Performing again with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra later this month will be Itamar Zorman. In addition to working with the IPO, Zorman has performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras throughout the world – the American Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, Het Gelders Orkest in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Tokyo Symphony in Suntory Hall, and Polish Radio Chamber Orchestra, amongst others.
This talented musician recently took the time to discuss his upcoming engagement with the IPO, the release of his debut album, and much more. Read excerpts from his interview below.
What made you want to become a classical musician?
I come from a musical family; both my parents are musicians. My father is a composer and my mother a pianist so I heard a lot of music at home. From the beginning I just really loved the sound of the violin in particular, which is why I chose that instrument – also neither of my parents played it! It was around the age of 13 or 14 that I got really serious about it.
What was the first piece of music you learned and how old were you?
I was six-years-old and started learning by the Suzuki method, so the first thing I played were different variations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Who is your most important musical influence?
There are many people who have influenced me over the years. I think my teacher at Julliard, Sylvia Rosenberg, was really extremely important in forming who I am as a musician and the way I play the violin. I also recently worked closely with Christian Tetzlaff when creating my CD, he helped me a lot.
Then as a kid back in Israel my mother brought me to play for Joseph Seiger a few times. He is a pianist, but the way he spoke about music had a big impact on me. He encouraged me to look for different colors in music. For instance, if the harmony changes suddenly it’s as if the sun was shining and then a cloud covers it, that changes the mood a little, it gives it life. Also, I started to think of the violin as speaking voice – you can really change its tone and say many different things with it.
It is on loan from Yehuda Zisapel, a very good amateur violinist, who has lent some of his instruments to young musicians. Seven or eight years ago I was lucky to get to know him through my teacher in Israel, Hagai Shaham, who established a connection between the two of us. Mr. Zisapel listened to me play and afterwards offered to loan me this instrument. It has a very powerful sound that projects extremely well in larger halls.
How did the Israeli Chamber Project, of which you’re a founding member, come about?
When I grew up in Israel there was a very strong chamber program at the Jerusalem Music Center. In the summer they would have a few weeks of camp just for chamber music so you really got to know a lot of great repertoire and I became very interested in this style.
The Israeli Chamber Project was founded in 2008 by a group of us that were almost all at Julliard at the time. We had a vision of presenting high quality chamber music performances in not only large theaters but also in remote locations to reach new audiences. It’s based both in Israel and New York and has been doing very well.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I like what I’m doing right now, which is a combination of playing solo and chamber music. I feel that they nurture each other and if I could keep doing both that would be wonderful. I want to keep improving and learning – if I manage to do that I would be very happy.
You’ve performed around the world with many of the top musicians and orchestras – is there something unique about the IPO for you?
Definitely. First of all, it really is a dream come true. My grandmother was a subscriber to the IPO for decades and when I was kid she used to take me to concerts. I saw some great violinists playing there and you know, as a young kid studying, of course I had a dream that maybe I will be there on stage one day. And next month to be in the renovated theater with Zubin Mehta…from an emotional standpoint its very moving for me.
Also, more and more I see people whom I grew up with playing in the IPO, some really young wonderful musicians that I’ve played with in different circumstances and now they’re in the Orchestra so, in a way, I will be playing with friends.
Is there a specific memory of playing with the IPO that stands out for you?
Last time I played the Mendelsohn Concerto, and I played it nine times, that’s a lot of performances of the same piece. But then, I was looking at the Orchestra and there are some people who have played that concerto for decades – 100s of times! And I was looking at them and they were really in the moment and trying to make something of it – and it was wonderful. It takes a lot to not make it a routine; they really put their all into each performance.
Do you have any pre-concert rituals?
I try to imagine what it will be like to play in the hall, maybe play the first few phrases and imagine I’m there. It’s important to prepare mentally and know what you’re getting into. If you feel like you’ve already done it, even if just in your imagination, I find that it’s helpful.
Your debut album just came out in the US can you talk a bit about the works on it?
The CD was recorded in Germany and was a collaboration between the Kronberg Academy, where I was studying, and Frankfurt radio. I wanted to choose pieces that are particularly close to my heart. So there are two composers who are included that are my favorites at the moment, Schubert and Brahms. Then there needed to be some 20th century music because I love the diversity in that time, so there are works by Messiaen and Hindemith.
Then there is a piece that I just particularly have an emotional connection to by Chausson called Poeme – it’s a French romantic piece inspired by a story of Turgenev’s called Song of Love Triumphant. It’s a very mysterious story but very powerful, about two brothers or friends that are in love with the same girl. One is an artist and one is a scientist. The scientific one is chosen by her and the artist moves to the Far East and studies the dark arts. When he returns weird and mystical things start happening. The piece itself is extremely romantic, particularly the harmony. It is complicated but very evocative and passionate – the kind of music I like.
You mentioned that Schubert and Brahms are currently your favorite composers, why is that?
I think I connected to them at a young age because of chamber music. These are composers in particular whose chamber music is some of their best writing.
Schubert is for me the most personal of composers, when you play his music it seems to me like you really feel what he felt. It’s hard to explain. To me, he really knows the human soul, he really has a deep understanding of what people feel, what people want, what they are hoping for.
And then when Brahms is at his best, for me, there are very few who combine the intellectual and the emotional in such a perfect way. There are pieces of his that I adore just at the first hearing, but then I look at them closely and understand how cleverly they are written. With Brahms the music is very constructed, every note has a purpose. The craftsmanship is wonderful and it makes you appreciate and feel the music even more – the appreciation becomes intellectual and emotional.
What do you like to listen to when not performing or rehearsing?
It is still classical. I would say I like listening to piano music very much, I’m always surrounded by pianists and I really like their repertoire. Listening to it I don’t have to be involved, I can just appreciate it rather than think about the playing.
If you weren’t a musician what career would you want to have?
I would be interested in having something to do with space. I’m just very curious about it. I read books about it and there is so much unknown out there, I would love to learn more.
Also, I’m not really tall enough, but at some point I would have loved to be a basketball player…