Spotlight on Steven Rosen


by Kayla Moore

Retiring CSO violist Steven Rosen began his venture into music when he was young, taking in concerts at his high school in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra would come to coach and perform chamber music. During one of these sessions, Rosen began to learn to play the violin, but he was quickly persuaded by their principal violist Salvatore Venittelli to switch to the viola and study under him. Venittelli’s encouragement, plus Rosen’s love for the dark, rich sound of the viola, marked the beginning of his study of the instrument.

During the years that followed, he studied under Linville Doan, whose incredible guidance Rosen now credits for the fulfilling career path he has followed and thanks for perpetuating his continued passion for music. Following high school, Rosen received a full scholarship to the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance. Upon finishing his degree, he embarked on a life of travel as Principal Violist with the Tizmoret Hagalil in Israel and then as a violist with the Israel Chamber Orchestra under Rudolf Barshai.

His time in Israel was brief, as he soon auditioned to be a part of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and earned a position under then music director Edo De Waart. Following his four-year tenure there, Rosen moved back to the United States and took a position with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, where he served as principal violist for one season before joining the CSO, whose Music Director at the time was Michael Gielen, during the 1982 May Festival under James Conlon.

During his time in the CSO, Rosen has had the opportunity to participate in multiple musical groups, perform solos, mentor and perform alongside Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra musicians, and spend copious time with his colleagues in the Orchestra. He recalls especially fondly a time when Jesús López Cobos gave the Orchestra players an opportunity to solo with the symphony, “which I thoroughly enjoyed doing during the Telemann Viola Concerto.”

“I also have loved playing chamber music, and have performed many times on the CSO Chamber Players Series. I recently was thrilled to play the Beethoven Trio in C Minor with Stefani and Hiro Matsuo. Over the years I’ve also performed as a member of a viola and guitar ensemble called The Levassor Duo, which I love being a part of.”

His multifaceted and exciting career with the Orchestra is now coming to an end, and he’s very excited to venture into retirement. Rosen plans to spend more time with his children, Chad, Benjamin and Megan, and he and his wife, Nancy, are very excited to be retired together and to travel extensively before returning to their home in New Bern, North Carolina.

It has been an incredible honor to have Steven Rosen in our Orchestra for 37 years, and we wish him the happiest of retirements. Congratulations, Steven!