Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vladimir Cosma

Vladimir Cosma is a Romanian violinist, composer, and conductor born (in Bucharest) on April 13, 1940.  He is one of several musicians who began their careers as violinists and digressed to other (musical) endeavors.  In France, he is well-known as a prolific film composer although he is a composer of classical (concert) works as well.  Perhaps he can be compared to Victor Young, American violinist-composer.  There is scant information about Cosma’s career as a violinist other than that he began his violin studies while still quite young and he graduated from the Bucharest Conservatory of Music and then moved on to the Paris Conservatory in 1963.  In Paris, he also studied with Nadia Boulanger, the famous French teacher.  Up until about 1968 (between 1964 and 1967 approximately), he played in orchestras and toured as a concert violinist.  After that, he focused on composition and (necessarily) on conducting.  He credits a meeting with French composer Michel Legrand with his entry into the world of soundtrack composing.  He was 28 years old by then.  It has been said that one of his grandmothers (I don’t know which one) studied with the famous piano player, Ferruccio Busoni.  According to one (usually-reliable) source, Cosma is the composer of more than 300 scores for films and television programs.  Another source puts the number at 150.  He has conducted a number of orchestras outside of the recording studios though mostly in France.  The French government has bestowed several honors on him as he is considered a national artistic treasure.  Several of his scores have also been awarded the French equivalent of an Academy Award.  As you can see from the photo, Cosma has never entirely given up the violin.  Whether he has or has ever had any pupils is something I do not know.  He is on record saying that melody is the most important thing in a composition.  In an interview, Cosma was quoted as follows: “In a few centuries, we shall see what will come of the serial experiments and of these [atonal] composers.  I think that all this decadence of the Viennese romantic music is an end and not a beginning as, for such a long time, Boulez and the promoters of new music wanted to make us believe.” Here is a YouTube audio file of one of his film works featuring the Berlin Philharmonic - I don't think I need to identify the violin soloist because you will immediately recognize it is the inimitable Ivry Gitlis.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Vilde Frang

Vilde Frang (Vilde Frang Bjaerke) is a Norwegian violinist and teacher born (in Oslo) on August 19, 1986.  She is known for having successfully made the jump from child prodigy to mature violin superstar.  That transition does not always prove successful for artists.  In addition to being technically brilliant, her playing has been described as being fresh, seductive, sinewy, inspired, voluptuous, and possessed of startling emotional sincerity.  A highly regarded music critic went so far as to say that he had never heard such a great violinist since the late Jascha Heifetz.  Her playing is rhythmically and tonally flexible, not straight-laced, predictable, and pedantic.  She began her violin studies at age four, on a violin built by her father, a professional bass player.  By 1993, she was a student at the Barratt Due Institute of Music (founded in 1927) in Oslo.  She was 7 years old.  Her teachers there were Stephan Barratt Due, Alf Kraggerud, and Henning Kraggerud.  Frang made her public debut at age ten with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (some sources say Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.)  She graduated from the Barratt Due Institute in 2002.  In 1999, aged 12 (or 13), she debuted with the Oslo Philharmonic, playing Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy.  Mariss Jansons was on the podium.  The concert was a great success and her career took off after that.  However, from 2003 to 2009, Frang studied further with Kolja Blacher at the Advanced School for Music and Theatre in Hamburg and with Ana Chumachenco at the Kronberg Academy in Kronberg (about ten miles from Frankfurt, Germany.)  She debuted with the London Philharmonic in 2007.  Her first album was released in 2009.  She records exclusively for EMI/Warner Classics and has received numerous awards for her recordings, including the Diapason d’Or, Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Classical BRIT, and the ECHO Klassik Award.  As far as I know, Frang has never entered any violin competitions.  In 2010, Frang received an award of 1 million NOK (Norwegian Krone – about 175,000 U.S. dollars) from a large Norwegian business enterprise.  She also received an award of 75,000 Swiss francs (approximately 79,000 U.S. dollars) from Credit Suisse (international bank) in 2012.  The award included a performance with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Lucerne Festival.  She made her BBC London Proms debut in August, 2013, playing Bruch’s first concerto.  She was 26 years old.  By now, Frang has played with virtually every major orchestra in the world and been accompanied by most major conductors.  She has also played recitals or made solo appearances in all of the world’s important venues, including those in China, Japan, Korea, Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Russia, and the U.S.  Frang now teaches at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo.  One of her violins is one constructed in 1864 by J.B. Vuillaume, a maker not considered to have the status of a Guarneri, a Stradivari, or even a Guadagnini.  She has also played (since the summer of 2013) the 1709 Stradivarius known as the Engleman Strad.  Frang has made the following interesting comment regarding her artistic perspectives: “I need things to worry about.  I need some resistance and struggle.  That’s part of my music making.  I think talent has a lot to do with knowing how to be inspired.  Inspiration is really the most important thing. ”  On April 1 and 2, 2015 (last week) Frang was to have played the Korngold concerto with the Toronto Symphony (and James Conlon) but had to cancel due to “scheduling difficulties.”  What that really means is anyone’s guess since concerts are scheduled (and contracts are signed) very far in advance (sometimes three years in advance) in order to avoid this sort of difficulty.  Perhaps all it means is that her concert managers are disorganized, although that is extremely unlikely.  Here is a YouTube video of one of her performances.  Photo is courtesy of Marco Borggreve, photographer of (mostly European) musicians.  

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.