More tributes to legendary Boston cellist

Tributes to BSO principal cellist Jules Eskin, who died yesterday at 85, are being paid in public media from Detroit to New Delhi. Here are some more from his friends:

Arnold Steinhardt, founder and first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, writes: ‘Jules was a close friend of mine for over 50 years, and he was a wonderful cellist and musician, but above all, Jules had an uncanny ability to pull at your heart strings when he played. I think some of the most beautiful sounds that I’ve ever heard came out of his cello. I will miss him as a friend greatly and I will certainly miss his one-of-a-kind cello playing.’

Malcolm Lowe, Boston Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster, says: ‘I want to celebrate Jules’s life and acknowledge the huge loss that I feel. No words can express the great joy Jules gave to me through his playing or impart the sadness of his passing. If only I could write a ‘Song Without Words.’ Jules embodied the heart and soul of our string section. He had an inspired musicality and infallible instinct coupled with a masterful understanding of the cello, its sound, and its role in all of the music that we played. His sound was always present, always poignant, and always incredibly moving. Jules was a great personal friend and colleague. I will miss him dearly and I treasure every moment that we had together.’

The pianist Lydia Artymiw: ‘We are mourning the passing of beloved Jules Eskin, principal cellist of the Boston Symphony, inspirational musician, and a cherished friend. What a joy and honor it was to play trios with Jules and Arnold Steinhardt over the years! We will always remember you, Jules, and we send deepest sympathies to Aza and family. RIP.’

Here’s Jules in a recent interview: ‘At age 16, I was ready to flee the family home! In that era, the different orchestra conductors would come in town to conduct auditions. You didn’t have to fly out to play. I told my dad: “Hey, Pop, I think I am going to audition for the Dallas Symphony and the National Symphony. They are having auditions in town.” Of course, he said: “Oh, you will never get it, come on!” So I made a deal with him that if I won a job, I could leave the family nest and go out on my own. He was convinced there was no chance I would get either one of those jobs, since I was only 16 at the time. I played for Antal Dorati, who was the conductor of the Dallas Symphony at the time, and they offered me a contract. I took it and about a month later, I was offered a position in Washington too but I had already signed up for Dallas. But that was fine, I was very excited to leave home! Finally, I was starting my life at 16! I felt the whole world was out there waiting for me and I was tired of living in what seemed to be a little town. I can still see my mother at the train station in North Philadelphia. She was so sad to see me go so early. I had my cello, a bag of clothes and my father’s immigrant suitcase from the old country, as well as a huge bag full of sandwiches my mother made for the 3-days train trip from Philadelphia to Dallas.I played in Dallas for one season and that is where I met Janos Starker and Lev Aronson. Lev Aronson was a wonderful cellist who was a survivor from the Nazi concentration camps. His life was quite a story.’

More here.

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  • A wonderful tribute article to a great cellist. I had no idea that Leonard Rose had been influential in his life. It reminded me of our great late principal cellist, John Martin (retired 1994, died 2005), Slava’s kingpin from the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC.

  • RIP Jules Eskin. Now he joins his relatively recently departed colleagues Joey Silverstein and Vic Firth. All superb musicians from whom I learned much just by watching them.

    • You are so right to single out these legendary performers whose careers graced the Boston Symphony Orchestra. To your list I would add the trumpet players, Roger Voisin and Armando Ghitalla, clarinetist Harold Wright, bassoonist Sherman Walt, and among the still-living, flutist Doriot Anthony Dwyer.

      • Yes. Glad to hear that Doriot is still with us. From that golden age of Munch/Leinsdorf/Steinberg we should also remember Lois Schaefer (piccolo), Charlie Kavalovski (horn), Chet Schmitz (tuba), Edwin Barker (bass) and Bill Gibson (trombone), among many others

          • I was adding to a list that began with Jules Eskin, Joseph Silverstein, and Vic Firth. These were unique musical personalities. Among your inclusions, I think Chester Schmits belongs while the others, all admirable performers (though Cioffi was only a shell of himself for most of his BSO tenure), lack that spark that made the others unforgettable and irreplaceable.

            I fear we are now taking this post too far afield. Mr. Eskin was a joy to listen to and must have been a fantastic teacher. Think of starting one’s career as a principal under the eyes and ears of George S.

  • Over the course of his nearly 70 year career Mr. Eskin made many superb recordings. For me the one which best documented his talents as both a soloist and ensemble player was the Brahms B-flat major recording from the early 60’s in Cleveland. The playing in the 3rd movement is simply superb, especially after the cello solo the brief chamber music moments with him, Marc Lifschey, Myron Bloom, Robert Marcellus and Leon Fleisher. So very sorry to learn of his passing!

  • Lest we forget: the wonderful Gardner Museum concerts during the 70’s when Jules along with his then wife pianist Virginia Eskin and his longtime friend violinist Joey Silverstein played Beach and Foote, in tribute to American composers whom Mrs. Gardner loved.

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