Born July 16, 1948, in Tel Aviv, Israel; came to United States, 1962; son of Yehuda and Miriam Lieberman Zukerman; married Eugenia Rich, May 26, 1968 (divorced); children: Natalia, Arianna; married Tuesday Weld, 1985. Education: Attended Juilliard School of Music, 1965-68. Addresses: Office: c/o Shirley Kirshbaum & Assocs. 7ll West End Ave., New York, NY 10025.

Violinist, violist, conductor--Pinchas Zukerman could have made an outstanding career with only one of these pursuits, but this multi-faceted artist combines all three. Known for his rich tone, masterful technique, and well thought-out interpretations of works for violin and viola, Zukerman performs with the leading orchestras and chamber ensembles worldwide. As a conductor Zukerman has garnered mixed reviews; yet he is in high demand for guest appearances. Seen often on commercial and public television and known as Pinky to his friends, Zuckerman enjoys an almost superstar status.

Pinchas was born into a musical family on July 16, 1948, in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is the only child of professional violinist Juhda Zukerman and Miriam (Lieberman-Skotchilas) Zukerman, who, concentration-camp survivors from Poland, had emigrated to Israel in 1947. At age five, Pinchas learned to play a recorder given to him by his father. After later trying and disliking the clarinet, he settled on the violin, which his father taught him. At age eight, he began studying with Ilona Feher, the noted Hungarian violinist who was also the early teacher of Shmuel Ashkenasi and Shlomo Mintz (see Newsmakers entry), at the Israel conservatory and the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv.

During a visit to Israel in 1961, celebrated cellist Pablo Casals and world famous violinist Isaac Stern heard Zukerman perform. Stern was impressed enough that he guided the course of the young violinist's education, even becoming his legal guardian to do so. With support from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation and scholarships from Juilliard and the Helena Rubinstein Foundation, Zuckerman was able to study violin and, beginning at agefourteen, viola with the famous string teacher Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

While studying at the Juilliard School, Zukerman also attended the Professional Children's School and the High School of Performing Arts, living with the parents of pianist Eugene Isotomin.

Zukerman, who admits that he was an arrogant child prodigy, found it difficult to adjust to life in New York City--he did not then speak English--and to being one of many musical prodigies. He rebelled against Galamian's insistence that he concentrate on the basics and maintain a rigid practice schedule, and often skipped school and roamed the streets. Finally, Stern took Zukerman to task. "I knew I had something in me, something on the violin that I had to say," Zukerman told David Hawley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "And I knew that eventually I was going to say it. With the guidance of these people it luckily worked out."

Zukerman ended his formal schooling when on May 16, 1967, he was co-winner with Kyung Wha Chung of Korea of the Leventritt International Competition. Publicity from this prize and his replacing Stern, who was ill, in a series of concerts set the stage for Zuckerman's solo career. Since then he has performed numerous solo recitals on both violin and viola and chamber music with many other noted artists, including Stern, violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Jacqueline Du Pre, flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, and the Guarneri and Cleveland quartets.

Though Zukerman had begun to study conducting while at the Juilliard School, he first became actively interested in conducting in the late 1960s when he played with the English Chamber Orchestra directed by Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim. Encouraged by members of the orchestra, Zukerman conducted from the concertmaster's chair works by Bach and Vivaldi. Pieces by eighteenth-century composers were often conducted by the lead violin before the advent of the conductor as we now know it. Zuckerman became more and more experienced at leading the group while playing the violin and in 1974 officially made his conducting debut with the English Chamber Orchestra. While he has since then guest conducted most of the major orchestras in the United States, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the National Symphony, reviews of his conducting are mixed.

In 1980 Zukerman assumed the directorship of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), the nation's only full-time professional chamber orchestra. During his seven-year tenure there, Zukerman increased attendence threefold, was instrumental in the building of a permanent home for the orchestra, increased the number of musicians in the ensemble, made eight albums on major labels, and led the orchestra on tours of the United States and South America. He often performed as soloist with the SPCO, conducting from the concertmaster's chair. Zukerman, tired of the administrative duties required of a music director, decided to leave the SPCO after the 1987 season, though he was offered a longer contract.

Since then Zukerman has increased his solo performance schedule and limited his conducting to guest appearances and the principal guest conductorship of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's International Festival. Zukerman limits his teaching to a few master classes in the summer, usually at music festivals, such as those at Aspen, Colorado, and Tanglewood, Massachusetts.

Zukerman lays claim to an impressive discography numbering more than seventy-five releases, which are widely representative of the violin and viola repertoire. His catalog of recordings for Angel, CBS Masterworks, Deutsche Grammaphon, London Records, Philips Classics, and RCA contains more than a dozen Grammy nominations and two awards: "Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra" for the Isaac Stern Sixtieth Anniversary Celebration, which contains Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, recorded as a tribute to Zukerman's long-time supporter; "Best Chamber Music Performance" for his Angel/EMI release of Moszkowski's Suite for Two Violins and Piano, Shostakovich's Three Violin Duos, and Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins.

After collapsing from exhaustion in March 1981, Zuckerman has been careful to pace himself more conservatively, though he has sacrificed none of the diversity of his efforts. He once told The Strad, "The diversity of my career has allowed me to explore all aspects of music, and I feel that my artistic life today is on a level of greater maturity. I hope that when the day comes that my abilities as a soloist begin to deteriorate, I will have the strength of character to retire from the concert stage and continue my contribution to music in other ways."

As a violinist, Zukerman plays a Guarnerius "del Gesu" instrument.

by Jeanne H. Lesinski

Pinchas Zukerman's Career

Concert violinist 1968--. With impresario, Sol Hurok, 1967-76; conductor, soloist English Chamber Orchestra, 1974, Mostly Mozart Festival, N.Y.C., 1975; guest conductor, soloist Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, N.Y. Philharmonic Orchestra; music dir. South Bank Festival, London, 1978-80, St.Paul Chamber Orch., 1980-87; toured with Isaac Stern; mem. trio with Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pre; recording artist with CBS, EMI, Philips Classics labels.

Pinchas Zukerman's Awards

Winner International Levintritt Competition, 1967.

Famous Works

Further Reading


Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 15 years ago

Mr Zukerman conducted the Berlin Philharmonic and played solo violin in a concert held end Dec 1989 or 2nd Jan 1990. The Berlin Wall was coming down as he played and the performance was outstanding, however I am ashamed to note I no longer recollect which concerto was played. I believe it was Beethoven ... or perhaps Tchaikowsky ... if only archives existed somewhere which might reveal the information!