Sunday, November 4, 2018

David Grimal

David Grimal is a French violinist, conductor, and teacher born on February 9, 1973.  He is best known as the Artistic Director (and Conductor) of the French group Les Dissonances.  Ironically, Les Dissonances plays without a conductor and performs challenging repertoire (such as the Rite of Spring) which no other conductor-less orchestra would dare.  Grimal leads from the first chair.  Regarding Les Dissonances, Grimal has stated: “We work together in the sense of community of mind, a gathering of very strong positive energy and joy.”  Regarding the violin itself, he has said: “What interests me is the invisible - that something which makes the dancer take flight and causes his gesture to be eternal.”  The Dissonances musicians are from different parts of France and Europe – from various other ensembles – almost none are permanent members.  The orchestra plays in many different cities and venues.  Understandably, Grimal frequently plays the violin concerto repertoire with this orchestra.  When he does, he never actually conducts, as all other conductor/violinists do - he just lets the orchestra play by itself (and it is fully capable of doing so.)  His style of playing, although virtuosic and brilliant, is relaxed, unassuming, and unpretentious.  His repertoire includes the Schumann concerto, which is now gaining in popularity.  Grimal began lessons at age five but I do not know the name of his first teacher.  First teachers are usually not famous pedagogues or even famous violinists – sometimes they are immediate family members.  At the Paris Conservatory Grimal won first prizes in violin and chamber music at age 20 (1993.)  He later studied with the enigmatic Philippe Hirschhorn, most likely in the Netherlands, where Hirschhorn was then teaching.  He also briefly studied with other violinists after he graduated.  In 1996, he received the European Culture Prize.  He was 23 years old.  Needless to say, he has played in most of the world’s great halls with high-profile conductors and orchestras.  However, other than live recordings, his discography (on various labels) is not extensive.  Nonetheless, the few studio (commercial) recordings he has done have received national and international awards and recognition.  A great many composers have written works for him.  In 2004 Grimal founded Les Dissonances.  In 2008, he became artist in residence at the Dijon Opera.  (Dijon is about 200 miles southeast of Paris and is the birthplace of Rameau.)  Grimal has taught at the Advanced School of Music in Saarbrucken (Germany) for some time although I don’t know how long he has been there.  (Saarbrucken is about 180 miles north of Dijon and 200 miles east of Paris.  It is very close to the French border with Germany.)  Additionally, he plays at many music festivals around Europe and has frequently held masterclasses wherever he performs.  His violin is the Roederer Stradivarius from 1710, previously owned by Turkish violinist Ayla Erduran.  He also plays a modern violin made for him by French luthier Jacques Fustier.  You can listen to the finale from Brahms’ Third Symphony hereHere is Grimal playing Mozart’s fifth concerto – first movement.  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Valery Klimov

Valery Klimov (Valeri Alexandrovich Klimov) is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Kiev) on October 16, 1931.  He is known for having won the very first International Tchaikovsky Violin Competition (in March, 1958), the best known violin competition in the world.  He was 26 years old.  That was the same competition at which Van Cliburn (the American piano player) won first prize in the piano division, subsequently becoming popular and famous.  That year, Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich was the chairman.  Klimov’s first teacher was his father.  He later studied at the Odessa Conservatory and later still at the Moscow Conservatory with David Oistrakh.  As far as I was able to determine, Klimov did not perform outside Russia until 1967.  Quite possibly his first concert outside the Soviet Union was in London, England.  Although he has toured around the world, his career has mostly been spent in Russia.  He has been teaching at the Moscow Conservatory for a long time and has received many official awards.  Among his many pupils are Elena Denisova, Hisaya Sato, Alice Waten, Fiona Ziegler, Evgeny Grach, Rachel Schmidt, and Alena Tsoi.  Here is a YouTube video with Klimov playing the Khachaturian concerto.  Among other things, it gives you a chance to hear the excellent acoustics of the Sydney Opera House.  

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mayu Kishima

Mayu Kishima is a Japanese violinist born (in Kobe, Japan) on December 13, 1986.  She is known for having won one of the largest (if not the largest) monetary prizes in a violin competition – the Isaac Stern Violin Competition in Shanghai awarded her a first prize of $100,000 in 2016.  That was a competition that she almost decided not to enter until the last minute.  Kishima began her violin studies in Tokyo at age 3 and has had quite a number of teachers during her career, including Izumi Hayashi, Kazuyo Togami, Toshiya Eto, Dorothy DeLay, Masao Kawasaki, Machi Oguri, Chihiro Kudo, and Zakhar Bron (with whom she began studying at age 13.)  She graduated from the Advanced School for Music in Cologne in 2012.  She was 26 years old.  By then however, she had already established herself as a concert artist, having begun her professional career in the year 2000 at age 14.  Kishima made her first studio recording in 2003 with the NHK Symphony.  Needless to say, she has played all over the world with some of the finest orchestras and conductors.  Among the violins she has played are a 1779 G.B. Guadagnini and a Stradivarius from 1700.  Here is one of many YouTube videos posted of her performances.  Here is another.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Marianna Vasileva

Marianna Vasileva (Marianna Vasilyeva, Marianna Wasiljewa) Is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in St Petersburg) on November 25, 1986.  In addition to a fantastic technique and a very expressive style of playing, she is known for performing all 24 Caprices by Paganini in a single recital – currently, probably the only female violinist to do so.  As far as I know, she has not recorded the famous Caprices but probably will in the near future.  (The first female to record all 24 Caprices is Bulgarian violinist Vanya Milanova, back in 1985.)  Vasileva began her violin studies at age five with her father, a professional violinist.  She has stated that even at that tender age she practiced several hours a day.  Her first accompanist was her mother, a professional pianist, with whom she has performed in recital many times.  At age 7, she began her studies at the St Petersburg Conservatory’s School for Gifted Children with an obscure teacher named Vladimir Ovcharek.  At age 11, she began studying with Dora Schwarzberg at the Advanced School for Music in Vienna.  At age 17 she began studying with Zakhar Bron at the Advanced School for Music and Dance in Cologne.  During all those years, she was also (simultaneously) studying at the St Petersburg Conservatory.  (The St Petersburg Conservatory is where the famous Leopold Auer taught for many years.)  Her performing career actually began at age 8, when she played in public for the first time.  At age 10, she made her formal debut in Russia and Germany playing the first concerto (the one in g minor) by Max Bruch.  In that year, she also won her first violin competition in Russia.  In 2001, she actually won a violin in the International Spohr Violin Competition – I don’t know what violin it was but I’m certain it was a high quality instrument.  She was 15 years old.  In 2009, she won first prize in the International Competition for Young Violinists in honor of Karol Lipinski and Henryk Wieniawski in Lublin, Poland (not to be confused with the well-known Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition held in Poznan, Poland, every five years.)  She was 23 years old.  In 2010 she won first prize in the Prague Spring International Music Competition.  She currently teaches at the Music Academy in Madrid, in addition to teaching masterclasses around the world, as so many other soloists do.  Her concert tours span the entire world and she has played in almost all of the important musical venues and concert halls.  Her repertoire is very extensive although her discography is still quite small.  I know Vasileva has played a Guarneri Del Gesu violin from 1724 and a 1752 Carlo Antonio Testore violin on many concerts but I don’t know if those are her current instruments – I will try to find out and post it as a comment below.  Vasileva is fluent in four languages; Russian, English, German, and Hebrew.  Here is a YouTube video where she plays a well-known piece by Tchaikovsky.  Here is a sound file where she plays the seldom-heard Ysaye sonata for two violins – the other violinist is Dmitri Kogan, grandson of the great Leonid Kogan.  

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Antal Zalai

Antal Zalai (Antal Szalai) is a Hungarian violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Budapest) on January 31, 1981.  He is known for what has been described as a perfect technique and refined artistry.  He is a former child prodigy who was offered his first recording contract while still a teenager and his musical education is very broad.  Zalai began his violin studies with his father and mother at age 5.  From age 7 to age 14 he studied, in Budapest, with Laszlo Denes.  His other teachers in Budapest were Josef Kopelman and Peter Komlos.  In fact, it has been said that he acquired his 1733 Stradivarius violin from Professor Komlos.  That violin had been owned by another Hungarian violinist, Gyorgy Garay, who is now almost completely forgotten.  Zalai graduated from the Royal Conservatory in Brussels in 2009.  He was 28 years old.  However, Zalai had been concertizing since age 12.  Along the way, he had participated in masterclasses given by Erick Friedman, Pinchas Zukerman, Tibor Varga, Lewis Kaplan, Isaac Stern, Gyorgy Pauk, and an assortment of other concert violinists.  He made his British debut in Liverpool in 2008.  That same year he made his debut in Berlin.  The venues he has played in include Carnegie Hall (New York), the Musikverein (Vienna), the Philharmonie (Berlin), and the Moscow Conservatory.  Zalai has toured almost the entire globe and played with some of the most famous names in the conducting world.  He also frequently conducts masterclasses wherever he performs.  As are so many violinists, he is a chess player.  The cadenzas he plays are very frequently his own.  Here is a YouTube video where he teams up with Russian violinist Marianna Vasileva to play the violin duos by Shostakovich – Zalai plays the second violin part.  These duos are written in a style which we do not associate with the famous Russian composer.  The (intense and emotional) performance is easily the best on YouTube.  This othervideo is also quite unique and interesting. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Kristof Barati

Kristof Barati is a Hungarian violinist and teacher born (in Budapest) on May 17, 1979.  Although born in Hungary, he and his family spent a few years in Venezuela (for reasons unknown) and he even began violin lessons there with his mother at age 5.  By age 8 he was giving concerts with orchestras in Venezuela.  I don’t know at what point the family moved from Venezuela to Europe but several sources state he performed in France at age 11.  Sometime after or before this, he relocated to Hungary to study at the well-known Franz Liszt Academy.  Exactly what year that was is unknown to me.  His teachers at the academy were Miklos Szenthelyi and Vilmos Tatrai.  By 1995, at age 16, he began entering violin competitions at which he was very successful, placing either first, second, or third at all of them.  In 1996, he began studying privately with a little-known professor of violin, Eduard Wulfson, in Paris.  Music critics frequently praise his musicianship (artistry) in addition to his phenomenal technical prowess.  In addition to his world-wide concertizing, he also takes part in important music festivals in Italy, France, Switzerland, and elsewhere as a chamber music player.  Barati’s discography is not yet extensive, but his recordings of the first and second Paganini concertos are among the best.  His recording of the Mozart concertos (all five) has also been very highly praised.  Although he has played other very fine and valuable violins, for about 14 years (from 2003), he played (and recorded with) the Lady Harmsworth Stradivarius violin constructed in 1703.  I don’t know if he is currently using that instrument.  He is known for being a very strong chess player and avid photographer.  Barati has taught at the Sorbonne in Paris and at other venues as a masterclass professor.  Although he has not (as far as I know) performed all 24 Paganini Caprices at a single recital, he has performed all six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin by Bach in one (very lengthy) recital (in France, then again in Russia.)  Here is a link to the entire recording of the Mozart concertos, courtesy of Brilliant Classics recordings.  Here is a YouTube video of a movement from the Bach Sonata number 1. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Alexander Markov

Alexander Markov is a Russian (some would say American) violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Moscow) on January 24, 1963.  Although his repertoire is very extensive, he is best known for his performances (in concert, on CD, and DVD) of the 24 Paganini Caprices.  One YouTube video of his performance of the last Caprice has over 6 million views.  In fact, Markov’s playing of the pizzicato section of this Caprice sometimes leaves the audience so spellbound they interrupt the performance with rapturous, spontaneous applause – as the New York Times music critic recently explained it: “…the dazzling left-hand pizzicato variation drew a vigorous ovation midway through the work.”  Markov also plays a six-string electric violin in a rock band which he co-founded.  He co-wrote a unique rock concerto for his own use which he has had great success with.  I don’t think a commercial recording of this concerto is yet available.  Markov’s violin studies began at age 5.  His father (concert violinist Albert Markov) was his first (and most influential) teacher.  However, Markov was also enrolled at the famous Central Music School for gifted children, which is part of the Moscow (Tchaikovsky) Conservatory. There, he studied with the well-known violin pedagogue Felix Andrievsky.  (Andrievsky is now teaching at the Royal College of Music in London.)  By age 8 he had already appeared in public.  His family emigrated to the U. S. when he was 12.  They arrived in Vienna on September 11, 1975 and spent three months there before heading for the United States.  He continued studying with his father for many years.  At age 16, he made his Carnegie Hall debut in New York.  (Two sources state that he made his Carnegie Hall debut on October 9, 1983, at age 20.  He himself has said he made his debut at age 16.  The first was his debut with orchestra; the second was as soloist, in recital.)  At age 18, he began studying with Juilliard teacher Ivan Galamian.  Galamian died a few months afterward.  (Emanuel Vardi used to tell a joke that he killed Leopold Auer because Auer died a few months after Vardi began taking lessons with him.)  At age 19 (1982) Markov won second prize (most sources say the Gold Medal) at the famous Paganini Competition (Genoa, Italy) and five years later he received the Avery Fisher Career Grant.  As a result of his Paganini Competition award, he was granted the use of Paganini’s own 1743 Cannone Guarnerius for a recital performance.  (Other violinists who have played this famous violin are Leonid Kogan, Schlomo Mintz, Eugene Fodor, Salvatore Accardo, Maxim Vengerov, Gerard Poulet, Regina Carter, Dmitri Berlinsky, and Ruggiero Ricci.)  Markov’s concertizing has taken him to all corners of the world and to most of the world’s great concert halls and orchestras with top conductors on the podium.  As do most concert violinists, he also participates in music festivals far and wide.  He also frequently gives masterclasses all around the world.  He has recorded for the Erato and Warner Classics labels.  His recordings are easy to find on the internet.  Although he used to play a Guarnerius Del Gesu violin, Markov has been playing a 1970 Sergio Peresson violin for some time.  He recorded the 24 caprices on that violin.  I have heard it up close - it is indistinguishable from any Strad or Guarneri violin.  Here is a YouTube video of the Paganini Caprice number 5 with Markov using the original bowings.  The photo is courtesy of the Alexander Markov website