When Jules Eskin passed away on November 15, the Boston Symphony Orchestra lost much more than its Principal Cellist. He was a rare character who made an indelible impression.
Upon hearing the news of his death, I talked with Barbara Howard of WGBH News:
Within each great orchestra there are particular individuals who embody the soul and history of the ensemble. They carry forward the characteristics and qualities that make that orchestra distinctive. The BSO has had a few of those individuals over the years, including a couple - former Concertmaster Jospeh Silverstein and Principal Timpanist Vic Firth - who both passed away last year. Jules was in that same category. But it also goes beyond the sound he produced.
The scene from Tanglewood I describe in the conversation above is one I'll always remember. The radio control room, where Ron Della Chiesa and I do WCRB's broadcasts, is located back stage at the Koussevitzky Music Shed, at the main point of entry for the musicians. So before and after concerts and rehearsals, it's not unusual for us to have the chance to say "hi" to the players, conductors, and soloists.
Jules was an incredibly fit person, and after rehearsals, he would sometimes stop by to chat. And afterwards, he would do several minutes of pull-ups on equipment rigged up to the structural supports of the Shed. It always felt like one of those moments (all too common, I have to admit) when I thought to myself, "If I can be 80 years old and even close to being that in shape, I'll be a happy person."
I didn't know Jules too well, though at each encounter, he greeted me with a warm smile. And that includes the last time I saw him, once again at Tanglewood, last summer. He had been ill, so pull-ups weren't part of the picture. But the warmth was. I happened to be standing back stage with Charles Schlueter, the former Principal Trumpeter of the BSO and, years ago, my teacher. As Jules walked through the door and said hello to Charlie and me, his face lit up, happy to be back in a place that was a true spiritual home.
This Saturday, you'll hear more about Jules during the intermission of our live BSO broadcast. We'll share the reflections and remembrances of Tony Fogg, the BSO's Artistic Administrator and Director of Tanglewood. And most importantly, we'll hear Jules's playing. I hope you'll join us.