Elizabeth Blumenstock is a long-time concertmaster, soloist, and leader of the San Francisco Bay Area's Philharmonia Baroque and American Bach Soloists, concertmaster of the International Handel Festival in Göttingen, Germany, and artistic director of the Corona del Mar Baroque Music Festival. Her love of chamber music has involved her in several accomplished smaller ensembles including Musica Pacifica, Galax Quartet, Ensemble Mirable, Live Oak Baroque, and Voices of Music. In addition to Juilliard's Historical Performance program, she teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the American Bach Soloists' summer Festival and Academy, the International Baroque Institute at Longy, and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. Ms. Blumenstock plays a 1660 Andrea Guarneri violin built in Cremona, Italy, on generous loan to her from the Philharmonia Baroque Period Instrument Trust.
How did you get started in music?
My mom had a crush on the Hungarian violin teacher at Rutgers University when I was 7. I think she started me on violin lessons with him so she could meet him. It didn't work out for them, but I got a great long-term relationship with the violin out of it!
How did you come to play your instrument?
Willingly, but slowly.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a musician?
Finding reliable gut E strings.
Do you have a favorite performer?
What are a few of your favorite books about music?
Musica Poetica by Dietrich Bartel and How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care) by Ross Duffin.
What else are you reading?
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe, and Patricia Cornwall murder mysteries.
Who are your favorite 17th and 18th century composers?
Bach, Rameau, Handel, Purcell, Schmelzer, and Biber. And Marini. And Tartini.
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
Bach's St. Matthew Passion.
What drew you to early music and period instrument performance?
Two recordings - Rameau's Pieces de Clavecin en Concert with La Petite Bande, and the Leonhardt/Harnoncourt Bach cantata series. It probably helped that my mom, who was a church organist, played a lot of Bach, Schütz, and Buxtehude at home...
How many instruments do you own?
Two: a violin and a viola.
Which one do you play the most?
The violin! But I Love the viola, in fact, started my career as a modern violist, and relish my few opportunities to play it, even those terrible Handel viola parts!
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not making music?
Be at home in beautiful New Mexico!
What is the first thing you think about in the morning?
Brushing my teeth.
How would you describe the relationship between you and your instrument?
Some performers are in love with their instruments, which is a beautiful thing. While I do love my instruments, I value them most not for themselves, but for the opportunity they give me to play beautiful music.
Who are your musical heroes?
Bach, Purcell, Haydn, Brahms, Stravinsky, Nicholas McGegan, John Butt, Jeffrey Thomas, Alan Curtis, Dominique Labelle, and too many more to name.
If you had to play only one composer for the rest of your career, who would you choose?
What music do you listen to most often?
Whatever I'm playing, which is probably, overall, more Handel than any other composer.
If you had not been a musician what do you think you would have done instead?
I would like to have been an evolutionary biologist.