UNT College of Music and UNT Press co-sponsored a talk by Anshel Brusilow and Robin Underdahl on their book, 2015
Anshel Brusilow started playing violin in 1933 at age five, in a Russian Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia where practicing your instrument was as ordinary as hanging out the laundry. His playing wasn’t ordinary, though. At sixteen, he was soloing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He was also studying conducting.
Anshel Brusilow’s tumultuous relationships with Pierre Monteux, George Szell, and Eugene Ormandy shaped his early career. Under Szell, Brusilow was associate concertmaster at the Cleveland Orchestra until Ormandy snatched him away to make him concertmaster in Philadelphia, where he remained from 1959 to 1966. But he was unsatisfied with the violin. Even as concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he felt the violin didn’t give him enough of the music. He wanted to conduct. He formed chamber groups on the side; he conducted summer concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The price was high: it ruined his father-son relationship with Ormandy. Brusilow turned in his violin bow for the baton and created his own Philadelphia Chamber Symphony. Next he took on the then-troubled Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Unhappy endings repeat themselves in his memoir—and yet humor dances constantly around the edges. Musicians need it.
Brusilow played with or conducted many top-tier classical musicians and has something to say about each one. He also made many recordings. Co-written with Robin Underdahl, his memoir is a fascinating view of American classical music as well as an inspiring story of a working-class immigrant child making good in a tough arena.
“This is a book to be inhaled not just read. Its humor, poignancy, and disappointment crackle through every line in the book."—New York Journal of Books
"Brusilow captivates with stories of conductors Leopold Stokowski, Pierre Monteux, George Szell, Eugene Ormandy; composers including Dmitri Shostakovich and Leonard Bernstein; and numerous legendary performers. . . . Page after page, Shoot the Conductor prompts the reader to listen to more classical music, and to go attend concerts by our fabulous orchestras."—Philadelphia Inquirer
“Hilarious and heartbreaking, this memoir is a real page-turner as well as a remarkably accurate account of one extraordinarily gifted musician’s professional ups and (alas!) downs. Anshel Brusilow tells it like it was, con brio and molto vivace.”—Gary Graffman, pianist