This unique book, based on extensive research on more than 180 concertmasters and dozens of interviews, looks at the training and personality traits that have yielded great leaders in the string sections of orchestras in the United States and Canada. After a brief overview of some of the early concertmasters in Europe, twelve chapters present the histories of the concertmaster position in twelve North American orchestras, together with in-depth profiles of twenty-two of the men and women who are the recent and present occupants of the first chair in these symphony and opera orchestras. America’s Concertmasters depicts their love affair with violins, their political and psychological acumen, their activism on behalf of their colleagues, and how they model ethical and professional standards. It describes in their words how they advocate for and cede authority to the conductor they serve. And it examines how they make musical decisions, react in crises, and in practical ways deal with the pressures of their solo work.
Mischa Mischakoff, widely considered the world’s finest concertmaster in the mid-twentieth century and called “Toscanini’s third hand” by critics and conductors, enjoyed a seven-decade career in the first chair. This biography by his daughter describes that career in Russia, Poland, and the top orchestras of America. It highlights as well the personal traits and experiences that made Mischakoff so outstanding as a concertmaster and that sustained him through revolutions, wars, and the politics of the world of music. The memoir is enlivened by the recollections of his family and students and some hundred photographs of Mischakoff and the conductors and musicians with whom he worked. An accompanying CD features excerpts of Mischakoff’s playing in his divergent roles as soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and concertmaster.