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.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Robert Lipsett

Robert Lipsett (Robert Crawford Lipsett Jr.) is an American violinist and teacher born (in Louisville, Kentucky) on October 23, 1947.  He is best known for holding the violin chair at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, a position named after Jascha Heifetz.  He literally teaches in Heifetz’ old music studio, which was disassembled at Heifetz' home in Beverly Hills and reassembled on the Colburn School’s campus.  The studio includes almost all of Heifetz’ furnishings and d├ęcor as well.  He has been on the faculty for more than 25 years.  Lipsett gives master classes all over the world and also teaches at the Aspen School of Music.  He began his violin studies as a child, at age 7, in Dallas, Texas with Zelman Brounoff (concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony) and Ruth Lasley.  After his family moved to Saint Louis (Missouri), he continued his music studies with Melvin Ritter (concertmaster of the St Louis Symphony and former student of William Kroll.)  Eventually, he graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music and, after graduation, also studied with Ivan Galamian at Juilliard (New York) and Endre Granat, presumably in Los Angeles.  In 1986, he began teaching at USC (University of Southern California.)  Lipsett has also worked as a session (studio) violinist in Los Angeles, recording for movies, television, and CDs.  He has received several awards for his distinguished career as a teacher.  Among his many pupils are Robert Chen, Tamaki Kawakubo, Kathryn Eberle, Leila Josefowicz, Jennifer Frautschi, and Lindsay Deutsch.  From the photo you can see Lipsett plays a fine violin but I don’t know what it is.  About achieving a top concert career, Lipsett has said the following: “One eventually has to face a sort of reality.  Being a top concert violinist is like running for President.  There’s just not much room up there at all.”  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Aida Stucki

Aida Stucki was a Swiss violinist and teacher born (in Cairo, Egypt) on February 19, 1921.  She was a concert violinist who, like countless others, settled down to a teaching career, although she continued to perform as a soloist and chamber musician even as she taught many world class violinists.  One of her teachers was Stefi Geyer, Bela Bartok’s beloved muse.  Another was Carl Flesch.  She began violin lessons at age 10, with Ernst Wolters, concertmaster of the Winterthur (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra.  Stucki made her public debut at age 13, playing Mozart’s third concerto, although I don’t know where it took place – I’m guessing either Winterthur or Zurich, Switzerland.  Stucki’s concertizing career began in 1940.  She was 19 years old.  She began teaching at the Winterthur Conservatory in 1948.  In 1959, she founded a string quartet with her violinist-husband, Giuseppe Piraccini.  The two would often trade places, alternatively playing first or second violin.  As far as I know, the first string quartet to regularly alternate first and second violin parts between violinists was the Jacobsohn String Quartet – it was founded in Chicago in (approximately) 1890.  Stucki frequently partnered with pianist (and violinist) Clara Haskil to perform as a duo.  Nevertheless, Haskil also performed with other violinists, including Isaac Stern, Joseph Szigeti, Henryk Szeryng, Eugene Ysaye, George Enesco, and Arthur Grumiaux.  In 1983, Stucki fell and broke both of her wrists.  She had to stop concertizing but continued teaching.  She left a substantial discography which is easy to find on the internet.  Among her many hundreds of students are Manrico Padovani, Anne Sophie Mutter, Noemi Schindler, and Matthias Enderle.  From some recordings I've heard I concluded she must have played a pretty good violin but I was not able to find out what it was.  Stucki died on June 9, 2011, at age 90.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ottorino Respighi

Ottorino Respighi was an Italian violinist, composer, and musicologist, born (in Bologna) on July 9, 1879.  Although making a living by playing the violin for many years, today, he is known for his very popular tone poems – The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome, and The Roman Festivals among others.  He also composed at least eight operas which are not as popular.  Respighi was very prolific and his music still sounds modern, even 80 years after his death.  His father was his first teacher of both violin and piano.  Respighi later entered the Music Lyceum in Bologna where he studied violin with Federico Sarti.  He graduated in 1899.  He was 19 years old.  He then traveled to Saint Petersburg, Russia to play principal viola in the Russian Imperial Theatre.  The Russian Revolution would not occur until seventeen years later.  He took advantage of his stay there by studying composition with Rimsky-Korsakov.  After returning to Bologna, he took a degree in composition, perhaps from the same institution.  However, his principal income came from playing violin.  Until 1908, he was first violinist of the Mugellini Quartet.  He also spent time playing in Germany.  Upon returning from Germany, he turned his attention, almost completely, to composition.  He settled in Rome in 1913 and used it as his base of operations for the rest of his life.  He also began teaching composition at the Rome Conservatory that year.  Whether he ever gave violin lessons is unknown to me.  By 1917, he had become famous as a composer.  In 1923, he was appointed Director of the Conservatory.  Here is Heifetz’ rendition of Respighi’s violin sonata in B minor – first movement.  Respighi died on April 18, 1936, at age 56. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Susanne Lautenbacher

Susanne Lautenbacher is a German violinist and teacher born (in Augsburg) on April 19, 1932.  She is known for being an advocate of baroque music before it was in vogue.  She is also known for recording seldom heard works – the works of Locatelli, Biber, Rolla, Hummel, Viotti, Weill, Schorr, and Reger for example.  One of her early teachers was Karl Freund in Munich.  She later studied with Henryk Szeryng.  She recorded for many labels and her discography is fairly extensive – her recording activity spans more than forty years.  She was the violinist of the Bell’ Arte Trio as well.  She taught for many years (beginning in 1965) at the Stuttgart Conservatory.  Here is an audio file of one of her recordings, a concerto by Pietro Antonio Locatelli, a virtuoso, mysterious, and elusive violinist of the 18th Century.  Lautenbacher herself is becoming an iconic figure for her thoughtful, incisive, and engaging interpretations.