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December 27, 2007 - Image 42

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2007-12-27

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Arts & Entertainment

Family Affair

Mother and son
from the former
Soviet Union join
forces in DSO

Suzanne Chessler
Special to the Jewish News


onductor and violinist Dmitry
Sitkovetsky usually does not
attend to the personal requests
of the musicians with whom he works, but
there is one exception.
Any request coming from his Jewish
mother — pianist Bella Davidovich — is
not to be ignored.
Sitkovetsky may very well be responding
to motherly concerns Friday-Sunday, Jan.
4-6, when the two appear with the Detroit
Symphony Orchestra.
The concert, "A Midsummer's Dream,"
features him as conductor as well as soloist
for J.S. Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor.
She will play Schumann's Piano Concerto.
The program also includes the overture
and excerpts from the Mendelssohn piece
that gives the concert its title.
"If my mother has me around, she
directs whatever problems or wishes she

has to me, even if they are not my respon-
sibility," Sitkovetsky says. "If she needs a
special chair, she would ask me rather than
the people of the orchestra. She certainly
can ask me to accommodate her in any
kind of way she needs."
Sitkovetsky, based in London, and
Davidovich, based in New York, travel the
world to perform together and apart with
prestigious orchestras. In November, they
appeared together in North Carolina, where
he is music director of the Greensboro
Symphony Orchestra. Soon, they will be on
a major stage in Spain.
"Our Detroit program is connected by
the city of Leipzig in Germany," explains
Sitkovetsky, 53, who also is principal guest
conductor of the Russian State Orchestra
and artist-in-residence of the Orchestre de
Castilla y Leon in Spain. "I was in the city
when I thought of the program.
"Bach lived more than the last 20 years
of his life in Leipzig and created most of
his great masterpieces there. Mendelssohn
had his best artistic period while being
the music director of a [major] orchestra
in Liepzig. Schumann was a great pianist,
composer and music critic there and had a
very central role for gatherings of the most
progressive musicians and figures of the
art scene."
Both mother and son started their
careers early in Russia, with Sitkovetsky
drawing on the talents of his late father,
violinist Julian Sitkovetsky.
"I was born into a family of great musi-

Dmitry Sitkovetsky

Bella Davidovich

cians and heard music and was on stage in
my mother's womb',' the conductor-instru-
mentalist says. "Had my father not passed
away so early — I was only 3 1/2 when he
died — I probably wouldn't have tried to
become a violinist. I would have tried to
become a composer and eventually a con-
"As it happened, it was the wish of every-
body in my family to see me continue that
part of the family tradition and become a
violinist. It was pretty much chosen for me,
and I learned to love it later on:'
Sitkovetsky, who attended the Central
Music School in Moscow, left the Soviet
Union for the U.S. in 1977 "because I saw
the [Soviet] system enslaving everyone,
making every decision for them," he has
said. The violinist graduated from the
Juilliard School in New York in 1979. After
winning the Fritz Kreisler Competition in
Vienna that same year, his European career
took off.

"I've performed in Israel since
1981," says Sitkovetsky. "I've per-
formed with the Jerusalem Symphony
and the Israel Philharmonic, and I've
done a series of concerts all over the
"In Greensboro, I keep in touch
with the Jewish community because
wherever there is a strong Jewish
community, there will be flourishing
arts. These communities always sup-
port the arts.
"Not long ago, I gave a benefit con-
cert for the children's hospital in Moldova,
and it was organized by the Jewish com-
munity in Greensboro; the concert was at
the temple."
Commenting on his own Jewish faith,
he adds, "My view of religion is a very
personal one, and I don't subscribe to any
organized religion. I certainly have become
much more aware of my heritage and the
history of the Jewish religion and the his-
tory of the Jews. I learned a lot more about
that in the West than I have known in
Russia since it was not so readily available
and not necessarily talked about in the
Soviet era."
Davidovich, who turns 80 this year,
was born into a Jewish family in Baku,
Azerbaijan. She has lived in America for
almost 30 years but returns to Moscow to
perform and judge professional competi-
"I have played in Tel Aviv, Haifa,
Jerusalem and Beersheva," says the far-

c WS

Nate Bloom
Special to the Jewish News


Rock On

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
announced its 2008 inductees
on Dec.13. Two Jewish musicians
G) were on the list: singer-songwriter
Leonard Cohen, 73, and the late
Mel Taylor, the drummer for the
Ventures, the biggest-selling instru-
mental rock band of all time. The
formal induction ceremony will take
place in March.
Taylor (1933-1996) was born in
Brooklyn, the son of a Russian
Jewish mother and a WASP father.
He joined the Ventures in 1963 and
stayed with the band until his death
from cancer. A great drummer, he
often was referred to as "the heart-
beat" of the band.
The Ventures were "surf rock" pio-



December 27 2007


neers, and many rock guitar legends
have cited the group as an important
The band's biggest hits were
"Walk, Don't Run" and the theme
song for the TV series Hawaii
Five-O. The Ventures still tour; the
band retains a large American and
European fan base and is hugely
popular in Japan.
Mel Taylor was buried in a Los
Angeles Jewish cemetery. Mel's
brother, Larry Taylor, is a very tal-
ented bassist who was a member of
the '60s band Canned Heat. Mel's
son, Leon Taylor, took over for his
father as the Ventures' drummer and
is still with the group.
In case you're wondering: Rock
musician Dan Fogelberg, who died of
cancer on Dec.16, was of a Swedish,
not a Jewish, background.

Jewish Chipmunks

Most years, a movie jumps out of
the pack and grabs those looking for
family holiday entertainment. This
year it's Alvin and the Chipmunks, a
live action-animated film about a trio
of singing rodents that's been doing
blockbuster business.
The Chipmunks originated in the
music studio in 1958 and were the
creation of the late music producer
Ross Bagdasarian, who used the
stage name of Dave Seville. In the
'60s, the Chipmunks starred in ani-
mated cartoons, had hit albums and
a mega-hit Christmas song.
Bagdasarian recorded for Liberty
Records and named the Chipmunks
(Alvin, Simon and Theodore) after
three Jewish guys: the late Simon
Waronker, a talented violinist who
was the founder-owner of Liberty
Records; the late Alvin Bennett, a

Liberty executive; and Theordore
Keep, a co-founder of Liberty and its
chief recording engineer.
The new film ignores history and
places the Chipmunks in the present,
where they are discovered by Dave
Seville (Jason Lee). Comic actor
David Cross has a major supporting
role as a music tour promoter. Cross
also can currently be seen playing
the late poet Allen Ginsberg in the
Bob Dylan bio-pic I'm Not There.

Other Flicks
Juno, currently in theaters, is appear-

ing on critics' top 10 lists and earned
a Golden Globe nomination for best
comedy or musical film. Its star, Ellen
Page, received a Globe nomination for
best actress in a comedy or musical.
Page plays a smart teenager who
unexpectedly gets pregnant by her
high-school friend (Michael Cera).

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