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Inside look at the high-velocity life of a young virtuoso of today

By Thor Eckert Jr. / December 4, 1980



Boston

At age 26, violinist Peter Zazofsky has accrued such important honors as the Grand Prize at the Montreal International Competition, third at the Wienawski Competition in Warsaw, a Leventritt Foundation award, and, most recently, the Gold Medal Second Prize at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels. His father, George Zazofsky, was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His uncles include Harold Gomberg, former principal oboe of the New York Philharmonic and Ralph Gomberg, current principal oboe of the BSO.

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Among Other important dates in Peter Zazofsky's schedule this season ar three performances of Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto, with the BSO celebrating its centenniary this season.

I caught up with Mr. Zazofsky between trips to Europe. He is not only gregarious, he is articulate, and deeply dedicated to music -- not just a career in music but in the constant striving to perfect his insights into the composers' wishes -- the mark of all great performing artists.

There is always the danger, on the competition circuit, of eventually becoming an efficient technician rather than a rounded musician.

Yes, though because there has been so much adverse publicity regarding "competition players," judges are consciously looking for something a little more personalized these days. In my experience, when you have 50 first-class violinists competing against each other, it's from the beginning a nonmuciscal environment. Competing against anyone is antimusical. Right? I mean music is just not like that. It's not the first one to finish the caprice who wins.

I find that when there are 50 violinists, maybe ten are first clas and maybe five are really gifted. The individualist -- the one who is his or her own player, and not a "product" -- is going to stand out.

Which competition helped you the most to further your career?

I have a couple of answers to that. The San Francisco competition that I won at age 19, when I was still very green as a player was the biggest shock to me, because I felt I had the least chance of winning. The finals included Eugene Fodor and a very fine cellist name Paul Tobias, both older, and i was really the callow youth. Fodor had already won the Paganini. And i was there in the finals almost by accident, it seemed to me. I had no intentions of winning at that time. It was almost as if I was playing to say i had done it. Because i was very much into chamber music, I considered my solo opportunities to be very few; I didn't feel I was that type of player.

Anyway, somehow i entered the finals and i played kind of crazy final round and managed to win. That was a turning point from my own point of view. I played once with Ozawa in San Francisco after that, but then went back into hiding in school because i wasn't ready.

But it did indicate that you could have a solo career.

Yes, I finally thought maybe there was something to it.

Because originally you thought you were just going to become, what?

Well, I had got so much into chamber music because I love the music so much. It's more gratifying from a strictly musical point of view -- the music is invariably better. I'm also a kind of person who likes social contact. I'm not one to spend six or seven hours alone in a practice room, or on tour, hotel to hotel, that can also be a bit of a drag.