Two full-length CDs are included with the book: DISC 1: The Zaslav Duo (Bernard Zaslav, viola Naomi Zaslav, piano) DISC 2: Contains performances with the various string quartets of which Bernard Zaslav has been a member.
During the 1950s and the early 1960s Bernard Zaslav played viola in Broadway shows like Fiddler on the Roof, Once Upon a Mattress, and the Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess, while commissioning and performing works written by the most innovative composers of the time, like Milton Babbitt, Charles Wuorinen, and Ben Johnston for string quartet and the viola/piano Zaslav Duo with Naomi Zaslav. He made the first recordings of Charles Ives Quartets and many of the Dvorak String Quartets before joining the world-famous Fine Arts String Quartet, and touring with them all around the world. His life as a string quartet violist reached a zenith when he joined the Vermeer Quartet, and became one of the world s most celebrated string quartet musicians. Bernard Zaslav tells the story of his musical life and his travels from the perspective of a musician on the inside--literally, one of the inner voices of a string quartet. From the earliest days of his career he came into close musical and personal contact with iconic musicians, and he describes them and the musical world of the later 20th century with candid honesty, humility, and humor. This book is a document not only about the life of a string quartet musician, but a document about the professional, social, and artistic musical life that flourished in America during the pre-digital age. It was a time when a string quartet in residence was a university s crowning glory, a time when the audience for classical music was at its most sophisticated and its most demanding, and a time when the creation and performance of a new piece of music was something to be celebrated.
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Bernard Zaslav, who was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926, spent the first two years of his career in the viola section of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell, and the rest of the 20th century as the violist of the Kohon String Quartet, the Composers String Quartet, the Fine Arts String Quartet, the Vermeer String Quartet, the Stanford String Quartet, and the Zaslav Duo. He shared responsibility in these ensembles for commissioning, premiering, and recording new works by Elliot Carter, Milton Babbitt, Gunther Schuller, Ralph Shapey, Ruth Crawford- Seeger, Roger Sessions, Ursula Mamlok, Henry Weinberg, Billy Jim Layton, Charles Wuorinen, Ben Johnston, Seymour Shifrin, Andrew Imbrie, Samuel Adler, John Downey, Karel Husa, Mark Neikrug, William Balcom, and many others. Many of the 134 works of chamber music that he recorded for Vox, Turnabout, Laurel, Music & Arts, Nonesuch, Everest, Gasparo, CRI, Gallante, and Orfeo earned enthusiastic acclaim from critics and some won international awards. He served on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Northern Illinois University, and Stanford University, where he was able to influence hundreds of his students to continue the practice of commissioning, premiering, and recording music by living composers, and treating music by dead composers with equal reverence.Review:
"Bernie – I never got around to saying how much I loved your book, it was my bedside reading for about a week. It’s witty, erudite and charts one of the most distinguished careers of recent times. Hats off!" --Paul Silverthorne -Principal Viola, London Symphony Orchestra
"What a doll. Aren't all violists dolls?" ask the author, rhetorically.
The young Zaslav, fresh out of Juilliard but stumped for ideas, is unexpectedly given a chance to earn some cash playing the viola on Broadway. The trouble is, he's a violinist and needs to find a viola in short order. Sure enough, a violist pal (and the doll in question) helps him out. And there, one would normally say, a career is born. He will shortly be hired by George Szell for his Cleveland Orchestra - no small gig that - but after two years, dissatisfied and struggling somewhat to make ends meet, he returns to New York (now with wife and child), so throws in his lot with freelancing. Before long he has a busy diary of engagements and, finally a career is born. Zaslav will become one of America's foremost chamber musicians, his 12 Years as the Fine Arts Quartet's viola player perhaps the highlight, at least in terms of international acclaim. Zaslav is also a noted champion of modern music; his memoir, like the best memoirs livens up a chronological account with observations, historical notes, digressions, tangents, non-sequiturs, sardonic little digs, jokes and frivolous - even saucy -anecdotes. Earnestness of tone is of secondary importance, the conversational mood helped along with a liberal use of Yiddish and other idiomatic phrases, to the extent that one wishes there were a recording of the author's voice to help colour the words we read. Instead we get two CDs featuring Zaslav the violist, one of solo and duo items, another a selection of chamber music. If Zaslav's breezy narrative gives the impression that his successful career came suspiciously easily to him, these performances reveal the truth - that Zaslav is not only a doll but a player of exceptional quality. --Toby Deller - Classical Music Magazine, Oct.22, 2011
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