Memories - Ronald Zollman

Ronald Zollman, conductor. Music director of the Belgian National Orchestra from 1989 to 1993.

The first time I heard Philippe as a violinist on the evening of Mai 1967, when he stunned the audience of Palais des Beux-Arts in Brussels during the finals of the Reine Elisabeth Competition. I was 17 at the time and I am sure I have never heard anyone play the violin like that.

But Philippe was much more than just a great violinist, it was someone with incredible sensitivity, always there for his friends. More so, he had a rare talent to hear what they wanted to say even before they spoke. I always thought that he had the invisible detectors of people’s thoughts.

This extreme sensitivity, that I have never noticed in any other musician, made of him an interpreter hors pair, unique and very special. This outstanding quality came out when he was listening to the voices of the composers that he played, Mozat, Beethoven, Brahms, Berg, Lutoslawski or Gubaidulina. It is useless, speaking of Philippe, to talk about the purety or the style of interpretation. Philippe was the Music itself, he was beyond all this, he absorbed the works and transmitted them in the spirit of truth. Just hear him play was a lesson of style. At the best moments, everything became clear.

One time, I talked to him about his natural sense of the form. I told him that he had an incredible way of mixing the improvisation with very strict structure.
His answer is a wonderful metaphore that I remember always: “We have to be like architects that build a house with moble pillars. It’s impossible in architecture, but in music?” And this is the way that Philippe played. As for me, this is the image that I am looking for every day, it’s a guiding light that enriches and leads me.

Thank you, Philippe!