Saturday, October 31, 2009

Alexander Schneider

Alexander Schneider (Abram Szneider) was a Russian (Lithuanian) violinist, conductor, and teacher born on October 21, 1908 (Heifetz was 7 years old.) He is remembered as the second violinist of the Budapest String Quartet, with which he played for about 23 years, and as Pablo Casals' close colleague. As a teenager (1924), he studied at the Hoch Conservatory (a private music school in Frankfurt, Germany) under Adolf Rebner. At age 19, he was concertmaster of the orchestra at Saarbrucken (1927), and of the North German Radio Broadcasting Orchestra in Hamburg from 1929 until he was dismissed (1932). He then joined the Budapest Quartet, which was also based in Germany (Berlin), as second violinist. The quartet made most of its living outside Germany but it, too, was forced out (1934.) They then settled in Paris. They were touring the U.S. in 1939 when war broke out - since then, the U.S. was their home. Schneider left the quartet in 1944 and pursued a career as a soloist and music festival organizer for more than a decade. He returned to the quartet in 1956 but continued to work on projects independently. After the quartet retired in 1967, Schneider kept working as a freelance violinist, organizer, and teacher. He died on February 2, 1993, at age 84.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Leonidas Kavakos

Leonidas Kavakos is a Greek violinist born on October 30, 1967 (Perlman was 31 years old.) Kavakos is well known for his performances of the works of Nicolo Paganini. He began studying violin at age five and continued his studies at the Greek National Conservatory with Stelios Kafantaris. Later on, a scholarship enabled him to attend master classes with Joseph Gingold at Indiana University. He made his debut in Athens in 1984. In 1985, he won the International Sibelius Competition in Helsinki, where he was the youngest contestant. He also took a first prize at the Paganini violin competition in 1988. By then, he had made his U.S. debut (1986.) Since then, he has been concertizing all over the world and regularly plays in, organizes, and conducts at major festivals. In addition to the standard repertoire, which is part of his extensive discography, he has recorded both versions (on one CD) of the Sibelius violin concerto (on the BIS label.) His technique is second to none - YouTube has many videos of him. As far as I know, he still plays on the Falmouth Stradivarius (1692.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Karol Lipinski

Karol Lipinski was a Polish violinist, composer, and teacher born on October 30, 1790 (Beethoven was 20 years old.) He is famous for having been Paganini's rival and for the Stradivarius and Guarnerius violins which bear his name. From a very early age, he studied with his father, Felix Lipinski. In Vienna in 1814, he met Louis Spohr and was inspired to study further. He much later (1818) studied with a pupil of Tartini - a forgotten musician by the name of Mazzurana. By 1810, Lipinski was concertmaster of the opera orchestra in Lviv, Ukraine (a town about 250 miles southeast of Warsaw.) Two years later, he became its conductor. In 1817, he traveled to Italy and subsequently met Paganini in Milan. In April of 1818, he and Paganini gave two joint concerts, whereupon (of course) Lipinski's reputation soared. He went to Berlin and Russia in 1820. In Warsaw in 1829, he again played a series of concerts with Paganini, after which the two became rivals. Paganini later said "I don't know who the greatest violinist is, but Lipinski is certainly the second greatest." 1836 found him in England, where he played his second violin concerto (the Military) with the Royal Philharmonic. He more or less retired from touring after his appoinment to the posts of concertmaster and conductor of both, the Royal Oratory and the court chapel in Dresden in July of 1839. At least one source has stated that Lipinski was jealous of Richard Wagner when the composer conducted the Dresden orchestra. Supposedly, Wagner himself also spoke dismissively of Lipinski, describing him as a virtuoso of a bygone era. Several composers dedicated works to him, including Paganini, Schumann (Carnaval), and Wieniawski (Polonaise Brilliant.) Among Lipinski's compositions are four violin concertos, three symphonies, rondos, polonaises, caprices, chamber music, and variations - all of his output now forgotten, though some has been recorded. His Stradivarius (1715) is now played (though not owned) by Frank Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony. After setting up a music academy for young students, Lipinski died on December 16, 1861, at age 71.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nicolo Paganini

Nicolo Paganini is the most famous violinist who ever lived. He was born on October 27, 1782, in Genoa, Italy (Beethoven was 12 years old.) His early studies were on the mandolin, instructed by his father, who played mandolin on the side to supplement his income. At age 7, Nicolo switched to violin and began studies with Servetto, then Costa, Rolla, Paer, and Ghiretti. By age 18, he had achieved an important appointment to an Italian royal court, after which he received a second appointment at a different aristocratic court (a French court) in Tuscany. Neither appointment meant a great deal to Paganini since, especially after 1813, he earned a very good living through free-lancing. His stupendous and unmatched virtuosity on the violin made him a legend (and a fortune) in his own time. He is also famous as a composer of prodigiously difficult violin music. Because he could execute things with the violin that seemed humanly impossible, he was rumored to be in league with the Devil. Among many other works, he wrote six violin concertos, but is more famous for his twenty four caprices for solo violin, which have been recorded by nearly every violin virtuoso of our time, except Heifetz. His favored instrument was a Guarneri del Gesu of 1742 or 1743 (nicknamed the Cannone.) He died young, at age 58, on May 27, 1840. It is said that Sivori, his pupil, played for him one last time (at Paganini’s home in France), two weeks before he died.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Camillo Sivori

Camillo Sivori (Ernesto Camillo Sivori) was an Italian violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Genoa) on October 25, 1815 (Beethoven was 45 years old.) He is remembered for being Paganini’s only pupil (although some say that Catarina Calcagno also studied with Paganini.) It is known that he initially studied with Paganini (for six months) at age six, but then also with Restano, Costa, and Dellepiane (the Director of the Conservatory at Genoa.) These last three musicians are now completely forgotten. Before leaving Genoa, Paganini wrote some sonatas for Sivori to play publicly. His last teacher, however, was Paganini, whose virtuosic style he adopted. Sivori supposedly later said that Paganini was the worst teacher the world had ever seen. From age 12, he began his career as a traveling virtuoso. He first played in Paris in 1827; Germany, Russia, and Italy in 1839; Belgium in 1841; England in 1846, 1851, 1853, and 1864; the U.S. in 1846 and 1847; all of Europe plus Ireland and Scotland in 1853. He also travelled to Mexico and parts of South America (presumably after touring the U.S. in the fall of 1846.) He actually lived in Paris for many years. Like his famous teacher, Sivori was a very generous man. He taught pupils between his concert tours but they are not well known. One of them was Zino Francescatti’s father. Among his many compositions are two violin concertos which are now forgotten although recordings are now available of some of his minor works. Unlike Paganini, he frequently played works by other composers. One piece which he was very fond of playing was Francois Prume's La Melancolie.  Sivori gave the English premiere of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto (the one in e minor) in London on June 6, 1846. It is said that he owned many fine instruments – a Stradivarius, a Vuillaume, a Bergonzi, and an Amati among them. His Vuillaume was a replica of Paganini’s Guarnerius (the famous Cannone.) Sivori died in Genoa on February 18, 1894, at age 78 (Stravinsky was 11 years old.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Midori

Midori (Midori Goto) is a Japanese (some would say American) violinist, teacher, and writer, born on October 25, 1971 (Perlman was 25 years old.) She began violin lessons with her mother at age three. Her first public performance took place at age seven. After she and her mother came to the U.S. (1982), she began studying at Juilliard with Dorothy Delay. Her New York debut took place with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta that same year. She has been concertizing ever since. YouTube features a popular home video of her performance at Tanglewood (1986) when her E string broke twice while she played. In 2000, she graduated from New York University, having earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and again in 2005 a Master’s Degree in the same field from the same school. Nowadays, Midori spends a lot of time teaching - she has founded several educational programs for children. She has also taught at USC (Los Angeles - Heifetz used to teach there) and the Manhattan School of Music, among other schools, and is the recipient of several prestigious awards. However, her discography is not extensive and she has yet to record (or release) the Beethoven and the Brahms concertos, two war horses of the violin repertory. She wrote a memoir (Simply Midori) which was published in 2004. She has played (and perhaps still plays) the famous 1734 Huberman Guarnerius. A wonderful CD  and DVD of her Carnegie Hall recital (1990) are still available. Here is a sample from the DVD posted on YouTube. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hilarion Eslava

Hilarion Eslava (Miguel Hilarión Eslava y Elizondo) was a Spanish violinist, organist, composer, and musicologist born on October 21, 1807 (Beethoven was 37 years old.) He was a famous composer in his own time but today, he is mostly remembered for his solfege (sight singing or ear training) method book, still being widely used. He began his career as a choirboy at the Pamplona Cathedral in 1816. Along the way, he studied violin, piano, and organ. At 17, he was appointed concertmaster of the cathedral in Pamplona. By 1828, his liturgical works were being performed at the Royal Chapel in Sevilla, though he was also writing secular music. He was ordained a priest (as Vivaldi before him) on September 22, 1832, at age 24. He returned to Madrid in 1844 and was named director of music at the Royal Chapel there. Ten years later (1854), he was made professor of composition at the Madrid Conservatory. In 1856, he was named Director of the Conservatory. Eslava composed over 140 works for the church, in addition to an abundance of secular music. This music is no longer performed, except perhaps in Spain. Among his works is a Symphonie Fantastique and about thirty (30) operas. His most famous work – the Solfege Method - came in 1846. Eslava died on June (some sources say July) 23, 1878.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Alfredo Campoli

Alfredo Campoli (also known as Campoli) was an Italian (some would say English) violinist born on October 20, 1906 (Heifetz was 5 years old.) He is remembered for the exquisite, sensuous tone he drew from the violin as well as the span of his repertoire. He began violin lessons with his father, a teacher at the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome, at age 5 (some sources say age 6.) His family moved to England in 1917. He made his London debut at Wigmore Hall in 1923, though he had already played publicly in London - and entered several competitions - from age 13 and had been playing professionally since then. In the 1930s, he formed the Salon Orchestra and the Welbeck Light Quartet in order to make a living during the Depression, playing in restaurants, hotels, and small halls. He concertized only sporadically during this period. After the war, he re-established his concert career. His U.S. debut came in New York in 1953. On that occasion, he played Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol with the New York Philharmonic under George Szell. He toured Russia in 1956 and continued touring the world until his retirement. During his 55-year career, he played in over 1000 radio broadcasts and made more than 100 recordings. He also appeared in several films. Arthur Bliss wrote his violin concerto for him and he premiered it in 1955. There are many soundtracks of his playing – no videos yet - on YouTube. Campoli played an 1843 Rocca and the Dragonneti Stradivarius (1700). He died on March 27, 1991, at age 84.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Leila Josefowicz

Leila Josefowicz (Leila Bronia Josefowicz) is a Canadian violinist born on October 20, 1977 (Heifetz was 76 years old.) She is an intense genius who is sometimes not well-understood. She also plays the violin stupendously well. She has been criticized for her physicality while playing but you will not likely find someone performing with greater conviction, precision, and audacity. She began violin lessons at age three. By age 8, she was studying with Robert Lipsett in Los Angeles. She entered the Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia) at age 13 where she studied with Jaime Laredo, Joseph Gingold, Jascha Brodsky, and Felix Galimir, among others. By this time, she was already concertizing. She graduated from Curtis in 1997. There is an impressive video of her (on YouTube) playing Paganini with the Boston Pops (conducted by John Williams) at a very young age. Her Carnegie Hall debut was in 1994. Her discography - even this early in her career - is fairly extensive.  Josefowicz was the recipient of a no-strings-attached MacArthur grant in 2008. (Jazz violinist Regina Carter received one in 2006.)  She has played a 1739 and a 1724 Guarnerius.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wilhelm Molique

Wilhelm Bernhard Molique was a German violinist and composer born on October 7, 1802 (Beethoven was 32 years old.) He was one of Louis Spohr’s pupils. At age 18 he was the concertmaster of the court orchestra in Munich (1820-1826.) In 1822, he undertook his first European concert tour. From 1826 to 1849 he was the concertmaster and royal music director in Stuttgart. He made his London debut (playing his violin concerto No. 5) in 1840 (some sources say this happened in May of 1849.) Molique lived in London from 1849 to 1866 and taught at the Royal Academy there from 1861 to 1866. By then, he had already enjoyed a busy career as a concert violinist. Having retired from teaching in 1866, he returned to Stuttgart in that same year. He wrote six violin concertos which are now totally forgotten but which were popular in his day. He also composed an oratorio (“Abraham”), a symphony, four concertos for different instruments, two masses, chamber music, and small solo pieces. His instrument of choice was a Guarnerius. Molique died in Germany on May 10, 1869, at age 66. 

Emmanuel Wirth

Emanuel Wirth (Emmanuel Wirth) was a German (some would say Bohemian) violinist born on October 18, 1842 (Brahms was 9 years old, but Paganini was already dead.)  He studied at the Prague Conservatory then became concertmaster of the opera orchestra in Rotterdam. He also taught at the Conservatory there. Later on, he taught at the Berlin Music School as Joachim’s assistant. He also played viola in the Joachim String Quartet. He must have been a great teacher because August Wilhelmj said of him that he was the best violin teacher of his generation. That generation would include Wieniawski, Ysaye, Ernst, Georges Enesco, Joseph Joachim, Henri Vieuxtemps, Charles De Beriot, Carl Flesch, Leopold Auer, and Wilhelmj himself. The 1713 Stradivarius violin he played now bears his name. Wirth retired in 1910 and died in Berlin on January 5, 1923, at age 80. (Heifetz was 21 years old.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shinichi Suzuki

Shinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violinist and teacher born on October 17, 1898 (Stravinsky was 16 years old.) He is remembered for having invented the popular Suzuki Method of music education. He did not have formal instruction at the beginning, however, he taught himself to play by listening to records and imitating what he heard. Suzuki began this course of self-instruction at age 17. He was never a concert violinist or a soloist but he did play with a string quartet for a while. At age 22, he traveled to Germany where he studied with Karl Klingler. When he returned to Japan, he taught at the Imperial School of Music in Tokyo. From teaching many children in the countryside, he developed his teaching methods in the 1940s. He often referred to his methodology as talent education. Critics of the Suzuki method have said that pupils who learn through it never learn how to read music well since they become accustomed to playing by ear. Shinichi Suzuki died at his home in Matsumoto, Japan on January 26, 1998, at age 99. As far as I know, only Otto Joachim lived as long. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Johann Dismas Zelenka

Johann Dismas Zelenka (later on Jan Dismas Zelenka) was an illustrious Czech violinist, bassist, and baroque composer born on October 16, 1679 (Vivaldi was a one-year-old child.) It is thought that he studied at the Prague Jesuit College in his youth. His father was a teacher and an organist. In 1710 – at age 31 – he was appointed principal bass of the Dresden court orchestra. For a composer, the bass is an unusual instrument to take up, but that is that. In 1717, he traveled to Vienna for further study and was a student of Fux. On circumstantial evidence, it is assumed that he also went to Venice and studied with Antonio Lotti (1667-1740) during this period. He returned to Dresden in 1719 to reside and work there permanently. In 1723, he was commissioned to write some of the music for the coronation of Charles VI, which he also conducted. Twelve years later (1735), he was awarded the title of Church Composer (for the Catholic Church) - he had already been working with the title of Court Composer. Although he had served several seasons as de-facto Kapellmeister, he was not granted that title when he applied for it (in 1729 or thereabouts). Evidently, though Zelenka was zealous about his work and very devoted to the court, there was something about him that rubbed his employer the wrong way. However, his music was greatly admired by J.S. Bach and George Telemann so we have little need of other stamps of approval. (He was only six years older than Bach) Though he remained obscure for two hundred years – after his death, performances and publication of his music were banned by order of the court - his music was re-discovered about the middle of the 19th Century. Now, about half of his known output has been recorded. Most of his music was written for the Church – more than 150 works, large and small - but there remains an abundance of secular music from his pen as well. Zelenka’s imagination was so original that his style has been described as “experimental baroque.” There is always something there to surprise and delight the listener - I would say something not unlike a Czech Vivaldi (1678-1741). Zelenka died in 1745.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

William Reed

William Reed (William Henry Reed) was an English violinist, teacher, composer, and conductor born on July 29, 1876 (Brahms was 43 years old.) Though he was concertmaster of the London Symphony for 23 years (1912-1935) and had a very busy career as a violinist, he is now best remembered as Edward Elgar’s biographer (1936.) Reed studied under Emile Sauret at the Royal Academy of Music (London.) In 1904, Reed was one of the founding members of the London Symphony. By 1910, he was assisting Elgar with technical problems in his violin concerto. Reed even played the concerto in a public performance of the work (off Broadway, so to speak) on September 4, 1910. The concerto was later dedicated to Fritz Kreisler, who premiered it on November 10, 1910 (presumably with the Royal Philharmonic in London.) Reed taught violin at the Royal College of Music for many years, where one of his pupils was the mother (Jean Hermione Johnstone) of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the popular music composer. Reed composed works large and small, most notably a violin concerto and a viola concerto which are now never performed. Reed died in Scotland on July 2, 1942, at age 66.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Otto Joachim

Otto Joachim is a German (some would say Canadian) violinist, violist, composer, teacher, conductor, and instrument maker, born in Dusseldorf, Germany, on October 13, 1910 (Heifetz was 9 years old.) He studied violin in Germany from 1916 until 1931. I have no idea about what he did between 1931 and 1934, but I do know that in 1934 (until 1949), he taught in Singapore and China. In 1949, intending to settle in Brazil, he traveled from China by way of Canada and within a very short time opted to stay there. He was Principal violist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for some time and taught at the Montreal Conservatory and at other music schools (in Montreal) as well. He has also conducted the National Arts Centre Orchestra, among many other ensembles. Joachim, understandably, is not a prolific composer, but he has managed to write more than thirty works of some variety. His specialty is electronic and twelve-tone music (with German and French titles) which few people have ever heard. I have never heard any of it myself nor do I intend to. Today, he is 99 years old.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ion Voicu

Ion Voicu was a Romanian violinist born on October 8, 1923 (Heifetz was 22 years old.) He began violin lessons at age six, with Constantin Niculescu. He was later admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in Bucharest, managing to graduate in just three years. In 1946, he won a first prize in a national competition which Yehudi Menuhin organized. Beginning in 1949, Voicu made several tours with the George Enesco Philharmonic. In 1954, Voicu pursued further studies with Abram Yampolsky and David Oistrakh in Russia at the Moscow Conservatory. Voicu made his British debut in 1963 and his U.S. debut in 1965 at Carnegie Hall. He toured the U.S. under the management of Sol Hurok, an important impresario in those days. Voicu concertized on an international scale from then on. He also founded the Bucharest Chamber orchestra in 1969. Later on, he devoted time to teaching at the Mozarteum (Austria), in France, and in Switzerland, among other places. His discography includes more than 100 recordings and YouTube also has a few videos of his playing. Voicu died on February 24, 1997, in Bucharest.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rachel Barton

Rachel Barton (Rachel Barton Pine) is an American concert violinist and nationally-recognized advocate for music education born on October 11, 1974 (Perlman was 28 years old.) She began violin lessons as a very young child - before she was four. In addition to her extensive concertizing (as a classical violinist), she is known for devoting herself to teaching through master classes and her concerts and collaborations with hard rock bands. After studying with Roland Vamos (in Chicago) for a number of years, she made her debut at age 10 with the Chicago Symphony, with Leinsdorf conducting. However, before then, she had already performed in other venues (since age 7) and with other orchestras. She has been playing professionally since she turned 14. Beginning at age 16, Barton has won major prizes at various prestigious international competitions, including the Paganini, the Josef Szigeti, and the Queen Elizabeth. In 1992, she won the gold medal (first prize) in the J.S. Bach competition in Leipzig (the first American to do so.) Her discography is fairly extensive and is noteworthy for containing the long-neglected concertos of Joseph Joachim (the second in d minor) and Franz Clement (the one in D major.) In fact, her 2007 recording of the Clement concerto is a world premiere recording. It has been said that it compares favorably with the Beethoven concerto, which Clement commissioned and premiered at age 26 (and which was composed a year later.) Barton’s recording of the Beethoven concerto is on the same CD as the Clement so a comparison of both works is quite easy to make. Unlike other contemporary concert violinists, Barton does not hesitate to write her own cadenzas whenever necessary. She has yet to record the concertos of Mozart, Paganini, Mendelssohn, Wieniawski, Bruch, Lalo, Vieuxtemps, Saint Saenz, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Prokofiev, and others. Nevertheless, Barton has recently been championing the works of black composers for future recording projects and for live performances. Her work to establish the String Students’ Library of Music by Black Composers with the University of Michigan – a curricular series - is currently ongoing as well.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Guila Bustabo

Guila Bustabo was an Italian-Bohemian violinist born on February 25, 1916 (Heifetz was 15 years old.) She is remembered (if at all) for a brilliant career which ended prematurely. Bustabo later said: "Menuhin got away from his parents. He was lucky. I never got away from mine." She was the daughter of a domineering (some would say abusive) mother. Bustabo was actually born in Wisconsin (which is in itself unusual.) She began lessons with her mother before she was three years old. By age five, she was studying with Leon Sametini (a pupil of Ysaye) in Chicago. After Sametini procured a scholarship for her (from Juilliard), she went to New York to study with Louis Persinger. Other pupils who were studying with Persinger at the same time (including Yehudi Menuhin) would later remember noticing bruises on her little arms and head when she would arrive in the morning. She played Wieniawski’s d minor concerto in her New York, Carnegie Hall debut at age 15 (1931.) By 1934 she was touring Europe and even played the Sibelius concerto for Sibelius himself (by his invitation) in 1937. The old man was exceedingly impressed with her playing. Bustabo was, by then, also playing a Guarnerius violin which had been given to her as a gift by several admirers (including Toscanini.) Some sources say that Lady Ravensdale purchased the violin for her in 1934 after her London debut. Perhaps both versions are true. In 1938 and 1939 she appeared with the New York Philharmonic. During the war years, Bustabo played almost exclusively in all the Nazi-occupied territories in Europe. After the war, she was arrested by General Patton in France, though she was never charged. After that episode, word got around that she had been a Nazi sympathizer (if not a collaborator) and her solo career became somewhat inert, especially in the U.S. She was barely thirty years old. In 1949, she married an American military bandmaster (Edison Stieg.) It has been reported that violinist Yfrah Neaman heard her play in a recital at Wigmore Hall (London) in the late 1940s and “came away very disappointed.” With most of her engagements dried up, she took a teaching post in Innsbruck (Austria) in 1964. She ended up retiring in 1970 and settled in Birmingham, Alabama, with her mother. In Birmingham, she sat in the first violin section of the Alabama Symphony for five years, though she played like a soloist and could not sight read. She divorced her bandmaster husband in 1976 (or 1977 – accounts vary) and her mother (Blanche) finally died in 1992. Guila Bustabo herself died on April 27, 2002, in her two-room apartment in Birmingham, Alabama, at age 86. I do not know what became of her Guarnerius violin. Bustabo’s recordings of the Bruch and Beethoven concertos with the Concertgebouw are still available.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Carl Flesch

Carl Flesch was a Hungarian violinist and teacher born on October 9, 1873 (Brahms was 40 years old.) He is best known for his books on the art of violin playing, his methodical scale system (which is still in use today), and the international violin competition which bears his name. He began violin lessons at age 6 and by age 10, had started lessons with Adolf Back and Jacob Grun in Vienna (1883-1890). He entered the Paris Conservatory at age 17 and graduated with a first prize in 1894. From 1903 to 1908 he taught at the Amsterdam Conservatory. Many players who would later achieve world-wide recognition studied with him – Ivry Gitlis, Henryk Szeryng, Ginette Neveu, Eric Rosenblith, Roman Totenberg, Ida Haendel, Josef Hassid, Jean Laurent, Jacques Singer, Grigoras Dinicu, Charles Munch, Henri Temianka, Szymon Goldberg, Norbert Brainin, Alma Moodie, Dominique Blot, and others. Flesch toured the U.S. for the first time in 1914. He taught at the Curtis Institute (Philadelphia) from 1924 to 1928. Shortly thereafter he (and his family) settled in Berlin but was forced to leave in 1935. He then lived in London (1935), the Netherlands (1940), Hungary (1942), and finally, Switzerland (1943). The Carl Flesch Violin Competition was set up in his honor in 1945. It is known by a few that he had an intense dislike for Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman - I don't know the reason.  It has been said that he lost all his money in the U.S. stock market and had to sell his Brancaccio Stradivarius in 1928 to cover his financial needs. He also owned a Storioni, a Goffriller, and a Guadagnini, among many other instruments. He made very few recordings of major works but many of the small scale pieces he recorded are still available on CD – some are also on YouTube. Flesch died in Switzerland on November 14, 1944, at age 71.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cyril Reuben

Cyril Reuben was an English violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra for many years. He was born on October 8, 1926 (some sources say October 6). I do not know anything else about him, other than that he played on a Vuillaume. In fact, I do not even know whether he played first or second violin. As is the case with most orchestral players, he was invisible to history - nearly anonymous, though his sound can be heard in more than a hundred LSO recordings. He died on September 2, 1996, at age 69.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pierre Baillot

Pierre Baillot (Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot) was a French violinist, composer, and teacher born on October 1, 1771 (Mozart was 15 years old.) He is best known for his violin method (published circa 1805), written in collaboration with Rodolphe Kreutzer and Pierre Rode, for the Paris Conservatory. His own teacher was Giovanni Viotti, though he had studied with other teachers from an early age. After acting as private secretary to his main patron for five years – he had lost his father at age 12 – he was hired by the opera orchestra in Paris in 1791. He then gave this position up to work for the Ministry of Finance for a few years. (Charles Dancla did something similar.) Finally, after being offered a teaching position at the Paris Conservatory (1795), he devoted himself full-time to concertizing and even joined Napoleon’s private orchestra (1802) with which he did much travelling. He was also highly regarded as a chamber music player. He also wrote nine violin concertos which are no longer played. Baillot died on September 15, 1842, in Paris, at 70 years of age. Mozart and Beethoven had by then long been dead.