L.A. Studio Legends: Glenn Dicterow

World-renowned violinist, former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, discusses his career as studio musician in film recordings in Los Angeles and his collaborations with John Williams

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L.A. Studio Legends is a new series of podcast talks on The Legacy of John Williams dedicated to legendary orchestra musicians from the Los Angeles area who performed in hundreds of film soundtrack recordings, including many by composer John Williams.

These artists are not only responsible for playing in some of the most iconic movie scores in the history of cinema: they’re some of the truly finest and talented orchestra players of the 20th and 21st century. The first guest of this new series is certainly a musician who can be defined in a class of himself, who also enjoyed a global recognition throughout his distinguished career: world-renowned violinist Glenn Dicterow.

Glenn Dicterow has established himself as one of the most prominent American concert artist of his generation and lived through a varied and storied career through more than four decades. He has been the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic for 34 years (from 1980 to 2014) and served as that orchestra leader under esteeemed music directors Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur and Alan Gilbert. In that post, Dicterow has performed under virtually every top conductor, frequently as featured soloist in performances of great Romantic violin concertos and also many 20th century classics he helped to be discovered more (including Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto). During a NY Phil concert tour through the U.S. in the mid-1980s, Dicterow was featured as the soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade After Plato’s Symposium, with Bernstein himself conducting, an experience Dicterow still ranks among the greatest musical moments in his life.

A native of Los Angeles, Dicterow first came to prominence as an enfant prodige, making his solo debut at age 11 performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, where his father, Harold Dicterow, served as principal of the second violin section for 52 years. His brilliant musicianship put him on the map at that very young age, but Dicterow continued his thorough studies, graduating at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City under Ivan Galamian, and also studying with some of the most talented violinists such as Jascha Heifetz, Gerald Vinci, Erno Neufeld and Joachim Chassman. It’s important to remark that Dicterow grew up and studied in an environment where many of those exceptional musicians were emigrées from Europe and Russia, who settled in the United States (and mainly in the city of Los Angeles), carrying their musicianship into the New World, with many of them also playing for the Hollywood film studios.

Glenn Dicterow (Photo by Chris Lee)

Dicterow joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1971 as associate concertmaster, and became concertmaster there before turning 25. During those years, he also worked extensively as a studio musician for film and television soundtracks recorded in Los Angeles (along with many other L.A. Phil members, including his father Harold), playing in literally hundreds of scores, including many by John Williams. Among the works he did for him, Dicterow played in the violin section for The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Fury, Jaws 2 and 1941. In that position, he developed a unique perspective and insight into the composer’s musicianship (who coincidentally went from being a rising star of the film music scene to being the No.1 film composer in the world), but also his way of working with the orchestra. After becoming concertmaster of the NY Phil, Dicterow continued to work as featured soloist for film soundtracks including Altered States by John Corigliano, The Untouchables by Ennio Morricone and Interview with the Vampire by Elliot Goldenthal.

Steven Spielberg, John Williams and Glenn Dicterow talk backstage at the Avery Fisher Hall before a concert conducted by the composer with the New York Philharmonic in 2006 (Photo by Chris Lee)

During his years as concertmaster of the NY Phil, he performed in several concerts conducted by John Williams (including a very memorable one in 2006, with directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg as special guests on stage), and was the featured soloist in the composer’s selections from Schindler’s List and Fiddler on the Roof performed in those concerts. Dicterow was also featured soloist in the world premiere performance of Williams’s Bassoon Concerto The Five Sacred Trees (which was written for NY Phil’s Principal Bassoon Judith LeClair), where he had a virtuosic duet with the bassoon during the second movement.

Dicterow has devoted a lot of his life also to teaching, passing on the great musical legacy that spurred his own career as he once was in his orchestral duties. In 2013, he became the first holder of the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music at the USC Thornton School of Music. He is also the Chairman of the Orchestral Performance Program at New York’s Manhattan School of Music, and the leader of the String Leadership Program at Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West, training new generations of concertmasters and principal second violinists.

Glenn Dicterow in Cremona, Italy, holding the Stradivarius that once belonged to the legendary violinist Joseph Joachim

In this wide-ranging conversation, Glenn talks about his long and distinguished career both as concertmaster of one of the world’s leading ensembles and his life as a studio musician, where you can face unexpected challenges. Dicterow offers his own views on how the style of playing in Hollywood orchestras evolved through the years, and how it ties with its European roots. Dicterow talks extensively about his friendship and collaboration with John Williams throughout the years, but also spends time talking about his experiences with the legendary Leonard Bernstein.

Special Thanks to Glenn Dicterow for his kindness and generosity, and to Drew Hemenger (Schmidt Artists International) for his help and support. Visit Glenn Dicterow’s official website for more information on his career and recordings: http://www.glenndicterow.com

Glenn Dicterow’s artist page at New York Philharmonic website: https://nyphil.org/about-us/artists/glenn-dicterow


List of musical excerpts featured in this episode:

. Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, op.35: I. Moderato Nobile (New York Philharmonic conducted by David Robertson; Glenn Dicterow, violin)
. John Williams: “End Titles” from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), original film soundtrack
. John Williams: “For Gillian”, from The Fury (1978), original film soundtrack
. John Williams: “The Mountain”, from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), original film soundtrack
. John Williams: Theme from Schindler’s List (New York Philharmonic conducted by John Williams; Glenn Dicterow, violin)
. John Williams: Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra “The Five Sacred Trees” – II. Tortan (London Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Williams; Judith LeClair, bassoon; Gordan Nikolitch, violin)
. Alfred Newman: “The Spring Birds”, from How Green Was My Valley (1941), original film soundtrack
. John Williams: “Contact” from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), original film soundtrack
. John Williams: Star Wars Symphonic Suite (1978) – IV. The Battle (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta)
. John Williams: “The Lost Boys Ballet” from Hook (1991), original film soundtrack
. John Williams: “Sailing” from Jaws 2 (1978), original film soundtrack
. Elliot Goldenthal: “Claudia’s Allegro Agitato”, from Interview With the Vampire (1992), original film soundtrack (Glenn Dicterow, solo violin)
. Jerry Goldsmith: “The Light”, from Poltergeist (1982), original film soundtrack
. Leonard Bernstein: Serenade After Plato’s Symposium – I. Phaedrus – Pausanias: Lento – Allegro (New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein; Glenn Dicterow, violin)
. Leonard Bernstein: Serenade After Plato’s Symposium – IV. Agathon: Allegro (New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein; Glenn Dicterow, violin)
. Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.2 In C Minor “Resurrection” – I: Allegro maestoso (Totenfeier) – New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein (1988 recording)
. Erich Wolfgang Korngold: “Capturing Sir Guy”, from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), original film soundtrack
. John Williams: “Out to Sea / The Shark Cage Fugue”, from Jaws (1975) – New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Williams (Live Recording from 2006)
. Jerry Bock, arr. John Williams: Excerpts from Fiddler on the Roof – New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Williams; Glenn Dicterow, solo violin (Live Recording from 2008)