Yuval Waldman, Bridge-Building Violinist, Is Dead at 74
Yuval Waldman, an accomplished violinist and conductor with a particular interest in building musical bridges between countries and rediscovering neglected works composed under depressing circumstances, died on February 1 in Brooklyn. He was 74 years old.
His son, Ariel Levinson-Waldman, said the cause was coronary artery disease and that Mr. Waldman also tested positive for the corona virus shortly before he died.
Mr. Waldman, who lived in Brooklyn, was the son of Jewish parents who survived the purges in Ukraine during the Nazi occupation of World War II. There were several upheavals in his childhood before the family finally settled in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv. His career in some ways reflected his multinational upbringing and his sense of music as a lifeline in a turbulent world.
He conducted the New American Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble that was founded in the 1990s and was made up of Jewish emigrants from the former Soviet Union. In 2004 he founded Music Bridges International, which sponsored concerts and educational programs featuring music from different cultures – one program consisted of American and Kazakh composers, for example.
He also played and conducted music programs that were composed under duress. These included a solo program entitled “Music Forgotten and Remembered,” which included works by Eastern European Jews, many of whom died in World War II or were silenced by the repressive practices of the Soviet Union. Another was “The Music of Oppression and Liberation” with composers of various nationalities persecuted for their beliefs.
“I think it is my duty to revive the memory of these composers by performing their music,” Waldman told The Oklahoman in 2011 while performing the Liberation program at the Oklahoma University of Science and Art in Chickasha. “It’s not just a privilege, it’s a calling.”
Vladimir Waldman was born on December 21, 1946 in Lviv, which was then part of the Soviet Union (and is now in western Ukraine, where the name is usually Lviv). He changed his first name to Yuval after the family settled in Israel and took the name of a character from the Hebrew Bible who was associated with music.
His father Eliezer was a woodworker who was once drafted into the Soviet army. his mother, Chaya (Spivack) Waldman, was a teacher. As a boy in Lviv, Yuval was fascinated by the violin music he heard in the cinema and asked his parents for an instrument. He had a present for it. At the age of 7 he appeared on Soviet radio.
During a period of relaxed politics towards Jews after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953, the family left the country, lived in Poland for some time and then in immigration camps in Austria and Italy before reaching Israel in 1957. Finally, Yuval’s musical Isaac Stern, the great violinist who became a mentor, drew attention to his skills.
Mr. Waldman studied at the Samuel Rubin Israel Music Academy in Tel Aviv and played along Israel’s national orchestra as a teenager. After graduating from the Academy, Mr. Stern helped continue his studies in Geneva and then in the United States at Indiana University and the Juilliard School. In 1969, at the age of 22, he made his Carnegie Hall debut.
Mr. Waldman’s musical career began thanks to performances such as 1970 at Riverside Park in New York City, where he was a soloist on a program of the West Side Orchestral Concerts Association. “An eloquent tribute to Mr. Waldman’s virtuosity in the finale was the spontaneous chorus of bravery voiced by his fellow orchestras,” wrote Robert Sherman in a review in the New York Times.
In July 1973, Mr. Waldman took a career break to join the Israel Defense Forces reserves. Because of all the languages he mastered through his multinational upbringing and touring, he was assigned to the intelligence unit. Because of his musical abilities, he had also been assigned to the entertainment department. When the Yom Kippur War broke out in October, his son was assigned to play for tank units in Sinai.
Mr. Waldman’s son told the story of the time he was climbing a tank when a commander ordered him to play something to calm the troops after a particularly intense bombing raid. He played Bach. Many in the unit were recent Moroccan immigrants to Israel and had never heard of Bach before.
“My father remembered a moment playing the chaconne of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor,” said Ariel Waldman.
By 1974, Mr. Waldman had returned to his musical career, performing in concerts and with orchestras to gain recognition. He married Cathy Walder, a pianist and composer, in 1970, and they often performed together. He also began to branch out and acted as concertmaster for ensembles such as the Kansas City Philharmonic and music director for events such as the Madeira Bach Festival. He conducted and recorded with numerous orchestras and was the founder of several quartets and other ensembles.
His first marriage ended in divorce in 1997. In addition to his son from his first marriage, his wife Lyudmila Sholokhova, whom he married in 2010, survived. a sister, Rina Weiss; a stepdaughter, Valeriya Sholokhova; and two grandchildren.
One of Mr. Waldman’s many activities was conducting the Mid-Atlantic Chamber Orchestra during the 1980s and 1990s. At an online memorial service a few weeks ago, Mr. Levinson-Waldman shared a time when this ensemble went to small towns to perform and bring experts to schools, including a singer who taught school choirs on breath. Control techniques.
“My father spoke with an accent,” said Mr. Levinson-Waldman. “Depending on how you count it, English was his eighth or ninth language.”
When he proposed the program to the city of Pulaski, Virginia, “Unfortunately, some of the city guides heard the wrong thing.” They were outraged, Mr. Levinson-Waldman said that these musicians wanted to teach their students about birth control outside of the city.