As the youngest member of the IPO, Dumitru Pocitari faces 44 years of playing ahead of him until the time he retires. This is almost double his age. Will he make it? Most likely. Does this put pressure on him? Not really. Will he become an outstanding violinist? This is what is expected of him. Next November will mark Dumitru 24th birthday and it is clear that excelling in playing is his number one goal, and second fiddle to anything else.
23-year old Dumitru, who comes from Moldova, joined the IPO at the age of 22 after having been spotted by concertmaster Ilya Konovalov and passing his audition at the age of 21. Dumitru describes his youthful affiliation with the orchestra as an encounter between a large family and a young boy. “They are educating me and trying to help me as much as possible. They are raising me both as a person and as a musician.”
Dumitru’s roots are in Moldova. His family settled in the city of Kishinev before the birth of the Soviet Union. His parents are musicians and the family musical tradition goes back many generations. Dumitru’s mother, Natalia, plays the Hungarian cimbalom and his father, Victor, plays the cello. His paternal grandfather played the violin and his paternal grandmother was a ballet dancer. As noted, there were generations of musicians in his family. His great-grandfather played the flute and the saxophone and performed for many years with the famous violinist-conductor Grigoras Dinicu. The family members played different instruments but the common link was that they all played in orchestras.
Dumitru’s 17 year-old sister also plays the violin and he is hopeful that she will follow in his footsteps and come to study in Israel.
If there were a musical analogy with that of the “lone soldier,” we could say that Dumitru is a “lone musician” since he has no family in Israel. Interestingly, Dumitru’s father has both gypsy and Jewish roots. It appears that Dumitru’s grandmother was Jewish and born in Israel; she converted to Christianity and left Israel in order to marry her beloved who was a Romanian.
What drew you to music?
“I had no choice. When I was in my mother’s womb, she was still performing solos and everything that I heard from my father had to do with music. When I was a small boy, I told my parents that I wanted to play contrabass, so they gave me a small “contrabass” which was, in essence, a violin. They pulled a fast one on me. “
Dumitru has played the violin since the age of 7 and was very influenced by the recordings of his grandfather who passed away in 1976 and whom he never met.
What brought you to Israel and does this represent a big challenge for you?
“The biggest challenge for me was that, at the age of 18, I had to become independent and look after myself. It is hard to be alone but I wanted to study in Israel. In 2008, I played at a violin festival in Moldova, where concertmaster Ilya Konovalov had been invited to perform. He also gave a master class there, which drew many people. He heard my sister and was impressed with her playing but could not give her a scholarship because of her young age. He was looking for a violin player to whom he could give a scholarship to study in Israel, as part of the international program of the Buchmann-Mehta Academy of Music. The festival director called me at night and asked me if I could play the following day for Konovalov. I agreed. I practiced for hours that night and the next day played for him. My performance was not perfect but Konovalov saw a potential in me and offered me the scholarship. That is how I came to Israel in 2010 and studied under Konovalov for four years.”
“Without the scholarship I would not have been able to pay for my studies and expenses on my own. When I heard about this scholarship to study under Konovalov and Maestro Mehta, it felt like a dream come true. I had always yearned to play for Maestro Mehta. So I found myself playing in front of him in an audition and then in a solo. In my first concert, I played Ravel’s Tzigane at the Buchmann-Mehta school. Then I played the same work in Frankfurt in a concert marking the 100th anniversary of the Goethe University and the third time was here with the Philharmonic Orchestra.”
Do you have the chance to see your parents sometimes?
“I see my parents once a year although this year it was not possible because of our heavy workload and lengthy summer tour.”
“Next January the IPO will perform a number of concerts with Mehta which will include Vivaldi’s Concerto for Three Violins during which I will play solo. It would be wonderful if they could come to hear me.”
Is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra known in Moldova?
It appears that the IPO is very well-known in Moldova where it often features on the Mezzo channel and Maestro Mehta is known as a top-rank conductor there. “I first saw Mehta when I celebrated New Year with my family and he was conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.”
What does the violin mean for you?
“The violin is an inseparable part of my body. During the many years that I have played the violin, I have got to know it and I feel it is part of me both in terms of emotion and of sound. I have been playing for some time on a violin which the IPO gave me and I am deeply thankful to the orchestra for giving me the opportunity to play this instrument.”
“I see myself as a servant to music. It is the composers who did most of the work: we try our best to express the intentions of the composers.”
Do you prefer playing solo or as part of the orchestra?
Dumitru, it seems, would like the best of all worlds: “I would like to play solo and in an orchestra as well. And chamber music too. I would even like to try to play other instruments such as the viola. I want to do everything and as much as I can.”
“I cannot be a great musician without playing chamber music and I also cannot be a great soloist without playing chamber music. I cannot be a great orchestral musician if I do not also play chamber music or solo. One has to be in good shape and listen to others.”
“I see myself as a part of the orchestra and, at the same time, as a soloist. I would love, one day, to become a concertmaster. I auditioned for the post with the Philharmonic but was not accepted. It’s hard to say why.”
Which composer do you like best?
“Bach for me is the father of music. He was a genius. Everything in his music is so precise, to the tiniest detail. His music is heavenly. Every composer finds inspiration in the preceding generation. But Bach was the source of inspiration for all the generations that followed him (Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn). And this is how music developed till today.”
Tell us about your audition with the Philharmonic?
“The first audition took place in the summer of 2013 for a place in the second violin section of the orchestra. Many candidates took part in the audition. I reached the final together with Sivan Zelikov and we were both accepted. “
“The audition was very stressful, even though I had already performed with Maestro Mehta. Half the members of the orchestra, all excellent musicians, together with Mehta examined me. It was not easy. Ilya Konovalov was also there but he could not vote for me.“
“After the audition, Mehta came up to me backstage, shook my hand and congratulated me. I was thrilled. My parents were also thrilled for me and still are despite the fact that we work very hard.”
Do you see yourself staying with the orchestra for a long time?
“Certainly. I feel that this is my place.”
Have you settled down in Israel?
“Yes I have friends here. My best friend is Nitzan Canetty, who plays in the first violin section. He auditioned last summer and was also accepted. We were very happy for each other. Most of my friends are musicians but I also have friends from the world of sport.”