Wednesday, September 30, 2009

David Oistrakh

David Oistrakh (David Fyodorovich Oistrakh) was a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist and teacher born on September 30, 1908 (Heifetz was 7 years old.) He progressed to the point of becoming a legendary Russian string player, in a class with Mstislav Rostropovitch, and Leonid Kogan. Oistrakh began studying violin at age 5 with Peter Stolyarsky. His first concert appearance took place in Odessa, his hometown, in 1914, at age 6. He shared that debut with Nathan Milstein who was 10 years old at the time. In 1923, Oistrakh entered the Odessa Conservatory and remained until 1926. He began concertizing soon thereafter. He married Tamara Rotareva in 1928 and had a son with her in 1931, Igor Oistrakh, who became a famous violinist, too. Oistrakh started teaching at the Moscow Conservatory in 1934. Among his many students was Gidon Kremer. In 1935, he came in second at the Wieniawski Competition – a 16-year-old Ginette Neveu came in first. In 1937, he came in first in the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels, Belgium. After that, his career became firmly established. He premiered many violin works by famous Russian composers – Prokofiev, Khachaturian, Shostakovich, and Miaskovsky, among others. It is said that he played the Tchaikovsky concerto to the end, on a winter day in 1942, despite the heavy bombardment (by the German air force) of downtown Stalingrad - where the music hall was located - during the concert. He did not actually appear in the West (as a concert artist) until 1949 (Helsinki, Finland.) His first tour of the U.S. came in 1955. He began venturing into conducting in the late fifties. Oistrakh died on October 24, 1974, in Amsterdam, at age 66. He had just finished conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra in a series of concerts. His discography is very extensive, though the sound quality of many of his recordings leaves a lot to be desired. There are many videos of his playing on YouTube and a fan page on MySpace as well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Elizabeth Gilels

Elizabeth Gilels was a Russian violinist born on September 30, 1919 (Heifetz was 18 years old and would live another 68 years.) Though she was a brilliant violinist in her own right, she is best known for being the wife of violinist Leonid Kogan and the sister of pianist Emil Gilels. She was born on the same date as David Oistrakh, though eleven years later. Gilels began her studies with Peter Stolyarsky, who also taught David Oistrakh and Nathan Milstein, among others. She later studied with Yampolsky in Moscow. Early on, she formed a duo with her brother Emil before taking a third prize at the Queen Elizabeth competition in Brussels, Belgium, in 1937. After the Second World War, she formed her duo with Leonid Kogan, whom she later married. From 1966, she taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Some sources state that Ilya Kaler and Stefan Jackiw studied with her although they actually studied with Zinaida Gilels, Elizabeth Gilels' niece. She also wrote a method book on scales and double stops in the style of Carl Flesch. She died on March 13, 2008, at age 88, in Moscow.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chloe Hanslip

Chloe Hanslip (Chloë Elise Hanslip) is an English violinist born on September 28, 1987 (Perlman was 41 years old.) She began violin lessons at age 2. She first played in public at age 4 and at age 5 was encouraged (by Yehudi Menuhin himself) to enroll at the Yehudi Menuhin School. By age 10, she had played in some of the most prestigious venues in the U.S. and Europe. She also studied with Russian violinist Zakhar Bron in Germany (1995.) At 13, she was the youngest recording artist ever to be signed to Warner Classics (England); however, she is not the youngest violinist to be professionally recorded – that honor goes to Sarah Chang (and EMI Classics.) Hanslip has won numerous awards and scholarships and played privately for English royalty since July, 2001 – the most recent such recital in 2008. She recorded Jeno Hubay’s long-neglected first and second violin concertos in June, 2008 – Naxos will release the CD tomorrow, September 29, 2009.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jacques Thibaud

Jacques Thibaud was a French violinist born on September 27, 1880 (Brahms was 47 years old.) After studying with his father, he entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 13, studying with Martin Marsick, among others. Upon graduation in 1896, he shared first prize in violin with Pierre Monteux (who later dedicated his life to conducting.) At first, in order to just make a living, he played in the Cafe Rouge in Paris. The French conductor, Edouard Colonne, heard him playing there and offered Thibaud a position in his orchestra. In 1898, he made his debut with this orchestra and subsequently enjoyed great success as a soloist in Europe and everywhere else. This episode mirrors that of another famous violinist who was discovered playing in an Italian Cafe by Toscanini – Vasa Prihoda. (Albert Sammons was also discovered in similar fashion by Thomas Beecham.) In any case, Thibaud made his first tour of the U.S. in 1903 and thereafter came often. He was in the French armed forces during World War One (1914) and suffered injuries which required him to rebuild his technique. With his two brothers (a pianist and a cellist), he also formed a piano trio. Later, he disbanded the brothers’ trio in order to join Pablo Casals and Alfred Cortot in another trio (1930-1935.) Eugene Ysaye dedicated his second unaccompanied violin sonata to him. In 1943, with pianist Marguerite Long, he established the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud International Competition for violinists and pianists. His recordings are (understandably) few but they are now collectors’ items. He had a habit of holding his violin pointing downward although that did not detract from the technique or the sound. There are even a few videos of him playing on YouTube – from filming done in the 1930s. Here is one of them. Thibaud died on September 1, 1953 in an airplane crash in the French Alps. He was 72. His fellow French concert violinist, Ginette Neveu, had earlier died in a plane crash as well (1949 - at age 30.) Thibaud owned the 1716 Colossus Stradivarius violin which was stolen in 1998. It has been missing ever since. 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Salvatore Accardo

Salvatore Accardo is an Italian violinist, conductor, teacher, and author, born on September 26, 1941 (Heifetz was 40 years old.) He is best known for his renditions of the works of Nicolo Paganini. Among other schools, he studied at Saint Peter’s Conservatory in Naples and gave his first recital at age 13, playing Paganini’s 24 Caprices. At age 15, he won the Geneva Competition and in 1958 took first prize in the Paganini Competition (Genoa, Italy.) Accardo has been concertizing ever since. He has founded several groups and festivals, including the Accardo Quartet (1992), the Italian Chamber Orchestra (1968), and the Cremona String Festival (1971.) He was the first to record all six of Paganini’s violin concertos and has twice recorded the Caprices. His discography on many different labels is fairly extensive and he has also recorded for film (1989 – Klaus Kinski’s Paganini.) He has conducted extensively as well, both chamber music concerts and operas. Accardo has played the Hart Stradivarius (1727-formerly owned by Zino Francescatti), the Firebird Stradivarius (1718), and an oversized Maggini. In 1987, Accardo wrote a book on violin playing, the Art of the Violin. Dimitri Musafia designed a limited edition violin case specifically for him (the Salvatore Accardo model) in 2006. All proceeds from sales have gone to charity.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Johan Svendsen

Johan Svendsen (Johan Severin Svendsen) was a Norwegian violinist, conductor, and composer, born on September 30, 1840 (Brahms was 7 years old.) He was very popular and successful in his day. Svendsen first studied with his father (what else is new?) and was working as an orchestral musician by the time he finished his secondary school education. At that time, he also undertook occasional tours as a violinist. A wealthy patron who heard him on one of these tours, financed further study for him at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1863 until 1867. There, he studied with the famous violinist Ferdinand David and the composer Reinecke. After turning his almost undivided attention to conducting, he worked in England, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Norway. Eventually, he was engaged as the Theatre conductor in Copenhagen, Denmark, on or about the year 1871. He was barely 31 years old. There he stayed until his death. His most famous composition (which is seldom heard nowadays) is his Romance for Violin from 1881. He was popular as a composer almost from the start, having achieved recognition with his very first composition - the string quartet from 1865. He composed three symphonies, a violin concerto, a ballet, and an assortment of chamber music. It is said that the original score to his third symphony was destroyed in a fire before having been published. It has therefore never been heard by anyone other than Svendsen. I have never heard anything of his aside from the Romance for Violin. Svendsen died on June 14, 1911, at age 70  (Richard Strauss was 47 years old, Igor Stravinsky was 29, and Jascha Heifetz was 10.) 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leonard Salzedo

Leonard Salzedo was a Spanish (some would say English) violinist, conductor, and composer born (in London) on September 24, 1921 (Heifetz was 20 years old.) He is remembered for having led very successful dual careers as a violinist and composer; for his many ballet scores; and for his film score to the movie The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958.) Salzedo first studied at the Royal College of Music in London. While still a student, he won the Cobbett Prize for his First String Quartet and was commissioned to write his first ballet score (The Fugitive) for the Ballet Rambert (now the Rambert Dance Company, whose founder, Marie Rambert danced in the first performances of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.) This was the first of 17 ballet scores which he composed. Between 1946 and 1947, Salzedo wrote four ballets for the Ballet Negres dance company, of which he and his wife were members. From 1947 to 1950 he played in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and then for sixteen years (1950-1966) in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. While in the Royal Philharmonic, he was also Thomas Beecham’s assistant – it was Beecham who premiered Salzedo’s First Symphony in 1952. His most successful ballet score, The Witch Boy, came in 1956. It has been performed all over the world and has enjoyed several revivals since its premiere. In 1964, Salzedo joined the London Soloists Ensemble - he toured Europe with them and recorded one of his works, Concerto Fervido with this ensemble as well. In 1967, Salzedo gave up playing altogether to become Musical Director of Ballet Rambert (until 1972.) After that, he was appointed principal conductor with the Scottish Ballet, and from 1982 until 1986 he was Music Director of London City Ballet, for whom he re-orchestrated classical ballet scores for smaller orchestra. After 1986, he devoted himself full-time to composition. In spite of his continuous activities as a performer, Salzedo was extremely prolific, writing more than 160 compositions, including 10 String Quartets, two symphonies, 17 ballets, and many other works. Many of these works have been recorded on various labels and are easily available. Salzedo died on May 6, 2000, at age 78.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jacques Mazas

Jacques Fereol Mazas was a French violinist, composer, conductor, and teacher born on September 23, 1782 (Beethoven was 12 years old.) Mazas studied at the Paris Conservatory with Pierre Baillot and received a first prize from that school in 1805. In 1808, he played an early violin concerto dedicated to him by Daniel Auber, who was later to become a very popular and famous composer. Mazas then concertized extensively all over Europe. In 1831, he accepted the post of concertmaster with the Royal Theatre. Soon afterward, he was appointed Director of Concerts in the city of Orleans, where he worked at the Comic Opera Theatre. From 1837 to 1841, he was director of the Conservatory in Cambrai, a very small city in northern France. Mazas’ compositions for violin are mostly studies and duets for students of varying abilities - they can be said to form a course of study for violinists. They were very popular in the early part of the Twentieth Century and are still in print. It can be said that Mazas wrote for the masses. He died on August 26, 1849, at age 66. (I don't really know if that's Mazas on the left. Perhaps it is.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Henryk Szeryng

Henryk Szeryng was an extraordinary Polish violinist, teacher, and composer born on September 22, 1918 (Heifetz was 17 years old.) He began his violin studies at age 7 with Maurice Frenkel and, after his prodigious talent was recognized, continued with Carl Flesch in Germany (1929-1932) and Thibaud in Paris later on. He made a sensational debut in Warsaw in 1933 (in his early teens) and started concertizing right away, even while continuing further studies. In 1937, he graduated from the Paris Conservatory. During the Second World War, Szeryng served as an interpreter but also played more than 300 concerts for the Allied troops. In 1946, he became a naturalized Mexican citizen in appreciation for Mexico's efforts to take in several thousand Polish war refugees. He was the only violinist who travelled on a diplomatic passport after he was appointed Ambassador for Cultural Affairs by the Mexican Government. While continuing to concertize internationally, he taught at the National Conservatory in Mexico City for many years. It is not clear to me whether he was fluent in six, seven, or eight languages - there are varying accounts. In addition to being a virtuoso of the highest caliber, he was a great humanitarian and philanthropist. There is insufficient space here to post even a few of this phenomenal violinist's accomplishments. I must therefore refer you to his official website. There are many, many recordings by this artist (among them 2 sets of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas) and several videos on YouTube. As far as I know, he was one of only four concert violinists who played three concerti in a single program - Yehudi Menuhin, Raymond Cohen, and Szymon Goldberg were the other three.  One thing which is not well known is that Szeryng also composed concertos and chamber music. Among his violins, his favorite seems to have been the famous LeDuc Guarnerius Del Gesu. He also owned a copy of the Messiah Stradivarius (by Vuillaume, who made many copies of that instrument.) His King David Stradivarius was bequeathed to the State of Israel. Szeryng died unexpectedly on March 8, 1988  at age 70. Heifetz died one year earlier.

Monday, September 21, 2009

August Wilhelmj

August Wilhelmj (August Emil Daniel Ferdinand Viktor Wilhelmj) was a German violinist, composer, and teacher born on September 21, 1845 (Brahms was 12 years old.) Today, he is remembered for his arrangement (for violin and piano) of J.S. Bach’s Air from the second movement of his third orchestral suite. He has also been called the German Paganini. He gave his first concert at the age of eight in Wiesbaden and, after Liszt recommended him, he studied with Ferdinand David (concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra) at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1861 to 1863. For another year, he studied with Joachim Raff in Frankfurt (1864.) In 1865, at age 20, he began his concert career, making a number of world tours. He was the concertmaster at the Bayreuth Festival in 1876 when the first performance of Richard Wagner’s Ring took place. He first played in the U.S. on September 26, 1878, at Steinway Hall on 14th Street (New York.) That concert was a resounding success. From 1886 to 1894 he taught in Dresden, and then he was appointed professor of music at the Guildhall School of Music in London in 1894. It has been said that he possessed a broad, powerful, rich tone and that is probably true since he was over six feet tall - an unusual height for a violinist.* Wilhelmj was also said to play in a very expressive and sensitive style. He played on many different violins but his favorite was one by Stradivari dated 1725, which he acquired in 1866 and which now bears his name. When he retired, he sold that violin to one of his pupils. One of his American pupils was Nahan Franko, concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for many years (1883-1907) and the first American to conduct at the Met (1904.) Wilhelmj’s compositions range from chamber music – which nobody bothers to play anymore - to arrangements of other composers’ well-known pieces, to cadenzas for violin concertos. Wilhelmj died on January 22, 1908, at age 62 (Heifetz was 7 years old.) 

*Arnold Steinhardt, Erick Friedman, Karl Halir, and Arthur Judson are/were also very tall. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hugh Bean

Hugh Cecil Bean was an English violinist and teacher born on September 22, 1929 (Heifetz was 28 years old.) His first lessons were with his father at age 5. At age nine he began studies with Albert Sammons (which he continued for about 20 years) and then attended the Royal College of Music (London) from age 15 until age 17. In 1951, he won second prize in the Carl Flesch Competition. In 1952, he spent a year at the Brussels Conservatory, and, after that course of study, formed the Boise Trio. Along the way, he was winning prizes for his playing. At age 24, he was appointed violin professor at the Royal College of Music, where he taught for the next 37 years. (After that, he taught there on and off.) From 1957 to 1967 he was concertmaster of the Philharmonia Orchestra. The next two years were spent as Associate Concertmaster of the BBC Symphony. He then devoted his time to solo work for 20 years until about 1989, when he returned to the Philharmonia as co-concertmaster (and stayed until 1994.) He recorded as a soloist - Edward Elgar’s violin concerto and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, for instance - but more extensively as a member of the Music Group of London, with which he also toured the world. Bean died on December 26, 2003, at age 74.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Giuseppe Alberti

Giuseppe Matteo Alberti was an Italian violinist and composer born (in Bologna, Italy) on September 20, 1685 (J.S. Bach was six months old and Antonio Vivaldi was 7 years old.) In 1705, he became a member of the Philharmonic Academy in Bologna. He was twenty years old. He was associated with the Academy for many years. From 1709, he played the violin in the orchestra of the Basilica in that same city. His music was influenced by Vivaldi and it enjoyed success in England, as did the music of Bach’s sons, Handel, and Haydn. He was not nearly as prolific as Vivaldi but he did manage to write 12 symphonies and 10 concertos for violin. Some of these works have been recorded; I doubt, however, that you will ever hear a live performance of any of his music. If you were wondering, this is not the same Alberti after which the “Alberti bass” is named (that was Domenico Alberti.) Alberti died on February 18, 1751, at age 65 (one year after Bach.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jenö Hubay

Jenö Hubay (Eugen Huber) was a German (some would say Hungarian) violinist, composer, and teacher born on September 15, 1858 (Brahms was 25 years old.) He first studied with his father, concertmaster of the opera orchestra in Budapest. At age 11, he made his first public appearance, playing a concerto by Viotti. Two years later, he began studying with Joseph Joachim in Berlin, where he remained for five years. In 1878, he made his Paris debut. He then undertook a course of study with Belgian violinist Henri Vieuxtemps. Beginning in 1882, he taught for four years at the Brussels Music Institute (some say it was the Brussels Conservatory.) He returned to Hungary in 1886 and took a post as head of the Budapest College of Music, where his father used to teach. (He also held a violin teaching post at the Budapest Conservatory at the same time.) Soon thereafter, he (and David Popper) founded the original Budapest String Quartet, which ceased to exist in 1913. Brahms frequently played chamber music with this group. (The subsequent Budapest Quartet was founded by other players in 1917 and was disbanded in 1967.) Together with Popper and Brahms, Hubay premiered Brahms’ third Piano Trio (1886.) Among his many pupils were Joseph Szigeti, Eugene Ormandy, Peter Stojanovic, and Stefi Geyer (Bartok’s girlfriend.) Hubay wrote four violin concertos, the first and second of which – as far as I know - are played only by English violinist Chloe Hanslip. In fact, Hanslip’s Naxos recording of the first and second concertos will be released this month. The third concerto is played (and has been recorded) by Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham. In addition, Hubay wrote several operas and symphonies which have been utterly neglected, except perhaps in Hungary. Among violinists, he is remembered for his short violin encore pieces, one of which is the popular Hejre Kati. Livia Sohn and Benjamin Loeb did recently record Hubay’s Fantasy on themes from the opera Carmen and that recording (also on the NAXOS label) is very much available everywhere on the internet. Aside from that, Hubay’s considerable output lies dormant somewhere. Hubay died on March 12, 1937, at age 78 (Heifetz was 36 years old.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Paul Kochanski

Paul Kochanski was a Polish violinist, composer, teacher, and arranger born on September 14, 1887 (Brahms was 54 years old.) He first studied with his father then, at age 7, with Emil Mlynarski, one of the founders of the Warsaw Philharmonic. In 1901, Mlynarski, having by then become a conductor, invited the then fourteen-year-old Kochanski to be concertmaster of the Philharmonic. That probably made him – with the possible exception of Amadeus Mozart – the youngest concertmaster in history. In 1903, Kochanski found himself in Brussels, at the Brussels Conservatory. By 1908, he was touring Europe with Artur Rubinstein. He became professor of violin at the Warsaw Conservatory in 1909 and was there until 1911. In 1916, Karol Szymanowski dedicated his first violin concerto to Kochanski, who had written the cadenza for it. In that same year, he took over for Leopold Auer at the St Petersburg Conservatory. He also taught for a year (1919-1920) at the Kiev Conservatory. During this time, he advised Prokofiev on matters of technique having to do with Prokofiev’s first violin concerto. Kochanski made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1921, playing Brahms' violin concerto. From 1922, he lived in New York, becoming the head of the violin teaching staff at Juilliard (1924-1934.) In 1933, Kochanski premiered Szymanowski’s second violin concerto and again, Szymanowski dedicated the work to him. On January 12, 1934, at age 47, Kochanski died, though not unexpectedly. Among his pall bearers were Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, and Efrem Zimbalist. Among Kochanski's pupils was Jacques Singer. 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Antonio Bazzini

Antonio Bazzini was an Italian violinist, composer and teacher born on March 11, 1818 (Beethoven was 48 years old.) He began violin studies at age 7 with Faustino Camisani, director of the local orchestra. He only studied with him until he was 12 because Camisani then died. After that, he didn’t bother with any other teachers - he taught himself. By age 17, he had been appointed music director of the San Filippo church in Brescia, his native town. It has been said that after a chamber music concert on March 20, 1836, the great Paganini himself advised the young 18-year-old Bazzini to tour as a concert virtuoso. Bazzini took his advice and toured much of Europe on and off until about 1864, finally settling down in Brescia, where he taught and composed. He had already lived in Leipzig, Germany for four years (1841-1845) and in Paris for eleven (1852-1863.) It is thought that along the way, he gave the first private performance of Mendelssohn’s e minor violin concerto. In 1873, he became professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory, where three of his pupils were Catalani, Mascagni, and Puccini. Thanks partly to Bazzini’s advocacy, musicians have been using A-440 as the standard pitch for tuning, first adopted in Italy in 1881. As a composer. he is mostly remembered for the Dance of the Goblins, a tune for violin and piano which every violinist who can play it plays. However, he also wrote chamber music and many oratorios, tone poems, operas, and concertos, among which are several violin concertos which are now completely forgotten. His Turandot opera came 57 years before Puccini’s (in 1924), but he also wrote Francesca Da Rimini (in 1890) 14 years after Tchaikovsky composed his. Bazzini died in Milan on 10 February 1897 (Stravinsky was nine years old.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Francois Francoeur

Francois Francoeur was a French violinist and composer born on September 8, 1698 (J.S. Bach was thirteen years old.) He was first taught violin by his father, an orchestral bass player (and member of the King’s 24 Violins – 24 Violons du Roy), then entered the Royal Academy of Music (Paris) at the age of 15. After appearances in the major European cities, he returned to Paris and eventually joined the King’s 24 Violins also (1730.) In 1739, he was appointed music instructor at the Opera and Opera Inspector in 1744. He moved up to Manager of the Opera in 1753 and then became Music Master to the King (1760.) Along the way, he composed 10 operas, a few ballets, two books of violin sonatas, and other small works – music which is quite forgotten and almost never performed nowadays. It has been said that his compositional style fell somewhere between Baroque and Classical. Francoeur died on August 5, 1787, at age 88 – four years later, Mozart would be dead, too.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Roman Totenberg

Roman Totenberg is a Polish (some would say American) violinist and teacher born (in Lodz, Poland) on January 1, 1911 (Heifetz was 10 years old.) It has been said that he was a child prodigy. His first teacher seems to have been one of his neighbors in Moscow, where he lived as a young child. The neighbor was the concertmaster of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. He later studied in Warsaw where he made his debut with the Warsaw Philharmonic at age 11 (1923.) After being awarded the gold medal at the Chopin Conservatory, he traveled to Berlin to study with Carl Flesch. Having won the Mendelssohn Prize in Berlin in 1932, he went to Paris to study with George Enesco. In 1935, he made his British and his U.S. debuts. The U.S. debut was with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter, he played for President and Mrs Roosevelt at the White House. Totenberg has been concertizing far and wide (in the most famous venues and with all the major orchestras) and teaching ever since. He also formed the Alma Trio (with Gabor Rejto and Adolph Baller) in 1942. In 1947, he was made chairman of the string department at the Music Academy of the West. At Boston University, from 1961 to 1978, he held the same position. He has also taught at various other places (Peabody Conservatory, Mannes College of Music, Longy School of Music, etc.) Totenberg is the author of a book on violin technique which nobody uses anymore. He is also well-known  for being the father of a popular journalist (Nina Totenberg of NPR.)

P.S. Roman Totenberg died on May 8, 2012, at age 101. As far as I know, he is the longest-lived violinist of all time. Leon Botstein, President of Bard College and former pupil said this: "If modern violin playing is an undifferentiated carpet of sound, for Totenberg, it was a voice of intimacy, a voice of drama. The violin wasn’t a machine; it was a living vehicle of human expression.”

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Joseph Szigeti

Joseph Szigeti was a Hungarian violinist born on September 5, 1892 (Stravinsky was ten years old.) He has never been one of my favorites, though he has been praised by many famous violinists and musicians. It has been said many times that his tone left something to be desired, and that his playing seldom seemed effortless, although his interpretations seemed to have been well thought out, cerebral and intellectual exercises. He began his studies at the age of six but eventually ended up at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest under the tutelage of Jeno Hubay. He began playing many concerts in public while still studying and actually made his Berlin debut at age thirteen. In his late teens, he met Busoni (the piano player), who almost instantly became a great musical influence on him. Somewhat coincidentally, a little later on, while recuperating at a hospital in Geneva, he met Bela Bartok, with whom he remained friends until the end of Bartok's life (1945). In 1917, he was appointed violin teacher at the Geneva Conservatory of Music. He married around that same time (1919) - he and his wife settled in the United States in 1940, but returned to Geneva in 1960. Szigeti retired from playing that same year but continued to teach. He published his violin method book (whom nobody uses any more) in 1969. There are many recordings by him of standard and not so standard pieces in the violin repertoire. You Tube also has several videos of his playing. He appears to have been a pedantic teacher and tutor, focusing much attention on minute details of playing. He died in Geneva, Switzerland on February 19, 1973, at age 80.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Neville Marriner

Neville Marriner is an English violinist and conductor born on April 15, 1924 (Heifetz was 23 years old.) Marriner studied at the Royal College of Music and at the Paris Conservatory, though he was never a concert violinist. He had no famous violin teachers either. In 1949, he played violin in the Virtuoso String Trio and in the Martin String Quartet (second violin.) By 1952, he had become a member of the London Philharmonic. From 1956 to 1968, he was principal second violin with the London Symphony Orchestra. While he held that post, he founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (1959). The Academy is an English chamber orchestra which began life without a conductor in the style of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (Marriner led from the concertmaster’s chair) – this orchestra later made him famous. Simultaneously, he was also associated with the Jacobean Ensemble. In 1959, he studied conducting (during summers in the U.S.) with Pierre Monteux (as did David Zinman.) He was also a violin instructor at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1949 until 1959 (some sources say until 1950.) After gradually assuming the conductor’s post with the Academy, he was the first music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (1969-1978.) From 1979 to 1986, he was music director of the Minnesota Orchestra. Subsequently, he was principal conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony (1986-1989.) Should you ever want to listen to Marriner’s violin playing, you can buy his recording of the concerto for four violins by Vivaldi. Though Marriner has well over 200 recordings to his credit, he is best known for his connection to the soundtrack for the Mozart movie – Amadeus.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pietro Antonio Locatelli

Pietro Antonio Locatelli was an Italian violinist and composer born on September 3, 1695 (J.S. Bach was ten years old.) It has been said that he was a child prodigy. After playing in the Bergamo church orchestra until age 16 (1711), he was sent to study in Rome (presumably with Arcangelo Corelli). From 1723 he toured and played in Italy and Germany, wherever it suited his fancy. In 1729 he went to work in Amsterdam and it is likely that he lived there the remainder of his life. In Amsterdam, Locatelli set up his own business as a distributor of his own works, sold books out of his house, and gave private concerts - so few details are known about him that he has been described as being shadowy and reclusive. His reputation rests on his Opus 3 - a collection of 12 violin concertos with extended cadenzas in the outer movements, published in 1733. Since the cadenzas are unaccompanied, some players have chosen to separate them from the rest of the works to play them as caprices or studies. His musical style mirrors that of Corelli and Vivaldi. Locatelli died on March 30 1764, at age 69.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Emile Sauret

Emile Sauret was a French violinist and composer born on May 22, 1852 (Brahms was 19 years old.) He began studying violin at age 6 with Charles Rondolet at Strasburg. Two years later, he was already concertizing. As a young touring artist, his father was his constant companion. Later on, and almost simultaneously, he studied with Charles De Beriot and Henri Vieuxtemps. Like Paganini before him, he never attended a conservatory. His first appearance in England was in 1862, at age 10. He made a return visit in 1866. He was known for his constant European and world-wide travels and his numerous friendships with the most famous musicians of his time – Rossini, Grieg, Brahms, Liszt, Bruch, Saint Saenz, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Sarasate, Ernst, Wieniawski, Bazzini, and Sivori, to name a few. He toured the U.S. in 1872, where Liszt accompanied him on at least two recitals. He also often played for French Emperor-President Napoleon III and his court. It has been said that his repertoire included no less than 70 concertos and 400 miscellaneous works. In 1873, he married Teresa Carreno, the Venezuelan concert pianist and composer of the national anthem of Venezuela. They divorced in 1875. In 1879, he married Emmy Hotter and henceforth taught at the Stern Academy in Berlin for a number of years. 1890 found him teaching at the Royal Academy of Music in London, which he made his home until his death. In 1903, he taught at the Chicago Musical College. One of his students in Chicago was Sol B. Cohen, a well-known composer, violinist, conductor, and teacher of the early and mid Twentieth Century. Sauret's last teaching appointment was at the Trinity College of Music (in London) where he taught between 1915 and 1919. Among Sauret's famous pupils are William Reed and Isolde Menges. Today, Sauret is mostly remembered for the famous and very difficult cadenza he wrote for Paganini’s first violin concerto, although he wrote more than 100 other works, including three violin concertos - the first in g minor, the second in E major, and the third in B minor. He also wrote a book of violin studies which nobody uses now. A Stradivarius violin from 1685 is named after him. A Guarnerius violin from 1744 is also named after him. Sauret died in London on February 12, 1920, at age 68.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teresa Milanollo

Teresa Milanollo was an Italian violinist and composer born on August 28, 1827 (Beethoven died that year.) However, she gave up her career after marrying French General Theodore Parmentier in 1857. She was thirty years old. She is one of those people who, were it not for someone else's fame, would be almost completely unknown - Rodolphe Kreutzer and Franz Clement come to mind. Though Teresa studied with De Beriot, famed violinist and pedagogue, and later went on to concertize, her fame now rests almost solely on the fact that she at one time owned the Stradivari violin (1728) which now bears her name - the Milanollo Strad. That violin, currently owned by Corey Cerovsek, was at one time played by Nicolo Paganini, and was bequeathed to her in Domenico Dragonetti's will. It was also played by Christian Ferras from 1964 onward.  Milanollo was known to be a very generous person.  It has been said that she paid for Henry Schradieck's studies at the Brussels Conservatory.  She died on October 25, 1904, at age 77.