Violinist Nikolaj Znaider admits that conducting a concerto while playing as soloist can be a “mission impossible.”
“When you are doing both, it does change your focus,” Znaider said. But that’s exactly the mission he faces when he makes Orchestra Hall podium debut in concerts Dec. 21-23 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.
First gaining acclaim as a concert violinist, Znaider has been conducting for about a decade. Since 2010, he has been principal guest conductor with the Mariinsky Orchestra in St. Petersburg. After his debut leading the Cleveland Orchestra in 2014, Znaider was invited to return for a two-week residency as a conductor and soloist. He also conducts the London Symphony Orchestra every season; he will embark on a recording project with the orchestra in which he will conduct and solo in Mozart’s five violin concertos.
Still, he allows that conducting and soloing at the same time is “an exception” for him. “It is difficult, because you use your hands in a different way when you conduct and when you play,” he said. “So you should not do it too often.” But when he does, he discovers vast rewards.