Thursday, February 26, 2009

Frank Peter Zimmermann

Frank Peter Zimmermann is a German violinist born on February 27, 1965 (Heifetz was 63 years old.) He began playing at age five and gave his first concert with orchestra by the age of 10. Zimmermann has concertized worldwide since 1983. He has recorded most of the standard repertoire on EMI but also records for Teldec. There are many good videos of him on YouTube and he has appeared with every major orchestra in the world. Here is one of those videos. As far as I can tell, he does not have a page on MySpace, as many other violinists do. His violin is a 1711 Stradivarius.

Gidon Kremer

Gidon Kremer is a German violinist and conductor born on February 27, 1947 (Heifetz was 45 years old). He lived in Russia with his family (he is Russian-born) until 1980, when he moved to Germany. He began his studies with his father at age four and later studied with David Oistrakh at the Moscow Conservatory. From 1967 onwards, he entered and placed in the top three places in several competitions, finally winning the first prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1970. He made his German debut in 1975 and in New York in 1976. He has toured the world ever since. He can be heard on many CDs and can be seen on several videos on YouTube. It is said he plays an old Amati violin.

Frank Bridge

Frank Bridge was an English violinist and composer born on February 26, 1879 (Brahms was 46 years old.) From 1899 until 1903, he studied at the Royal College of Music. He played the viola in a number of string quartets before going into composition. He also taught privately. He wrote a considerable amount of chamber music, now played mostly in England. He is also famous for something called the Bridge chord which is simply a Major seventh chord with a flat nine and major thirteenth thrown in – nothing unusual. There are numerous recordings of his music available. Bridge died in January, 1941.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Niels Gade

Niels Wilhelm Gade was a Danish violinist, composer, conductor, teacher, and organist born on February 22, 1817 (Beethoven was already 47 years old.) He is considered the most important Danish musician of his day. Gade began his career in 1834 as a violinist with the Royal Danish Orchestra. Nine years later, Gade’s first symphony was conducted by none other than Felix Mendelssohn in 1843. Both Schumann and Mendelssohn became his friends during the five years Gade spent in Leipzig. When Mendelssohn died, Gade was made chief conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig (1847.) Unfortunately, he had to give it up the following year - don’t ask me why. Back in Denmark, Gade became director of several musical institutions, taught at the Copenhagen Conservatory (where his pupils included Grieg and Nielsen), and played organ in various churches. Among his works (which are seldom performed) are 8 symphonies, a violin concerto, and several cantatas. Gade died on December 21, 1890, at age 73. 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Zvi Zeitlin

Zvi Zeitlin is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Dubrovna, Belarus) on February 21, 1923. Zeitlin is known for his robust and clean sound. He first studied with his father but from age 11, he studied at the Juilliard School (New York) with Sascha Jacobsen, Ivan Galamian, and Louis Persinger - at the time, he was the youngest scholarship recipient ever admitted to Juilliard.  Sarah Chang now holds that distinct honor.  He later studied in Jerusalem (Hebrew University) where he made his debut in 1940. He was 17 years old.  Louis Persinger and Ivan Galamian are famous for having taught some of the world's leading violinists - Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Ruggiero Ricci, Michael Rabin, Eugene Fodor, Pinchas Zukerman, and Itzhak Perlman are among them.  Zeitlin's U.S. debut was made in New York's Town Hall in 1951. He first played with the New York Philharmonic, with which he appeared numerous times, on February 2, 1961.  He chose the Stravinsky concerto on that occasion.  Also in 1961, Zeitlin made his London debut. Since the early 1950s, Zeitlin has concertized extensively throughout the world. He played world premieres of concertos by Gunther Schuller, Paul Ben-Haim, and Carlos Surinach.  As far as I know, he is still on the faculty of the Eastman School where he first began teaching in 1967. From 1976 to 1982 he played with the Eastman (Piano) Trio, of which he was a founding member. He plays a 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu violin, although he owns and plays other violins.  Zeitlin has recorded extensively for various labels and his CDs are quite easy to find on the internet. His recording of the Schoenberg violin concerto can be found here.  Although he did not record this concerto with the New York Philharmonic, he played it with that orchestra on January 5, 1967.  There are a few videos of his playing on YouTube as well.  You can listen to one here

P.S. Zvi Zeitlin died on May 2, 2012, at age 89. He gave a farewell recital in February of 2012, intending to retire in the summer of 2012.  Only Roman Totenberg, Ivry Gitlis, and Joseph Zigeti have played recitals at that age. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Charles De Beriot

Charles Auguste de BĂ©riot was a Belgian violinist and composer born on February 20, 1802 (Beethoven was 32 years old.) It is said that his playing was influenced by Viotti, Baillot, and Paganini. He toured Europe extensively and was chamber violinist to King Charles the Tenth of France and King William the First of the Netherlands. In 1843, De Beriot became a professor of violin at the Brussels Conservatory. His best known pupil was Henri Vieuxtemps. He retired from that post in 1852. His compositions are varied and he wrote no less than 10 violin concertos. He is remembered for his violin etude books which are still in use today. De Beriot died in 1870.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gil Shaham

Gil Shaham is an American violinist born on February 19, 1971. He began his violin studies in Israel and made his public debut at age 10 with the Jerusalem Symphony and with the Israel Philharmonic at age 11. He entered the Juilliard School (New York) in 1982 where he studied with Dorothy Delay, among others. Since age 17, Shaham has concertized extensively. He has recorded most of the standard repertoire and his CDs are easy to find. You can also see him on several videos on YouTube. Shaham plays a 1699 Stradivarius with a fancy name.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Arcangelo Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli was an Italian violinist and composer born on February 17, 1653 (32 years before Bach was born.) Not too much is known about his early life. His violin teacher was Giovanni Battista Bassani and Matteo Simonelli, a singer of the pope’s chapel, taught him composition. At the age of nineteen he experienced major successes in Paris. From Paris, Corelli went to Germany. In 1681 he was in the service of the electoral prince of Bavaria. In 1685 he was in Rome, where he played for Queen Christine of Sweden and where he was also a favorite of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. From 1689 to 1690 he was working for the Duke of Modena. In 1708 he returned to Rome, living in the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni. His visit to Naples, at the invitation of the king, took place in the same year. Much of Corelli’s music has been recorded by numerous ensembles and is easy to come by. Corelli died in 1713.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jacques Pierre Rode

Jacques Pierre Joseph Rode was a French violinist and composer born on this day (February 16), 1774 (Mozart was 18 years old.) At age 13, Pierre Rode traveled to Paris to study with Viotti, whose favorite pupil he soon became. Some people say that Viotti charged Rode nothing for his lessons. Together with Kreutzer and Baillot, he wrote the official Violin Method of the Paris Conservatory which came out in 1802. Rode eventually became violin soloist to Napoleon I of France. He also toured Europe extensively as a violin virtuoso. He was in St Petersburg from 1804 until 1809. From 1814 to 1819 he lived in Berlin and there composed the well-known 24 Caprices which every young violinist uses to this day. Axel Strauss has recorded the Rode Caprices (as has Oscar Shumsky) and the recording will soon be issued by the Naxos label. Among his compositions are 13 violin concertos which are now seldom played. Rode died in 1830 (Mozart was long gone and Beethoven had been dead 3 years).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yfrah Neaman

Yfrah Neaman was a British violinist and an eminent teacher born on this day (February 13) in 1923. Although he was born in Lebanon, he studied at the Paris Conservatory with Jacques Thibaud, from which he graduated at age 14, and then settled in London where he continued his studies with Carl Flesch and then Flesch’s pupil, Max Rostal. His unplanned debut was in 1944 in London with the London Symphony. He taught at the Guildhall School of Music from 1958 until 2003 and was artistic director of the Carl Flesch Competition. His influence and reputation as a teacher was spread far and wide. There are numerous recordings of his playing some modern violin concertos by seldom-heard composers. He died in January, 2003.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Johann Molter

Johann Melchior Molter was a German violinist and prolific composer, perhaps a genius, born on this date (February 10) 1696 (JS Bach was 11 years old). In 1717 he went from Eisenach to work in Karlsruhe as a violinist. From 1719 to 1721 he studied composition in Italy. From 1722 to 1733 he was court music director at Karlsruhe. In 1734 he became music master at the court of Duke Wilhelm Heinrich of Saxe-Eisenach. In 1742 he returned to Karlsruhe and began teaching at the Gymnasium there. From 1747 until his death Molter was employed by Margrave Carl Friedrich, the son of his first employer. Molter's works include an oratorio, several cantatas, 3 operas, over 160 symphonies, overtures, and other works for orchestra, about 100 concertos (especially many trumpet concertos and clarinet concertos), and many chamber music works. I especially like his trumpet concertos. His music is inventive and of a very sunny disposition. Many of the concertos are available on current CDs - YouTube has some amateur videos of low-quality performances. For Molter, I recommend the playlists on Pandora Radio. Molter died in 1765 (Mozart was 9 years old).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ole Bull

Ole Bull (Ole Bornemann Bull) was a Norwegian violinist and composer born on this day (February 5) in 1810 (Beethoven was 40 years old). At the early age of 9, he was a soloist with the Bergen Music Society. He studied briefly with Louis Spohr, although he disliked him. Ole Bull was not one to do things formally or by the book but he became a very successful performer and knew many of the outstanding musicians of his day, some of whom admired him greatly. Perhaps he was a lot like Franz Clement, the violinist who commissioned Beethoven's violin concerto. In 1829, Bull played in Copenhagen and Kassel and in 1831 he travelled to Paris. He was 21 years old. He is said to have killed a man in a duel. He concertized a great deal in England, Ireland, and America, making quite a bit of money. The great fortune he made was badly invested several times but he always recovered by taking up the violin and touring again. His second wife was young enough to be his granddaughter, but the marriage was a happy one. Eugene Ysaye was like Ole Bull in this respect - in his old age, he married a woman 44 years younger than he was. Bull's first concert in America took place on November 25, 1843. He was 33 years old. His first violin seems to have been a 1734 Guarnerius.  He later acquired a 1690 Stradivarius and a 1687 Stradivarius which now bears his name.  That violin was later played by Paul Kochanski then still later by Iso Briselli.  A 1647 Amati and a 1610 Gasparo Bertolotti may have been Ole Bull's last instruments.  Bertolotti (aka Da Salo) was one of the earliest known violin makers.  It appears Ole Bull went backwards in the age of his violins - the older he got, the older his violins, too.  Bull died on August 18, 1880, at age 71. One of his violin concertos can be heard here. It is surely one of the most bombastic works for violin ever written and gives an indication to his performing style. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jascha Heifetz

Jascha Heifetz was a Russian (Lithuanian) violinist, composer, and teacher born on this day (February 2) in 1901 - some sources say January 20, 1901. He has often been called the greatest violinist of the Twentieth Century. After Paganini, he is probably the most famous violinist who ever lived. Ironically, he did not record any of the Paganini concertos. He first took lessons – at age three - from his father (Ruben, concertmaster of the Vilna Symphony Orchestra), and then began lessons at age five with Ilya Malkin. He first played in public at age 7. At age 9 he entered the St Petersburg Conservatory to study under Leopold Auer. While still a very young student, he toured much of Europe, playing with the Berlin Philharmonic as a 13-year-old. His first performance with the Berlin Philharmonic occurred on October 12, 1912.  He played the Tchaikovsky concerto on that occasion.  Arthur Nikisch was on the podium.  On January 4, 1933, he played the 5th concerto by Mozart, the Beethoven concerto, and the Brahms concerto on the same program.  He was 31 years old.  He did not set foot in Germany ever again.  A few violinists have played two concertos on the same program and even fewer have played three concertos on the same program.  Until recently, I did not know that Heifetz had done the same thing.  Heifetz came to the U.S in 1917 and debuted in Carnegie Hall on October 17, 1917, still only sixteen years old. His concertizing and recording career took off after that.  Eddy Brown stated afterward that Heifetz made everyone else, including Kreisler, sound like students.  Heifetz composed a very small quantity of original music but made many arrangements and transcriptions which are still in wide use. He is probably the most recorded violinist of all time, although Louis Kaufman and Ruggiero Ricci biographers claim the same thing about Ricci and Kaufman. Heifetz taught for many years at UCLA and USC (both in Southern California, U.S.A.). Two of his famous pupils were Erick Friedman and Eugene Fodor.  He played the famous Dolphin Stradivarius (1714), a 1742 Guarneri, a 1731 Stradivarius, a 1734 Stradivarius, and a 1736 Carlo Tononi violin. Heifetz died on December 10, 1987, at age 86.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Francesco Veracini

Francesco Maria Veracini was an Italian violinist and composer born on this day (February 1) in 1690 (Bach was five years old.) He first took lessons from his uncle and subsequently from persons I do not know anything about. The great Tartini considered him to be a better violinist than himself. Veracini traveled a great deal and lived in Venice, Dresden, Prague, and London. Many considered him to be the greatest violinist of his time. Of course, he never had to learn the Brahms or the Sibelius concertos. Although he composed four or five operas and many large works, he is best remembered for his violin sonatas. Some of his recorded music is available on the Naxos and the Arkiv labels. He died in 1768.