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Violinist has the world on a string

Violinist Michael Ludwig was born to concertize. As concertmaster for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Ludwig leads the string musicians, the largest section of the orchestra. Part mediator, part interpreter -- Ludwig primarily is a performer who travels the world for the sake of music. When he's not in Buffalo or Shanghai or Virginia, Ludwig makes a point of visiting his hometown of Philadelphia. Just how busy is he? Even in spare moments, he runs.

>Which more illustrates your competitive nature, running or playing the violin?

My running is not competitive to any degree. I enjoy running and I enjoy the feeling I get when I'm in good physical condition. I'm not that fast to begin with, so for me, the races are more an opportunity to help out in the community.

>Do you take special care of your hands?

I'm careful with them. I avoid playing basketball, which I used to like to play as a kid. That's a sport where it's very easy to jam fingers and have other kinds of injuries that would not be good for a string player.

>What's the trend in classical music?

I'm probably the last person to ask about any current trends because I don't keep up with it. It doesn't interest me particularly. I'm immersed in what I'm doing, but for me the rest of life is important and relevant. Music is certainly a reflection of our thoughts, our feelings, so when I'm not playing the violin I'm more inclined to look at other aspects of the world.

>Architecturally speaking, what structure in town catches your eye?

The Burchfield Penney is fantastic. I'm so excited about that. It's such a great thing for the city.

>Where do you spend most of your time?

I spend a good deal of time at home because part of my work is very solitary in nature. It's quite a paradox that as a musician you're performing for thousands of people and you're baring your soul, sharing the deepest things inside of you that you can't even put into words -- very social and interactive -- but the preparation is quite the opposite. It requires a lot of study and practice.

>And now you have launched your solo career.

I'm doing something a little unheard of to start a solo career in my 40s. That certainly doesn't happen very often in the classical music industry -- Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Virginia Symphony Orchestra -- I'm doing all this in the last few years, so it's a renaissance for me.

>How do you unwind?

I listen to classical music. I listen to rock 'n' roll, anything from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Perry Como to Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Who. I tend to like the classics, whether it's classic rock 'n' roll, big band, classical music, classical literature. I like the tried and true.

>Tell me about a book you've read.

I'm more inclined to pick up a work of Hemingway rather than something on the best-seller's list. I really like the concise aspect of Hemingway's writing. It's powerful. In so few words, he plays such a vivid picture. Right now I'm reading "Moby Dick." It's endless, and I've been struggling to read the book for two years. I tried listening to it on 18 CDs. The last book I read was "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho, but that was a reread.

>How do you pamper yourself?

I like wine, but I don't know if I would consider that pampering.

>What do wine and music share?

Music and wine appreciation share a commonality. People enjoy both, but often are afraid to trust their judgments and taste. It can be a very intimidating experience. When I taste a great wine, every bodily sense is aroused and I know I am experiencing something special, even if I do not know all the proper terminology for what I am enjoying. It's that simple for an audience member. I don't know of anyone who had to take a music appreciation course in order to be moved to tears upon hearing Sinatra sing a torch song.

>What haven't I asked?

About my Facebook list of 25 random things: I dislike eating out for lunch. My favorite food is sushi. Chocolate makes me very thirsty. I never reheat leftovers. I prefer the beach to the mountains. I wish I practiced piano, studied foreign languages and played Little League baseball when I was young. I'm not a mixed-drink person: I like wine, vodka chilled straight up, and scotch on the rocks.


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