Sunday, August 23, 2015

Robert Lipsett

Robert Lipsett (Robert Crawford Lipsett Jr.) is an American violinist and teacher born (in Louisville, Kentucky) on October 23, 1947.  He is best known for holding the violin chair at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, a position named after Jascha Heifetz.  He literally teaches in Heifetz’ old music studio, which was disassembled at Heifetz' home in Beverly Hills and reassembled on the Colburn School’s campus.  The studio includes almost all of Heifetz’ furnishings and d├ęcor as well.  He has been on the faculty for more than 25 years.  Lipsett gives master classes all over the world and also teaches at the Aspen School of Music.  He began his violin studies as a child, at age 7, in Dallas, Texas with Zelman Brounoff (concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony) and Ruth Lasley.  After his family moved to Saint Louis (Missouri), he continued his music studies with Melvin Ritter (concertmaster of the St Louis Symphony and former student of William Kroll.)  Eventually, he graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music and, after graduation, also studied with Ivan Galamian at Juilliard (New York) and Endre Granat, presumably in Los Angeles.  In 1986, he began teaching at USC (University of Southern California.)  Lipsett has also worked as a session (studio) violinist in Los Angeles, recording for movies, television, and CDs.  He has received several awards for his distinguished career as a teacher.  Among his many pupils are Robert Chen, Tamaki Kawakubo, Kathryn Eberle, Leila Josefowicz, Jennifer Frautschi, and Lindsay Deutsch.  From the photo you can see Lipsett plays a fine violin but I don’t know what it is.  About achieving a top concert career, Lipsett has said the following: “One eventually has to face a sort of reality.  Being a top concert violinist is like running for President.  There’s just not much room up there at all.”  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Aida Stucki

Aida Stucki was a Swiss violinist and teacher born (in Cairo, Egypt) on February 19, 1921.  She was a concert violinist who, like countless others, settled down to a teaching career, although she continued to perform as a soloist and chamber musician even as she taught many world class violinists.  One of her teachers was Stefi Geyer, Bela Bartok’s beloved muse.  Another was Carl Flesch.  She began violin lessons at age 10, with Ernst Wolters, concertmaster of the Winterthur (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra.  Stucki made her public debut at age 13, playing Mozart’s third concerto, although I don’t know where it took place – I’m guessing either Winterthur or Zurich, Switzerland.  Stucki’s concertizing career began in 1940.  She was 19 years old.  She began teaching at the Winterthur Conservatory in 1948.  In 1959, she founded a string quartet with her violinist-husband, Giuseppe Piraccini.  The two would often trade places, alternatively playing first or second violin.  As far as I know, the first string quartet to regularly alternate first and second violin parts between violinists was the Jacobsohn String Quartet – it was founded in Chicago in (approximately) 1890.  Stucki frequently partnered with pianist (and violinist) Clara Haskil to perform as a duo.  Nevertheless, Haskil also performed with other violinists, including Isaac Stern, Joseph Szigeti, Henryk Szeryng, Eugene Ysaye, George Enesco, and Arthur Grumiaux.  In 1983, Stucki fell and broke both of her wrists.  She had to stop concertizing but continued teaching.  She left a substantial discography which is easy to find on the internet.  Among her many hundreds of students are Manrico Padovani, Anne Sophie Mutter, Noemi Schindler, and Matthias Enderle.  From some recordings I've heard I concluded she must have played a pretty good violin but I was not able to find out what it was.  Stucki died on June 9, 2011, at age 90.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ottorino Respighi

Ottorino Respighi was an Italian violinist, composer, and musicologist, born (in Bologna) on July 9, 1879.  Although making a living by playing the violin for many years, today, he is known for his very popular tone poems – The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome, and The Roman Festivals among others.  He also composed at least eight operas which are not as popular.  Respighi was very prolific and his music still sounds modern, even 80 years after his death.  His father was his first teacher of both violin and piano.  Respighi later entered the Music Lyceum in Bologna where he studied violin with Federico Sarti.  He graduated in 1899.  He was 19 years old.  He then traveled to Saint Petersburg, Russia to play principal viola in the Russian Imperial Theatre.  The Russian Revolution would not occur until seventeen years later.  He took advantage of his stay there by studying composition with Rimsky-Korsakov.  After returning to Bologna, he took a degree in composition, perhaps from the same institution.  However, his principal income came from playing violin.  Until 1908, he was first violinist of the Mugellini Quartet.  He also spent time playing in Germany.  Upon returning from Germany, he turned his attention, almost completely, to composition.  He settled in Rome in 1913 and used it as his base of operations for the rest of his life.  He also began teaching composition at the Rome Conservatory that year.  Whether he ever gave violin lessons is unknown to me.  By 1917, he had become famous as a composer.  In 1923, he was appointed Director of the Conservatory.  Here is Heifetz’ rendition of Respighi’s violin sonata in B minor – first movement.  Respighi died on April 18, 1936, at age 56. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Susanne Lautenbacher

Susanne Lautenbacher is a German violinist and teacher born (in Augsburg) on April 19, 1932.  She is known for being an advocate of baroque music before it was in vogue.  She is also known for recording seldom heard works – the works of Locatelli, Biber, Rolla, Hummel, Viotti, Weill, Schorr, and Reger for example.  One of her early teachers was Karl Freund in Munich.  She later studied with Henryk Szeryng.  She recorded for many labels and her discography is fairly extensive – her recording activity spans more than forty years.  She was the violinist of the Bell’ Arte Trio as well.  She taught for many years (beginning in 1965) at the Stuttgart Conservatory.  Here is an audio file of one of her recordings, a concerto by Pietro Antonio Locatelli, a virtuoso, mysterious, and elusive violinist of the 18th Century.  Lautenbacher herself is becoming an iconic figure for her thoughtful, incisive, and engaging interpretations.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stefi Geyer

Stefi Geyer (Steffi Geyer) was a Hungarian violinist and teacher born (in Budapest) on June 28, 1888.  Although a very popular and distinguished violinist in the early part of the century, she is better known for her relationship to Bela Bartok, one of the greatest composers of the 20th Century.  Bartok dedicated his first violin concerto (composed in 1907 but not published until 1959) to her, although she never performed it in public.  It is said she had the only copy of the score and did not release it until very late in her life, after Bartok had died.  Her violin studies began at age three – her father was her first teacher.  From age seven she studied with Kalman Adolf, an obscure violinist.  At age ten she began studying at the Budapest Academy of Music with Jeno Hubay, one of the most respected violinists and teachers of the time.  Geyer began concertizing in Hungary and Austria at age twelve.  Her studies with Hubay ended in 1902.  She was fourteen years old.  She toured Europe frequently and was admired for her intelligent and elegant interpretations of a very wide repertory.  She moved to Vienna in 1911.  In 1919 she settled in Zurich.   She was very busy playing throughout Europe, giving over 100 concerts in the 1922-23 season alone.  She toured the U.S. in 1924, although not for the first time.  Geyer taught at the Zurich Conservatory from 1934 to 1953 (one source says 1923 to 1953.)  In 1935 she was appointed concertmaster of the Sacher Chamber Ensemble.  She became the concertmaster of the Collegium Musicum in Zurich in 1941.  Beginning in 1938, she would often play in the orchestra of the Lucerne Festival.  She played a 1742 Guarnerius (del Gesu) violin known as the Soldat.  The violin has an interesting history.  Her recordings from the 1930s are numerous but somewhat hard to find.  Here is a YouTube audio file of one of her recordings from the year 1927.  Geyer died in Zurich on December 11, 1956, at age 68.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Boris Belkin

Boris Belkin (Boris Davidovich Belkin) is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Yekaterinburg – aka Sverdlovsk) on January 26, 1948.  He began his violin studies at age 6.  One year later, he made his first public appearance with Kiril Kondrashin on the podium.  He was a student at the Central Music School (for specially gifted children) in Moscow, a branch of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory.  At the Moscow Conservatory, his teachers – among others – were Yuri Yankelevich (teacher also of Leonid Kogan, Ilya Kaler, Zakhar Bron, Vladimir Spivakov, and Ruben Aharonyan), Maya Glezarova (assistant to Yuri Yankelevich), and Felix Andrievsky.  He began his concertizing career in Russia while still a student, a very common practice everywhere.  In 1974, at age 26, he left Russia and settled in Western Europe.  (He had applied to take part in the Paganini Competition in Genoa but the authorities denied him a visa so he then applied to emigrate to Israel and from there, he made his way to Belgium.)  He has appeared with virtually every major orchestra in the world.  He performed the Tchaikovsky concerto with the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein on April 22 and 24, 1975.  On June 6 and 7, 1978, he played the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic.  Belkin's discography is not extensive by any measure but it includes the rarely performed Strauss concerto.  He began teaching in Italy – at the Accademia Chigiana (founded in 1932) – in 1986.  He also teaches in the Netherlands at the Advanced Music School (College of Music) in Maastricht (about 90 miles south east of Amsterdam – the city is a lot closer to Cologne, Germany and Brussels, Belgium than it is to Amsterdam.)  Belkin has played a Stradivarius from the Russian State collection, a 1754 Guadagnini, and two modern violins (1994 and 2007) by Roberto Regazzi.  For many years, he has used a bow made by a famous maker - Daniel Tobias Navea Vera.  Here is one of Belkin’s YouTube files.  

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gyorgy Garay

Gyorgy Garay was a Hungarian violinist, teacher, and music editor born (in Rakospalota) on December 2, 1909.  He is now a very obscure violinist who was well-known in his day.  His first teacher was Joseph Bloch at the Budapest Academy of Music.  Garay was 9 years old when he started his studies.  Three years later, he was a student of Oscar Studer.  In 1925, he began studying with Jeno Hubay and graduated a year later.  Interestingly, his public debut took place in Vienna (1926.)  He made his debut in Hungary (Budapest) in 1927.  Garay soon gravitated toward a career in chamber music, playing violin in the Hungarian Trio from 1927 to 1930.  Between 1930 and 1933, he was first violinist with the Garay Quartet.  In the 1930s, he developed a second career as a soloist in Europe.  Between 1940 and 1945, he was a violinist with the Fovarosi Orchestra in Budapest.  He became principal violinist at the Hungarian State Opera House in 1945 and stayed until 1951.  From 1951 to 1960, he was concertmaster of the National Philharmonic (State Concert Orchestra) – this orchestra may or may not be the same orchestra which exiled itself (to Germany) in 1956 and became the Philharmonia Hungarica.  From 1949 to 1961, Garay was also a violin teacher at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.  In 1960, he became concertmaster of the Radio Symphony in Leipzig (MDR Symphony Orchestra.)  While there, he also taught at the Mendelssohn Academy of Music.  Henceforth, he performed less and less as a soloist.  He gave many premiere performances of new works (mostly by Hungarian composers) and recorded some of these works as well.  Here is one of several of his audio files on YouTube - the violin concerto (1973) by Wilhelm Neef.  Garay died (in Leipzig) on May 15, 1988, at age 78.  His violin was a Stradivarius of 1733 – as far as I know, it bears no name.