Violin great Pinchas Zukerman appears in Chamber Music San Francisco performances in the Bay Area. (Courtesy Cheryl Mazak)

Zukerman calls for arts education, togetherness

Even when he’s not playing an instrument, Pinchas Zukerman is still performing.

The violinist, violist, conductor and arts advocate put on a bravura show, touching on everything from the desperate state of music education America to the internet in an interview to promote upcoming Bay Area appearances presented by Chamber Music San Francisco this weekend.

His concert pace, which currently has him flying from Calgary, to Florida, then back to the Bay Area and then to Europe, doesn’t appear to be wearing on him: “I feel like I’m 20 years old again,” he exults.

In the Bay Area, Zukerman will perform Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms violin sonatas in program he enjoys because, he says, “They’re masterpieces and you want to visit those masterpieces from time to time.”

While he himself is having a grand time, Zukerman, 68, is deeply troubled about music education in North America.

“We’re fighting for survival,” says the Israeli-born, Juilliard-trained virtuoso. “The art form is being questioned.”

He puts the blame on political decisions about funding and curriculum in schools: “Music has been taken away from our society. It’s no longer required.”

Challenges extend beyond North America, Zukerman says, “You see a reduction in attendance, even in Austria,” the home of a large portion of the classical repertoire.

“I want to see a global thinking tank of extraordinary people for the arts” to tackle the issues confronting music, he adds.

Zukerman says he would never perform in a stadium show, but adds, “I wouldn’t mind doing a concert where it streams into movie theaters. We have a world-wide stadium today. It’s called the internet.”

He suggests performances could be live-streamed to schools and retirement facilities to provide expanded cultural opportunities for children and the elderly.

He also cautioned against the rightward shift in politics in the U.S. and elsewhere: “You’ve got to put people together. You can’t isolate them with a wall on the West Bank or a wall here with Mexico. The walls of Jericho came down. Why don’t we look at that?”

Ultimately, Zukerman remains focused on communication and sound, whether in an interview where “you can hear my intonation,” or on the concert stage where the audience and musicians “become one community … that wants to explain and understand better the depth of that meaning called arts.”

Pinchas Zukerman (violin). Angela Cheng (piano)
Presented by Chamber Music San Francisco
Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 25
Tickets: $45 to $69
Contact: (415)-392-4400,
Note: Zukerman also appears at 3 p.m. Feb. 26 at Lesher Center in Walnut Creek and in a sold-out concert Feb. 27 in Palo Alto.

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