In conversation with NY Phil’s principal timpanist

Posted on: January 13, 2017

“Markus Rhoten started learning piano as a toddler in Germany, ‘but I would always go to the low notes. I had an affinity for bass,’ he said. So his parents started him on drum lessons when he was 5,” writes Hilary Potkewitz in Monday’s (1/9) New York Crain’s Business. “At age 28, in 2006, he was named principal timpani player for the New York Philharmonic.… His father, Bruce, was principal trumpet player for the Northern Germany Radio Philharmonic; his mother, Sharon, was a classical pianist. Both parents are from the American Midwest but moved to Germany in the 1970s…. Because the timpani often establishes the tempo and strength of a piece, the timpanist is sometimes referred to as ‘the second conductor.’ There is little margin for error, Rhoten said—but that’s part of the thrill: ‘It’s one of the loudest instruments in the orchestra, and I’m the only one playing it.’ … To avoid arm injuries, Rhoten won’t play volleyball or basketball. Tennis is out, too, because it can make arm muscles develop unevenly…. Rhoten has a grand piano at home. He plays Rachmaninoff or Brahms to relax. ‘I play it because it makes me happy,’ he said.”

Posted January 13, 2017