Remembering Anshel Brusilow

American violinist, conductor, and music educator Anshel Brusilow passed away earlier this week. He was 89.

Born in Philadelphia in 1928, Brusilow entered the Curtis Institute of Music at the age of eleven, where he studied with Efrem Zimbalist. Between 1954 to 1955 he was concertmaster and assistant conductor of the New Orleans Symphony. In 1955 he moved on to become assistant concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell. Four years later, Eugene Ormandy tapped him for the position of concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. While in Philadelphia, Brusilow became increasingly interested in conducting, founding the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra. In 1970, he was appointed executive director and conductor of the Dallas Symphony. His final years were spent as music director of the Richardson (Texas) Symphony and as Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of North Texas College of Music. His rich and varied life is chronicled in the 2015 autobiography, Shoot the Conductor: Too Close to Monteux, Szell, and Ormandy.

Anshel Brusilow’s concertmaster solos can be heard on some of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s most celebrated classic recordings. The shimmering, “old school” romanticism of his playing is a highlight of this 1960 Philadelphia Orchestra performance of Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben with Eugene Ormandy. Throughout the tone poem, Strauss uses the violin to depict the spirit of his wife.

As an encore, here is an excerpt Brusilow’s recording of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”:

In a Strad Magazine interview, Anshel Brusilow talked about his tenure as concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra:

It was like a dream come true. As a child growing up in Philadelphia, I had fantasized about leading the orchestra, to the point that I would sit at home and play along with recordings.

I already knew most of the players, but even so, I was amazed by the different atmosphere in rehearsals. On the morning of my first day as concertmaster, I was so busy chatting with the other players that I hadn’t even noticed Ormandy arrive until I felt his welcoming hand on my shoulder. 

That was part of Ormandy’s secret. By encouraging a friendly working atmosphere, he obtained a warm, opulent sound that was the complete opposite of Szell’s. Ormandy was also incredibly supportive, so whenever we played anything with an important solo violin part, such as Scheherazade or Ein Heldenleben, he left me free to develop my own vision and would follow me, which was a fantastic feeling. 

Recordings

  • Anshel Brusilow’s discography iTunes

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Remembering Anshel Brusilow

  1. Thank you, Timothy Judd, for this informative and warm remembrance of violinist Anshel Brusilow, one of the greats of his time. The recorded legacies of today’s orchestras may face problematic futures, but recordings of the Big Five orchestras in the latter half of the Twentieth Century seem secure into the future. Brusilow was an artist of the first rank in what we now see as a Golden Era.

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