Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Jasper Wood is a Canadian concert violinist born on April 29, 1974. He first played in public at age five. He studied with David and Linda Cerone at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has been concertizing since 1996 and now teaches at the University of British Columbia. He has also recorded many CDs on various labels and there is at least one video of his playing on YouTube. I do not know if he plays a Stradivarius or a Guarnerius or some other instrument. You can look that up if you want to.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Igor Oistrakh

Igor Oistrakh is a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist born on April 27, 1931 (Leonid Kogan was 6 years old but Heifetz was already 30.) He is the son of violinist David Oistrakh (1908-1974). He attended the Central Music School in Moscow and made his concert debut in 1948. From 1949 to 1955 he studied at the Moscow Conservatory. He then joined the faculty of the Conservatory in 1958. Since 1996, Oistrakh has held the post of Professor of the Royal Conservatory in Brussels. He has appeared as a soloist and in joint recitals with his father, or with his father conducting. He has also recorded extensively and there are various videos of his playing on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yehudi Menuhin

Yehudi Menuhin, was a Russian violinist and conductor born on April 22, 1916 (Heifetz was 15 years old.) He began his career as a child prodigy, having started on the violin at age 3. His teachers were Sigmund Anker, Louis Persinger, Eugene Ysaye, Adolf Busch, and Georges Enesco, among others. He made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony in 1923 – at age 7. It is after a concert of his in 1929 that Einstein made the comment after hearing him play "Now I know that there is a God!" All I know is that he played the Paganini Moto Perpetuo faster than anyone else I’ve heard. He was one of four concert violinists to play three concerti in one concert (1929 - Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.) Raymond Cohen, Szymon Goldberg, and Henryk Szeryng were the other three. He was also the first Jewish musician to play in Germany after the Holocaust (1947.) His recording contract with EMI set a record for longevity (70 years.) Menuhin played the Prince Khevenhuller Stradivarius (1733), among other fine violins. In the midst of his career he developed arm problems for which he consulted Theodore Pashkus and his wife (Alice), well-known violin pedagogues at the time. He died on March 12, 1999, at age 82. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jean-Baptiste Accolay

Jean-Baptiste Accolay was a Belgian violinist, teacher, conductor, and composer born on April 17, 1845 (Brahms was 12 years old.) His best known composition is a student concerto in a minor written in a single movement (1868). I could not locate a photo of Maestro Accolay anywhere but there are several videos of various students playing this concerto on YouTube. Accolay died in August of 1910, at age 65. (By the way, the title of the painting at the left is Jazz Violin.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Florian ZaBach was an American violinist, conductor, and arranger born on April 15, 1931 (Heifetz was 30 years old). He was a pupil of his father from a very early age and later studied at the Cosmopolitan Conservatory in Chicago and at the Prague Conservatory in Czechoslovakia. He made his debut at age 12 with the Mendelssohn concerto. He also made hundreds of television appearances but is best remembered for a popular tune he recorded – the Hot Canary. As far as I know, there are no YouTube videos of him on the internet. He played a Guarnerius from 1732. Zabach died in February, 2006.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Olga Rudge

Olga Rudge was an American violinist and writer born on April 13, 1895 (Brahms was 62 years old.) Today, she is mostly remembered for her relationship to Ezra Pound, an often misunderstood poet-musician, and for having lived more than 100 years (1895–1996). As far as I know, Rudge never studied at a conservatory but became a violin virtuoso nonetheless and began her career as a soloist in 1918. She often played before distinguished political dignitaries but stopped concertizing after the Second World War. She was also instrumental (during the 1930s) in bringing the works of Vivaldi to international attention and acclaim. She discovered over 300 Vivaldi concertos which had been lost or forgotten. Rudge died on March 15, 1996, at age 100. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Pietro Nardini was an Italian violinist and composer born on April 12, 1722 (JS Bach was 37 years old.) As a young child, he studied with the more famous Tartini. He was good enough to earn praise from Leopold Mozart, though he never became an impressive virtuoso. In 1770, he became Kapellmeister to the Grand Duke of Tuscany in Florence. He was not a prolific composer, his most popular work being the Concerto in E minor, recorded by Zukerman a few years ago. Nardini died in May, 1793 (Wolfgang Mozart had been dead two years already.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Efrem Zimbalist

Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. was a Russian violinist, composer, conductor, and teacher, born on April 9, 1890 (Brahms was 57 years old.) Zimbalist’s father was a conductor so (not surprisingly) by the age of nine, Efrem was first violin in his father’s orchestra. At age 12 he entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory to study with Leopold Auer. He is mentioned everywhere as being one of Auer's outstanding pupils - together with Heifetz, Milstein, Elman, and Seidel. He graduated in 1907 and began a long career as a concert violinist, having made his debut in Berlin and London in that same year. He made his U.S. debut with the Boston Symphony on October 27, 1911. He was 21 years old.  According to one source (the New York Times obituary of 2/23/1985), he gave the American premiere of the Glazunov Concerto at that concert.  At the time, he even stated that he considered the Glazunov superior to the Tchaikovsky concerto though he may have changed his mind later on.  In 1928, Zimbalist began teaching at the Curtis Institute (Philadelphia) and was director of the school from 1941 to 1968. Leopold Auer began teaching at Curtis in the same year - 1928. It has been reported that Zimbalist was very strict, dismissing students who would stray from the school's rules or standards.  One such pupil was Joseph Silverstein. Zimbalist actually hired Jascha Heifetz' father (Ruvin Heifetz) to teach at Curtis.  Ruvin Heifetz was there one or two years  only because, according to Zimbalist, he was "very difficult."  I do not know how many recordings Zimbalist made but I’m sure it was not many since he retired from playing in 1949. One such was a recording he did in 1915 with Fritz Kreisler of Bach's Double Concerto with a string quartet accompaniment.  A YouTube performance of a Beethoven work, recorded in 1926, is available here.  Though he made many recordings of small, short pieces, it is almost certain that he never recorded any major concertos - none that I know about anyway.  His interpretation of the Sibelius concerto was praised by none other than Leopold Stokowski.  Zimbalist played a 1728 Goffriller, a 1733 Serafin, a 1735 Guarneri, a Guadagnini (GB) from 1775, the Marquis Strad (1718), the Lamoureux Strad (1735), and the Titian Strad (1715) which was at one time owned by the son-in-law of French violinist Pierre Baillot.  The Titian is now being played by Cho-Liang Lin.  Among his many pupils are Rafael Druian, Eudice Shapiro, Felix Slatkin, Daniel Heifetz, Jascha Brodsky, and Aaron Rosand.  Zimbalist's compositions include a violin concerto and an opera, neither of which is now ever performed.  Nevertheless, Zimbalist was one of the last great violinist-composers in the tradition of Vivaldi, Tartini, Paganini, Spohr, Viotti, Joachim, Vieuxtemps, Wieniawski, and Markov. He died (in Reno, Nevada) on February 22, 1985, at age 94. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Giuseppe Tartini

Giuseppe Tartini was an Italian violinist and composer born on April 8, 1692 (J.S. Bach was 7 years old.) Though he early on began the general study of music, he actually began his violin studies at a comparatively late age (in his late teens). A story is told that when Tartini heard Francesco Veracini’s playing in 1716, he was so impressed by it and so dissatisfied with his own skill, that he fled to Ancona and locked himself away in a room to practice. Thereafter, Tartini's playing improved greatly and in 1721 he was appointed Maestro De Capella at the Church of San Antonio in Padua. Tartini was the first owner of what today is known as the Lipinski Stradivarius.  (In his day, Polish violinist Karol Lipinski was considered by many to be Paganini's chief rival.)  Though he wrote hundreds of concertos and sonatas (as did Antonio Vivaldi) for the violin (as well as music theory books), as a composer, Tartini is best known for his Devil’s Trill Sonata, a piece which has been much recorded. You can see several performances of it on YouTube as well. One of the better ones is by Anne-Sophie Mutter. Tartini died in February of 1770, at age 77 (Mozart was 13 years old.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Louis Spohr

Louis Spohr was a German violinist, composer, and conductor born on April 5, 1784 (Mozart was 28 years old.). He began to study at an early age, though I have no idea how early. His first job as a violinist was as an orchestra musician when he was 15 years old (1799). As a result of a public concert in 1804, Spohr became an overnight success. In 1805, he was made concertmaster of the court orchestra at Gotha where he stayed until 1812. In 1813, he became conductor of the Vienna Theatre and later, in 1817 opera director in Frankfurt. From 1822 until 1859, he was director of music at the court at Kassel. Someone has said that the portrait at left is a self-portrait so Spohr - it can be assumed - was a painter, too. He was definitely a prolific composer (and even composed several operas) but is best known (among violinists) for his Violin Concerto number 8. Spohr died in October, 1859.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Grigoras Dinicu

Grigoraş Dinicu was a Romanian violinist and composer born on April 3, 1889. Jascha Heifetz once remarked that Grigoras Dinicu was the greatest violinist he had ever heard. He attended the Bucharest Conservatory, where he studied with Kiriac-Georgescu; in 1902, he studied with Carl Flesch. After graduation, he played with the Orchestra of the Ministry of Public Instruction and also performed as a soloist. From 1906 until 1946, he directed popular music concerts. He also toured as a soloist and conductor and played a great deal of light music in nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, and cafés in Bucharest and throughout Western Europe. His compositions are mostly short works for violin and piano. He is best known for his violin showpiece Hora Staccato (1906). I do not know if he ever recorded. That’s easy for you to find out if you care to. Dinicu died in March, 1949, at (almost) age 60.