youngest scholarship student in the history of the Juilliard School. Receiving a diploma and postgraduate diploma from Juilliard, Zeitlin studied with Sascha Jacobsen, Louis Persinger, and Ivan Galamian. He served in the British RAF (1943-46) and concertized for British, American, and Soviet troops throughout the Middle East and Greece.

He has made solo appearances with the New York, Los Angeles, and Israel philharmonic orchestras; the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Vienna symphonies; La Scala, Concertgebouw, BBC, and New Philharmonia of London orchestras; Orchestre National de France and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Zeitlin has made frequent tours of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Central and South America.

He premiered the Schoenberg Violin Concerto in Buenos Aires (1964); it was recorded with Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian State Orchestra for DGG in 1971. It was reissued recently as “20th Century Classics” and is now a collector’s item. Gunther Schuller’s Concerto was commissioned by the Eastman School of Music as part of Zeitlin’s appointment as Kilbourn Professor in 1976. Zeitlin premiered it at the 1976 Lucerne Festival with the composer conducting. He then performed it in the U.S, Europe, and Australia with the Utah Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Halle Orchestra in England, the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra in Germany, and in Sydney, Australia. Zeitlin edited and published a newly discovered concerto by Pietro Nardini for G. Schirmer. He also has recorded for Vox, CRI, Gasparo, Pantheon, and Musical Heritage.

This is Zvi at work in a Mendelssohn concerto masterclass:

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  1. Mathieu says:

    Very sad news indeed. His Schoenberg with Kubelik is unequalled, but unfortunately very hard to find in Europe (I had to go so far as Argentina to find this CD!). A true loss.

    • It first appeared with Brendel on the other side, playing the piano concerto

      • Mathieu says:

        The CD I bought in Argentina comprises the piano concerto with Brendel, and the Berg concerto with Szeryng (Kubelik conducting the BRSO in all three concertos). This compilation has been issued by Universal Music Argentina, and I did not know of any reissue in Europe until your very post of today. The Schoenberg concerto is such a difficult piece, and Zeitlin seems to play it without effort, as if it was a Mozart concerto (which, for sure, can be quite tricky too). My only regret is not to have been able to see him in concert.

  2. I have such fond memories of Zvi Zeitlin from my summer at the Music Academy of the West back in 1997. I was preparing for the Paganini competition and practicing all day in a little room rather close to his studio. Every hour or so he would stop by and give me a little hint about something I was working on, even though I was actually taking lessons with Peter Salaff (another absolutely amazing person and musician). His generosity made a huge impression on me, and his advice keeps on giving with the passing of years. He was an inspiration on stage and off and will be greatly missed!

  3. Zvi was a force of nature.

    To have played the violin for over eight decades, as a master musician, beloved teacher and colleague was unequalled in the field.

    The funeral is tomorrow, Friday, May 4 at 1:00 p.m. EST at Temple Beth El here in Rochester.

    We’re all incredibly sad at such a rapid decline (he went into hospital on Saturday with pneumonia), but will celebrate an extraordinary life that shaped violin playing and the instrument’s repertoire for most of the 20th century, as well as the present generation of players who continue his legacy.

    • Mark Powell says:

      Shalom, Haver

    • Mark, If you or any colleagues would like to write a tribute, we’d be happy to publish it on Slipped Disc. Zvi was a great force in music, insufficiently appreciated. NL

      • Leora Zeitlin says:

        Many thanks for posting your comments about my father. He went out in a blaze of glory: a
        spectacularly beautiful all-Schubert farewell concert (with Barry Snyder) in February with a gala 90th birthday
        celebration, and this past Friday, he finished his obligations for his teaching
        year at the Eastman School, and went into the hospital the next afternoon. He was
        the youngest ever full-scholarship student at the Juilliard School when we went
        there at the age of 11, and he was the oldest faculty member in the history of
        Eastman to give a faculty concert at 90. We’ll miss him, but he left us exactly how
        he wanted — quickly and without too much suffering, and serving music until the
        end. For all of that we are thankful. Leora Zeitlin

  4. Why the masterclass video? He doesn’t say a word in it.

  5. Marie Lamb says:
  6. A great violinist and a great teacher. He will be missed by many.

  7. Francis Crociata says:

    The Mozart clip is a double pleasure in also having the pianist Barry Snyder who’d collaborated with Zvi in the short-lived, but incandescent, Eastman Trio for six years and in duo-recitals for over four decades. Only some of the Trio’s discs have made it to CD and , unfortunately, not their complete Schubert set. The rarist of Zeitlin treasures is an lp of the complete violin/piano works of Stravinsky (with Snyder) made for Pantheon Records in the early 1980s–to my knowledge never issued on CD.

  8. Mr. Zeitlin’s death notice can be read & Message to the family will also be received here:

    • Martin Bookspan says:

      Dear Marianne, Hilly and Leora,

      The news of Zvi’s death hit me like a ton of bricks. Though our families have been out of touch for years, I was thrilled to speak with Zvi on the phone just a few days before his 90th birthday concert. He sounded, as always, full of life and plans. As you know, I’m sure, the two of us went way back–to the time when he was studying at Tanglewood in the late ’40s. One of the joys of my life was engaging Zvi in conversation, and not only about music, about history, philosophy, literature, Zionism, Talmud, and on and on.

      I lost my beloved Janet in September 2008, but from olam haba she joins me, along with Rachel, David and Debbie in wishing you all peace and m’nucha.

      Much love

      Marty Bookspan

  9. Dear Mr. Lebrecht and all,

    I am a long time subscriber of the Strad Magazine and also one of many fortunate musical children of Mr. Zvi Zeitlin. I finished my DMA degree at Eastman School of Music back in November, 2008.
    It is very hard for me to believe about his passing after these two weeks. I was just on the phone with him two weeks before his passing and complimented his wonderful rendition of the whole Schubert program at his farewell Eastman faculty recital.
    His legacy will live on among us forever.

    Most sincerely,

    Lin He
    Assistant Professor of Violin, Louisiana State University
    Acting Concertmaster of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra

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