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NJSO preview: Concertmaster Eric Wyrick prepares for Strauss rarity

Eric Wyrick, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster, will change regular duties this week to star as soloist in Richard Strauss’ violin concerto
Photo by Roy Lewis

While preparing for this week’s concert series with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Eric Wyrick took time Tuesday afternoon, March 18, 2014, to speak with about his special role as soloist. He will perform a work he calls “unjustifiably neglected,” namely, “Concerto in D Minor for Violin and Orchestra,” Op. 8, by Richard Strauss, which premiered in 1882 when the composer was just aged 18.

The concert series starts Friday evening, March 21, at Newark’s Prudential Hall, and continues through Sunday afternoon, March 23, in two other New Jersey venues. The program opens with Karl Goldmark’s concert overture “In Springtime,” Op. 36 (1889), and concludes with “Symphony No. 5 in D Minor,” Op. 47 (1937), of Dmitri Shostakovich. Guest conductor Gerard Schwarz will wield the baton.

This week Eric Wyrick will sit out the opening and closing works and relinquish his role as concertmaster to Brennan Sweet, NJSO’s associate concertmaster and “a wonderful violinist.” As the star of the evening, Eric Wyrick will concentrate on the Strauss work, which he describes as “fascinating, definitely deserving of more attention, with shades of Mendelssohn, impish, and lots of fun.” To be the centerpiece of a program like that … well, who needs to be concertmaster too?

What’s it like being concertmaster at NJSO? The violinist responds, “My colleagues are a terrific group of people, very conscientious and communicative. There’s a special atmosphere at our Orchestra and I’m really proud of it.” What are your typical duties as concertmaster?

Eric Wyrick: At rehearsals lots of decisions are made. These involve discussions that I lead at times amongst the strings and maybe with the wind players about self-managed aspects of music-making. It’s a unique team onstage. Then, in performance a cue from the conductor will trigger several other cues by various section leaders. If the conductor gives the downbeat, I give a sympathetic downbeat. When a guest conductor appears with the Orchestra, he will know what my cue is and we play together that way. It’s fun.

Ex: If you were to appear more as soloist in concerts, what pieces are on your wish-list to play?

EW: My list would include the Strauss concerto, the Busoni concerto, which I did a few years ago, and another piece that we premiered by Darryl Kubian, his concerto for electric violin and acoustic violin. They are the pieces I am associated with and with which I’ve had some success and that I have a high regard for. Those are the three I would most like to play—if asked. Why, is someone asking? [Laughs] I’d like to put together a recording of the Strauss concerto and the Busoni concerto. I think they are really well-matched, under-the-radar pieces, wonderful Romantic works. They would make a great recording.

Ex: Laurie Shulman’s concert program notes say about you: “… performed here by NJSO Concertmaster Eric Wyrick with his characteristic elegance and style.” How did you manage to make elegance and style characteristic of you?

EW: I didn’t read that quote. I’m glad someone feels that way. [Laughing] I don’t know. Live long enough, I guess. That’s a great epitaph.

Eric Wyrick has also appeared with the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra since 1988 where he often serves as leader. Regarding that experience, he says it “is really very rewarding, a welcome change that diversifies my artistic experience. I really enjoy it.” Indeed, their concerts are unique. After the ensemble tunes, the leader—the first violin—raises his bow. All eyes are on him. When he gives the signal they all start playing in such unison as is achieved by the best conductors—all due to listening closely to each other.

Beyond soloing and his duties as concertmaster, Eric Wyrick also performs chamber music. Sunday, April 13, at 4:00 p.m., he will appear in recital at The Unitarian Church in Summit ( with pianist Mitchell Vines, playing sonatas for violin and piano by Telemann, Sibelius, and Beethoven, plus three extracts from Tchaikovsky ballets.

So this week when you see Eric Wyrick starring as soloist, playing with characteristic elegance and style, and in future when he takes his seat as concertmaster at an NJSO concert, or when he appears as leader or partner in some chamber ensemble, you’ll know there’s more to the man than merely tuning and playing.


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