By Andrew L. Pincus, Special to The Eagle
LENOX — It’s been two times 50 for Jules Eskin this summer: the conclusion of 50 years as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist, coinciding with the conclusion of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players’ 50th anniversary season. That automatically identifies him as a founding member of the chamber ensemble.
He’s the only founding member still in it, in fact.
Eskin, 82, is a survivor. After five months out for cancer treatments, he came back to active duty at Tanglewood on July 6 to play one of his trademark solos, the big, lyrical one in Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto. He’s also back to doing his pull-ups and sit-ups and hikes up Lenox Mountain to the fire tower, he says.
He’s tough even when it comes to producing a beautiful tone on the cello. He quotes the great cellist Gregor Piatigorsky: “You must taste the blood of that tone!”
And he plans at least one more year in the principal’s chair.
“I go day by day at my age,” he says. “I’ll see how the season goes.”
The Chamber Players, as their many followers know, are the BSO’s first-chair players. In 1964, conductor Erich Leinsdorf and then-concertmaster Joseph Silverstein came up with the idea of turning them into an ensemble of their own. They are relieved from BSO duty when the BSO turns itself into the Pops, mostly at Christmas and in the spring. They also get partial relief for their own concerts.
It wasn’t like that back in the beginning, Eskin recalls.