Born in the former Soviet Union, violist Michael Zaretsky graduated from the Moscow State Conservatory cum laude. He began his career as a member of the Moscow Philharmonic String Quartet and the Moscow Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra. In 1972, he immigrated to Israel and became principal viola of the Jerusalem Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra and a soloist of Radio Israel. The following year he played for Leonard Bernstein, who brought him to Tanglewood, where he successfully auditioned for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Besides being a member of the BSO for the past thirty-three years, Mr. Zaretsky regularly plays solo recitals and chamber music; he has appeared with such leading artists as Yuri Bashmet, Yefim Bronfman, Emanuel Ax, and Vadim Repin. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Boston Pops, Rhode Island Philharmonic, and Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. A faculty member at Boston University and the Longy School of Music, he regularly performs in Israel, Japan, and Mexico. In the summer of 2003 he was soloist with the Georgian Chamber Orchestra at the International Music Festival directed by Liana Issakadze in Borjomi, Georgia. In November 2005, at the invitation of the American College of Greece, he performed and discussed the six Bach cello suites in Athens, Greece. In January 2007 he performed Jakov Jakoulov’s Viola Concerto No. 2 with the New England String Ensemble. Mr. Zaretsky has made four acclaimed recordings for ARTONA: “Black Snow,” an album of Russian music for viola and piano with pianist Xak Bjerken; “Bach, Bach & Bach,” with harpsichordist Marina Minkin; “Singular Voices: Brahms, Schumann, and the Viola,” with Mr. Bjerken and mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal; and an album of Bach’s six cello suites performed on viola. Besides the traditional viola repertoire, Mr. Zaretsky performs an extensive repertoire of new music. His collaboration with composer Jakov Jakoulov has resulted in many works for viola with piano, harpsichord, or orchestra, including Jakoulov’s Viola Concerto No. 2, Sonata for Viola and Piano, Chant III for viola and cello, and Chant IV for viola and violin. In 2006, film composer and Boston Pops Laureate Conductor John Williams wrote his Duo Concertante for Mr. Zaretsky and dedicated it him. Mr. Zaretsky and BSO violinist Victor Romanul gave the public premiere of the Duo Concertante in Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in August 2007.
Pianist Xak Bjerken has given solo and chamber music recitals in Europe and throughout the United States. Orchestral solo appearances include Edinburgh with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Rome with the Spoleto Festival Orchestra and in Disney Hall, Los Angeles, with members of the LA Philharmonic. He has performed at the Royal Concertgebouw Hall in Amsterdam, Alice Tully Hall, Weill Hall, the Kennedy Center, and has given recitals in Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Hungary. Mr. Bjerken is the pianist of the Los Angeles Piano Quartet, which tours the U.S. regularly, and with his wife, pianist Miri Yampolsky, directs MAYFEST, an annual chamber music festival in Ithaca, New York. In addition, he has directed three festivals of twentieth-century music: "Angels, Saints and Birdsong: A Messiaen Festival," "Through the Iron Curtain: Music of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union," and "The Stravinsky Project."
Mr. Bjerken has held chamber music residencies at the Tanglewood Music Center and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, performed at the Olympic Music Festival and the Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival, and served on the faculty of the Eastern Music Festival. His first solo recording for CRI, released in 2001, was entitled High Rise; he has also recorded for Chandos, Albany Records, Fleur de Son, and Koch International and has made three recordings with violist Michael Zaretsky for the Artona label. Mr. Bjerken earned his bachelor's degree cum laude at UCLA, studying with Aube Tzerko, and his master's and doctoral degrees from the Peabody Institute as a student and teaching assistant to Leon Fleisher.