Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jinjoo Cho

Jinjoo Cho is a Korean violinist and teacher born (in Seoul) on July 12, 1988.  She is well-known as the winner of several violin competitions around the world (2005, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014), the Indianapolis being the most important among them.  It is the nature of competitions that in 2012, Cho entered the Queen Elizabeth (of Belgium) violin competition and did not make it to the finals.  (Igor Pikayzen, a very successful violinist with a brilliant technique did not make the semi-finals in that same competition (that year), although he later won other competitions.  Erick Friedman came in sixth place in the Tchaikovsky competition in 1966…, and so it goes.)  Cho has – for the most part - studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.  Her main teachers have been Paul Kantor (for four years), Jaime Laredo, Zakhar Bron, Arnold Steinhardt, and Mark Steinberg.  She began her violin studies at age 5 and later attended the Korean Art School.   Cho came to the US at age 14 and enrolled at the CIM almost immediately.  In Cleveland, she also attended the Gilmour Academy, a private (boarding) school.  At age 26 (September, 2014), she won first prize in the Indianapolis International violin competition.  As a result, she is performing on the Gingold Stradivarius of 1683 (also known as the Martinelli Stradivarius), a four year loan from the competition.   Prior to winning the Indianapolis, she had been concertizing for many years (since the age of 16) and had gained extensive experience in orchestral work and chamber music playing due to her attendance at various summer music camps.  Her technique has been described as stunning and her playing as being full of passion.  She has been quoted as saying: I think the importance of music is that it enables you to reach places in your heart that you might otherwise never reach.  It promotes soul searching.  Music also helps you see part of yourself and better understand people even in diverse situations.  Once you've experienced profound art, I really feel you are a citizen of the world.  You have a whole other means of traveling to different times and places that have shaped lives.”  Here is one YouTube video of her playing with piano accompaniment – the seldom-heard Francis Poulenc violin sonata.  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pamela Frank

Pamela Frank is an American violinist and teacher born (in New York City) on June 20, 1967.  She is now best known as a chamber music player and teacher, although she has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s top orchestras and conductors.  In the early 2000s she had to stop performing due to a serious (hand) injury suffered in 2001.  In that regard, she joins (among others) Rodolphe Kreutzer, Jascha Heifetz, Bronislaw Huberman, Fritz Kreisler, Erick Friedman, Maxim Vengerov, Emanuel Vardi, Kyung Wha Chung, Hilary Hahn, and Jacques Thibaud, each of whom had their career interrupted by hand or arm injuries.  After extensive rehabilitation, she returned to the stage in August of 2012.  She has taught at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore (since 2003), the Curtis Institute (since 1996) in Philadelphia, and the State University of New York.  She has also served on several juries of violin competitions around the world and played at various music festivals, including the well-known Verbier, Salzburg, and Ravinia festivals.  Frank has also frequently given masterclasses in Europe, Israel, Canada, and the U.S.  She is fluent in German, French, and (of course) English but is one of the few violinists who does not have a website.  Frank began her studies at age 5, studying violin privately with Shirley Givens for about eleven years.  She then studied further with Szymon Goldberg (1909-1993) and Jaime Laredo.  Her formal (public) debut took place in 1985 at New York's Carnegie Hall with the New York String Orchestra under Alexander Schneider.  She was 18 years old.  She had been a section player with that ensemble since the age of 15.  Frank later debuted a second time in Carnegie Hall playing a recital there in April of 1995.  She graduated from the Curtis Institute in 1989, presenting her graduation recital on February 15, 1989, playing works by Bach, Ysaye, Kreisler, Schubert, and Beethoven.  She first appeared with the New York Philharmonic on October 27, 1994, playing the Dvorak concerto.  Leonard Slatkin was on the podium.  Her second and last appearance with the orchestra was on December 1, 1998.  On that occasion she played Mozart’s third concerto.  Andre Previn conducted.  On September 11, 1996, she appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic alongside cellist Clemens Hagen playing the Double Concerto by Johannes Brahms.  Daniel Harding was on the podium.  She was 29 years old.  Her father, the pianist Claude Frank (1925-2014), often accompanied her in recital.  (Leonid Kogan and his pianist daughter (Nina) often played together too.)  In December of 1997, she and her father presented the entire Beethoven sonata cycle at London's Wigmore Hall.  Frank’s discography is not extensive although it includes the complete Mozart concertos and the complete Beethoven and Brahms Sonatas.  Her playing is featured in the soundtrack to the movie “Immortal Beloved.”  Among other violins, Frank has played a Guarnerius Del Gesu from 1736 known as the Wieniawski.  Here is a YouTube audio file of one of her Beethoven performances.  Photo is courtesy of Nicolas Lieber 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Adele Anthony

Adele Anthony is an Australian violinist and teacher born (in Tasmania) on October 1, 1970.  She is known for having won first prize in the (fifth) Carl Nielsen violin competition in 1996 (at age 25) and for being the wife of Gil Shaham, with whom she frequently performs.  Twelve years before that, at age 13, she had won the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Instrumental Competition – she played the Sibelius concerto on that occasion.  Soon afterward, she played the Tchaikovsky concerto in a concert sponsored by the same organization.  That concert in 1983 is considered her Australian public debut.  Anthony began her violin studies at age 3.  She studied at the University of Adelaide with Beryl Kimber.  In 1987, she came to the U.S. to pursue further study at Juilliard (New York City) where her main teachers were Hyo Kang, Felix Galimir, and Dorothy Delay.  According to one source, she studied at Juilliard for eight years, having received funding from several benefactors, including the Starling Foundation.  However, she was an active concert artist even while she was still at Juilliard and still maintains a very active solo concert career.  Her repertoire is very extensive and includes all of the standard violin literature in addition to many contemporary works less frequently heard by audiences.  As do almost all concert violinists nowadays, Anthony also plays chamber music at various festivals throughout the world, but especially in New York, where she resides.  She has recorded for various labels and among her notable recordings are those featuring violin concertos by Carl Nielsen, Ross Edwards, and Nicolo Paganini.  Anthony plays a Stradivarius violin constructed in 1728.  Here is one of her YouTube audio files featuring the work of Ross Edwards – a refreshing and unusual new work for the violin.  A few Stradivarius violins (perhaps one hundred or so) have been given names which have remained attached to the instruments for many years but – as far as I know – this one has no specific name.  I have heard it up close a number of times and it has a wonderful sound.  Perhaps later on, it will be known as the Anthony Stradivarius.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sascha Jacobsen

Sascha Jacobsen was a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Helsinki, Finland) on December 10, 1895.  Jacobsen’s birthdate is also given as November 29, 1895 and December 11, 1895.  Little is known of his early life.  It has been said that he grew up in St Petersburg.  He has been often confused with another violinist (from Philadelphia) named Sascha Jacobson.  A humorous song written by George Gershwin in 1921 includes his (first) name (along with those of Jascha, Toscha, and Mischa – Russian violinists Heifetz, Seidel, and Elman, respectively.)  It is known that he enrolled at Juilliard in 1908 where his main teacher was Franz Kneisel.  He graduated from Juilliard (Institute of Musical Art) in June of 1914 (some sources say 1915.)  He was 18 years old.  (A fellow-student of his was Elias Breeskin.)  In February of 1915, Jacobsen played parts of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol at an Aeolian Hall concert.  On November 27, 1915, he made his official recital debut at Aeolian Hall playing (among other things) Saint Saens’ third concerto.  After the announced program was concluded, he had to play numerous encores and he received very favorable reviews the following day.  He first soloed with the New York Philharmonic on March 9, 1919 (at age 23) playing Bruch’s first concerto with Walter Damrosch conducting.  Jacobsen concertized as a soloist between 1915 and 1925.  He began teaching at Juilliard in 1926.  After being hired, he almost immediately formed the Musical Art Quartet which disbanded in 1945, after almost 20 years of concert activity.  Recordings of this quartet are not hard to find.  Jacobsen also did solo recordings, although mostly of short works for violin and piano.  A well-known recording of his is the Chausson concerto for string quartet, violin, and piano with Jascha Heifetz as violin soloist.  You can listen to that recording here.  He moved to Los Angeles (California, USA) in 1946 and taught at the Los Angeles Conservatory but at other music schools as well.  From September 1947 and May 1949, he was guest concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Some sources say he was concertmaster up to 1952 but I could not confirm that.  It has been said that Albert Einstein was one of Jacobsen’s pupils.  (Einstein also took lessons from Toscha Seidel.)  Jacobsen’s most famous pupils are probably Julius Hegyi and Zvi Zeitlin.  Among the violins he played are the Red Diamond Stradivarius (1732), the Cessole Stradivarius (1716), the Windsor Stradivarius (1717), a GB Guadagnini (1779), another GB Guadagnini (1772), and a Del Gesu Guarnerius constructed in 1732.  Jacobsen died on March 19, 1972, at age 76.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Barnabas Kelemen

Barnabas Kelemen is a Hungarian violinist and teacher born (in Budapest) on June 12, 1978.  He is known for having won the prestigious Indianapolis Violin Competition in 2002.  His repertoire is very extensive and includes Schumann’s concerto and Bruch’s second concerto which are seldom heard live.  Kelemen also plays a great deal of contemporary music.  On May 2, 2013, he premiered (in New York’s Carnegie Hall) a long lost concerto by Mihaly Nador, composed in 1903 (and revised in 1941-42) but never performed.  Reviewers of the performance compared Kelemen to Heifetz.  The audience applauded after each movement of the concerto, which is not typical, especially in the case of more modern works.  Kelemen began studying violin at age six with Valeria Baranyai.  He entered the Franz Liszt Academy at age 11 and studied with Eszter Perenyi.  He graduated in 2001.  He was 23 years old.  By then, he had already won first prize in the Mozart Violin Competition in Salzburg (1999.)  Three years after winning the Indianapolis competition, he began teaching (in 2005) at the same school from which he graduated.  In 2010, he founded (with his violinist wife Katalin Kokas) the Kelemen Quartet.  (Among violinists who married other concert violinists are Olga Kaler, Adele Anthony, Marina Markov, Ruth Posselt, and Elizabeth Gilels.)  The Kelemen Quartet has also received top prizes at chamber music competitions.  In addition, several of Kelemen’s recordings have also received awards from music periodicals and critics.  Interestingly, except for the cellist, the Kelemen Quartet players sometimes switch places with each other – alternating between first violin, second violin, and viola.  Kelemen has taken conducting lessons from Leif Segerstam and has already conducted a few concerts in Europe.  He often appears in the dual role of soloist-conductor with chamber orchestras.  Needless to say, Kelemen has toured the world several times (and continues to do so) as a soloist and with the quartet.  In 2014, he began teaching at the Advanced School for Music and Dance in Cologne, Germany.  Here is a YouTube video of his playing a well-known Mozart sonata.  It shows how different his temperament and style are from a more conventional concert violinist but you be the judge.  After winning the Indianapolis competition, Kelemen played the 1683 Stradivarius (Martinelli Stradivarius) that all Indianapolis competition winners get to use for four years.  (The Martinelli was “restored” in 2014 and is currently being played by Jinjoo Cho)  Kelemen is currently playing a Guarneri (del Gesu) constructed in 1742.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jose Luis Garcia

Jose Luis Garcia (Jose Luis Garcia Asensio) was a Spanish violinist born (in Madrid) on February 25, 1944.  He is best known for being the concertmaster of the English Chamber Orchestra for about 25 years.  Just as the names Ferdinand David, Raymond Gniewek, Glenn Dicterow, Norman Carol, and Richard Burgin unfailingly bring up the names of their respective orchestras (the Gewandhaus, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony, respectively), Garcia's biography is inextricably linked to the history of the ECO.  He spent nearly his entire career in England.  His first studies were with his father beginning at age 6.  If he studied with anyone else in Spain, I do not know who that was.  In 1960, he received first prize at the Sarasate competition in Pamplona.  He was 16 years old.  Thereafter (in 1961) he traveled to London to study with Antonio Brosa at the Royal College of Music.  He appeared in concert in a Vivaldi concerto (for four violins in B minor) at a Proms concert (in 1963) at age 19 with the BBC Symphony.  Malcolm Sargent was on the podium.  Two years later, in 1965, he joined the pit orchestra of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.  In 1967, he toured South America with the English Chamber Orchestra (playing Principal Second Violin.)  However, by then, he had already (intermittently) played several concerts with the orchestra.  In 1968, he was appointed associate concertmaster of the orchestra.  He was 24 years old.  In 1970, he made his second debut as a soloist at another Proms concert.  On that occasion, he played Michael Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante (on a theme by Corelli) with the English Chamber Orchestra, of which, as previously mentioned, he was then Associate Concertmaster.  The composer was on the podium.  By that time, Garcia was already teaching at the Royal College of Music, where he had begun teaching at age 22, being the youngest to ever get a teaching appointment at that school. (Garcia taught at the Royal College of Music until 1982 - a total of fifteen or sixteen years.)  At age 23, he led the string section for one of the Beatles’ most famous albums.  With the English Chamber Orchestra, Garcia would also conduct and perform as soloist.  He eventually toured almost every country in the world.  Although he recorded as a soloist, he far more frequently recorded as an orchestral leader with the ECO.  His best-known solo recording is probably Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  He also recorded Mozart’s five concertos and the Bach Double Concerto with the ECO.  The recordings are easily found on the internet.  It has been said that the English Chamber Orchestra is the most recorded chamber orchestra in the world, having recorded more than 1,500 individual works, even though multiple recordings of the same works (the Mozart piano concertos, for instance) are probably included in that number.  (Although the orchestra generates quite a bit of revenue on its own, the orchestra also has an outstanding Patron - the Prince of Wales.)  Garcia never wavered from his romantic interpretations of baroque works, unlike other British chamber ensembles (the English Concert, the Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, English Baroque Soloists, etc.) which embraced the period instrument (authentic performance practice) musical movements beginning in the late 1960s.  It is quite interesting that in 1983-1984 Garcia offered his services to the musical establishment in Spain to conduct master classes free-of-charge (in Spain) but never got a call in response.  Later on – between 1992 and 1999 – he taught at the Queen Sofia School of Music in Madrid and conducted the school’s orchestra with which he also toured extensively.  Garcia studied conducting with Sergiu Celibidache.  Among the orchestras he guest conducted (outside of England and Spain) are the National Symphony (Washington, D.C.), the Detroit Symphony, and the Israel Chamber Orchestra.  He also guest conducted the Ft Worth (Texas, USA) Chamber Orchestra many times, beginning with a concert going back to October of 1977.  His last concert with that orchestra was probably in October of 1992.  As does another famous concertmaster in the U.S. (from the Boston Symphony), Garcia loved golf.  He was also one of the very few musicians (and possibly the only violinist anywhere) who owned a Rolls Royce automobile.  Garcia played the (Fritz) Hirt Stradivarius from 1704, also known as the Prince (Serge) Obolensky Strad and now known as the Hirt-Garcia Strad.  Among the many other violins he played was a modern violin constructed by American luthier Terry Borman.  (Among the many players who also play Borman violins are Pinchas Zukerman, Jaime Laredo, Pamela Frank, and Joseph Silverstein.)  The Strad is presently owned by a private collector but is on loan to American violinist Esther Yoo.  If there are any videos of Garcia's myriad solo concerts out there, they have not yet been uploaded to YouTube.  Garcia died on August 11, 2011, at age 67.  (Photo is courtesy of the English Chamber Orchestra) 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Lydia Mordkovitch

Lydia Mordkovitch (Lydia Shtimerman Mordkovitch) was a Russian violinist, violist, and teacher born (in Saratov) on April 30, 1944.  She spent much of her later career in England.  She began her violin studies at the local music school in Kishinev (Kishniev or Kishinyov), a city in Moldova where her family returned after World War Two.  Since Kishinev was a shambles during the war, her mother fled as far as she could (980 miles eastward, all the way to Saratov, in this case) to get away from the fighting forces.  Mordkovitch may have been six or seven years old when she first began her studies.  I didn’t take the trouble to find out.  Beginning in 1960, at age 16, she studied briefly in Odessa (Ukraine) at the Stolyarski School of Music.  (Odessa is only 96 miles southeast from Kishinev.)  She then moved her studies to the (Nezhdanova) Odessa Conservatory.  One of her teachers there was Monzion Mordkovich, a violinist I had never heard about before.  [Please see comments below]  She was there two years and graduated.  She was 18 years old.  Later still, she entered the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow.  She was 24 years old by then.  Her main teacher there was David Oistrakh.  In fact, when she first met Oistrakh to prepare for her entrance exam, he asked her why she had “come so late,” referring to her age.   From 1968 to 1970, she was Oistrakh’s teaching assistant as well.  From 1970 to 1973 she taught at the Institute of Arts in Kishinev.  A couple of sources say she studied there between those same years but that is highly unlikely – Mordkovitch was already an established violinist by then.  In Israel, she taught at the Academy of Music in Jerusalem between 1974 and 1979.  Mordkovitch made her British debut on January 7, 1979, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Halle Orchestra (Manchester, England) conducted by Walter Susskind.  She moved to England permanently in 1980.  She was 36 years old.  All the while, she was concertizing in Europe, England, Russia, Israel, and the US.  Her American debut came in 1982 with the Chicago Symphony (in Chicago.)  George Solti was on the podium.  In 1980, she began teaching at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England.  In 1995, she began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music in London.  Mordkovitch made over sixty recordings, mostly under the (British) Chandos label.  Some of them are unique in that they feature works for violin which are seldom heard – John Veale’s violin concerto, for instance.  Her recording of the Shostakovich concertos won awards from British and French music critics.  Most of her recordings are easy to find on the internet.  Her best-known pupil is probably British violinist Pip Clarke.  Mordkovitch played a 1746 Nicolo Gagliano violin for many years but she would use other instruments as well (mostly Strads and Guadagninis on loan from friends or the Royal Academy), especially when recording.  Here is a YouTube audio file of her recording of the first Szymanowski concerto.  Mordkovitch died on December 9, 2014, at age 70.