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In Memoriam

In Memory of Joseph Silverstein

December 4, 2015

Dear Friends,

From the time Joseph Silverstein joined the artist roster of CMS at the beginning of the 1991-92 season, to his last appearance with us in 2011, he performed two-hundred-fifty-nine concerts which included multiple works by over forty composers. In addition to well over one-hundred concerts in Alice Tully Hall, he represented CMS on tours throughout the United States, Canada, and the Far East, appeared on Live from Lincoln Center television broadcasts, the Society’s regular national radio programs, and on numerous CMS recordings. His contribution to CMS, by volume, is equaled by few, and his artistic contribution surpassed by none.

While we are privileged to remember Joseph Silverstein today in the context of his role at CMS, we are obliged to recognize him in a larger way: as one of the most important musicians of our time, whose influence and legacy will be forever remembered. To his chamber music performances he brought the incalculable perspective of America’s most distinguished concertmaster (of the Boston Symphony for twenty-two years) who knew the entire orchestral repertoire, and as a music director of formidable leadership qualities, with fifteen years at the Utah Symphony. He was simultaneously revered and depended upon as one of the world’s finest and most demanding violin teachers, whose students now populate the world’s finest stages and organizations, CMS included.

When we assumed the roles of Artistic Directors at CMS, Joey was among the first to offer us his support, which, needless to say, meant and still means a great deal to us. Over years of knowing him and performing together, we experienced not only his brilliant playing and astounding musicianship, but the unavoidable pressure that all his colleagues felt to live up to his standards. Joey was a prolific concert-attender, and his presence in our audience always added a particular intensity to the performance experience. In other words, it was really scary. And he was always on hand afterwards with a mixture of encouragement and gentle observations of areas of potential improvement – sometimes even for composers who were long gone!

Joey was one of the proudest and most vocal supporters of the CMS Two Program, which had begun officially during his early years with CMS. His wish to make room to allow our young musicians more performance opportunities was a noble and touching milestone in his career and in that of our organization. We are gratified that the rising tide of young musicians on our roster was truly part of Joey’s vision for the future, and their presence, and the quality of their playing, are fitting tributes to his wisdom and humanity. We are all grateful to have known him, and to have been the beneficiaries of his deep commitments to music, to musicians, and to CMS.

- David Finckel and Wu Han, artistic directors


Ida Kavafian, violinist

"Knowing Joey on so many levels was a way to really appreciate how complete and special he was. As a wide eyed 14 year-old, I wore out my recording of his spectacular Bartok Concerto. Fifty years later as a teacher at Curtis, he was just as spectacular as a pedagogue. In between, I was privileged to observe and learn from him in all of his many facets. I will miss him popping into my teaching studio to say hi, or to discuss one of our shared students, or to tell me how well some of them were doing. Just the week before he passed, I popped into his studio to ask him how he handled a particularly thorny few bars in the Bartok Solo Sonata, another piece he truly owned. He was happy to share and demonstrate his solution, while showing me the copy he had with him of the manuscript. You see, he was practicing the piece again to see if he could play the last movement with quarter tones, something he had never done before. How fabulous is that! That, and how many lives he touched, says everything about him."

Cho-Liang Lin, violinist

"Joey Silverstein represented everything a complete musician should be. A master violinist, an esteemed conductor, a sought after teacher, a mentor to many, a great colleague to more, and an inspiration to countless musicians. He did it all. It was a privilege to know him. His gorgeous playing shall remain vivid in my heart."

Paul Neubauer, violist

"I feel so fortunate to have known and collaborated with Joey over many years at the Chamber Music Society and elsewhere.  His devotion to music and the violin was unparalleled and his sweet, old-world sound will always have a special place in my heart.  Joey regaled us with wonderful stories and his knowledge of so many subjects was astounding.  The music world has certainly lost a great soul and friend. " 

Danbi Um, violinist

"I will never forget playing for him for the first time when I was 13 and hearing that gorgeous tone,  which completely mesmerized me, as it was nothing like I ever heard before. He is the one who introduced me to the playing of Kreisler and all those old guys, and of course, Frank Sinatra!  I miss him very much.  He is the reason that I fell in love with music and that I always dream of playing as beautifully and soulfully, even for a few seconds, as the way he did."

Jeffrey Kahane, pianist

"I had only one precious opportunity to play chamber music with Joey Silverstein, at David and Wu Han’s Music at Menlo Festival a few years ago, but it was a musical memory I will always cherish. Every single note that Joey played was informed by a lifetime characterized by the deepest thought and the profoundest love for music, and by a humanity and keen intelligence of the kind one encounters only very rarely."

Gilbert Kalish, pianist

"I first had the privilege of playing with Joey in 1969 with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, an association that lasted until his move to Utah. He was a revered figure in the string world for the beauty of his sound, his impeccable technique and his elegance. His playing was never self serving or showy. He cared deeply about the integrity of the music and the directness of the performance. He led the Boston Symphony Orchestra from his seat as concertmaster, even returning to his position after playing a concerto with the orchestra. The beauty of his playing and his deep devotion to music will be sorely missed."

Gary Hoffman, cellist

"Joey was a consummate musician, a warm and loving human being, and a perfect colleague, in short a mensch. And, most importantly to me, a friend. I, and we all, will miss him terribly."

Timothy Cobb, bassist

"That Joey was a consummate violinist and musician goes without saying…What I will miss most, and what I am so grateful for, is having had the pleasure of experiencing what a kind, compassionate, energetic, enthusiastic and fascinating person Joseph Silverstein was. He will forever hold a place in my heart beyond the wonderful musical happenings onstage, with the memories of his wonderful stories, more often than not, harkening to some of the finest musicians of our time and of the post-war golden era in classical music.

When my children were very young, they became intimately familiar with Joey’s violin artistry as my family invariably listened to his “Four Seasons” recording with the BSO and Seiji Ozawa while riding in the car. My twins, Ethan and Julia, felt like they knew the great ‘Mr. Silverstein” years before meeting him in person at the Bay Chamber Festival in Rockport, Maine. When they were introduced to Joey after a wonderful concert and stood awestruck in front of him, in typically warm Joey fashion he immediately put them at their ease, asking if they had tried the Blueberry ice cream, famous in Rockport, and recommended his favorite, and somewhat hidden, ice cream stand. (We acted on his recommendation the next day; it was fabulous!) 

When collaborating in chamber music, Joey’s wonderful rehearsal and pre-concert discussions I will always treasure: which opera he and Adrienne had attended recently- its pros and cons; who was doing well in professional tennis; which orchestras had key positions needing filling; where the most interesting art exhibits were to be found currently; and, more often than not, some wonderful, humorous, touching, (usually both) anecdote from his majestic career. Joey always had time to talk, was amazingly generous with his time and endless knowledge of our craft, and all who were fortunate enough to perform with him were elevated by the experience.

I will feel very lucky forever to have performed with Joseph Silverstein, to have called him a friend and colleague, and will miss him greatly." 

Jennifer Montone, horn

"Joey was an absolute inspiration to all of us, in every way; an incredible musician, colleague, leader, friend. When I was in school, my friends and I would spend many a night listening to recordings of him, over and over again, marveling over how colorful and character-filled they were! Getting to play with, and learn from him, will always be one of the things I am the most grateful for. We will all miss him terribly!"