1996 Metcalf Cup & Prize
Roman Totenberg, SFA
The legendary stature of Roman Totenberg as a virtuoso teacher and performer of violin music has, in the words of one observer, long been a “magnet for the finest musicians attending Boston University.” He is among the handful of internationally acclaimed master musicians who have employed their formidable artistic talents to enrich students and listeners alike for more than half a century. In the words of one admirer, “He provides a living experience with the great tradition of teacher/performers, and does so with the energy and commitment of a person decades his junior.”
Professor Totenberg’s teaching is venerated by his colleagues and mesmerizing even to the untutored observer. He is exacting in the caliber of technical performance he demands from his students, but in a courteous and generous manner that inspires rather than diminishes. In his quiet and good-humored way he clearly yet subtly illuminates the technical and interpretive path toward higher levels of performance for his students. Moreover, he extends the same elegant analysis to enlighten the accompanist’s musical approach.
Watching Professor Totenberg teach, one is struck by the way he places the score in its historical and aesthetic context so the student may gain understanding of the composer and the work. He weaves a tapestry of the composer’s cultural background as he teaches the student to apprehend the composer’s intention. As one musician observes, “His emphasis is a fine balance of technique and personal expression, encouraging his student not only to inhabit the composer’s intention but also to discover the element of the ‘fantastic’ in the music.”
Professor Totenberg’s students not only respect and revere his musicianship — extraordinary numbers of these professionals return to Boston University to renew their work through an abiding association with him.
Roman Totenberg continues, in his ninth decade, to embody the extraordinary teaching the Metcalf Cup and Prize identify and celebrate.