Violinist Sussmann enjoying role as Chamber Music Society's artistic director

Arnaud Sussmann
Arnaud Sussmann

For more than nine seasons, The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach has brought standout performances to the area.

In 2019, violinist and frequent society guest artist Arnaud Sussmann was tapped to become the new artistic director. The French-born musician has stellar credentials: He is a recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and a pre-eminent recording artist whose work can be heard on labels such as Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos and Albany Records.

He has performed with classical music’s leading artists and symphony orchestras. In addition, he is a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and has been featured multiple times on PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center broadcasts with the likes of Itzhak Perlman, Wu Han, Paul Neubauer, David Finckel and other world-famous musicians.

A native of Strasbourg, France, Sussmann began piano lessons at the age of 5 and violin at 7, then switched to violin exclusively because he felt more connected to the instrument. He doesn’t consider himself a prodigy. But he began his concert career at age 12, knowing very early on that “…music would be a part of me for a very long time.”

He moved to Paris at 15 and began his studies at the Paris Conservatoire, eventually moving to the United States to study at The Juilliard School. When reflecting on that time in his life, he simply says: “I moved to Paris at 15. Never had to make a decision; it just happened naturally.”

Violinist Arnaud Sussman, pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel played an all-Beethoven concert in 2019 at The Society of the Four Arts.
Violinist Arnaud Sussman, pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel played an all-Beethoven concert in 2019 at The Society of the Four Arts.

Now, a professor at SUNY Stonybrook on Long Island, N.Y., he is confronting the needs of students navigating careers in a lingering pandemic.

“Keep practicing, [keep] working on your craft, get better day by day, and with a little bit of luck, you will be able to open doors," he tells them. "The better you are at your craft, the more people will want to hear you. Know what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are.”

When he took over, he was shepherding a season that had been planned by his predecessor. Unfortunately, his tenure at the society slammed right into the pandemic, necessitating a pivot to livestream performances.

“We were really able to keep the energy going,” Sussmann says. He is grateful to the society's board of directors, its audiences and founder Vicki Kellogg for their support, and for keeping musicians employed during a terrifying time for the arts in general.

Sussmann, who took over for founding director Michael Finn, is excited to take the reins of programming.

“I am a musician, and chamber music is the biggest part of my life,” he said. He is a champion of new music, as well as modern violin and bow makers. However, giving audiences the opportunity to hear the masterworks of chamber music performed at the highest level is another driving force.

“This music is timeless. Why these pieces are played 200 to 300 years later is because you find new things all the time. They don’t get stale," he said. "When it’s performed at such a high level, and you keep finding beauty in it, that’s why we keep programming it.”

In 2020, the society brought on Ahmad Mayes, a former executive with the Cincinnati and Atlanta symphonies, as its new executive director. Mayes “stays cool under more dramatic circumstances. Whether the piano is tuned, the lights are on … he oversees every aspect of putting on a concert together. He has been a wonderful addition to the team," Sussmann said.

Being the artistic director suits Sussmann.

“It’s awesome. For so long, I was just performing. I have loved the last couple of years as an artistic director, being able to see another side of the performing arts, as a presenter," he said. He's crafting a new season made up entirely of his programming, and promises world-class performers and adventurous repertoire.

Notably, the society will partner with the Boscobel House and Gardens in the Hudson Valley town of Garrison, N.Y., for an inaugural music festival in September, with hopes that it will foster future opportunities.

The musicians love playing in the various venues offered during the season, with Sussmann pointing to the Norton Museum of Art for its convenient location and clean aesthetic. But in the long term, "I would love to be able to create or build a hall – a chamber music venue that is our own," he said. "Are there other performing organizations that we could join with? There are so many factors when you look at a venue, not just acoustics.”

Sussmann will return to his performer role for the society's next concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 6, at the Norton. He'll be joined by pianist Michael Brown and violinist Edward Arron for piano trios by Dvorak, Mendelssohn and Turina. Tickets are $75. Call 561-379-6773 or visit

He will also be part of a string quartet concert set for Feb. 24, also at the Norton. Joining him will be violinist Benjamin Beilman, violist Matt Lipman and cellist Oliver Herbert, replacing the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which had been scheduled to perform. Sussmann's quartet will play music by Haydn, Rachmaninoff and Grieg.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Violinist also slated to perform in upcoming concerts