Thursday, July 23, 2009

Robert Soetens

Robert Soetens was a French violinist born (in Montlucon, France) on July 19, 1897 (Stravinsky was 15 years old.) He is remembered for his association with Prokofiev's second concerto, for having lived a very long life, and for being a world-touring concert violinist almost all his life. As a child, he studied with his father, who had studied with Ysaye. His first public appearance was at age 7. By age 11, he was studying with Ysaye and was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire two years later. There, he studied with Lucien Capet, among others. Soon after the beginning of World War One, he left school to join the army (1915.)  Prior to this sudden departure, he had played the premiere of Milhaud’s first string quartet. Upon returning, he played in various orchestras in France for a number of years. In 1925, having successfully premiered Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane, he toured Scandinavia with him. In that same year, he became concertmaster of the Oslo Philharmonic but continued his solo career as well.  He was 28 years old.  With Samuel Dushkin he premiered Prokofiev’s sonata for two violins in 1932. Afterward, Prokofiev was motivated (through a commission) to write his second violin concerto for Soetens, which was premiered by Soetens in Madrid on December 1, 1935, with the Madrid Symphony. It is not surprising that Prokofiev, being accustomed to travel, then undertook a 40-concert tour with Soetens, covering North Africa and Europe. In 1936, Soetens played the first performances of the concerto in England.  Interestingly, he did not play the concerto with Prokofiev conducting until 1938. Except for the intervening war years (which were - due to an unusual circumstance - mostly spent in Spain), Soetens continued to concertize and teach for almost the rest of his life; however, little is known of his discography. 1967 found him teaching at Oberlin College (Ohio, USA) for one year.  He also taught in England and Japan for extended periods. Soetens’ last public appearance was in 1992.   He was 95 years old.  It is believed that no other violinist has performed publicly at that age.  He died (in Paris) on October 22, 1997, at age 100.  

1 comment:

  1. Otto Joachim almost made it to age 100 - he died at 99.