Sad news: Barenboim’s concertmaster has died

March 12, 2018 by norman lebrecht


Friends are lamenting the death of Axel Wilczok, concertmaster of the Staatskapelle Berlin since 1984 and a guiding influence of the West-Eastern Diwan Orchestra.

He had been suffering from an aggressive illness.

Comments (8)

  1. Sharon says:

    I am not an expert but it seems to me that the concert master’s job is a lot like that of a ward charge nurse–a lot of responsibility and very little real authority

  2. Jan Kaznowski says:

    Mr Wilczok was an influential teacher and, in fact, the primary teacher of Michael Barenboim

  3. Elisabeth Matesky says:

    Re: Sharon Says

    As an experienced Concertmaster of several American Orchestra’s, Sharon’s
    musings regarding what the Concertmaster’s job is — writing, “it seems … a lot
    like that of a ward nurse — a lot of responsibility and very little real authority”, need some answers from a professional violinist ~

    What isn’t seen by the public re a Concertmaster’s job is a litany of musical – technical astute judgements which are revealed in all orchestral bowing’s to
    the symphonic literature spanning Centuries of varying musical style’s, ease of
    navigation depending on the ‘level’ of the given orchestra’s preparing bowing’s with fused phrasing of Wind & Brass ‘in sync’, not mentioning sitting in what is termed in the profession as “The Hot Seat” – requiring a Concertmaster leading the full String section (Violin I, II, Viola, Violoncello & Basso) to suddenly depart
    the role of Leader to the role of Concert Soloist, projecting one’s tone to the back seat of the house and has been said for nearly a Century, ‘Concertmaster’s must suddenly sound like Heifetz!’ & certainly in symphonic works as Scheherazade,
    Capriccio Espagnole, & Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, Zarathustra, ‘Til Eulenspiegel & Plus!!

    To be sure, one has huge responsibilities to perform Concertmaster solo’s of the works listed above which equal the demands in many major violin concerti, and often times on incredibly short notice! One’s ‘authority’ is forever being reviewed & reassessed by every string player in the string section, including one’s “Boss”, the General of the Army of the Orchestra! Any Concertmaster must continually prove his/her prowess as a Leader & Soloist on an on going basis. As is said, ‘you are only as good as your last performance!”

    Colleagues (even friendly one’s) have short memories! Great Concertmaster’s are now more of an endangered species due to the changing face of What is the role of the Orchestra & its relevance in this Internet Instant Replay Era w/ newer technology now capable of reproducing sounds of great violinist’s by clicking on a few buttons ~

    Scary though it may be, this is a coming reality which will challenge the Greatest Violinist’s going far forward into this Twenty First Century, not to mention the fate
    of The Major (or Any) Symphony Orchestra … (How do I know this? A smartplus guy in Spain sent me his ‘new composition’ for Strings & extra instruments. Upon
    hearing it, I replied to his request for my opinion. Firstly, I praised him greatly re his composition being American premiere worthy, saying ‘you’ll need incredibly
    brilliant string players to match the astonishing strings on your recording! They’ll
    have to be richly experienced artists in sync w/ such technical demands as your
    string magician’s on this recording!!’ (Please bare in mind, I’m a pupil of Heifetz & Nathan Milstein, having heard & been ‘bred’ as a concert artist w/ standards of beyond highest order!) He emailed me at once w/more than Thank You’s, then it
    became shockingly clear Why the playing was so astonishing as he ‘confessed’ to “not being a musician, but a computer technology expert who used every skill
    I have to make this piece sound like Live string players, but the computer played this piece!” If this is an indication of the future of Music & musical composition, it
    suggests human geniuses Schoenberg, Berg, Bartok, Prokofiev & Brahms may become future relic’s of past Culture’s, as archeological ancient finds are notated
    in our time …

    Not wishing to upset music aficionados/ colleagues, we must guard & value our
    Culture of Now, passing on all we know to prepare younger generations of string
    players to be irreplaceable!!!

    Apologies for going on a bit, but these thoughts have been wondered about in my mind for quite awhile and, no doubt, in more brilliant minds of other’s ~

    Thank you, Sharon, for your musings which led to all expressed above …

    With very best greetings from America

    Elisabeth Matesky

    1. Sharon says:

      I am in America. Thank you Ms Matesky for clarifying the role of the concert master which is so “behind the scenes” that the public does not know what she does.
      As far as computerization is concerned, I hope that classical music can learn to incorporate it in the way that book publishing, popular music, and other fields have, as an aid but not supplanting human beings.

  4. Mary Ann Coggins Kaza says:

    Beautifully stated Elizabeth. Agree totally.
    *retired Oregon Symphony violinist 44yrs

    1. Elisabeth Matesky says:

      Thank you so much, dear Mary Ann (Coggins Kaza) ~

      Your succinct thoughts are greatly appreciated!! Indeed, the future of great music may be in jeopardy, but I truly believe the Baby Boomer generation in
      our country has been enormously blessed with ‘Giants Who Walked the Earth’
      teaching us so much and planting their European musical roots in U.S. soil ~

      How blessed several generation’s have been! It’s remarkable so many Great’s came here to America, & so enriched America’s young musicians & our Musical Culture! Those of us who are the beneficiaries of irreplaceable traditions must try to pass on what we’ve inherited to ensure great standards shall never be lost …

      Please advise if you might know a violin pal of mine, Camilla Wilson Scott? She is a long time friend & teaching in Portland & Canby! I think Cami played in your Oregon Symphony or an outgrowth Chamber Group? If you do know her, please
      tell her we’ve just met on Norman Lebrecht’s fabulous website!
      (And tell her ‘Lizzie’ sent a Hug via London to Oregon from Chicago!!!)

      With very best wishes and hopes that you are still playing when moved ~

      Elisabeth (Matesky) in ‘Chi town’, USA

      1. Mary Ann Coggins Kaza says:

        In response to Elizabeth, yes, I know Canila Scott Wilson, I hired her a number if times for extra in Oregon Symphony. She is now a Concertmaster in nearby orchestra, I will casll her and let her know, am sure she sends hugs.

  5. Elisabeth Matesky says:

    A Note to The Family of Axel Wilczok ~

    Please accept my sincere condolences upon the irreplaceable loss of your very
    admired Axel, who graced the Concertmaster Chair of the Staatskapelle Berlin
    from 1984, and who gave so much knowledge with love to many young people and musicians who would otherwise never had the blessings of making Music
    together …

    With sincere sympathy from America ~

    Elisabeth Matesky *

    *A fellow violinist who has familiarity with the ‘Hot Seat’ your Axel occupied so
    remarkably well …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *