Mr. Totenberg will be honored immediately following the concert at NESE’s benefit reception, “Jazz Pizzicato,” at Symphony Hall. Contributions from this event will support the orchestra’s innovative educational program, including String Fever at the elementary level, Kids to Concerts for middle-schoolers and the high school oriented New England Musical Heritage Initiative.
Totenberg, born in Poland in 1911, is renowned throughout the world as a concert violinist, but the Boston musical community especially reveres him for his teaching; he was a professor of music at Boston University, where he headed the String Department from 1961 to 1978, then served as director of the Longy School of Music until 1985.
"He is my teacher, for the rest of my life," said Ikuko Mizuno, long-time violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. "I am not taking lessons, but I consider him my mentor, my father-figure, my friend. Whatever he taught me, I think of constantly when I teach."
When Mizuno first arrived from Tokyo as a graduate student, she said, "I had never lived anywhere except my parent's house. I felt very intimidated by his presence. But he has three daughters. I watched them dealing with him and secretly followed them." She laughed. "I don't think he knows."
(One daughter, Nina Totenberg, is National Public Radio's award-winning legal affairs correspondent.)
Totenberg's teaching stood Mizuno in good stead. She became the BSO's first "permanent substitute" under Erich Leinsdorf and was chosen for her permanent position by William Steinberg, in 1969, along with Ann Hobson Pilot.
A child prodigy, Totenberg made his debut in 1923 at 11 as soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. He made both his British debut in London and his American debut in New York in 1935. Fleeing from the Hitler regime, he moved to Paris, and when living there also became dangerous, he immigrated to the United States in 1938.
In 1936, Totenberg toured South America with Artur Rubinstein and gave joint recitals with Karol Szymanowski whose Violin concerto No. 1 he premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1964.
Acclaimed for interpretations of both classical and contemporary music, Totenberg has introduced the Darius Milhaud Violin Concerto No. 2, the William Schuman Concerto, and the Krzysztof Penderecki Capriccio. He also premiered Paul Hindemith's Sonata in E (1935), the Barber Concerto (new version) and the Martinu Sonata, as well as giving the American premiere of Honegger's Sonate for violin solo.
Totenberg also has appeared with the New York Philharmonic and other major orchestras in the US and Europe. In recital he has appeared at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Library of Congress, New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Queen Elizabeth Hall. He has been featured in the most important music festivals of the world, notably Salzburg's Mozarteum, Tanglewood Festival, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival and the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara and the Aspen Music Festival.
For three years, New England String Ensemble has presented a “Muses and Mentors” award annually to a "great artist shaping the next generation."
Totenberg, this year's honoree, "represents in the best possible combination of great musicianship and commitment to education, to bring up a new generation of musicians, which is what we as an orchestra try to do," said Music Director Federico Cortese,
Celebrating its dual mission of performance and education, the New England String Ensemble spring concert will showcase the 2007 NESE String and Flute Competition winners. Following Berg’s Lyric Suite, 17-year old flutist Brendan Ryan of Needham performs J.S. Bach’s Suite in B minor. The first half continues with 17-year-old cellist Tony Rymer of Dorchester performing the Haydn Concerto in C. After intermission the critically acclaimed Ensemble presents the lyrical and spirited Serenade in E by Antonin Dvorak.