Last week, we got word on who will play and what will be played on George Zack's final concert conducting the Lexington Philharmonic as its music director, on Sept. 12: violinist Aaron Rosand playing Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68.
So, why those pieces and this soloist? We asked Maestro Zack if he could talk about his choices in an e-mail. Here is his reply:
Why Aaron Rosand?: He was a very young artist when I was in school at Wichita State University in the late sixties. His performance was with the Wichita Symphony under James P. Robertson and he played the Sibelius Violin Concerto. He so impressed me with his musicianship and violin skills that I vowed one day to have an orchestra worthy of his appearance. I arrived in Lexington in September 1972 but all the soloists for the coming season had already been selected by the artistic committee. That was necessary in order to secure dates for artists that usually worked a year or two in advance of the coming season. That meant 1973-74 was the first time I was able to hire artists of my choice. The spring of 1973, I attended the Symphony League's national conference and studied the rosters of artist managements looking for Mr. Rosand. I found him and approached his management with the following introduction: "I would like to hire the finest violinist in the world for next season!" Jacques Leisser, his manager, quickly replied, "that would be Aaron Rosand." I answered back, "you're right, now let's talk dates and fee." Since I was new to my position, Jacques made Aaron available to us at a very low fee that would not cripple the LPO budget. We settled on a date and fee and Jacques asked what piece I would select. "Sibelius." He agreed and away we went on a history that included all the major concerti covering three centuries. We have since become fast friends and share many mutual friends here in Lexington and Florida.
Why the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto?: When I realized that my last concert was going to be this September, I called Aaron personally and asked him if he would consider playing with us again for my final appearance on the podium. He immediately agreed. I gave him his choice of works to perform and his immediate answer was "Tchaikovsky." That, in short, was the way that came about.
Why the Brahms First Symphony?: As to the selection of the major symphony on the program, Brahms First Symphony in C Minor for me was the obvious choice! When I arrived in February/March of 1972 to guest conduct as a candidate for the position with the LPO, my program consisted of The Freischutz Overture of Weber, the Bruch Violin Concerto, and Brahms First. I wanted to add a bit of Greek symmetry to my career here by ending my last concert with what I started with, hence, Brahms. I have always felt the work gave the orchestra a magnificent vehicle with which to demonstrate musicianship as well as technical prowess. It also would give me an opportunity to hear just what I was getting into as far as the ensemble's willingness to work, ability to perform a major work, and to assess the various sections of the orchestra. With this as my last work, the audience can now hear this marvelous ensemble they have in their midst and know that is more than worthy of support into the future.