Calvin Sieb



The Development of a Violinist

©Photo by Lois Siegel
Montreal Symphony Orchestra

©Photo by Andrť Lecoz
Charles Dutoit and Calvin Sieb

In 1959, I became the concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO), a post I held for 20 years. Conductors who were music directors of the MSO when I was concertmaster were Igor Markevitch, Zubin Mehta, Franz-Paul Decker, Rafael Frubeck de Burgos and Charles Dutoit.

Zubin Mehta
Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Calvin Sieb,  Zubin Mehta
Der Musikverein Salzburg, Austria

Other conductors I played with were Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Arthur Fiedler, and Charles Munch.

Calvin Sieb First Solo Performance
Saint-SaŽns  "Concerto No. 3"
Charles Munch
(Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra)
guest conducting
The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, 1962

Charles Munch

And, of course, there were always guest artists performing. I met them all.

Arthur Rubinstein

David Oistrakh and Calvin Sieb
Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Isaac Stern
Montreal Symphony Orchestra

My role as concertmaster was to support the conductor and play as well as possible. I enjoyed working with each conductor with the exception of only one whom I found to be very precise but unemotional when conducting a performance. The main goal of music is to exploit the emotions of the music so that the audience is “moved” by the emotions that the composer has put into his compositions. When one conductor only mechanically beats the time and does not seem to feel any emotion in the music, the musicians are not moved to play the emotions.

Calvin Sieb

The main responsibility of the conductor is to build the best team with the best players, thus hiring the best musicians available to lead that team.  The team has to perform, as a unit, the conductor’s interpretation of the music and has to be able to convey emotions written into the music by the composer.

To be a musician in an orchestra under a conductor who achieves that is fulfilling and gratifying for each individual in the group

Calvin Sieb and Zubin Mehta

Three things were great about playing in the MSO. Because I was constantly playing, I was learning outstanding repertoire. The greatest exploitation of music is found in the symphonic works and the instrumental concerti. I was playing alongside the best, world-famous invited artists, thus I was learning, consciously, what makes an artist different from the ordinary, and I was learning, unconsciously, by osmosis, to recognize what real artistry is.  I also had the chance to receive on-the-job training that helped me evolve into becoming a professional world-class concertmaster.

Nathan Milstein and Calvin Sieb, 1961

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