Whither, the major symphony orchestra concertmaster? If your job is in England, like the London Symphony Orchestra’s Roman Simovic, your title is Leader.
For sure, there have been concertmasters of the past that had a solid career outside of their main gig—solo works, chamber music, etc. The best of them could rely on a couple of concerto performances a year with their own orchestra, or the best of them, with first class ensembles (Boston Symphony’s Joseph Silverstein as example). But, for violinists aspiring to be a soloist, the pool of concert appearances is relatively thin. The pool has to accomodate stellar violinists such as Perlman, Mutter, Hilary Hahn, Gil Shaham, and many others. So, for many fine violinists, concertmaster it is. Hey, as we say, ‘a gig’s a gig’.
In recent years, violinists such as Guy Braunstein departed the Berlin Philharmonic for sunnier, solo climes. He’s a master violinist. Braunstein was replaced by a laureate of the Queen Elizabeth Competition, the equally brilliant American, Noah Bendix-Blagley. Now, Bendix-Blagley chose his gig and is too much of a gentleman to ever criticize a soloist. But, quietly, a lesser man or woman may be thinking, ‘I could match that’.
The same solid ethics and qualities could be said of the LSO’s amazing Ukaranian leader, Roman Simovic. He placed in many competitions before joining the LSO, the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition chief among them. Simovic plays a 1709 Antonio Stradivari violin.
Simovic has been an exemplary leader of the LSO—just watch any of the many concerts on YouTube and you’ll see a musician very happy in his work. It’s all smiles, positive body language and the thrill of making music with the members of one of the world’s great orchestras.
His new CD from LSO Live features the biggest showoff pieces for solo violin, Paganini’s amazing Opus 1, 24 Caprices for Solo Violin. The Caprices were written in three groups between 1802 and 1817. In these pieces, Paganini refined previous violin techniques and introduced many others. They are spectacular vehicles, but also very fine compositions. Technically, they hold no fear for a consummate technician like Simovic. His flawless intonation and his ability to build phrases, help push this recording to join the list of my favorites—Perlman, Midori and James Ehnes. Whether beautifully tuned chords and octaves, dramatic double and triple stopping, left hand pizzicato, gorgeously tactile vibrato at the close of phrases, Simovic delivers it all spectacularly.
The recording is miked fairly closely and there is not much ambiance. The focus is right where you want it, on those demonic strings.
If Simovic continues this sort of brilliance on subsequent recordings, I can see him being nabbed from the LSO by one of the major agencies. He’s that good. Very highly recommended.