Glen Dicterow, concertmaster of the NY Philharmonic is retiring.
The open, empty violin case backstage at Avery Fisher Hall stood as a stark reminder that Glenn Dicterow, the longest-serving concertmaster in the history of the New York Philharmonic, would retire after Saturday night’s concert. It awaited the return of the 1727 Guarneri del Gesù violin that the Philharmonic had lent him as its first among equals.
It has been 34 years since Mr. Dicterow became the Philharmonic’s concertmaster, or principal first violinist. When he leaves to devote himself to teaching, he will have held the position for 6,033 performances; played as a soloist in 219 concerts; helped transmit the wishes of four music directors and more than 200 other conductors; and toured in 174 cities in 51 countries, lugging his belongings in an old trunk that once belonged to Leonard Bernstein.
“It’s going to be a tough Saturday night,” Mr. Dicterow, 65, said in an interview this week in his studio, as he prepared for a series of final performances of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, running through Saturday, with the pianist Yefim Bronfman and the orchestra’s principal cellist, Carter Brey. “The last one. Saying goodbye.”
Audiences know the concertmaster as the violinist who sits to the conductor’s left, leading the orchestra as it tunes up and playing solos. But behind the scenes, concertmasters can wield power to shape an orchestra’s sound — which is why they are the best-paid players in orchestras. (Mr. Dicterow was paid $523,647 in 2011, according to the Philharmonic’s most recent tax filing.)
“Music, and the music business, have both changed quite a bit since Mr. Dicterow made his New York Philharmonic debut in 1967, at 18, performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in a concert led by Andre Kostelanetz. (A review in The New York Times said that he had “blended talent and immaturity in his performance.”)
Mr. Dicterow said that playing had changed, to some extent. “It’s a given that you’re supposed to play perfectly, virtuosically,” he said. “But maybe there’s a bit of the generic quality in music making — people don’t have as much individual style. I think that’s just a product of the age we live in.”
He seemed genuinely taken aback when talking about the 2011 bankruptcy of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the current labor woes at the Metropolitan Opera, which is seeking to cut costs. And he lamented the disappearance of music education and the lack of government support for music. If we don’t have that, what do we have?
But he said that he was looking forward to moving back to California — his father played in the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 52 years — to hold the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. And he said that while he would miss the Philharmonic, he would not miss the stress of sitting in the first chair.
Mr. Dicterow recalled a pep talk he received from a friend who had retired from the orchestra, who told him that he would enjoy listening to music without the responsibility. “He said that on the stage, you hear more or less what’s around you,” he said. “He said that it’s great to sit back and not worry about things — bringing people in or playing solos.THE NY TIMES