Violinist and Pedagogue Zvi Zeitlin was Born in 1922
The Russian-born American violinist studied with Ivan Galamian and held a 45-year teaching position at New York’s Eastman School of Music
Born in Dubrovna, Belarus, Zvi Zeitlin grew up in Israel and received his first violin lessons from his father, a doctor and amateur violinist. At age 11, Zeitlin attended the Juilliard School as the youngest scholarship student in its history, studying with Sascha Jacobsen, Louis Persinger, and Ivan Galamian.
Completing Judaic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the early 1940s, he later played for Allied troops throughout the Middle East and Greece between 1943 and 1946 as part of the British Royal Air Force during WWII.
In 1951, Zeitlin made his New York debut at Town Hall, and in 1967, appeared with the New York Philharmonic for the first time under conductor Leonard Bernstein, playing the Schoenberg Violin Concerto — his signature performance piece, of which his 1971 recording with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and Rafael Kubelik on Deutsche Grammophon, is a celebrated interpretation.
ARNOLD SCHOENBERG | VIOLIN CONCERTO OP. 36: I. POCO ALLEGRO | ZVI ZEITLIN | BAVARIAN RADIO ORCHESTRA | RAFAEL KUBELIK | 1971
He joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music in 1967 and became a founding member of the Eastman Trio, with which he played from 1976 to 1982. As part of his appointment to the school, Eastman commissioned Gunther Schuller’s first Violin Concerto, of which Zeitlin is the dedicatee.
A teacher at Eastman for 45 years between 1967 and 2012, Zeitlin’s students went on to become concertmasters, professors, competition winners, orchestra players, and recitalists internationally.
For decades, Zeitlin, alongside Dorothy DeLay and Josef Gingold, became a trio of highly regarded violin pedagogues teaching at major U.S. conservatories, drawing emerging talents from all over the world. Zeitlin performed concerts well into his 80s and played on a 1734 Guarneri del Gesù violin.
As a soloist, Zeitlin performed with conductors including Pierre Boulez, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, and Antal Dorati. A champion of contemporary music, he associated himself with the work of modernist composers Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss, George Rochberg, and gave the world premieres of pieces written for him by composers Paul Ben-Haim, Carlos Surinach, and more.
In 2012, Zeitlin, announced his retirement from the Eastman School, where he gave his last recital at age 89. He passed away in 2012, aged 90.