Top 5: Joseph Polisi

Westchester’s Own Music Man



Rye resident and Juilliard School President Joseph Polisi’s classical music creds are the real deal. Not only has he headed the world-renowned music school for the past 24 years, but he also holds a Doctorate in Musical Arts from Yale and is an accomplished bassoonist with a solo album on Crystal Records. Here he selects those seminal works no classical music enthusiast’s iPod should be without.

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1. Symphony No. 5 (Gustav Mahler) Performers: New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, conductor at Philharmonic Hall Label/Recording: Sony Classical, 1963
Polisi makes particular note of the trumpet solo with which the work begins, calling it “majestic and emphatic, but haunting.” He adds: “It sets the stage for a grandiose and deeply moving musical experience.”


2. The Rite of Spring (Igor Stravinsky) Performers: New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, conductor at Philharmonic Hall Label/Recording: Sony Classical, 1963
For Polisi, this piece, which begins with a famous bassoon solo, evokes particularly fond memories of his father, a distinguished musician and a member of the Juilliard faculty for 30 years. “My father was principal bassoonist of the New York Philharmonic, and he would always discuss the solo and the overall work during dinner.”
3. Violin Concerto (William Schuman) Performers: Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, Conductor; Robert McDuffie, violin Label/Recording: EMI, 1989
Polisi has a special interest in Schuman; his latest book, American Muse: The Life and Times of William Schuman, is being published this month by Amadeus Press. Polisi calls this particular violin concerto one of the composer’s greatest works.“It deserves more performances,” he says.
4. Piano Quintet in F Minor, op. 34 (Johannes Brahms) Performers: Budapest Quartet; Rudolf Serkin, Conductor
Label/Recording: CBS, 1989
This Brahms piano quintet is one of Polisi’s favorites for chamber ensembles. “The finale will overwhelm you.”
5. Piano Trio in D Minor (Felix Medelssohn) Performers: Jascha Heifetz, violin; Gregor Piatigorsky, violoncello; Arthur Rubinstein, piano Label/Recording: RCA Victor Gold Seal, 1994
Polisi describes Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D Minor as both “intimate and grand. Its brilliance is irresistible.”


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