April 10, 2008
Violin virtuosi make concert a family affair
It's not very often that a classical music recital has its roots in an airport, but in a manner of speaking, you might say that the concert that violin virtuosi Albert and Alexander Markov are giving at American Jewish University (AJU) on April 13 was born at LAX 15 years ago.|
That's when Anna Slutsky, a pianist and teacher, landed in the United States with the four other members of her family, thanks to the sponsorship of her American cousin, Annette Shapiro.
"We sponsored their move here through the Russian immigration office," Shapiro said in a telephone interview last weekend. "We had found them through letters and made contact and helped her come here, and we've stayed very close ever since, even though they've moved to Denver."
Slutsky and her family are related to Shapiro through her family, the Familians (for whom the Familian Campus of AJU is named), and, like that family, which left Odessa in 1905, Slutsky came here to escape Russian anti-Semitism.
Since then, she has been performing and teaching in Denver and admiring the work of another distinguished family of Jews transplanted to the United States from her former homeland, the Markovs.
Albert Markov was already a prominent violinist, teacher, composer and conductor when he and his wife, Marina, also a violinist, and their son, Alexander, fled the Soviet Union in 1975.
"We came because of one single word," Albert said in a phone interview last week. "Freedom. Freedom of everything. We fled the country because of [the] anti-Semitic situation. We didn't complain that we were starving, there was something more important than eating."
Once settled here, the Markovs quickly established themselves as major figures in the U.S. classical music world. Albert teaches at the Manhattan School of Music, Marina is a member of the New York City Opera orchestra, and Albert's most famous pupil, Alexander, is in demand as a soloist around the world.
Yet, despite the critical acclaim they have garnered in the States, some feel that Albert and Alexander are under-appreciated.
Anna Slutsky is one of them.
"I listened to how they played, and it was something outrageous, they are such remarkable and beautiful musicians," she said. "They are well-known in Europe and among professional musicians, but I would like more people to hear them. I decided everybody has to hear them. Everybody will be so happy to hear them, because they are such unusual musicians."
It was with that in mind that she spoke to her cousin.
"My husband [Leonard Shapiro] is on the board of American Jewish University," Annette Shapiro explains. "We helped [Anna] connect with the people who could help arrange this concert. I suggested the Gindi Auditorium, because it's a wonderful performance space."
The Markovs are equally enthusiastic. Speaking from his parents' home in Rowayton, Conn., Alexander said, "My career has been based on the East Coast for many years, but it's nice to be able to play in California, and this is a wonderful venue."
He is also always eager to be onstage with his father.
"I do so many different projects: I'm a soloist with many different orchestras, but I love to play with my dad," he said. "It makes my repertoire more versatile, and it's always exciting for the audience to see. For me it's like a separate outlet from my day job as a soloist."
When Alexander first expressed an interest in playing violin as a small boy, Albert thought of discouraging his son, but the younger Markov insisted on taking up his parents' chosen instrument and wouldn't study with anyone but his father.
Not surprisingly, as an adult he finds performing with Albert an unusually simpatico occasion.
"It's very much a mutual decision," he added. "We share so many common tastes as violinists. Over the years we've made a good team and have a strong bond. Repertoire is a mutually based decision."
(One wonders what Albert makes of another of his son's decisions regarding repertoire, the creation of a heavy-metal "Rock Concerto" for orchestra, electric violin and rock band.)
The elder Markov contents himself with the busy round of teaching, performing, conducting and composing. That multifaceted life in music used to be the norm rather than the exception, he noted.
"In all good times, especially in 19th century, when a musician expended all his life for music, there was no separation between performing, teaching and composing," he said. "I belong to a generation for whom they are like the same activity, very difficult to separate. I have spent on stage the same years as teaching and writing. It's very difficult to separate."
Just as it is difficult to separate families across oceans. After all, if not for that family reunion in a Los Angeles airport 15 years ago, the Markovs might not be playing here this month.
Albert and Alexander Markov will perform in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary on April 13 at 5 p.m. at Gindi Auditorium, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. For information, call (310) 440-1246.