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How I Won Ten Dollars from Leonard Bernstein

A Minute with Miles

Did I ever tell you that I once won ten dollars from Leonard Bernstein? When I was a student at Juilliard I learned the Viola Concerto by William Walton, and one evening I played through it for my violinist friend Alexis Galpérine. Alexis noticed that the Walton reminded him very much of the Violin Concerto in D Major by Sergei Prokofiev, and on closer examination we saw that there was no question that Walton had indeed patterned his concerto directly after the Prokofiev.  Several years later I was playing in the National Symphony Orchestra, when Bernstein came to conduct. The Walton was on the program with a guest soloist, and during the rehearsal Bernstein stopped and said, “I’ll give ten dollars to anyone who can tell me which piece this Walton Concerto is directly modelled on.” I raised my hand and said, “The Prokofiev D Major Violin Concerto.” Bernstein looked at me and said, “Well… I’m glad I didn’t say fifty.” And a few minutes later, he paid up.

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.