Sergey Krylov is a Russian violinist, teacher, and conductor born (in Moscow) on December 2, 1970. A bit of trivia about Krylov’s life is that his father was a violin maker (luthier), a rarity in Russia because Russian violin makers are few and far between, for reasons I know nothing about. For hundreds of years (1550-1950), the overwhelming majority of violins were produced in Europe and nowhere else. Another bit of trivia is that none other than (cellist) Mstislav Rostropovich was supposed to have declared Krylov to be one of the top five violinists in the world. You can judge for yourself in this YouTube video – you can hear a pin drop in the immense audience which you can sense is simply spellbound. Krylov began violin lessons at age 5. A year later, he played his first public concert. He entered the Central School either in Moscow or Kiev (a well-known music school for gifted children) at age 10. His teachers there were Abram Shtern and Sergey Kravschenko. His first recording came at age 16 on the Melodiya label, the official (government) Russian label at the time, with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, which resides in Vilnius, city where Jascha Heifetz was born - Krylov would much later (2008) be appointed conductor of this orchestra. After winning a violin competition in Italy at age 18, he began studying with Salvatore Accardo. He later won another competition in Cremona, Italy, and still another in Vienna. By that point, Krylov had begun his concertizing career, spending most of his time in Russia and Europe. His playing has been described as “hypnotic.” His articulation is very clean and reminds me of Leonid Kogan’s although Krylov’s sound is much sweeter than Kogan’s. If you feel so inclined you can hear and see his performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto here. My favorite recording of this work is Tossy Spivakovsky’s but Krylov’s certainly comes in a close second. He has also participated in countless chamber music concerts throughout the world with a diverse group of musicians, including Maxim Vengerov, Mischa Maisky, Nobuko Imai, Yefim Bronfman, and Yuri Bashmet. In 2012, he became part of the music faculty at the University of Music and Art in Lugano, Switzerland. His recording labels are EMI, Agora, and Melodiya. He has played the Scotland University Stradivarius of 1734 but I don’t know if he is presently playing that particular violin.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Sergey Khachatryan is an Armenian violinist born (in Yerevan, Armenia) on April 5, 1985. He has managed to establish a very busy and successful career from a very young age. After Ivan Galamian, he is the most famous Armenian violinist. His violin studies began at age 6 (one source says age 5) with Pyotr Haykazyan in his native Armenia. At age 8 (1993), he moved to Germany with his family. There, he studied with – among others - Hrachya Harutyunian (concertmaster of the Stuttgart Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, and the Munich Philharmonic.) At age 9, he played his first orchestral concert in Germany, which, as far as I know, is still his home base. He began to study in Karlsruhe under Josef Rissin at age 11. Khachatryan credits Rissin with most of his violinistic development and – as Jascha Heifetz did with his own teacher, Leopold Auer – still asks Rissin’s advice. After winning the Sibelius competition at age 15 (the youngest winner in the competition’s history), Khachatryan began to be engaged to play concerts far and wide. His first orchestral recording (the Sibelius concerto) was released in 2003. He was 18 years old. In 2005, he won the Queen Elizabeth competition, another prestigious violin competition. Khachatryan made his New York debut on August 4, 2006 playing the Beethoven concerto at the Mostly Mozart Festival. On February 28, 2007, he played the Sibelius concerto with the New York Philharmonic. Kurt Masur was on the podium. He has played with all the major orchestras and with most of the top names in the conducting world since then. As does Gil Shaham, he sometimes plays recitals with his sister as piano accompanist. Khachatryan actually recorded his debut CD in 2002 with both his sister and his father as piano accompanists. YouTube has several videos of his performances. Here is one. He has played the 1708 Huggins Stradivarius (from 2005 until 2009), the 1702 Lord Newlands Stradivarius (from 2009 until 2011 – this violin was sold to a collector for $12,500 way back in 1915 and is now on loan to violinist Ray Chen), and the 1740 Ysaye Guarnerius (previously played by Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman.) I do not know if he is still playing the Guarnerius but I do know the Nippon Music Foundation provided all three violins to him on loan. Khachatryan also previously played a G.B. Guadagnini violin from 1773. His sound has been described as sweet, beguiling, and rich; his playing as “poetic, introspective. effortlessly virtuosic.” A quote from him: “You see many of today’s artists go out on stage and you can tell they’re there because it’s their job. I’m afraid of that word. Every time I go out on stage, I want … to create a special atmosphere.” Photo is courtesy of Marco Borggreve, well-known photographer to (mostly European) musicians.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Roger Best was an English violinist, violist, and teacher born (in Liverpool) on September 28, 1936. I think he is only the sixth violist I have posts on – the others are Alessandro Rolla, Paul Hindemith, Emanuel Vardi, William Primrose, and Walter Trampler. Every one of them began on violin and later switched to the viola. Of course, there are many concert violinists who also play viola, even as soloists, but never relinquish violin for viola – Pinchas Zukerman, Maxim Vengerov, Nigel Kennedy, and Wolfgang Mozart are among them. Best also played other instruments, as did Stephane Grappelli and a few other violinists, but mostly to make a living while he was a student. He began his violin studies with his father but soon began to study with a professional teacher. At age 11, he won a scholarship to the Liverpool Institute. He later won a scholarship to study at the Royal Manchester College of Music – his teacher was Paul Cropper - earning a living touring all over England with various orchestras as well. Later on, none other than John Barbirolli invited Best to play in the Halle Orchestra, based in Manchester, England. After two years there, Best joined the Northern Sinfonia as Principal violist. The orchestra was based in Newcastle, about 300 miles north of London. Although he sporadically concertized as a soloist, he eventually (by 1972) gravitated toward orchestral playing, performing as a chamber player and studio musician. He ended up playing in dozens of recordings, though anonymously, as most orchestral players do. Beginning in 1977, Best was also the violist of the Alberni Quartet but only for a time. The Alberni has had at least four different violists. Best was the third in the series. Among others, Richard Bennett and Malcolm Arnold wrote viola concertos for Best - Best premiered the Arnold concerto in September, 1971 and recorded it later on. The Bennett concerto he actually premiered in New York in 1973. Best later taught at the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, and the Royal Scottish Academy. He played an Antonio Mariani viola constructed in 1645, give or take. The instrument had previously been played by Lionel Tertis. Best died on October 8, 2013, at age 77. There is a quote in his obituary which I like: “He also played croquet at national championships level – a game that suited his temperament well, combining as it does courtesy with a killer instinct.”
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Andrew Sords is an American violinist and teacher born (in Newark, Delaware) on June 4, 1985. As do violinists Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell, Sords writes a blog to keep his wide audience informed about things related to his career; he also writes about his unique view of many other things as well. I will say that his website is worth visiting for the blog alone although you will see so much more. His repertoire includes two of my favorite and (unfortunately) seldom-played concertos – Bruch’s second concerto in d minor and the Schumann concerto. In fact, I think the time will come when every concert violinist will take on both of these neglected concertos and perform them as regularly as the Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Incidentally, the Schumann concerto was in danger of never surfacing thanks to a low opinion of it given to Clara Schumann (Robert Schumann’s widow) by none other than Joseph Joachim. Sords has a very active solo concert and chamber music career which has taken him all over the globe. He has given concerts with over 100 (different) orchestras, including the well-known major ones, and played the most important venues in every continent. That may well be a record for any violinist but even those numbers, of course, will continue to increase. Sords began to study violin privately at about age 6. His first teacher was Liza Grossman. However, his first instrumental studies were actually on piano, which he still plays. He thus joins a number of concert violinists who have been quite proficient as pianists - Fritz Kreisler, Louis Persinger, Jascha Heifetz, Arthur Grumiaux, Andor Toth, Arabella Steinbacher, and Julia Fischer just to name a few. Sords later studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Southern Methodist University. His main teachers were Linda Cerone (pupil of Ivan Galamian), David Russell, and Chee-Yun (Kim Chee Yun – pupil of Dorothy DeLay.) As do violinists Maxim Vengerov and Tai Murray, Sords enjoys and has a deep appreciation for dancing and has even participated in the famous “Dancing With The Stars” show for a charity benefit. He was the first classical artist to do so. That may seem unusual but French violinist Jean-Marie LeClair was actually a professional dancer, choreographer, and violinist in the early 1700s. Sords is also unique in that he plays a modern violin constructed in 1912 by Belgian violin maker Augustine Talisse, a violin maker I had never heard of until now. Albert Markov, Tai Murray, Christian Tetzlaff, Giora Schmidt, Judith Ingolfsson, Pip Clarke, Ilya Kaler, and Alina Pogostkina are among the growing number of concert violinists who are gravitating to modern instruments which, as you may know from reading this blog, I also favor. Sords’ performances are typically characterized by music critics as being “utterly radiant.” You can see his Facebook page here. His most recent audio release is the New Age music CD with composer Sean Christopher.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Tor Aulin was a Swedish violinist, conductor, and composer born (in Saltsjobaden) on September 10, 1866. I have never heard any of his music but it is said to have traces of the influence of Grieg and Schumann which is to say that it sounds nice. Here is a YouTube file of his second violin concerto - the one in a minor. Scant information is available about him on the internet so I do not know at what age he began his violin studies. From 1877 to 1883, Aulin studied at the Stockholm Conservatory of music aka the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. He then studied an additional two years with violin virtuoso Emile Sauret in Berlin, at the Berlin Conservatory (probably the Stern Academy) from 1884 to 1886. He also studied composition and conducting with Philipp Scharwenka in Berlin though I’m guessing not at the same school since Scharwenka had a private conservatory of his own. In 1887, Aulin founded the Aulin Quartet, the first professional string quartet in Sweden. He was 21 years old. From 1889 to 1892, Aulin was concertmaster of the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm. He spent some time conducting the symphony orchestras in Stockholm and Gothenburg as well – it is very likely that Sweden had no full-time orchestras prior to 1900. I do not know if he was permanent director with any Stockholm orchestra but he did have a post with the Gothenburg Symphony from 1909 to 1912. The Aulin Quartet was disbanded in 1912. He championed the works of his fellow countrymen, Franz Berwald and Wilhelm Stenhammar and premiered some of Stenhammar’s violin works. Aulin composed a number of works for orchestra – including three violin concertos – and numerous works for chamber groups and solo instruments, including works for violin and piano. A YouTube file of his third violin concerto (in c minor - dedicated to Henri Marteau - published in 1904 and now in the public domain) can be found here. I do not know if it has ever been heard (in a live performance) outside Sweden. Recordings of some of Aulin's violin (with orchestra) works can be found here. He also wrote cadenzas for at least two of Mozart's violin concertos. Aulin died on March 1, 1914, at age 47 - the First World War had not yet begun. Today, at least outside of Sweden, Aulin remains a very obscure musician.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Bronislaw Gimpel was a Polish violinist, conductor, and teacher born (in Lviv, Ukraine) on January 29, 1911. Although he was a very active and successful artist for many years, today, Gimpel is almost totally forgotten. Perhaps fame is fleeting after all unless you can tie it to something transcendental. Corelli and Vivaldi had their concertos; Tartini had his Devil’s Trill Sonata; Paganini had his caprices; Kreutzer had his Beethoven Sonata; Clement had his Beethoven concerto: Rode had his Caprices; Joachim had Brahms; Auer had his students; Flesch had his scale book; Mischakoff had Toscanini; Stern had his Carnegie Hall; Briselli had his Barber concerto; any number of famous violinists had their original concertos or recital pieces to be remembered by – Viotti, Spohr, DeBeriot, Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps, Conus, Sarasate, Kroll, Bazzini, Achron, Kreisler – Huberman had his Israel Philharmonic; Heifetz, Kogan, Rabin, Kaufman, and Ricci had their fabulous techniques and recordings, and so on and so forth. Alma Rose’, a very ordinary violinist, became the conductor of an infamous orchestra in a concentration camp (where she also died) so we shall know her name forever. Josef Hassid had a one-and-a half-year career (between the ages of 16 and 17), but he became mentally ill, was in an asylum for seven years, underwent a lobotomy, and died at age 26, so his name will live on. Tie yourself to something that will live beyond your lifetime and perhaps you’ll be remembered past your own generation – if that means anything to you. Gimpel began to study violin with his father at age 5. He entered the Lviv Conservatory at age 8. His main teacher there was Moritz Wolfstahl, someone about whom I do not know anything. Gimpel made his debut playing Mendelssohn’s concerto at that same age. The concert was a complete triumph for the young child. At age 11, he traveled to Vienna to study with Robert Pollack (aka Robert Pollak, one of Isaac Stern’s teachers) at the Vienna Conservatory. His brother (Jakob, the piano player) was already there. At age 14 (1925), he soloed with the Vienna Philharmonic playing Karl Goldmark’s concerto. Some critics compared him to Bronislaw Huberman, another child prodigy. From age 15 until about age 19, he concertized in Italy, Europe, and South America. In Italy, he got to play for royalty and the Pope. Then he went to Berlin for further study at the Advanced School for Music. His teacher there was Carl Flesch. I don’t know how long he studied with Flesch but in 1937, Gimpel came to the U.S. At the invitation of Otto Klemperer, he served as concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also conducted the philharmonic from time to time and was very active in the musical life of the city. In 1942, he enlisted in the Army and after the war, he resumed his solo career. He was 34 years old. From 1942 to 1950, he served as concertmaster, conductor, and soloist of the ABC Radio Symphony in New York. He then formed the Mannes-Gimpel-Silva Piano trio and enjoyed outstanding success with that ensemble. In 1956, he relocated to Europe. It has been said that he gave over 100 concerts in a single year in Germany alone. He was playing concerts in Russia as well. He formed the Warsaw Quintet in 1963 and played with that group until about 1967. In that year, he returned to the U.S. and taught at the University of Connecticut from 1967 to 1973. In Connecticut, he founded the New England String Quartet. From 1973, he taught at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. All the while, he continued to concertize, which is pretty much standard practice for all conservatory violin teachers or professors. Gimpel was a member of various chamber music ensembles throughout his career, not just the ones already mentioned. In 1978, he returned to the U.S. once again. It is not well-known that toward the end of his life, he instructed three youth symphonies in Caracas, Venezuela. He also had a pilot’s license. In his last public performance – at the time, of course, he didn’t know it would be his last – he played the Tchaikovsky concerto and he later said it was one of the very best performances of his career. He was 68 years old. He made numerous recordings which can easily be found on the internet – a few are posted on YouTube. He played a 1730 Santo Serafin violin and a J.B. Vuillaume constructed in 1845. The Santo Serafin is now owned by a first violinist in the San Francisco Symphony – Mariko Smiley. I don’t know where the Vuillaume is. It has been said of Bronislaw Huberman that he died in his sleep and it’s been said of Gimpel as well, who died, in Los Angeles, on May 1, 1979, at age 68.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Tedi Papavrami is an Albanian violinist, teacher, and actor born (in Tirana, Albania) on May 13, 1971. Although it can most assuredly be said that he possesses a quite fantastic technique and formidable artistic insight (second to none, in my opinion), he is much better known in Europe than in the U.S. and therefore has a lower global profile than he might otherwise. Besides being a musician and actor, he is also a writer. In addition, he has transcribed various works written for other instruments for his use as violin pieces. Among them are several Scarlatti piano sonatas. Nowadays, that activity is rare among violinists, though it was commonplace in the old days – say, prior to 1945. Papavrami first studied with his father – Robert Papavrami, a violinist and violin teacher – from age 5. At age 7, he enrolled at the Jordan Misja School of Art in Tirana. He made his orchestral debut at age 8, playing Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs (Zigeunerweisen.) At age 11, he played Paganini’s first concerto with the same orchestra – the Tirana Philharmonic. Soon thereafter, he was offered a scholarship by the French government to study at the Paris Conservatory. He was 12 years old. His teacher there – among others - was Pierre Amoyal. Papavrami graduated from the Paris Conservatory at age 15. He studied further with Zino Francescatti and Victoria Mullova. According to one source, he also received a degree – I don’t know in what field of study – from the Lausanne Conservatory in 1987. By 1986, he had already established his base, so to speak, in Paris, France. Here is a YouTube video of his performance of Paganini’s second concerto. I’ve already heard nearly all of the recordings of this concerto that are out there and this one is the best among them. Papavrami has concertized around the world since completing his formal music studies but spends scant time in the U.S. He is also one of a handful of violinists who have played recitals composed entirely of the 24 Paganini Caprices. In 2003, he was engaged to play a principal role in the French film, Dangerous Liaisons, with Catherine Deneuve and the notorious Natasha Kinski. In 2008, he was appointed violin professor at the Geneva Conservatory in Switzerland and has been living in Geneva ever since. In 2002, Papavrami was named official French translator by the publisher of the works of his countryman, Ismail Kadare. His recordings on the Naxos and Aeon labels have been praised by every music critic. His first major recording (for Naxos) was released in 1997. It features both Prokofiev concertos. Papavrami’s transcriptions - for solo violin - of the Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas have been published but I know not by whom. Papavrami is also the violinist of the Schumann Piano Quartet - with violist Christoph Schiller, pianist Christian Favre, and cellist Francois Guye. Their magnificent recording of the piano quartets of Ernest Chausson and Gabriel Faure can easily be found on the internet. Papavrami's violin is one constructed especially for him by French violin maker (luthier) Christian Bayon.