LA Philharmonic Concertmaster gearing up for Encinitas show


When Martin Chalifour was growing up in Canada, he developed a fixation on the violin.

“I first started playing when I was 4,” he explained from his current home in San Marino. “All my siblings started playing at the same time, but I was the only one who continued with it.”

Today, Chalifour is concertmaster for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and one of the top violinists in the world — and he’s bringing his masterful talents to Encinitas on Sept. 27 as part of the Virtuosi Concert Series’ “Autumn with Brahms” show.

The event features a who’s who of instrumental masters, including Chalifour on violin, Ronald Leonard on Cello and Kevin Fitz-Gerald on piano — just to name a few. The group forms an esteemed orchestra of some of the most respected musicians in the world.

“It’s a great program with great players,” Chalifour said about the show. “It’ll be a nice reunion of colleagues of different generations, like Ron Leonard, who I used to play with years ago. Karen Dreyfus, a professor at the Julliard School of Music, is also joining us; we got acquainted for the first time this summer in Santa Barbara. So it’s a great group of people.”

The group will perform selections from the likes of Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms, but Chalifour said don’t expect a show full of typical chamber music.

“In my opinion, Hayden is too much overlooked in favor of Mozart, but they both were true geniuses in form and innovation,” Chalifour said. “Some of the pieces we’re playing are special, because people don’t necessarily know them. We’ll offer a variety of pieces.”

Chalifour is no stranger to the San Diego area.

He’s been performing with the Mainly Mozart festival since 1986, and said he frequently vacations in Carlsbad. The bulk of his time, however, is spent in Los Angeles, where he has the esteemed job of concertmaster for the famed Philharmonic, a position that took him years to achieve.

“When I was first getting started, my parents were not musical people and they didn’t know where to turn,” he said of his humble beginnings. “I ended up attending the Montreal Conservatory of Music, and it turned out to be a great experience.”

From there, Chalifour found himself in Philadelphia at the famed Curtis Institute of Music (widely regarded as America’s finest music school).

“At the time,” Chalifour recalled, “It was the only tuition-free school for anybody in the world to attend. There were people from all over who went there, from natives of China and the Soviet Union. It was a very special school, and it gave me a lot of contacts here in the United States.”

It was through those contacts that Chalifour landed additional stints in both Atlanta and Cleveland. He soon found himself in Los Angeles in 1995, becoming the Philharmonic’s principal concertmaster. He also keeps an active guest player schedule, bouncing around the United States and Japan on the festival circuit.

To order tickets for “Autumn with Brahms,” call 858-207-6967 or visit