The 100th anniversary of the SF Symphony is such a big deal, it's sucking the air out of some other impressive milestones. One of these: Alexander Barantschik's tenth year as concert master of the San Francisco symphony. Originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, Sasha, as he's called, joined ten years ago from the London Symphony Orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the world where he held the same job.

He now plays with the famed del Gesù Guarneri violin, which is on loan to him by the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums. The violin is special, six million dollar special: it belonged to Jascha Heifetz and Ferdinand David, who are the Beatles and Elvis of violin history. It is given only to someone who'll play it"on special occasions by worthy performers," according to Heifetz's will. Well, Sasha is this worthy guy.

He usually sits on the first chair to the left of the conductor, but will be front and center this week: with associate principal cellist Peter Wyrick, principal violist Jonathan Vincocour, principal bassist Scott Pingel, and invited pianist Juho Pohjonen, they'll perform Schubert's Trout quintet as a chamber ensemble, in between two full fledged orchestral pieces: Schubert's Overture to Alfonso und Estrella and Mahler's arrangement for orchestra of another Schubert chamber piece, his Death and the Maiden string quartet. Sasha will also stand out later this season as the soloist in Schnittke's violin concerto. We caught up on the phone with him in the evening last Friday. He was at home while the orchestra was getting ready to play some Strauss.