Yakov Kreizberg – more tributes from musicians

Yakov Kreizberg – more tributes from musicians


norman lebrecht

March 16, 2011

Here are some that have reached me from around the world:

From violinist Anne Akiko Meyers:
I cannot believe this news. But then again, I can’t believe all the 
tragedy that has occurred this past week in Japan. Yakov and I worked 
together in Germany, playing the Mendelssohn Concerto 3 times around 
Christmas time. 
He was bright, energetic and a young conductor very much on the rise. 
His heart seemed to move in rhythm with the music….. 
God bless and may he rest in peace. 

From Sam Bergman, Minnesota Orchestra:
The orchestra was told about Yakov’s tragic passing this afternoon … he was a frequent guest in the early part of this decade, and really, he was more than a guest – he was a very serious candidate for our music directorship, and during the period between Eiji Oue’s departure and Osmo (Vanskaa’s entry, he conducted many weeks of concerts and virtually functioned as our principal guest conductor. We played a number of very good concerts under his baton, and he was a valued colleague and true professional.

From Johannes Neubert, executive director of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra:
Yakov Kreizberg  was one of the most interesting conductors of his generation, with close ties to our orchestra. His death is not only an artistic loss but an immensely painful human loss.

From Tony Woodcock, manager of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra during Kreizberg’s time:

Yakov became our Music Director in 1995. He was then in his mid-30’s. Young but with an astonishing worldliness and musical maturity. He was driven. Driven by his own ambition but perhaps more, driven by his vision for music-making. His energy was boundless. His charm was Russian and therefore undeniable. His appetite for food was fathomless. Now that’s an important point. Yakov could eat more than anyone I have ever known. Before a concert . . . a time when most artists are so nervous and consumed by performance anxiety as to leave them without appetite . . . he was, conversely, consumed with hunger. Pre-concert, I have seen him devour an enormous pizza and then look around for anything you might have left on your plate. His engine was a blazing furnace and it needed a huge amount of fuel. (During his time with the orchestra I could easily pack on 10 additional pounds trying to keep up with him, what with pre-concert meals and post-concert dinners.)  Despite all of this, Yakov remained an amazingly svelte 160 pounds, very athletic and totally healthy.
There began a golden time for the Bournemouth Symphony with Yakov at the helm.  We undertook major national tours, gave London concerts, appeared at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and paraded our virtuosity on international tours in Europe and the US. The orchestra made its Carnegie Hall debut with Yakov in 1997, and a picture of this with him in full flight during Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique has pride of place in my office at NEC.

My experiences with Yakov were among the happiest in my professional life. And the best times were on tour. He was enormously disciplined, never drank alcohol, studied scores voraciously, but had the twinkle, energy and sense of the absurd to make touring a party. 

From Cristina Ortiz, concert pianist:

Dear Norman,

I’m deeply saddened by the news of the premature demise of my friend and colleague, Yakov Kreizberg.

He was such an inspirational musician, one could easily describe him as having “the Midas Touch”: whatever symphonic repertoire he approached was turned into GOLD: as fresh as if recreated then, by Yakov’s deep understanding of his main instrument, the Orchestra.

On the other hand only last summer though, I was astonished to hear him playing the piano in a small festival in France: a note perfect rendition of a Brahms Sonata with Julia Fischer, which he also played mostly by heart! Conductors are not supposed to plat THAT well anything else…

His cunning and humour were great assets for a companion at dinner table following a performance; lastly but not least his positive attitude to life — an inspiration to a realist Brazilian, like me!

The few concerts we did together — actually both in works by Rachmaninov with the BSO in Bournemouth & Amsterdam, and the Maggio Musicale in Firenze — were among the very best-ever musical ‘ententes’ that I ever experienced.

I have no words to explain how great a loss, that someone so talented and still so young has been taken from us that early: apart from his music making, I’ll never forget his warmth as a human being or his oh-so-tight hug each time we met: I SO need one now, dearest Yakov!

Cristina Ortiz


  • MusikAnT says:

    So what exactly did Kreizberg die of? I can’t help but notice that his colleagues and friends are neatly circumventing this question.
    NL replies: What makes you think anyone outside his immediate family has the right to know?

  • Kevin Scott, Director, SUNY Orange Symphonic Band says:

    Though I never got to know him well, Yakov Kreisberg was one of the finest conductors of his generation. I first met him when we were students at Mannes, and after he graduated, he was my conducting teacher. He always made sure that you knew the full letter of the score, and never tried to deviate from tradition. Though we disagreed on how to approach a work, I felt he always had respect on any conductor’s approach to the work, as long as it was integral to that musician’s beliefs.
    The last time I saw him was in 1999, after he made his New York Philharmonic debut. We talked about several things including my compositions which he liked very much, and what I was up to as a conductor. His last words were the best wishes for me and my wife, and to keep focused on my music.
    Truly this was a conductor’s conductor. He left us far, far too soon.