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March 28, 2008



Vladimir Ashkenazy, like Barenboim, mainly conducts nowadays, and has been music director of many orchestras, but he too remains a formidable pianist, working mainly in the recording studio.

Andre Previn, of course.

Christoph Eschenbach still plays piano in song recitals, I believe, though I haven't heard him do it for some years now.

A number of famous instrumentalists have committed to conducting enough to have been music directors of more than one orchestra each, while still playing solo. Pinchas Zukerman and Jeffrey Kahane, for starters.

This is too easy!

MG: I left out folks like Zukerman and Kahane who do more playing than conducting, and can't believe I forgot Eschenbach. Previn's website doesn't list any performances after 2006, but yes, he would have qualified.

Miss Mussel

Two further nominations from north of the 49th: Toronto Symphony's Peter Oundjian was in the Tokyo String Quartet for years before focal dystonia cut that short. He still plays on occasion for fundraising events.

Alain Trudel, director of the soon-to-be-defunct CBC Radio Orchestra still plays and teaches trombone.

In England, there is oboist Douglas Boyd in charge of the Manchester Camerata as well as being connected with the Colorado Symphony ant St Paul CO.

Lisa Hirsch

Stephen Kovacevich would be a pianist who sometimes conducts.

Michael Tilson Thomas occasionally plays piano in public and is a superb pianist. He and Alexander Barantschik (I am probably misspelling that...), the concertmaster of the SFS, played a Mozart violin sonata last year before the symphony played Mahler's 7th.

Charles Downey

If we get into early music, this could go on for a while longer. Many of those "conductors" (a relatively recent concept) are continuo players (Christophe Rousset, Bill Christie, Robert King, Christopher Hogwood, Emmanuelle Haïm, Richard Egarr, Trevor Pinnock, Céline Frisch, Gustav Leonhardt), but just as many are violinists (Rinaldo Alessandrini, Jean-Christophe Spinosi, Jeanne Lamon, Pablo Valetti, Richard Tognetti). Another violinist, Andrew Manze, has just gone from early music to being the music director of the Helsingborg Symphony. Federico Maria Sardelli is a recorder player. René Jacobs was a countertenor. Nikolaus Harnoncourt was a cellist. Philippe Herreweghe was a pianist. I think I should stop now.

MG: Good points! We could include Ton Koopman and Nicholas McGegan in that list. When thinking of early-music conductors, it's interesting that John Eliot Gardiner isn't known for any particular instrumental prowress, right?


Yakov Kreizberg is playing a one-hour recital of Grieg and Tchaikovsky with Julia Fischer at the Prom Concerts this summer, then conducting the Netherlands Philharmonic there the next day.


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