Aron Zelkowicz

Aron Zelkowicz

About Aron Zelkowicz

With a career encompassing a broad range of activities as a cellist, performer, teacher, and administrator, Aron Zelkowicz has cultivated a repertoire both classical and ethnic, familiar and obscure.  He recently completed his tenth season as the Founder and Director of the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival, which presents rare and diverse works from Jewish musical traditions to Pittsburgh audiences every spring.  The Festival has featured renowned ensembles and guest artists from the orchestral, chamber, early music, rock, and world music genres in innovative and thematic programs.  Under his guidance the Festival has commissioned several works from major composers, received major grants and mainstream critical acclaim, and has been featured in full-length radio and cable television broadcasts.  In 2013 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted Dr. Zelkowicz’s “impressive” directorial debut of a new production of the chamber opera “The Dybbuk” by Ofer Ben-Amots.
As a chamber and orchestral musician, Dr. Zelkowicz has performed at the Tanglewood, Banff, Aspen, Sarasota, Chautauqua, Colorado, and Sunflower music festivals, the New York String Orchestra and Juilliard Quartet Seminars, with members of the Emerson and Cleveland Quartets, and on European and American tours with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  He enjoys relating directly to both adults and children with outreach programs and personal introductions to his concerts, as he has done with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina, the Proteus Ensemble, Piccolo Spoleto’s Spotlight chamber music series, as well as his own Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival.  As a teacher and coach to young string players, he has given master classes at universities and colleges throughout the U.S. and served on the faculties of Point Counterpoint Chamber Music Camp, the Brevard Music Center, and the North Carolina Governor’s School.
A native of Ottawa, Canada, Aron Zelkowicz grew up in Pittsburgh and received degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, and SUNY Stony Brook, where his teachers included Anne Martindale Williams, Paul Katz, Steven Doane, Janos Starker, and Colin Carr.

www.aronzelkowicz.com  and www.pjmf.net

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 5): An Interview with Steven Isserlis — by Aron Zelkowicz

Your 1992 recording of Britten's Third Suite is widely known, due to its pairing with John Tavener's "The Protecting Veil" (which has been called a "cult" recording).  Do you have any approximate idea of how many copies that album has sold? I don't know—quite a few, anyway. I wonder how many people have listened to the Britten, though! There's another connection: the very first time I went to see John Tavener with my cello, I played him the passage in the coda of the Britten where the cello breaks into a chordal version of the chant for the dead—like a Russian Orthodox choir.  I remember him saying how wonderful that music sounded on the cello.  Much later, John heard me play the whole suite, and—rather to my surprise, because it [...]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 4) – An Interview with Colin Carr

  Two of my favorite recordings of the Third Britten Suite are both by Colin Carr, with whom I studied during a summer in high school and then years later as a doctoral student.  On both occasions I brought the Third Suite to my lessons. […]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 3) – An Introduction to The Third Suite

  Britten chose to build his Third Suite for Cello around four pre-existing Russian themes: three tunes taken from Tchaikovsky’s volume of folk-song arrangements, and the Kontakion, the Byzantine chant for the dead taken from the Russian Orthodox liturgy.  Rostropovich considered himself Russian Orthodox, and one can appreciate the impact of Britten presenting a score based on this theme as a gift to the cellist in Moscow.  The Third Suite also serves as a dual tribute to Shostakovich.  The second movement, Marcia, includes the signature “anapest” rhythm found in Shostakovich’s symphonies (“da-da-DUM”), and in a subtle yet ingenious linking, the final statement of the Kontakion in C minor employs the notes C-B-Eb-D: a reordered allusion to Shostakovich’s famous four-note D-S-C-H signature (D-Eb-C-B). […]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 2) An Interview with Steven Doane

    My first live encounter with a Britten suite was an in-your-face experience.  Steven Doane played the First Suite, Op. 72 as a “dry run” for a group of students as we crammed into an Eastman studio with barely enough floor space to not get poked with an upbow.  Mr. Doane’s association with the piece has only grown, leading to a brand new recording of the complete suites to be released this year.  I asked Mr. Doane about his thoughts and experiences playing this demanding work over the years. […]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 1)

Cellists have as much reason as anyone to celebrate the upcoming Benjamin Britten centenary, if not more so.  The five major cello works he wrote for Mstislav Rostropovich – the sonata, the Symphony Concerto, and the three solo suites – have been taken up in short order as standard repertoire.  By my unofficial count there are twenty recordings of the complete cello suites on the market, not to mention sixteen “incomplete” cycles of one or two suites here and there.    […]

Tour of Duty, Tour of Pleasure — by Aron Zelkowicz

A postcard from Vienna: By the time the Danube winds into concrete beds through Stadtpark, the water is just a trickle. Children in their parkas swing on the playground, the U-bahn train pulls into its station, and people stroll or bike over the canal’s bridges, all within a stone’s throw of the surface.  This view from our hotel is lovely and quaint, for those of us on tour with the Pittsburgh Symphony that have north-facing rooms (those with opposite views can peer down on the bustling skating rink next door). Pittsburghers, no strangers to rivers and bridges, hardly needed reminders of the horrible flooding that occurred this week.  The tame canal is at odds with what we’ve seen on the front page of local papers and all over TV.  I [...]

The Rehearsal Mine Field (Behind the Scenes of a Music Festival, Part 3)

Quartet rehearsal, 10 am! Which means you show up at 10:04, but then decide to make a quick Starbucks run with the second violinist because the violist is parking his car anyway and seriously, who can be expected to tackle Shostakovich at 10am without their Grande Vanilla Double Soy Macchiato? You return to discuss next week’s rehearsal schedule because there have been just too many e-mails lately (and of course, what are we wearing for the concert?). You take the opportunity to xerox that missing page of your part, unfold your stands, rosin your bows, and then, finally, you’re ready….to tune. It’s ok, no big deal – 10:27 is plenty early to start rehearsing. There is always tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Such may be the way [...]

Devil in the Details (Behind the Scenes of a Music Festival, Part 2)

According to their blog, Audio-Technica’s acclaimed Artist Elite 5000 Series UHF Wireless System with an AEW-T4100 Cardioid Dynamic Handheld Transmitter was the microphone of choice for Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” concert tour (“It really sounds like her!”).   Of course, all systems use the AEW-R5200 True Diversity Frequency-Agile Dual Receiver. Thank goodness all we have to do is walk on stage with our cello, find a hole in the floor, and play.  When compared with such high-tech riders, organizing an acoustic recital is low maintenance, right?  Right?! Sure – although maybe you should have had that dress rehearsal where someone could have spiked the chairs’ locations on the floor with masking tape because once you start the Brahms Piano Quartet you realize you are blocking the violist’s sight-line to the pianist (causing [...]

Notes from the Field: 12 Cellos are Better Than 1

I wanted to take a break from behind-the-scenes administrative reporting to share a recent concert experience that might be of interest to those who like to “geek out” about all things cello-related. It might have been Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in Sex and the City (not that I ever watched the show…) who noted that one of the best things about living in New York City is getting out of it once in a while.  So on a scorching July weekend it was invigorating to drive well beyond the numbered streets and convene with eleven other cellists in the town of Hunter, New York – home to some of the highest peaks in the Catskill Mountains. […]

The Vision Thing (Behind the Scenes of a Music Festival, Part 1)

By self-imposed annual tradition, recent weeks have been crunch time, when a year’s worth of planning comes to fruition.  My pet project, the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival, held sway in early June where, for the past several years, it has settled in the form of four concerts.  I thought it might serve as a useful case study to explore various behind-the-scenes topics. This is the season when myriad music festivals around the country are in full bloom.  What is the take-away experience from any one of these that makes it unique?  Even traditional chamber music festivals have their own trademark DNA that set them apart, from big issues (BUDGET, LOCATION) to small (I’m playing in a festival this summer that offers a cookbook featuring the players’ signature recipes – cool!). [...]