Top Five Sibling Rivalries in Classical Music

Thursday, January 31, 2013

When the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers line up against each other for Super Bowl, the game won’t just decide the best football team. The event will also give one of the two Harbaugh brothers family bragging rights.

As it has been widely reported, Jim Harbaugh coaches the 49ers while his older brother John helms the Ravens. Of course sibling rivalries go back beyond the days of Cain and Abel, as brothers and sisters competed to prove themselves both in and outside their home. We’ve selected our favorite five that are currently happening within the realm of classical music.

1. Ivan and Adam Fischer

Born 16 months apart, the Hungarian conductors Ivan and Adam Fischer both came of age under communism, but still were able to found their own ensembles in the 1980. Over the past decades they’ve molded them both into world-class orchestras. Ivan’s Budapest Festival Orchestra attracts large audiences for its incredible vivid performances. Meanwhile, Adam’s Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, now based in London, still maintains a middle-European emphasis, but has expanded its focus from its namesake composer.


2. Branford and Wynton Marsalis

Though both Branford and Wynton Marsalis seem more comfortable in the jazz oeuvre these days, the two brothers, have serious classical chops. Both have been courted by symphonic orchestras for multiple collaborations. Wynton, who’s younger by a year and plays the trumpet, has been a more frequent fixture in the symphony hall, having recorded works by Bach, Hummel, and Haydn. Branford, a saxophonist, has been a soloist with the Boston Pops, the Chicago and Detroit symphony orchestras, and the New York Philharmonic.


3. Leonard Slatkin and Frederick Zlotkin

Just looking at their names you wouldn’t necessarily find a connection between the Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director Leonard Slatkin and the eminent cellist Frederick Zlotkin. However, Frederick changed his last name to reflect its original Russian spelling, and perhaps quiet any charges of nepotism. Last spring, the brothers came together for whom else but mom, the cellist Eleanor Aller, as Leonard conducted Frederick in Korngold’s Cello Concerto. The piece was first played by Aller on the soundtrack to the 1946 film Deception.


4. Lim Dong-Min and Dong-Hyek

The Korean pianists Lim Dong-Min and Dong-Hyek rose to fame competing against each other—as well as a field of talented pianists—at the 2005 International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition. They tied for third. Though the brothers haven’t shared any titles since then, both of their career paths have taken them to New York. Dong-Min, who was born in 1980, studied with the pianist Richard Goode at Mannes, while Dong-Hyek, born in 1984, was a student of Emmanuel Ax at Juilliard.


5. Gil and Orli Shaham

The violinist Gil Shaham and his pianist sister Orli have created names for themselves both as a duet and separately. After touring extensively together, pair parted ways in the late 1990s so that Orli could step out of her older brother’s limelight. Orli has since helped create the Baby Got Bach series, in addition to fostering a burgeoning career as a soloist. Gil’s career, meanwhile, has not waned, as he’s one of the world’s most renowned violinists.


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Comments [5]

Mary Betancourt from United States

Bernarda Fink and Marcos Fink...

Apr. 11 2015 08:08 PM
Andrew B. from Lower Merion, PA

How about the Labeques--twins? They are perhaps the most jointly-recorded siblings.

I don't know why to call these rivalries. As noted, from the above pairs more than half play different instruments. In the case of Gil & Orli, or the Labeques, collaboration has been the key characteristic of the family name (or maybe that's why Labeques were left out?). Though the Labeques often collaborate, though not so much any more, they have very different styles and personalities, so a rivalry characterization might also be fitting.

When music runs in the family, then parent-child collaborations are also common, and have been very interesting and rewarding. Pamela/Claude Frank, Igor/David Oistrakh, Alisa/Vivian Wilerstein, the Jarvi family. I'm obviously leaving many out.

I agree with David from Brooklyn--very interesting siblings thread.

Jan. 31 2013 12:03 PM
David from Brooklyn, NY

And who can forget Yehudi and Hefziba Menuhin; Ruggiero and Giorgio Ricci; Paavo and Krystian Jarvi among others? This is a very interesting detail in the tapestry of the music world.

Jan. 31 2013 11:41 AM
Ed from NYC

You left out the ultimate sibling rivalry: Zubin and Zarin Mehta. After Zubin and his wife Carmen divorced, Carmen married Zarin two years later.

Also, for a terrific sibling team, look at Georgia & Louise Mangos, sisters who have recorded all of the Lizst's Symphonic Poems as reductions for two pianos.

Jan. 31 2013 09:10 AM
Tim from Washington DC

That's a great hook - Superbowl brothers to classical music siblings. Enjoyed it a lot, and learned stuff I didn't know before. Thanks!

Jan. 31 2013 08:46 AM

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