Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow, NY Philharmonic
Marrying ease and expertise, the award-winning violinist Glenn Dicterow speaks of his various lives—concertmaster, guest soloist, teacher, recording artist, orchestra and chamber musician —with such purpose and delight that it’s clear he’s always the right man in the right spot at the right time—in all his roles. A teacher who takes obvious pleasure in his students at Juilliard and at the Manhattan School of Music; a soloist who has played with just about every prestigious orchestra in the world; a classical recording artist whose supple sounds can also be heard in various film scores (among them, The Untouchables, The Turning Point, Altered States, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Interview with a Vampire); a family man who performs with his wife, the highly regarded violist Karen Dreyfus, with whom he founded the Lyric Piano Quartet (in residence at Queens College, where he also gives master classes); a parent whose children freely choose their instruments and genres; and most of all as a concertmaster at the New York Philharmonic, Glenn Dicterow evidences the kind of grace, modesty and confidence that go a long way to explain why the NY Philharmonic, the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world, founded in 1842, continues to be “the” orchestra to be in and to hear.
Glenn Dicterow, who for many years previous to coming to the New York Philharmonic, had been with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, says that the New York Philharmonic is more “crusty.” He came east when he was just 30 and faced some rather formidable, establishment figures, but he won their respect and, one would guess from his manner, their affection as well. How did he do it? A slight pause, a bit of a laugh—“honey and sugar?” No doubt, but no easy accomplishment, winning over New York City musicians, especially considering the responsibilities, obvious and subtle, he had to assume as concertmaster: tuning the orchestra, first and second violin sections, coordinating the bowing, working on sectionals, being a kind of assistant conductor, and attending the various committees that effect a smooth running of an orchestra.
Although Glenn Dicterow began his professional life at eleven as soloist, playing the Tschaikovski Violin Concerto, he began studying violin at the age of eight, a rather late stage by the Suzuki point of view. Is there a typical age children should start? “Five or six, for strings, though perhaps a bit later for cello,” he suggests, but learning an instrument is more than technique, it also means learning to read music. Of course, because his famous father Harold Dicterow was principal of the second violin section of the LA Philharmonic for 52 years, Glenn Dicterow certainly came to his love of music naturally, but he also must have been an unusually talented youngster to wind up studying with, among others, Jascha Heiftetz, soloing at the age of 18 under the baton of Andre Kostelanetz, and earning the regard of Leonard Bernstein, his idol, and his mentor, Zubin Mehta.
Amazingly, given all his achievements, Glenn Dicterow cites teaching as his long-range passion. Pre-college, he says, is the most exciting time to stimulate, to inspire youngsters. He knows that many of his students will not become soloists, even if they come in first in various competitions. The upside, however, is that it is possible—and desirable—for them to think about playing in orchestras, though once upon a time, even this goal was suspect. His own father, he points out, did not encourage him to become a musician because he would be able to work no more than 32 weeks a year and would have to “live out of a suitcase.” Today, musicians can fill out a full year, plan their lives against advance schedules, have a home base, and have a family.
A confessed Romantic (with special love for Richard Strauss and Beethoven), Glenn Dicterow also admirably supports contemporary composers, and is enthusiastic about the promise of technology—iTunes, for example and improved video—to make it possible for youngsters to hear and see concerts, so essential a part of their—and their parents’—musical education.#