The Classical Station’s interview with Dmitry Sitkovetsky for Preview!

Interview with Dmitry Sitkovetsky
by Bethany Tillerson (photo credit: © The Greensboro Symphony)

Dmitry Sitkovetsky is this week’s guest for Preview! For the last 20 years of his prolific career, Dmitry Sitkovetsky has been the Music Director of the Greensboro Symphony in North Carolina. As a violinist and conductor, Sitkovetsky has released over 40 recordings, and has performed with the likes of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the LA Philharmonic, and the Berlin Philharmonic.

NAOMI: Can you tell us about how you plan your programs to please the audience as well as expand their repertoire? 

SITKOVETSKY: A famous German critic referred once to the relationship between the composer, performer, and audience as a triad. My first thought is always about the composer. What are the interesting or essential pieces that you want to have in your orchestra’s repertoire, pieces which are not only interesting for me as a conductor, but also good for developing a particular sound or the style of the orchestra? Then you have to ask the performer which would be the best for them. You ask them what they would like to do, and then you come to a certain agreement. Then there are certain likes and dislikes and favorites of the audience. The audience would like to hear their favorite things, but maybe they also need to expand their horizons. So all three reference points are very much in my head when I plan the program.

NAOMI: You’re a frequent juror at international violin competitions. Later this month, you’re judging the Alma Oliviera violin competition in Florida. Can you tell our listeners, listeners, how you, as an accomplished soloist, approach the challenge of assessing young talent? 

SITKOVETSKY: I’m completely unbiased because I never taught in any institution. I have given masterclasses and I’m attracted to teaching more and more, but I’ve never wanted to be a member of a club, because I knew I would go against the established rules. I wouldn’t fit into their strict rules and I would want to expand them and broaden their horizons. So I’m a free agent. 

A few years ago at a major international competition, I heard of a fantastically talented 16-year-old violinist who was clearly the most interesting personality. She had something to say. She had a certain intensity. A performance starts from the minute you set your eyes on that contestant, before they play a single note, and it was clear to me that particular girl was the star of the competition. My very esteemed colleagues did not agree with me, so she never made the finals and that made me rather curious about what they were looking for. I said one thing to them: “Listen, in four years, if we meet here again at the next competition, I can assure you that she’ll be the only one playing. I can assure you she’ll be the one having a career.” And, believe it or not, that’s exactly what happened. 

I do not just listen to young performers as a violinist. I also listen to them as a conductor and as an arranger. I look for whether there is an individual voice. And when I hear that individual voice, that’s more important than whether they have little imperfections in their technique. It’s a process. We’re always learning and we’re always trying to improve. It matters that they have something to say. If I see a possibility of a personal voice, for me, that’s the most important. 

NAOMI: You often combine performing as a soloist with conducting an ensemble. What are the challenges of combining those two roles? Do you think it gives you a different perspective on the music? 

SITKOVETSKY: I’m a multi-tasker. In a way, I have a polyphonic mind. Both playing and conducting come to me very naturally. I gained as a soloist a tremendous amount from knowing the scores as a conductor and then also gained a lot later on as a composer. So I love being inside of a composer’s mind or being inside of the music. Being both the conductor and the soloist seems very natural because the orchestra really becomes a partner; not just one partner, but many different instruments that have a solo, while I’m just accompanying them and listening to them. Now when I play, even when I’m just the soloist, I hear everything that’s going on in the orchestra. Every sound that comes from the orchestra goes through my body. And that, I think, is the sign of somebody who can do both. 

Listen to Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s interview at 7 PM on Sunday, January 15! Download our app, stream online on, or turn your radio to 89.7 FM!