Maxim Alexandrovich Vengerov (Russian: Максим Александрович Венгеров, pronounced [mɐkˈsʲim ɐlʲɪˈksandrəvʲɪtɕ vʲɪnˈɡʲɛrəf]) is an Israeli violinist, violist, and conductor who was born in the Soviet Union.
Vengerov was born on 20 August 1974 in Novosibirsk, to a family with a strong musical tradition. His mother sang and conducted a 500 voice orchestra, and his father played first oboe in the local philharmonic. At age five, he began studying the violin with Galina Tourchaninova, and five years later, with Zakhar Bron. 1984 saw the child prodigy at age 10 go abroad touring for the first time. In Lublin, Poland, he won first place at the International Karol Lipiński and Henryk Wieniawski Young Violin Player Competition. When Bron left Russia in 1987 to teach at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Vengerov and his mother followed him there, and did so again after Bron moved to Lübeck to open a school there. He subsequently immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces.
In 1990, Vengerov won the International Carl Flesch Competition in London. His public appearances – both solo and with orchestras – at major European music events sparked the interest of major record labels (to date, he has recorded close to 100 compositions or cycles) and music magazines. Numerous recording prizes and "Artist of the Year" titles (including one from Gramophone) followed, as did a Grammy Award, Edison Award (for the recording of Shostakovich Second Concerto), and the "Echo Klassik" annual distinction awarded to him by the German Television in 2003 for a recital featuring works by J. S. Bach).
In 1997, he became UNICEF's Envoy for Music and has met and performed for children in such places, as Uganda, Thailand and Kosovo. Playing by Heart, an American television production (on NBC), about the artist's meetings with young musicians during his master classes, was shown at the Cannes Festival in 1999. Contacts with Mstislav Rostropovich, Daniel Barenboim and Vag Papian, as well as performances with the world's most famous orchestras, like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony, added to Vengerov's artistic progress. The artist took a two-year course in the Baroque violin and repertoire of the epoch. However, he does not restrict himself to the violin; the viola, jazz improvisation, dance, and conducting have also drawn his attention. Since the earliest stages of his career, he has been playing various Stradivari instruments; at present, it is the 1727 "Ex-Kreutzer".
In 2005, he hurt his shoulder during a weight lifting class, which led him to take a rest until 2011. Since 2005, Vengerov has held the position of Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2006 he founded Musicians of Tomorrow together with Dr. Anna Rosnovsky in Northern Israel . During a sabbatical year in 2007, Vengerov was the subject of the film Living the Dream, directed by Ken Howard, for ITV's South Bank Show, in which he revisited his birthplace in Novosibirsk and played viola and danced tango with Christiane Palha for the premiere of Benjamin Yusupov's Concerto for Viola. Living the Dream was also issued as an EMI DVD, which won the BBC Music Magazine Award for Best DVD documentary 2008.
Tireless in his search for new means of creative expression, Maxim Vengerov has let himself be inspired by many different styles of music, including baroque, jazz and rock and in 2007 followed in the footsteps of his mentor, the late Mstislav Rostropovich and turned his attention to conducting. He took his first conducting classes with Vag Papian, once a student of the legendary Ilya Musin in St. Petersburg, and since 2009 has regularly consulted his mentor Yuri Simonov, an exponent of the Russian-German conducting school. In 2010 Maxim Vengerov was appointed the first chief conductor of the Gstaad Festival Orchestra and in June 2014 he 'officially' graduated as a conductor with a diploma of excellence from the Moscow Institute of Ippolitov-Ivanov with professor Maestro Simonov.
Since he returned to the violin in 2011, Maxim Vengerov performed as soloist and/or conductor with many major orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, often performing a major concerto in the first half and conducting a symphonic work in the second, including Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherezade where he also performs the violin solos.
On 14 May 2012, organized by the Montreal Chamber Music Society (SMCM), Maxim Vengerov performed at the Maison symphonique de Montréal, accompanied at the piano by Patrice Laré, the Executive Director of the SMCM. Vengerov interpreted the Partita for violin solo No. 2 in D minor by J.S. Bach, the Sonata for violin and piano in D Major Op. 1 by G.F Händel and the Scherzo for violin and piano in C Minor by J. Brahms.
2013 saw the launch of the annual Vengerov Festival in Tokyo with a series of recitals, concerts and Masterclasses which combine his passion for conducting, performing and teaching. The Barbican Centre London featured Maxim Vengerov in 5 different programs as Artist in Residence during the 2013/14 season, showcasing his unique versatility as an artist. Other highlights included a major tour of 21 concerts in Europe and the Far East as soloist and conductor with the Polish Chamber Orchestra, a tour in China with Maestro Long Yu and numerous recitals around the globe devoted to romantic virtuoso repertoire. That season he also accepted the position as Artist in Residence with the Oxford Phil' with whom he recorded the Brahms concerto and Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony, to be released in 2015.
As well as recitals in Europe and South America, other highlights of the 2014/15 season included Maxim Vengerov opening Shanghai's newest Symphony Hall alongside Maestro Long Yu, opening the concert seasons of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris with Pavo Jarvi, and saw him on tour and recording with the Orchestra National de France and Myung-Whun Chung.
In keeping with his belief that competitions are a platform to launch young artists' international careers, Maxim Vengerov regularly serves on competition juries including the Montreal International Violin Competition in May 2013 where he conducted the competition finals. Owing to his success as chairman of the prestigious Wieniawski Violin Competition in 2011, where he auditioned live over 200 musicians in nine world capitals, Maxim Vengerov has been unprecedentedly re-elected to return as chairman in 2016.
In 1997 Maxim Vengerov became the first classical musician to be appointed International Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF.