Sunday, November 29, 2015

Antonio Brosa

Antonio Brosa was a Spanish violinist and teacher born (in La Canonja, Spain) on June 27, 1894.  He is best known for having premiered Benjamin Britten’s violin concerto.  The premiere took place in New York on March 28, 1940 with the New York Philharmonic - John Barbirolli conducted.  Brosa was also known for being fluent in 5 languages.  It is not unusual at all for violinists (and conductors) to be fluent in two or three languages but five is rather unusual.  It has been said that Henryk Szeryng was fluent in seven.  According to one usually-reliable source, Brosa was also the first to record the Britten concerto – in April, 1952 or September, 1953.  That recording – as far as I know – is not commercially available.  The concerto was at first not very successful but by 2005, there were more than twenty recordings already produced.  He began his violin studies with his father at age 4.  At age 10, he made his public debut in Barcelona.  Brosa later studied in Brussels with Mathieu Crickboom.  His training there must have taken place in the early part of the twentieth century.  He made his debut in London in 1919.  He was 25 years old.  In 1924 (one source says 1925), Brosa founded the Brosa String Quartet.  The quartet was disbanded in 1939.  His first tour of the U.S. occurred in 1930.  From 1940 to 1942, he was first violinist with the Pro Arte Quartet as well.  He later also taught at the Royal College in London and concertized until his retirement in 1971.  Brosa played the 1727 (or 1730) Vesuvius Stradivarius (now in a Cremona museum) as well as a Giovanni Paolo Maggini violin from the year 1600 (approximately) which had previously been owned by Ole Bull. Here is an audio file of a Brosa recording of the slow movement of the Mendelssohn e minor concerto.  Brosa died (in Barcelona) on March 23, 1979, at age 84. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Endre Granat

Endre Granat is a Hungarian violinist, music editor, and teacher born (in Miskolc, Hungary – about 100 miles northeast of Budapest) on August 3, 1937.  He is best known for having recorded prolifically in Los Angeles as a studio (session) musician, (as did Louis Kaufman, Toscha Seidel, and Israel Baker before him), where he almost always served as concertmaster.  He has played and recorded for hundreds of movie soundtracks, CDs, and Television shows.  Granat is easily the most experienced studio violinist working today.  He may also be the only concert violinist in history whose wife was a murder victim (1975).  His first teacher was his father (Josef Granat) who was the concertmaster of the Budapest Philharmonic for many years.  He then studied with Gyorgy Garay at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest in his native country.  I don’t know at what age he entered the Academy.  He fled the country during the revolution in 1956.  He was 19 years old.  He then spent five years living in Switzerland although his initial plans were to go to Paris, France.  Between 1956 and 1964 he was concertmaster or a section violinist with the Hamburg Symphony, the Orchestra of the Suisse Romande, and the Gothenburg Symphony.  He also graduated from the conservatory in Basel with a Master’s degree during that time.  In 1962 he entered and won a violin competition at Heidelberg, Germany.  He was 25 years old.  He came to the U.S. in 1964 and studied further with Josef Gingold at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.  Granat was assistant concertmaster with the Cleveland Orchestra from 1964 to 1966.  In 1967 he participated in the Queen Elizabeth violin competition and came in lower than fifth place – I don’t know how much lower.  He was 30 years old.  He then studied for five years with Jascha Heifetz in Los Angeles.  Between 1975 and 1977, he played very little, spending two years in South Korea studying God-knows-what.  I did not take the trouble to find out; however, he and pianist Edith Kilbuck did record the complete works for violin and harpsichord by J.S. Bach in 1976.  When he returned from Korea, he began playing in the studios in Los Angeles where he has been working ever since.  Granat has taught at various music schools during different times in his career, including the Royal Academy of Music in Gothenburg (Sweden), Seoul National University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and USC in Los Angeles, where he might still be teaching.  He has also frequently participated in several music festivals in the U.S. and abroad and intermittently concertized as a soloist working with some of the world’s conducting luminaries, including George Szell, Zubin Mehta, and Georg Solti.  He was concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony in California from September 1983 to June 1993.  With regard to that experience, Granat has said: “It's one thing to have a great number of wonderful players; it's another thing to have a great orchestra.  Eighty extraordinary musicians do not equal an extraordinary orchestra.  That takes years.”  Granat plays a 1721 Domenicus Montagnana violin which he acquired in 1968.  He may have sold that violin in 2005. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti is a Scottish violinist and teacher born (in West Kilbride) on July 20, 1987.  (West Kilbride is a very small village located about 33 miles west of Glasgow)  She is known for being a child prodigy.  She began her violin studies with Brenda Smith at age 4.  By age 8, she was the concertmaster of the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain.  In September of 1997, she began studying at the Yehudi Menuhin School.  She was 10 years old.  There, she studied with Natasha Boyarskaya.  She made her public debut one year later at Wigmore Hall in London.  I don’t know what piece she played then.  Her later teachers included Pavel Vernikov (concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, according to one source) and Maciej Rakowski, concertmaster of the English Chamber Orchestra.  She has received quite a number of awards, too numerous to mention; however, as far as I know, she has never entered a major violin competition.  By her late teens, she was already an established concertizing artist.  She also formed a piano trio in 2008.  Benedetti has played a Stradivarius from 1717 (the Gariel Stradivarius, previously owned by Jaime Laredo) and the Earl Spencer Stradivarius (1712 or 1723) which she is probably currently playing.  Her discography is not extensive (quite understandably, given that there’s not much repertory left to record - new concertos are not worth recording and every standard concerto has already been recorded dozens of times by very prominent and some not-so-prominent artists.)  Here is one YouTube video of her playing.  Photo is courtesy of Simon Fowler.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Emmy Verhey

Emmy Verhey is a Dutch violinist born (in Amsterdam) on March 13, 1949.  She is known for having placed very highly in the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition.  She was only 17 years old.  Although she also began concertizing at a very young age, she kept studying with various teachers.  Her first teacher (at age 7) was her father (Gerard Verhey) but she soon (one year later) began her lessons with one of the top Hungarian violin pedagogues – Oskar Back.  She later studied with Herman Krebbers, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and David Oistrakh.  She made her debut on December 7, 1961, playing the Havanaise by Saint Saens.  She was 12 years old.  On September 3, 1962, she played the Tchaikovsky concerto.  She was 13 years old.  Her career has mostly been spent in Europe, particularly the Netherlands.  Verhey has an extensive discography (more than 55 CDs) and has collaborated with some of the world’s top artists; Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Mariss Jansons, Bernard Haitink, Neville Marriner, and Janos Starker are among them.  She began teaching at the Conservatory in Ultrecht in 1983 and retired from there in 2002.  According to one source, Verhey was also the concertmaster of the Ultrecht Symphony Orchestra for 8 years – possibly from 1977 to 1985.  (Ultrecht is about 20 miles southeast of Amsterdam.)  Verhey has also performed chamber music extensively with a variety of artists.  She has frequently brought attention to little-known composers such as Arthur Laurie, Othmar Schoek, Alphonse Diepenbrock, Charles Avison, Theo Loevendie, and Chris Duindam.  In 1991, she co-founded the Camerata Antonio Lucio with whom she made several recordings.   Among the violins she has played are the Earl Spencer Stradivarius from 1723 (or 1712 – accounts vary - now being played by Nicola Benedetti) and an Andrea Guarneri from 1676.  Verhey will play a final public concert (after which she is retiring from concertizing) on November 29, 2015.  The program includes Schubert’s Trout Quintet, Schubert’s String trio (the one in B flat), a violin sonata by Tristan Keuris, and another violin sonata by Theo Loevendie.  YouTube has many videos of her playing.  Here is one featuring the well-known Rondo Capriccioso.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Boris Brovtsyn

Boris Brovtsyn is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Moscow) in 1977.  He is known for his amazing technique and the use of rubato – in the style of many virtuoso violinists of another generation – violinists such as Mischa Elman, Fritz Kreisler, Jacques Thibaud, Ida Haendel, Nathan Milstein, and Ivry Gitlis.  He began playing the violin at age 4.  At age 6, he made his public debut at the famous Bolshoi Theatre.  His grandfather, a pupil of the famous pedagogue, Abram Yampolski (teacher of Leonid Kogan) was his first teacher.  At age 7 (1984), Brovtsyn entered the Central Music School in Moscow and graduated ten years later.  Then he entered the Tchaikovsky (Moscow) Conservatory where he studied with Maya Glezarova.  From there he graduated in 1999.  He had already made his U.S. debut in 1995 and his U.K debut in 1998.  He had already played for the Pope in 1993.  He studied further at the Guildhall School of Music in London where he won the Gold Medal in 2004.  His main teacher there was David Takeno.  His career has taken him to places all over the world, but especially Europe.  As do practically all concert violinists, he plays at music festivals all over the world.  Brovtsyn plays an 1862 Vuillaume violin.  Here is a performance of his on YouTube – the Mendelssohn concerto in e minor with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields.  He gets a tremendous ovation and is obliged to play a very nice encore by Ysaye.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Valeriy Sokolov

Valeriy Sokolov is a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist born (in Kharkiv) on September 22, 1986.  He has a very busy concert career and he tours throughout Europe regularly.  He is known for having a highly personal (and distinctive) style of playing.  He began his studies in his native Ukraine but left at age thirteen (1999) upon receiving a scholarship (from the Sarasate violin competition) to study in England with Natalya Boyarskaya.  He began his violin studies in Kharkiv at age five but I do not know who his first teachers were.  He later studied with Felix Andrievsky and in Germany and Vienna with (among others) Ana Chumachenco, Mark Lubotsky, and Boris Kuschnir.  By 2006, his career was firmly established.  He was barely 20 years old.  Sokolov is particularly well known for this interpretation of Bartok’s second concerto which he has recorded.  He made his U.S. debut in 2007.  Sokolov is the subject of a 2004 documentary about his emerging career.  Here is a short YouTube video of him playing Beethoven.  Photo is courtesy of Derry Moore.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Otto Buchner

Otto Buchner was a German violinist and teacher born (in Nuremberg) on September 10, 1924.  He is well known (among aficionados) as a specialist in the solo violin sonatas by JS Bach.  Buchner founded a string chamber orchestra based in Munich in 1962.  He taught at the Munich Conservatory for many years too.  One source states (without citing the years, so it is debatable) he was also concertmaster of the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra (associated with Carlos Kleiber for many years) as well as concertmaster of the Munich Philharmonic.  His recording of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos, with the Munich Bach Soloists (founded in 1982), may well be the best of all time.  You can hear the first movement of number 4 here and judge for yourself.  Those of you who know these works or have played them know how difficult number 4 is for the solo violin.  The complete version of the concertos is here.  Buchner also recorded many Bach solo works which are easily found on the internet.  He played a Stradivarius violin dated 1727.  Buchner died on September 28, 2008, at age 84.