Though it’s hard to believe, 2017 will mark the 60th anniversary of the New York Chamber Soloists.
We were originally formed because someone in the business had asked me to take care of their music office during the summer. They wanted to have a project for the next year, and I proposed using our major instrumental and vocal soloists to perform a series of Bach concerts—one with soprano, one with tenor, and one with bass. Those programs included vocal works like cantatas, concertos, and chamber music. We were extremely well-received. The New York Times’ Harold Schoenberg and the presenter asked what we could do for the following year. We proposed the idea of performing works by Mozart, Bach, and Stravinsky, including such unusual pieces as Stravinsky’s Pribaoutki and the Pastorale for soprano without words, oboe, English horn, clarinet, and bassoon. Again, the series was extremely well-received.
We started to conceive a third year, but people had written to us from all over the country by that time. In particular, the various universities in California—Los Angeles, Davis, Santa Barbara, and Berkley—urged us to bring our series to the West Coast. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of performing at almost every major venue in the United States, Paris, Monaco, and Spain. In the case of Spain and France, they were so interested in our series that we were taken on tour in both of those countries.
Of the more special projects was a sequence of three years where we performed with the great French actor-director Jean-Louis Barrault, including a version of Handel’s Acis and Galatea. Here again, it was performed in almost every major concert hall in the country. It was particularly fascinating to perform it in Bolivia. Also, after a concert in Montreal, their famed critic Eric McLean wrote that he would "cheerfully give up the entire Montreal music season for what he had heard the night before". In 1968, the State Department’s Office of Cultural Presentations called us to perform in Turkey, Lebanon, and eastern Europe—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, etc. The following year, they sent us to the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.
The intention of starting the group in 1957 was to use the first chair of the strings who were performing in the Musica Aeterna orchestra at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Isidore Cohen (violin), Gerald Tarak (violin), Ynez Lynch (viola), Jules Eskin (cello), Julia Levine (double bass), Samuel Barron (flute), myself (oboe), Allen Blustine (clarinet), Morris Newman (bassoon), and Gerard Schwarz (trumpet).
Each season brought about new repertoire for different reasons. Most recently, we’ve conceived a program called "Six Sextets", which includes works by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Prokofiev, and Vivaldi. We have also performed "Five Quintets", comprised of Mozart, Bach, and Prokofiev and three different sized ensembles in a program called "Paris in the 20s". These were performed in most major venues in the U.S. and in wonderful places like Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, France, Spain, three tours in South America, one of which took place in the not too distant past.
We’ve recently added to certain concerts such artists as Menahem Pressler (piano), Rachel Barton Pine (violin), and other pianists including Vladimir Feltsman, Horacio Gutiérrez, André Laplante, Misha and Cipa Dichter.