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Articles & Interviews

These Symphony-commissioned feature articles offer insights into the music you'll hear in the concert hall. We hope you'll find them provocative and entertaining.

Mar 10, 2015

For Nadya Tichman, Music Is a Family Affair

An orchestra can be many things: sports fans might think of it as a team, united in the pursuit of excellence.  A biologist might point out that an orchestra behaves (hopefully) like a composite organism, the way coral grow in colonies to build reefs.  And some might think of it as an extended family.  That’s where you’d expect to find Nadya Tichman, the Associate Concertmaster of the SFS.  After all, she grew up in a Long Island home full of music.  Her parents were professional, touring musicians, and her older sister, Nina Tichman, has an international career as a concert pianist (largely based these days in Köln, Germany).  And she is married to the classical guitarist/mandolinist John Imholz. 

But it’s the sports fans who might best understand what the Associate Concertmaster’s job is.  Like a baseball team at spring training, where clubs often play “split squad” games, the Symphony often divides itself in half.  “For Baroque concerts, which don’t require as big an ensemble, or children’s concerts, the orchestra will often split in two,” Tichman explains.  “So maybe half the orchestra is doing a Sound Box concert or other small event, and the other half will do a Pops concert.”  Each half of the orchestra needs a concertmaster.  Plus, if the SFS concertmaster, Alexander Barantschik, is unavailable for an event, Tichman steps in.  “For 15 to 19 weeks a year,” she estimates, “I’ll serve as concertmaster.”

One of the benefits of being in the first seat of the first violin section is getting to play important solos.  A couple of seasons ago, Tichman played the beautiful solo part in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending; that piece was her own suggestion.  This time, the orchestra asked if she’d take on the Haydn Sinfonia Concertante with SFS Assistant Principal cello Amos Yang, and Principal Bassoon Stephen Paulson.  “It’s a really exuberant piece,” she says; “beautiful and so satisfying to play.” 

The benefits and satisfactions of playing music became apparent to Nadya Tichman at a fairly young age.  “When I was 15 I got to play on the S.S. France with my parents.  They got this wonderful gig – it was the last summer that the S.S. France sailed (1974), and in those days you could do one concert and get a free ocean crossing with two state rooms.  And it had a Michelin 3-star restaurant on board.”

That last observation turns out to be a telling one.  Like numerous members of the SFS, Tichman is a self-confessed  food enthusiast. “I love cooking,” she says. “I also love going out to eat, but I’ve always loved cooking.  It’s the first thing I do when I have free time.  It might even be a little over the top sometimes.  Almost.” When pressed to explain what “a little over the top” and “almost” might mean in this context, Tichman reveals a few recent dinner items: a butterfly loin of pork, filled with black truffle butter and mortadella, rolled and roasted; and giant Korean dumplings made with kimchi and pork.  “I really like to feed people.”

But back to playing music with family.  Nadya and Nina Tichman performed together in 2013, debuting a work by German composer Stefan Heucke in New York.  In 2008, she and her husband John Imholz premiered a work written for them by Allan Shearer of Composers Inc.  And as parents, they’ve been keen to insure that their children were exposed to classical music growing up.  “I always loved it,” she explains, “and took it for granted.  It makes me sad to look around and realize that a lot of people don’t have that experience and are missing this incredible thing.” 

So, how do her kids feel about growing up as she did, with musician parents?  “I think they secretly think it’s pretty cool,” she says.  “But they’re teenagers now so they don’t let on that much.”

If you go:

San Francisco Symphony Associate Concertmaster Nadya Tichman will solo in Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante in a San Francisco Symphony concert conducted by Ton Koopman that also features Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music and Haydn’s Symphony No. 103 all at 8 p.m. March 11, 13, and 14, 2015; and 2 p.m. March 12, 2015 at Davies Symphony Hall. (415) 864-6000