Konstanty Kulka (Konstanty Andrzej Kulka) is a Polish violinist and teacher born (in Gdansk, Poland) on March 5, 1947. Kulka spends most of his time in Europe, although he has toured around the world, playing with most major orchestras, including the London Symphony, the Concertgebouw, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony. Kulka has also played at many of the world’s music festivals, including ones in Lucerne, Berlin, Prague, Barcelona, and Warsaw. He began studying violin at age 8 with Ludwig Gbiorczyk. At 24, he graduated from the Stanislaw Moniuszco Academy of Music (Gdansk) in 1971, where his primary teacher was Stefan Herman. He had, however, already started concertizing in 1967. In fact, at age 17, he entered and received first prize at the German International ARD Radio Competition in Munich (in 1964.) He first appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic on February 28, 1982, playing Krzysztof Penderecki’s second violin concerto. He was 34 years old. In 1984, he was appointed violin soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic. In 1994, Kulka was appointed violin professor at the Frederick Chopin School of Music in Warsaw. As far as I know, he is still teaching there. Kulka has recorded extensively and champions the music of modern Polish composers. Among the standard concertos he has in his discography are the Mozart, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Lalo, Bartok, Prokofiev, Brahms, and Glazunov. In addition, he has recorded for many television and radio programs. Here is a video of his performance of the Mieczyslaw Karlowicz concerto. Karlowicz was a Polish composer who showed great promise but who, unfortunately, died very young (at age 32.) Here is an audio file of the first movement of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol. In 1981, Kulka received the Grand Prix du Disque for his recording of both Karol Szymanowski concertos. The Polish government has also bestowed several official honors on Kulka.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Edouard Rappoldi (Eduard Rappoldi) was an Austrian violinist, teacher, conductor, and composer born (in Vienna) on February 21, 1839. He is best known for his teaching and his close association with Joseph Joachim. He began his violin studies at an early age, as do most concert violinists. His first teachers were two violinists I had never heard of until now - Leopold Jansa and a Mr. Doleschall, whose first name eluded me as I was doing my research, such as it was. At only age 7, he made his first public appearance as a violinist and pianist. It has been said that he later became a skilled pianist. At the Vienna Conservatory he studied (1851-1854) with two of the best teachers in the world, Georg Hellmesberger (Sr.) – or possibly Josef (Joseph) Hellmesberger (Sr.) - and Joseph Bohm. From 1854 to 1861, he played violin in the Vienna Court Opera Orchestra, though presumably not as concertmaster. He also toured Europe as a soloist. He was 15 years old when he joined the orchestra and 22 when he left. From 1861 to 1866 he was concertmaster of the Rotterdam German Opera Orchestra. He then became conductor of orchestras (I don’t know which orchestras) - between the years 1866 and 1870 - in Lubeck (in 1866), Stettin (in 1867), and Prague (in 1869), successively. In 1871, at age 32, he was appointed violin teacher at the Royal School of Music in Berlin, which Joachim had helped establish. Joachim was already teaching there. Rappoldi was a member of the Joachim Quartet (as violist) between 1871 and 1877. When Rappoldi joined the quartet, Heinrich De Ahna moved from viola to second violin and after Rappoldi left the quartet, Emmanuel Wirth took his place as violist. De Ahna stayed on second. In 1877, Rappoldi was appointed principal violin instructor at the Dresden Conservatory. He taught there for 15 years. He was also concertmaster of the Dresden Opera during those years but retired from playing in 1898. He was 59 or 60 years old – I don’t know which. One source claims he was also the conductor at the Dresden Opera. Perhaps he was one of the conductors, as opera companies seldom – if ever – hire just one conductor. His compositions include symphonies, quartets, and sonatas. As far as I know, his music is seldom performed now except perhaps in Germany and Austria. One of Rappoldi’s best known and most accomplished pupils was Charles Loeffler, a very influential violinist and composer in the U.S. in the first half of the twentieth century. Rappoldi died (in Dresden) on May 16, 1903, at age 64.
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Adolfo Betti was an Italian violinist, teacher, and music editor born (in Bagni Di Lucca, Italy) on March 21, 1875. (Bagni Di Lucca is a small village in Tuscany, Italy - it is situated about 30 miles northwest of Florence and about 70 miles south of Cremona.) He is known for leading, as first violinist, the Flonzaley Quartet from 1903 to 1929. In its first few years, he and second violinist, Alfred Pochon, actually alternated playing first violin. Two other quartets who used to or still do this are the Emerson and the Jacobsohn string quartets. The Flonzaley quartet was one of two very famous (and important) American string quartets playing in the early twentieth century - the other was the Kneisel Quartet. Interestingly, its founder was not a professional musician. He was philanthropist Edward J. De Coppet. The quartet was actually named for De Coppet’s summer home near Geneva, Switzerland. Although I have no idea who Betti’s early teachers were, I do know he made his public debut as a child of either six or seven - accounts vary. He entered the Liege Conservatory (Belgium) in 1892. There, he studied with Cesar Thomson. He graduated in 1896, at age 21. Thereafter, he concertized in Europe. In 1900, he was appointed assistant to his former teacher (Thomson) at the Brussels Conservatory. In 1903, he was invited, by Alfred Pochon, to become part of the Flonzaley Quartet. Pochon was also teaching at the Brussels Conservatory at the time. Betti was 28 years old. After the quartet disbanded, Betti spent his time between New York and his birthplace, teaching, editing music, and playing occasionally. The public library in Bagni Di Lucca is named after him. According to one source, he was even mayor of Bagni Di Lucca for a while. In New York, Betti taught at the Mannes College of Music. He played, among other violins, a 1782 J.B. Guadagnini and a 1741 Guarnerius Del Gesu. I don’t know who owns or plays those violins today. One of his better known students was David Nadien, who very recently passed away. Betti died on December 2, 1950, at age 75.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Dorothy DeLay was an American violinist and teacher born (in Medicine Lodge, Kansas) on March 31, 1917. She is well-known as the teacher of many world famous violinists and as a pedagogue as accomplished as Peter Stolyarski, Leopold Auer, Carl Flesch, Ivan Galamian, Otakar Sevcik, Joseph Gingold, and Zakhar Bron. She easily taught more than a thousand students during her career. A story is told of how when DeLay was two years old, she had opportunity to hug and kiss the King of Belgium – just as the child prodigy Mozart hugged and kissed Marie Antoinette. She began her violin studies at age 4. She first played in public at age 5. By age 14, she was the leader of her high school orchestra, which numbered about one hundred players. At 16, she entered Oberlin College (Ohio) where she studied with Raymond Cerf, an obscure violinist who had been a pupil of Eugene Ysaye. At 17, she entered Michigan State University, from which she graduated at age 20. Her violin teacher there was another obscure violinist and conductor named Michael Press. From there, she went (in 1937) to New York to study with Louis Persinger at Juilliard. She was still only 20 years old. She also later studied with Hans Letz and Felix Salmond at the same school. DeLay earned a living while at Juilliard by doing odd jobs and playing wherever and whenever she could. It was during this time that she founded the Stuyvesant Trio which was active from 1939 to 1942. She also became a member of Leopold Stokowski’s All-American Youth Orchestra which toured South America and the U.S. in 1940 and 1941. She graduated from Juilliard in 1941 but also got married that year. She subsequently traveled with her husband due to his military service during the war but also occasionally performed as a soloist and with the trio. In 1946, DeLay decided to take a break from performing and returned to Juilliard for further study. She was 29 years old. Her teacher then was Ivan Galamian. In 1948 (one source says 1947), she became Galamian’s teaching assistant. The rest is history. She was 31 years old. DeLay had also considered studying medicine during this time but decided against it. (Interestingly, Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler did study medicine and actually became a doctor, though, as far as I know, he never actually practiced.) She also concurrently began teaching at the Henry Street Settlement School and Sarah Lawrence College (1947-1987.) In 1970, she finally established her own teaching studio at Juilliard. She was 53 years old and had already been teaching at Juilliard for more than 20 years, although under Galamian’s shadow. One fine day, after it had become quite obvious that her teaching style and methods were incompatible with Galamian’s, Delay let Galamian know that she would not be teaching at Meadowmount (Galamian’s summer music camp) that summer (in 1970) but would be at the Aspen Music camp instead; the relationship ruptured and Galamian (1903-1981) never spoke to her again. In fact, he tried to get her fired but was unsuccessful. DeLay played a 1778 GB Guadagnini (named the Dorothy Delay Guadagnini) which was sold at auction in October of 2013 – for $1,390,000. She acquired the violin in 1969. Today, more than a dozen Juilliard teachers are former pupils of hers. Besides Juilliard, DeLay also taught at the University of Cincinnati, the New England Conservatory, and the Royal College of Music in London. It has been said that DeLay once stated that “talent is just a mood.” Among her famous pupils are Philippe Quint, Itzhak Perlman, Miranda Cuckson, Nigel Kennedy, Peter Oundjian, Jaap van Zweden, Shlomo Mintz, David Kim, Robert McDuffie, Aaron Janse, Mark Kaplan, Midori Goto, Frank Almond, Sarah Chang, Paul Kantor, Robert Chen, Gil Shaham, and Akiko Suwanai. Dorothy DeLay died on March 24, 2002, at age 84. Today, Itzhak Perlman teaches in her place. The photo shows DeLay in her early twenties.
Sunday, June 1, 2014
Oldrich Vlcek is a Czech violinist and conductor born (in Byk, Czechoslovakia) on May 18, 1939. (I could not find Byk on a map of Czechoslovakia so I don’t know where it is.) He is known for having recorded over 200 CDs with various European chamber orchestras, although the vast majority (on various labels) have been with the Prague Chamber Orchestra and the Virtuosi di Praga. He has also performed with some of the most outstanding soloists of our time, including Mstislav Rostropovich, Josef Suk, Sergey Krylov, and Placido Domingo. Among his distinguished accomplishments has been his appointment (in 2004) as one of the principal conductors of the orchestra of the Estates Theatre in Prague. You can read a little more about this famous theatre here. After studying with Bohumila Kotmela, Vlcek was a pupil of Nora Grumlikova at the Prague Academy of Art (Academy of Performing Arts in Prague - film director Milos Forman [aka Jan Tomas Kohn] also studied there.) Vlcek also studied conducting with Vaclav Neumann, the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic (1968-1990). He was appointed concertmaster and conductor of the Prague Chamber Orchestra (established in 1951) in 1980. In 1990, he re-established the Virtuosi di Praga. He is given credit for quite successfully navigating (with this ensemble) the hard economic times that came upon Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Communist regime in 1990. He had actually founded the Virtuosi di Praga in 1976 but the orchestra had disbanded for reasons I know nothing about. Besides Czechoslovakia, Vlcek has also guest conducted in Europe, Korea, and Canada. As leader and soloist with the Prague Chamber Orchestra and the Virtuosi di Praga, Vicek has toured worldwide. His very interesting recording of the Four Seasons is here. You can hear Vlcek play Vivaldi here.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Akiko Suwanai is a Japanese violinist and teacher born (in Tokyo) on February 7, 1972. Suwanai won the Tchaikovsky violin competition at age 18 (1990) and is well-known for playing one of Heifetz’ old violins, the Dolphin Stradivarius of 1714. She initially studied in Tokyo with Toshiya Eto. Eventually she moved to the U.S where she studied with Dorothy DeLay and Cho Liang Lin at Juilliard. Then she moved to Berlin to study with Uwe Martin Haiberg at the Advanced School of Art (the University of Art.) Suwanai has since solidly established her career, gaining praise from critics and audiences throughout the world. She frequently tours with top orchestras, but mostly in Europe. She soloed with the New York Philharmonic on November 20, 1997, playing the Mendelssohn concerto – the one in e minor. Suwanai first performed with the Berlin Philharmonic on September 12, 2000, playing Ravel’s Tzigane. She was 28 years old. Charles Dutoit was on the podium. She opened the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival in 2009, being the first Japanese violinist invited to do so. She has recorded with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, among others. Suwanai also teaches master classes occasionally. As far as I know, Suwanai presently has her home base in Paris. Paris, New York, Berlin, Rome, and London are probably the most popular cities for concert violinists to work from. Here is a YouTube video of her playing (in the orchestra) with a few other musicians at the Louvre. And another is here at the same concert, playing the double concerto by Bach. Among her collaborators at the concert are Manrico Padovani, Sergey Khachatryan, Viviane Hagner, Hyun-su Shin, Manuela Janke, Steven Isserlis, and Arabella Steinbacher. There are many other videos of Suwanai in concert on YouTube. The photo is courtesy of Leslie Kee.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
Noel Pointer was an American jazz violinist, composer, and record producer born on December 26, 1954. Just as the lives of many musical luminaries were cut short – Wolfgang Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, George Gershwin, Franz Schubert, Vasa Prihoda, Glenn Gould, Ginette Neveu, Josef Hassid, Arma Senkrah, Andrei Korsakov, and Michael Rabin come to mind – his life was also cut short at a very early age. What he could have accomplished is anyone’s guess but he was well on his way to becoming a legend. Early in his career he decided to take up jazz violin and went as far as producing albums. Pointer also became involved in national social causes such as literacy and the arts, receiving special citations from the U.S. Congress. In 1981, he was nominated for a Grammy. He was 26 years old. Pointer began his music studies at an early age but exactly what age I do not know. He became interested in jazz while studying at New York’s High School for Music and Art. He began playing for studio sessions while at the Manhattan School of Music. His public debut took place at age 13 in New York, with the Symphony of the New World. He went on to appear with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony as a classical violinist. By age 19, Pointer was playing regularly with many theatre orchestras in New York City, including the Radio City Music Hall Symphony, the Dance Theatre of Harlem Orchestra, and the Apollo Theatre Orchestra. Pointer enjoyed steady work as a club jazz violinist in New York as well. He recorded for the Blue Note, United Artists, and Liberty record labels. He also recorded with a variety of artists. Of his seven solo albums, four reached Billboard’s top five jazz albums list. As a composer, Pointer wrote music for several dance troupes in New York. He died suddenly on December 9, 1994, at age 39.