Wolfgang Schneiderhan (Wolfgang Eduard Schneiderhan) was an Austrian violinist, conductor, and teacher born (in Vienna) on May 28, 1915. He was well-known for being a concertmaster as well as a concert violinist. His many recordings for the German record label, Deutsche Grammophon, are also well-known and his portrait is easily recognizable in that he almost always wore horn-rimmed glasses – he even bore a resemblance to an American diplomat. He spent most of his career in Europe, though he toured the U.S. in 1958 as part of a chamber orchestra. He was also caught up in political movements of the time as were most German and Austrian musicians of that era. His first teacher was his mother, beginning at age 3. He made fast progress and his first public performance took place at age 5 in Vienna. In 1923, he started studying with Otakar Sevcik in Pisek (Czechoslovakia) but later returned to Vienna to study with Julius Winkler because Sevcik was not one to linger long in any one place. In 1926, he played the Mendelssohn concerto in Copenhagen and subsequently began to tour as a prodigy. He was 11 years old. Between 1929 and 1932, he worked in England. He was 17 years old when he returned to Austria. He then became concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony. In 1937, he became concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic and remained there until 1951 (some sources say 1949.) All the while, he was concertizing and recording as a soloist. He also formed the Schneiderhan Quartet in 1937 (which he disbanded in 1951) with Otto Strassner, Ernest Moravec, and Richard Kroschak. In 1947, he presented Elgar’s violin concerto in its first performance in Vienna. He was 32 years old. In 1948, he joined a piano trio with which he also recorded, though not much. He left the trio in 1956. In that same year, he left the Mozarteum in Salzburg – where he had been teaching since 1938. He had also taught at the Vienna Academy (Hochschule Fur Musik) from 1939 to 1950 (one source says 1937 to 1950.) He began teaching at the Lucerne Conservatory (Switzerland) in 1949 and co-founded the Lucerne Festival Strings in 1956. His first solo appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic took place on November 3, 1942. He played Viotti’s concerto number 22 in a minor – he was 27 years old. He soloed with this orchestra many times. His last appearance with them took place on October 3, 1987. He played Frank Martin’s violin concerto on that occasion. He was 72 years old. He founded the Fritz Kreisler violin competition in Vienna in 1996. His most popular recordings are probably the Beethoven concerto and the ten Beethoven violin sonatas. Here is a YouTube audio file in which he plays his cadenza to the Beethoven concerto. It is actually an arrangement by Schneiderhan of Beethoven’s own revised cadenza to his piano version of the violin concerto. Schneiderhan does a magnificent job playing it. The Beethoven concerto probably has had at least ten cadenzas written for it but the most played are the ones composed by Joachim and Kreisler. Schneiderhan took up conducting in the middle 1970s but he did not do too much of that. Among Schneiderhan’s violins was a 1715 Stradivarius - now known as the Schneiderhan Stradivarius – which had previously been owned by Martin Marsick – and a 1704 Stradivarius, currently owned by an Austrian Foundation. Schneiderhan died (in Vienna) on May 18, 2002, at (almost) age 87.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Lola Bobesco (Lola Violeta Ana Maria Bobesco) was a Romanian violinist born (in Craiova, Romania) on August 9, 1921. She spent most of her career in Europe and many of those years were spent in Belgium, which is why Bobesco is frequently referred to as a Belgian violinist. She initially studied with her father, a noted composer and conductor. At age 6, she gave her first public recital. From 1928 to 1935, she studied at the Normal School of Music in Paris. Her main teacher there was Marcel Chailley, a well-known violinist of the time. She almost simultaneously studied at the Paris Conservatory from 1931 to 1935, with Jules Boucherit. She also studied privately with George Enesco and Jacques Thibaud. She apparently made her orchestral debut in Paris in 1936 with the (Edouard) Colonne Orchestra with Paul Paray conducting. Paray would later become chief conductor of the Detroit Symphony, when Detroit was in its prime. It was an unusual debut in that she performed not a concerto from the standard repertoire but a work by a now-obscure Romanian composer, Stan Golestan. She was 17 years old. The next year, she won seventh prize in the Queen Elizabeth (Eugene Ysaye) violin competition – David Oistrakh came in first. After that, she returned to Romania and established a career in Bucharest. On January 17, 1960 she made her first appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic, playing the Brahms concerto, She was 38 years old. She performed with most of the major European orchestras, including the Concertgebouw, the London Philharmonic, and the Berlin Philharmonic, under conductors famous at the time, including Rudolph Kempe, Ernest Ansermet, Karl Bohm, and Otto Klemperer. Having relocated to Belgium in her early thirties, from 1958 to 1978, she led the Royal Wallonia Chamber Orchestra in Mons, Belgium. Mons is situated about 30 miles south of Brussels. She was also violin professor at the Brussels Conservatory. From 1962 to 1974, she taught at the Liege Conservatory. In 1990, she founded a string quartet as well – the Arte Del Suono Quartet. She was 69 years old. You can hear how this quartet sounds here and – I predict - you will most certainly be (pleasantly) surprised. She recorded quite a bit for various labels and those recordings – mostly standard violin sonatas and concertos – are available and easily found on the internet. Her violin, among others, was a 1754 GB Guadagnini. Bobesco died (in Spa, Belgium) on September 4, 2003, at age 82, largely forgotten.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
News pages have recently been awash in stories about Frank Almond’s stolen Lipinski Stradivarius violin. On the evening of January 27, 2014, he was attacked with a stun gun while leaving a concert venue near the city of Milwaukee and the thieves (a man and a woman, according to Almond) quickly ran off with the violin, which he dropped - due to the shock – at the very spot he was approached. Almond was apparently not unduly physically injured. The papers have been saturated with stories and the FBI and Interpol have become involved with the expected hope that the violin may become impossible to sell or even to show because of the publicity. I predict it will not reappear for a very, very long time. My own theory is as follows: This was a very deliberate theft and well-planned. The attackers were merely hired guns who quickly turned over the violin to another person whom I shall call an intermediary – a professional smuggler, if you will. The exchange probably took place within minutes of the actual theft – I’m guessing no more than thirty minutes. The smuggler would have made a fast run (by car or truck or some other inconspicuous vehicle) for the Canadian border - the most likely crossing point being Detroit. The smuggler would have driven during the night and been in Detroit before 7 a.m. on Tuesday. He (or she) would have waited for the most opportune time to cross into Windsor but well before the news of the theft was broadcast. Once in Canada, the most likely place to hide a violin like that would be Montreal. The problem of getting it out of Canada would be someone else’s and not the smuggler’s – most likely a broker for a trusted ally of the end buyer. I’m guessing that the buyer is known only to his (or her) trusted ally. At this time, I’m guessing the violin is still in Montreal and will remain there until sometime in the spring or early summer. It is unlikely the violin would be stashed in a small city because moving it from place to place presents further risk of being discovered. If it’s not smuggled out of Montreal (or Toronto) by mid-June, it will have to wait until mid-September and beyond. The reason for that is that the easiest way to transport an instrument without arousing curiosity is in the midst of traveling groups – most likely chamber ensembles of ten to fifteen players. Most of these ensembles include violinists who carry their instruments as carry-ons or in luggage compartments. Walking a violin into a plane under those conditions would be easy for someone pretending to be part of a touring group or even as an independent traveling musician traveling on the same plane as the group, especially if the broker is knowledgeable about classical music or is a violinist – I will assume an amateur violinist, of course. Concert activities slow down considerably after June but pick up again after September – a person would have to be quite stupid to try to smuggle something like this during the off season. By April, the attention being paid to this stolen violin would have died down a lot and the time for the broker to act would be ripe. If I were Interpol, I would be watching every touring ensemble coming into and leaving Montreal (and Toronto as well) for the foreseeable future. I would also be reviewing video of all border crossers into Windsor on that Tuesday morning. The final destination of the Lipinski is probably Japan. It could also be Russia. The transit points would most likely be Berlin, London, or Paris. Of course, all of this is pure conjecture on my part – for all I know, at this very moment, the Lipinski might be in somebody’s house in Milwaukee. This newspaper article contradicts pretty nearly everything I have theorized here.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Lucien Martin was a Canadian violinist, conductor, and composer born (in Montreal) on May 30, 1908. He had a brief concertizing career and later worked as an orchestral player, though not a concertmaster. That, in itself, is unusual. His first lessons were with his father, who was also a violin maker. He began playing in public at age 7. At age 9 he had already earned a gold medal from the National Conservatory in Montreal at which he had been enrolled for two years. His teachers were Albert Chamberland (1917-1920), Alfred De Seve (1920-1923), and Camille Couture (1923-1925) – Camille Couture was also a highly respected violin maker who had made copies of the violins used by Jacques Thibaud, Eugene Ysaye, Jan Kubelik, and Adolfo Betti. Martin began playing professionally - concertizing, mostly in the U.S. - in 1925. He was 17 years old. From 1928 he continued his studies with Couture for about a year. He then went to Paris to study with Maurice Hayot at the Normal School for Music (Ecole Normale de Musique), not to be confused with the Paris Conservatory. In 1933, after receiving his “license” in the art of violin performance, Martin returned to Canada and gave several recitals here and there. He became a member (first violin section) of the Montreal Symphony in 1935. He performed Bruch’s first concerto with that orchestra on February 4, 1935. In 1936, he again traveled to Paris for further study with George Enesco. Martin returned to Montreal in 1937 – Enesco left Paris to conduct the New York Philharmonic for a couple of years beginning in 1937. After that, Martin played second violin in the Dubois String Quartet for a year – unfortunately, the quartet was disbanded in 1938, when the founding member died. Martin was then 30 years old. In the late 1930s and early 1940s Martin played for numerous radio broadcasts. I do not know if recordings of those broadcasts were made and are archived somewhere. He also conducted several concerts at about the same time. Only one of his compositions – a song - was published during his lifetime. A popular source which is often very unreliable says that Martin owned a 1769 Ferdinando Gagliano violin from 1972 to 1982, which is, of course, impossible. None of the sources I found mentioned whether Martin ever taught violin anywhere. On October 29, 1950, Lucien Martin died. He was 42 years old.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Ruben Gonzalez (Ruben De Artagnan Gonzalez) is an Argentinian (most people would say American) violinist, composer, teacher, and conductor born (in Viale, Argentina) on May 4, 1939. He is best known for having been the concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony from 1986 to 1996. He is also known for having played the Kreisler Bergonzi violin. Fritz Kreisler played that instrument for about ten years (1939 to 1949.) A usually reliable source says that Kreisler used the instrument after he gave up his Guarnerius to the Library of Congress but that is obviously not true since Kreisler gave up his Guarnerius in 1952. From Kreisler, the (Carlo) Bergonzi went to Angel Reyes (in 1949) then to Itzhak Perlman then to Ruben Gonzalez then to a collector. According to one source, it is now in the hands of violinist Guro Hagen, though it is not owned by her. Gonzalez studied with Osvaldo Pessina in Argentina and then with other teachers in Europe who are not exactly household names. In 1965, Gonzalez won the top prize in a well-known competition in Barcelona, Spain. He then played in an ensemble in Italy from which he returned to Buenos Aires, Argentina to begin his career as an orchestral player. From Argentina, he went to Hamburg, Germany where he was concertmaster with the North German Radio Orchestra. Returning to the U.S., he joined the Minnesota Orchestra as associate concertmaster in 1977. From 1981 to 1986 he was concertmaster of the Houston Symphony. In 1986, George Solti named him concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony – actually, one of two concertmasters, in the style of most German orchestras. Among other schools, Gonzalez has taught at Rice University in Texas. Here is a very popular video on YouTube in which Gonzalez is at the very end of the Dvorak concerto when something totally unexpected happens. Gonzalez continues to play but he now devotes most of his time to conducting and composition.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Oscar Shumsky was a Russian (most people would say American) violinist, violist, conductor, and teacher born (in Philadelphia) on March 23, 1917. He had a long and busy career during which he almost completely stopped concertizing in favor of teaching. It has been said that Otokar Sevcik had over 5,000 students over the span of a greater-than sixty-year teaching career. Shumsky had lots of students but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than five thousand. It has also been said of Shumsky that he had an un-compromising, opinionated personality – in the style of Berl Senofsky. Shumsky began to study the violin at age three - one source says age 4 - with Albert Meiff. He first appeared with orchestra at age seven with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski on the podium, playing Mozart’s fifth concerto – known as the Turkish concerto. At age 8 he began to study privately with Leopold Auer in New York. Three years later (1928) he entered the Curtis Institute where he continued to study with Auer and later on (beginning in 1930) with Efrem Zimbalist. He made his New York debut in 1934. He was 17 years old. He graduated from Curtis in 1936 but continued to study privately with Zimbalist until 1938. He joined the NBC Symphony under the ill-tempered conductor Arturo Toscanini in 1939. He was the youngest member of the orchestra and sat in the second stand of the first violins. That same year, he also joined the Primrose Quartet as first violinist – William Primrose was also a member of the NBC Symphony. At the time, many top-flight New York musicians had become members of either the NBC Symphony or the New York Philharmonic because solo work was scarce. From 1941, he served in the Navy, playing as one of the orchestral soloists and playing in the Navy string quartet with cellist Bernard Greenhouse, violist Emanuel Vardi, and David Stone. After the war, Shumsky was featured on weekly radio programs on NBC, as were a few other violinists of the time. However, a very reliable source says that this broadcast activity actually occurred in 1939, before the war. It may have been both, before and after. Whether any of those programs survive in recordings is anybody’s guess. Shumsky also worked as a studio musician, leading the RCA and the Columbia Symphonies as concertmaster on various occasions. Shumsky taught at the Curtis Institute (1961 to 1965), the Peabody Conservatory (from 1942), Yale University (from 1975), and the Juilliard School (from 1953.) I do not know how long he taught at each particular school. On December 15, 1956, he appeared with the New York Philharmonic playing the Beethoven concerto. Leonard Bernstein was on the podium. Shumsky made his conducting debut in 1959. As far as I know, he never conducted any major orchestras. His commercial discography includes Rode’s 24 Caprices, Beethoven’s concerto, Brahms’ concerto, two Mozart concertos (4 and 5), three Bach concertos, the Glazunov concerto, the complete Mozart Sonatas, the complete Brahms Hungarian Dances, and the Bach solo Partitas and Sonatas. He also recorded with the Primrose Quartet and those recordings are still available. Here is a YouTube video of one of his recorded performances. It is the famous Richard Strauss sonata – the one responsible for the attack on Jascha Heifetz (which resulted in his broken arm.) Glenn Gould is the accompanist. Shumsky’s students include Steven Staryk, Stanley Ritchie, Guillermo Figueroa, and Ida Kavafian. Among many other violins, Shumsky played (and owned) the 1715 Stradivarius known as the Pierre Rode Stradivarius. The violin was inherited by Shumsky’s two sons who sold it to Tokuji Munetsugu in 2004. According to at least one source, this violin was subsequently played (at least for a while) by Ryu Goto, brother of the famous violinist, Midori. Shumsky died (in New York) on July 24, 2000, at age 83.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Angel Reyes was a Cuban violinist and teacher born on February 14, 1919. There is little information about him readily available and this blog post is one I had very little time to write so I will conduct further research and expand it later in the week. His first teacher was Juan Torroella in Cuba and he made his first public appearance at age 12. Reyes then studied in Europe at the Paris Conservatory from which most sources say he graduated at age 16. His main teacher there was Firmin Touche (1875-1957), concertmaster of the Paris Opera as well as the Edouard Colonne Orchestra. Touche also had his own quite successful string quartet - the Firmin Touche Quartet. Reyes had a brief concertizing career before settling down to a teaching career at the University of Texas (1947 to 1955), Northwestern University (1955 to 1965), and the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), from which he retired in 1985. He was appointed Chairman of the String Department at Michigan in December of 1977. Reyes was also first violinist with the quartet-in-residence at the University of Texas. The quartet probably had a name but I do not yet know what it was. He made his U.S. orchestral debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra on January 7, 1944. Eugene Ormandy conducted that concert and Reyes played the Brahms concerto on that occasion. He again appeared with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra on April 16, 1948, playing Karol Szymanowski's second concerto. Reyes first performed with the New York Philharmonic on March 23, 1946, playing the Mendelssohn concerto at Carnegie Hall with Artur Rodzinski on the podium. The performance was recorded and the recording is still available from the Richard Rodzinski collection. On June 6, 1946, he again played with the Philharmonic - he performed the first movement of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnol at a pops concert on which a variety of works (and several artists) were on the program. He was 27 years old. He later soloed with the Havana Philharmonic (pre-Fidel Castro days, of course) and many other orchestras in Europe, Canada, and Latin America many times. He played, among other violins, the Lipinski Stradivarius (1715) and the Kreisler (Carlo) Bergonzi violins. It has been said that the Lipinski Strad was first owned by none other than Giuseppe Tartini. It is now played (and has been for a while) by Frank Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony. Among Reyes' many students are Barbara Barber, Tyrone Greive, Joseph Sylvan, Laura Hammes Black, Michael Goldman, and Marilyn McDonald. Reyes died on November 17, 1988, at age 69.