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. 

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