Donald Weilerstein and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, who will celebrate their 40th year as a performing duo in 2016, will be giving a concert at Juilliard on December 8 with their cellist daughter, Barnard-Columbia- Juilliard exchange alum Alisa Weilerstein. Don was born in Washington, D.C., and started playing the violin at 4. He grew up in Berkeley, Calif., and got his bachelor’s and master’s at Juilliard (in 1963 and 1968). Vivian was born in New York City, grew up upstate, and got her bachelor’s from the University of Buffalo. They met while performing at the Aspen Music Festival, and both have taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music and are on the faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music. As beﬁtting a longtime duo, they answered some questions together and some individually.
How is performing together like— and unlike—being married?
It’s a dynamic interaction, similar to being married. We can inspire each other in rehearsals as well as in our relationship. It’s hard for us to think of a big difference between being married and the process of performing/rehearsing. Because we have such a close relationship based on trust, mutual understanding, and respect, we can be very open with each other in rehearsal/ performing and that gives us a lot of freedom.
What’s the biggest thing you have to adjust to when performing with your daughter?
The fact that we are a family and trust each other gives us a lot of freedom of expression in our exchange of ideas. We also bring our own individual experiences to the rehearsals. In terms of performing we have a chemistry that we can rely on and feel that we can take risks and let go. That’s a bit harder to do with another cellist.
How did you each decide to become a musician?
Vivian: My parents had an incredible record collection that I was intensely drawn to listening to from an early age. I especially loved the sound of the piano and begged my parents to buy a piano so that I could have lessons, which I started when I was 8. I was basically in love with music and have been ever since!
Don: Of all the arts, music was the most personal and moving to me. I also felt it was the thing I was best at doing, and I really wanted to combine playing with teaching, which I was always passionate about, and still am.
What are you each reading/listening to/watching/following?
Don: I just finished Jan Swafford’s biography on Brahms, and I like to watch sports and follow what’s happening in the world.
Vivian: I just finished the great novel Middlemarch; I’ve been a fan of George Eliot for a long time but had never read it. And I’ve been listening to Dichterliebe and Liederkreis.
If there was just one thing your students could take away from each of your classes, what would it be?
Don: To give them the ability to inspire and teach themselves through their being moved by the music and to communicate this to others.
Vivian: I want my students to love music and to be able to connect emotionally through themselves into their instruments so that they can communicate the music to others.
What are your favorite nonmusic activities to do together?
Spending time in the country and taking in scenic beauty. Walking and hiking. Being with family and friends. Seeing movies.
If you weren’t in the career you are in, what would you be doing?
Don: Psychology, social work, or teaching history.
Vivian: I’d want to be a psychologist.
What’s your favorite way to unwind after a performance?
We like to go out with friends and family and eat and drink.