Hailed by colleagues as a “complete musician,” Joseph Silverstein was considered one of the most accomplished and versatile American violinists of his generation. Born in Detroit in 1932, he went to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where his teachers included Veda Reynolds and Efrem Zimbalist. Later he worked with Mischa Mischakoff, the concertmaster of Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra.
After graduating from Curtis in 1950, Silverstein became a member of the Houston Symphony, and he joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1955 as its youngest member. In 1959 he won the silver medal at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, and the following year he was awarded the prestigious Naumburg Prize. He was named the Boston Symphony’s concertmaster in 1962, and he held that position for twenty-two years, often appearing with the orchestra as a soloist and, since 1971, serving as assistant conductor. In 1964 he founded and became music director of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players.
In 1980 Silverstein became music director of the Worcester (Massachusetts) Symphony Orchestra, and he served as principal guest conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from 1981 until 1983, when he was appointed music director of the Utah Symphony. He held that position until 1998, when he was made conductor laureate. “As a conductor,” Silverstein remarked, “I try to provide the players with what I feel I needed from the conductor when I was in the orchestra.” He served as chairman of the faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center and held posts as associate professor of music at Yale University and Boston University.
Silverstein died on November 22, 2015. His obituary appeared in the Boston Globe.