NEW YORK - Zvi Zeitlin, an internationally renowned violinist known for interpreting the work of contemporary composers, died on Wednesday in Rochester, N.Y. He was 90.
His death was announced by the Eastman School of Music. At his death, Mr. Zeitlin was distinguished professor of violin at the school, which is part of the University of Rochester.
Mr. Zeitlin, who had announced his intention to retire from Eastman this summer, had taught there since 1967.
Simultaneously maintaining an active concert schedule, he was for decades part of a triumvirate of sought-after violin pedagogues - the others were Dorothy DeLay of the Juilliard School and Josef Gingold of Indiana University - teaching at major US conservatories.
Robust of constitution, Mr. Zeitlin, who performed on a 1734 Guarneri del Gesu, continued touring until he was well into his 80s. At Eastman, he gave his last major recital in February, two days before his 90th birthday, in a program of Schubert.
Over the years Mr. Zeitlin appeared as a soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras, under conductors including Pierre Boulez, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, and Antal Dorati.
He was closely associated with the work of modernist composers like Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss and George Rochberg; he gave the world premieres of pieces written for him by Gunther Schuller, Paul Ben-Haim and Carlos Surinach, among others.
Mr. Zeitlin was known in particular as an interpreter of Arnold Schoenberg’s atonal, fiendishly difficult Violin Concerto; his recording of the work for Deutsche Grammophon, with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik, is highly regarded.
Zvi Zeitlin was born on Feb. 21, 1922, in the village of Dubrovna, then in the Soviet Union and now in Belarus, and was reared in Palestine.
He took his first lessons from his father, a doctor and amateur violinist. At 11, he earned a scholarship to Juilliard, and in the early 1940s he was trained in Judaic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
As a member of the British Royal Air Force in World War II, Mr. Zeitlin performed for Allied troops throughout the Middle East.
After the war he returned to Juilliard, where his teachers included the renowned violinist Ivan Galamian.
Mr. Zeitlin made his New York debut in 1951 at Town Hall, performing Bach, Schubert, and Stravinsky. He first appeared with the New York Philharmonic in 1967, playing the Schoenberg under Leonard Bernstein.
With the pianist Barry Snyder and the cellist Robert Sylvester, Mr. Zeitlin was a founding member of the Eastman Trio, with which he played from 1976 to 1982.
He was also a longtime member of the faculty of the Music Academy of the West, the summer training program in Santa Barbara, Calif.
A resident of Rochester, Mr. Zeitlin leaves his wife of 61 years, Marianne Langner Zeitlin; a son, Hillel; a daughter, Leora Kelter-Zeitlin; a sister, Anba Kantor; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.