Last week I interviewed violinist and conductor Jerome Rosen and violinist and violist Xiao-Fu Zhou for this article on the Independence Sinfonia's May 5 concert. It was my first talk with Mr. Zhou and my second with Mr. Rosen, and I enjoyed both interviews.
I don't mention this in the article, but it turns out that Mr. Rosen and I go way back, after a fashion. He played with the Cleveland Orchestra back in the 1960s, under George Szell, and his violin enhances the textures in some of my favorite recordings, including the Bruckner Third (my favorite single Bruckner recording), the two Brahms Piano Concertos, and highlights from the Ring. I also used to own Szell's recording of the Beethoven symphonies, but I gave it to my mother-in-law years ago when I switched over to CDs.
Rosen also told me he is the pianist in the Boston Symphony's recording of the Ives Fourth Symphony. The part is fiendishly difficult, he said, and it took him four weeks to learn. I listened to my cassette transfer of the LP today on the way to work. The Ozawa-BSO recording has been overshadowed by others in my estimation, and I hadn't listened to it for years, but I was surprised by just how exciting it is.
Inevitably, the question arose: How does a musician with such a rich career behind him end up conducting an amateur orchestra in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania? The answer, of course, is love. Mr. Rosen's first serious girlfriend plays with the Sinfonia. He lost touch over the years, he told me, and, like many couples who lost touch in the years prior to the 21st century, they reconnected via the Internet. (Hi, Lynn.) They have not reunited in a romantic sense — her "guy," as he put it, is the Sinfonia's first clarinetist — but the orchestra needed a conductor, and when she asked, he couldn't refuse.
"The rest is history," he said.
I have to work May 5, unfortunately, but I’ve been invited to the May 3 dress rehearsal.