25-year-old violin virtuoso aims to be something of a maestro in the kitchen.
That’s where he loves to mix ingredients to produce beautiful and delectable dishes, such as his signature risotto with porcini mushrooms.
Benjamin Hoffman is, after all, half Italian and spent some of his formative years in Italy.
Hoffman’s work as Columbus Indiana Philharmonic concertmaster helps the professional ensemble feed its audiences a smorgasbord of musical treats. He and the professional ensemble are preparing to perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61” during an April 30 concert, “A Visit to Vienna.”
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“I really enjoy various ways of connecting with people,” said Hoffman, speaking from New Haven, Connecticut, where he is pursuing a musical arts doctorate at Yale University, and where he also plays with the college orchestra, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and the Eastern Connecticut Symphony.
“To some extent, that’s why I play music. It brings people together in a way that a lot of other things just can’t,” Hoffman said.
Except maybe cooking.
Hoffman picked up the violin at age 4 in his native Cincinnati while being taught by his viola player/violinist mother, who is still teaching as a professor and performing in Italy.
He initially came aboard the Philharmonic as concertmaster in the fall of 2011 while earning his bachelor’s degree in music at Indiana University. He remained even after transferring to Yale, despite the back-and-forth drive, because he said he loves what he calls the fun and personal atmosphere music director and conductor David Bowden has created.
“Traveling has become a big part of my life,” he said, laughing.
Although he has grown accustomed to concert halls, he jumps at the chance to play at small recital gatherings. That includes one recently at St. Paul Episcopal Church, where one of his favorite moments surfaced afterward for the dedicated classical artist all too aware of the dangers of embracing an all-or-nothing musical life.
“It’s not always easy to find time to get out of that musical bubble,” he said. “But afterward, I had time to interact with many of the people and find out a little of what they’re all about,” he said.
Bowden mentioned that many classical music experts consider the Beethoven work the greatest violin concerto ever written, and perhaps the toughest to execute.
“It’s very challenging,” Hoffman said. “But there also are a lot of passages that are really simple and beautiful. If you get yourself too tightly wound while performing this, then it can be hard to bring out the piece’s beauty. Beethoven is much more about pristine beauty, and I see that as definitely challenging to achieve.”
The conductor remains a fan of Hoffman’s passion and precision.
“When I think about really wonderful orchestral players, I think about people who have this deep soul, and their music making is so expressive,” Bowden said. “It touches people because of that expressiveness and because it’s filled with emotion.
“And that’s Benjamin. He has this deep soul. And the music just flows out of him.”
Bowden also praises Hoffman’s technical ability — prowess that a New York Times reviewer noted when evaluating one of the violinist’s performances with the Yale Philharmonia, the university orchestra that Hoffman has served as concertmaster. The critic hailed the young musician’s work, calling it “bold, spirited and technically impressive.”
That expertise is honed in rehearsals. And as Hoffman concluded his phone chat, another practice awaited.
Who: The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic featuring concertmaster Benjamin Hoffman performing Ludwig van Beethoven’s violin concerto. The ensemble also will perform Johannes Brahms’ “Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, op. 68” and “Wine, Women and Song, Waltz op. 333” by Johann Strauss Jr.
When: 7:30 p.m. April 30.
Where: Jusdon Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St., Columbus.
Tickets: $5 to $45.
Information: 812-376-2638 or thecip.org.