Violinist Florin Iliescu (First Concertmaster of hr-sinfonieorchester)

Update to this article: Last month (May 2019), violinist Gil Shaham asked Florin to join him in his encore by Jean-Marie Leclair l’aîné (1697 – 1764). How nice! They played the Gavotte from the Sonata in e minor, Op. 3, which you can watch in the second video below. Very pleased that hr-sinfonieorchester uploaded that video so we could enjoy it. Danke. As usual, Florin was most humble and modest after playing superbly, as did Gil.

Hola a todos. There are two violinists in my favourite Orchestra, hr-sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony), that I pay special attention to and one of them is Florin Iliescu.

I affectionally refer to Florin as “the kid” because even though he’s 35 years old as of this writing (born in 1984), he looks like he’s in his early 20s right out of high school. And it’s wonderful and quite the accomplishment to see someone that young as First Concertmaster, first in line to the conductor, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, in a renowned and highly-regarded symphony orchestra like hr-sinfonieorchester. Rather unusual, I think. I’m very glad to see that. In other performances in the past he’s been Second Concertmaster. Those positioned were not given to him. Florin auditioned for those chairs and he was chosen after successfully passing the audition for First Concertmaster of hr-sinfonieorchester.

During the bows at the end of a performance, all members of the Orchestra have to watch “the kid” — the guy who looks like the youngest musician in the Orchestra — to see when to sit because the First Concertmaster determines that after the Orchestra stands to be recognised for their “bows.” (Orchestral musicians don’t technically bow. They just stand facing the audience.) At the end of a performance, both the conductor and soloist (if there is a soloist) walk over to the First Concertmaster — the primary representative of the Orchestra — and shake his hand, which is a way of acknowledging and thanking the Orchestra for their performance. They also hopefully shake the hand of the Second Concertmaster. I say “hopefully” because I’ve noticed that some soloists fail to do so; maybe they don’t know that the Orchestra they’re performing with has two Concertmasters. Their concert manager should tell them that before their performance, or they could look it up themselves just as I did.

So congratulations to Florin for his many accomplishments and his stellar musicianship. Yes, he plays beautifully. I noticed that he really makes his violin “sing” like the human voice, like a singer. The finest pianists are trained to make the piano “sing” and soar like a singer and to play with a lovely singing tone. The same thing Florin does on the violin. I’ve heard some judges of international piano competitions say that they will take a lovely singing tone over speed any day. Oh absolutely, I agree. I’m not really that impressed by speed. And there’s an art to producing a lovely singing tone on one’s instrument to have one’s instrument “sing.” Florin also seems to be very mature for his age. Well, he wouldn’t be where he is if he weren’t mature. And when he takes his bows in this performance below as well as in the Orchestra, he’s the true artist: He smiles and acts very humble and modest as if saying, “Oh it was nothing, no big deal, but thank you.”

I’m not big on applause and especially 15-30 minutes of nonstop applause and bows. You know what I’m talking about. The routine where the conductor and soloist(s) walk back and forth, back and forth, back and forth on and off the stage from the podium area to the stage door where the soloist(s) and or conductor enter and immediately turn around and come back out returning to the stage. It looks so silly. Why not just stay out there on stage and bow occasionally until the audience gets tired of applauding? A brief and polite applause is sufficient, you don’t have to keep going on and on with it. I think we all got the point that you liked it. But that’s one of the silly traditions of the classical music field, which also carries over into other music genres. Regarding applause, I was pleased to see the Orchestra and Chorus of Collegium 1704 of the Czech Republic take a different approach. They — either their conductor, Václav Luks, or the First Concertmaster — decide when enough is enough with the applause. After a sufficient amount of applause and any encore they choose to do and the performers’ show of appreciation, all musicians walk off the stage signaling to the audience that it’s time to leave now. I think that’s a better way of doing it rather than leaving applause up to the audience who often don’t know when to stop.

Here’s a little bit about Florin’s background: He’s a son of musicians and he was born in Bucharest in 1984. He began playing the violin at the age of five. That’s very familiar. That’s often the age that professionally-trained and concertising career musicians begin playing their major instrument. Florin studied at the University of Music Lübeck. At the age of 19 he had his first orchestral performance as Deputy Concertmaster with the Lübeck Philharmonic. And since 2018, he has been the First Concertmaster of hr-sinfonieorchester in Frankfurt, Deutschland.

Florin plays a Gand & Bernardel Violin (it’s a French violin) from the 19th century which I found interesting, and his technique and musicality have been influenced by many internationally-distinguished violinists.

I wanted to hear him play some solo repertoire because when he’s in the Orchestra you can’t hear him play alone as he blends in with all the other superb strings and their perfect intonation of this stellar Orchestra. I’d like to see Florin (as well as Maximilian Junghanns) featured in a violin concerto with hr-sinfonieorchester. Can someone arrange that? Andrés, how about you? Could you kindly do that for us? You don’t have anything else to do, correct? I’m just playing with Andrés and being sarcastic of course because he is quite busy. He’s also the Music Director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra in the US state of Texas but he lives in Austria, which is quite a commute for him at 13 hours and 40 minutes from Vienna. And there’s an eight hour (the average) commute for him from Vienna to Frankfurt if he goes by train or roughly 1.5 hours by plane. There’s a lot of travel time there. That must get tiring, which is one of the complaints of concertising musicians. It’s not all glamour.

Some of the hr-sinfonieorchester musicians have performed a concerto with the Orchestra. One of their principal flautists, superb Clara Andrada de la Calle, played a couple of flute concerti with the Orchestra awhile back. She’s also principal flautist with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

The other violinist I watch closely is Florin’s colleague and perhaps they’re friends, Maximilian Junghanns, who is now Second Concertmaster (so Florin and Maximilian sit next to each other, for those who don’t know how this works). Maximilian is usually back on the third row in many of the performances I’ve seen, but he seems to move around occasionally. But he’s for another article.

Here is Florin’s stellar playing in part of a piece by Brahms, the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A. He’s playing the second and third movements in the video below. This performance is from the 5 November 2016 International Music Festival St. Blasien. Florin’s piano accompanist was Irina Vinogradova. Chau.—el barrio rosa