Sunday, December 26, 2010

Manrico Padovani

Manrico Padovani is a Swiss-Italian violinist born on August 12, 1973 (Perlman was 27 years old.)  He is the first Swiss violinist to perform all 24 of Paganini’s Caprices in concert in a single evening (Zürich, 2006.)  Born in Zürich to Italian parents, he began his violin studies as a child and later entered (in Winterthur, Switzerland) the class of Aida Stucki-Piraccini (who had also taught Anne-Sophie Mutter much earlier.)  (Winterthur is 15 miles northeast of the city of Zurich and is the city where in 1900, Albert Einstein first worked as a tutor before landing a job in the patent office in Bern)  At the Royal Conservatory in Amsterdam, Padovani studied with Hermann Krebbers.  Additionally, in Europe, he studied with Ruggiero Ricci, Boris Belkin, and Franco Gulli among other master violin teachers and composers.  He graduated from the Winterthurer Conservatory in 1991 and made his debut in Lucerne in 1992.  He has been concertizing in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. ever since and has even been called the “devil’s fiddler” for his brilliant technique and playing style.  Nobody has yet said that Padovani is in league with the devil, as Paganini was said to be, but it could yet happen – music critics can say and write what they wish.  His recordings include the concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Paganini, Prokofiev, and others in the standard repertoire.  His recording of the Beethoven concerto (with the Moscow Philharmonic) is especially remarkable in that Padovani uses Leopold Auer’s cadenza, not Kreisler’s (the Kreisler cadenza is the one most used by violinists.)  He is the only one to do so.  For the Paganini concerto, he uses the most difficult cadenza ever written for this concerto – the one by Emile Sauret.  His recent performances in Vienna and Prague are available on DVD as well (this is not surprising since Padovani is very photogenic) and a live CD recording of the second Paganini concerto (B minor) in Seoul is also already in the catalog.  He also recently recorded the soundtrack to the European film Sinestesia (2010) and the 24 Caprices of Paganini.  (Other concert violinists who have recorded soundtracks are Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Toscha Seidel, and Louis Kaufman.)  In addition, he has made a very large number of radio and television appearances in Europe and Canada.  (Eddy Brown used to play almost exclusively on radio.)  There are also several videos of his concert appearances on YouTube, including the incredibly difficult Ernst arrangement of Schubert’s Der Erlkonig.  He frequently performs chamber music with other major artists and often appears in duo violin performances with Russian violinist Natasha Korsakova with whom he will also record several double concertos in 2011.  (Natasha Korsakova is profiled on this blog - December 15.)  Padovani played on a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin (1861) for some time but presently plays the 1722 Jupiter (ex-Goding) Stradivarius.  (There is another Jupiter Strad from the year 1700.) 

Monday, December 20, 2010

David Nadien

David Nadien is an American violinist and teacher born (in Brooklyn, New York) on March 12, 1926 (Heifetz was 25 years old.)  He is best known (perhaps somewhat unjustly) for his recordings for the Suzuki Violin School.  He began his violin studies as a child and his father (a bantamweight champion boxer) was his first teacher.  He also studied with Adolfo Betti (Mannes School of Music) while very young and moved on to Ivan Galamian (Juilliard) and Adolph Busch later on.  In 1938-1939 he studied in Italy with Betti.  He returned to the U.S. after war broke out in Europe and made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1940, at age 14.  Four years later, having been drafted, he was playing in the Armed Services Orchestra.  Two years after that he won the Leventritt Award (1946 – for this, some give credit to Arturo Toscanini and others to George Szell.)  He concertized for a while after that but soon settled into a career which involved lots of studio work (and, in fact, he even became a contractor, hiring studio musicians of very high caliber to play for recording sessions.)  Nadien is said to be one of the best sight readers in the world, a skill which is invaluable for studio work.  (Franz Clement was also phenomenally gifted when it came to sight reading.)  A persistent rumor has it that Isaac Stern was able to shut down Nadien’s concertizing career, though the rumor might be baseless.  In February of 1966, Nadien auditioned (having received an invitation to audition) for the concertmaster’s position in the New York Philharmonic, of which Leonard Bernstein was then chief conductor.  It has been said that he easily beat Joseph Silverstein (of the Boston Symphony) and 40 other candidates.  He had never played in a major symphony orchestra before.  Upon accepting the job of concertmaster, his annual income actually decreased.  Very soon into his first season with the orchestra, on October 8, 1966, Nadien played the Tchaikovsky concerto as the orchestra's guest artist to great (and memorable) acclaim and subsequently soloed with the philharmonic on several occasions.  The New York Times said: “Mr. Nadien’s style, tone, and technique are perfect.”  Many have said that his vibrato and sound (“pure, silken, suave, razor-sharp and rhythmically-driven”) are unique and that at least some of his vibrato actually emanates from his fingertips, very much like Mischa Elman’s.  (Coincidentally, as was Mischa Elman, Nadien is also of very short stature.)  It is highly interesting that Oistrakh and Menuhin are among those who sought Nadien out for advice on technique at that time.  He left the Philharmonic job in 1970 and returned to studio work, solo appearances, and teaching.  One of his outstanding performances after that took place at New York’s Town Hall on January 17, 1973.  His discography (outside of the anonymous world of the recording studio) is small but includes the Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and Glazunov concertos, apart from several miscellaneous violin works (Zigeunerweisen, Havanaise, Tzigane, etc.), all of them available on the internet.  There are a few videos of his playing on YouTube.  A reviewer has stated that Nadien “has by now gleaned a cult-like status among cognoscenti who savor marvelous fiddlers.”  An interview of him on DVD is also available.  He was on the faculty of the Mannes College of Music for many years but is no longer there even though he might be teaching privately.  Nadien’s violin was a Guarneri del Gesu but I don’t know if he still owns it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Natasha Korsakova

Natasha Korsakova is a Russian violinist born on January 24, 1978 (Perlman was 32 years old.)  She is the only concert violinist that I know of who is fluent in five languages.  (The only other violinists who were fluent in that many languages were Henryk Szeryng and Otakar Sevcik.)  She is also the only one who has an exclusive concert dress designer (Laura Biagiotti) and the only one named artist-of-the-year in two different countries (Italy and Chile.)  It is noteworthy that while female concert violinists are moving towards more glamorous fashions, (witness Sophie Mutter, Sarah Chang, and Akiko Meyers), the males are becoming more ungraceful and casual, perhaps even grotesque (witness Joshua Bell, Leonidas Kavakos, and Nigel Kennedy.)  It has been said that Korsakova is very bold and charismatic.  Her violin studies began at age 5 and her first public performance took place at age 7 in Moscow.  However, her first teacher was not her father but her grandfather (Boris Korsakov), although she later studied with her violinist father (Andrej Korsakov, who studied with the legendary Leonid Kogan.)  She later studied in Germany with Ulf Klausenitzer and Saschko Gawriloff (at the Advanced Music School – Musikhochschule - in Cologne – 1995-1999.)  Nevertheless, her orchestral debut was back in 1985 with the Voronezh (Russia) Orchestra.  (This orchestra has been associated with several leading Russian conductors, including Evgeny Svetlanov, Kiril Kondrashin, Emin Khachaturian, Neemi Yarvi, and Alexander Dmitriev, and regularly plays in Moscow and St Petersburg.  It has also accompanied innumerable major artists: among them, Emil Gilels, Gidon Kremer, Vladimir Spivakov, Igor Oistrakh, Yuri Bashmet, Alexander Zhukov, Maxim Vengerov, and Mikhail Pletnev.)  She spent the first seventeen years of her life in Russia where her musical lineage goes back about six generations and includes composer Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), her great-grand uncle.  Korsakova has already toured (practically) the entire world and, of course, played in most of the world’s prestigious concert halls, with top conductors and major orchestras.  She has recorded several CDs which are available on the internet at ArizonaRecordings (and through ITunes and other electronic download venues) and there are several videos of her playing on YouTube.  She also delves seriously into chamber music and far flung music festivals, as do all concert violinists nowadays.  In the year 2004 she performed the Tchaikovsky concerto in Berlin for the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.  In 2008, she played a special concert in Vienna the night before the official opening of the European Football Championships.  She has also been invited to play for the Italian State President and his guests at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome.  In 2010, she premiered and recorded (with the Czech Philharmonic) two concertos written for and dedicated to her – one by Robert Vinson (Concerto in F) and the second by Daniel Schnyder (Mozart in China.)  Korsakova has played a Vincenzo Panormo (also known as Vincenzo Trusiano) violin but is currently playing a Giovanni Pressenda (Turin, 1843) from the collection of Giovanni Accornero, Italian expert on luthiers, author, and instrument collector and dealer.  In 2011, she and Swiss violinist Manrico Padovani (the first Swiss violinist to have recorded the 24 Paganini Caprices) will record several double concertos by Alfred Schnittke, J.S. Bach, Arvo Part, and Antonio Vivaldi. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Most Dangerous Orchestra in the World?

This afternoon, NPR had a segment on their show (All Things Considered) about the UACJ (Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez) Orchestra.  Juarez is, of course, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, if not the most dangerous.  Violence has gotten out of control – to a point way beyond what anyone anticipated - and the authorities are overwhelmed.  The violence is amplified by the fact that, more often than not, it is unpredictable.  In that context, about five years ago, a symphony orchestra was formed by a young but experienced conductor from Mexico City, the Juarez University, and about 45 intrepid musicians from Chihuahua City, Ciudad Juarez, and the U.S.  Northern Mexico had few trained classical musicians so finding players from this side of the border was crucial. Everything we now play is being heard live for the first time. We played Beethoven’s Ninth two years ago – that was a premiere for Juarez.  We did Beethoven’s Fifth – same thing. We played Carmina Burana two weeks ago – same thing.  From Bach to Vivaldi to Mozart to Puccini – everything is a premiere.  We presented the Nutcracker ballet last year for the first time and (the demand was so great) we had to add an extra performance this year.  Every opera we have ever done is a first for Juarez – we double as a pit orchestra and we have already played eight or nine different operas.  We are not the Berlin Philharmonic (not even close) but everything we play is received enthusiastically – mostly to sold-out houses in a theatre that accommodates 1800 concert goers.  The theatre is just eight minutes from the border (by car) but there is no guarantee you’ll make it there (and back) safely.  Since many of the American players have frequent engagements in the U.S., the orchestra’s schedule has to be designed so as not to interfere with concerts on this side.  Last Spring, due to several well-publicized murders, more than half of the American contingent refused to venture South again but replacements have been found (though we could use two more viola players.)  The great irony in all this is that while our audiences in Juarez cheer wildly after concerts there, our sparse audiences here – in the safest city in the U.S. – only applaud politely.  I give our magnificent Juarez audiences lots of credit because I know that beyond the courage it takes to play the concerts, it takes courage to attend them.  (Violin photo courtesy of Daniel Houck)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Steven Staryk


Steven Staryk is a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist, writer, actor, and teacher born (in Toronto, Canada) on April 28, 1932 (Heifetz was 31 years old.)  He may well be – after Ferdinand David - the most famous concertmaster in history.  In fact, in England, he was called (by The Strad) the king of concertmasters.  However, as are a few other concertmasters, he is also a concertizing virtuoso.  He has also appeared, as has Ivry Gitlis, in feature films.  (A well-known incident in his career occurred in 1951, when he was denied permission to enter the U.S. (from Canada) due to his supposed ties to Communism.  He was at the same time also black listed by the Toronto Symphony.  Details are available here.)  He began his study of the violin at age 6 with John Moskalyk and attended the Harbord Collegiate Institute in Toronto.  Later on, he studied with Eli Spivak (a student of Adolf Brodsky) and Albert Pratz at the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto.)  Among his other teachers have been Mischa Mischakoff, Oscar Shumsky, and Alexander Schneider.  Staryk has also been the recipient of many awards proffered by Canada to its most distinguished citizens and artists.  He made his recital debut at age 14 on Canadian radio.  At 17 he made his orchestral debut with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra playing Paganini’s first concerto at Massey Hall.  Thereafter, while freelancing as a studio and solo musician he was also a section player in the Toronto Symphony (1950–1952) and in the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) Symphony Orchestra (1952-1956.)  In 1956, Thomas Beecham invited him to lead the Royal Philharmonic (England), the youngest concertmaster in its history (age 24.)  In 1960, he was the concertmaster for the CBC Symphony Orchestra’s recordings of works by Stravinsky conducted by Stravinsky.  Staryk has also been concertmaster of the Concertgebouw (1960-1963), Amsterdam Chamber Orchestra, Chicago Symphony (1963-1967), and the Toronto Symphony (1982-1986.)  (His longest tenure as concertmaster of any orchestra has been four years.)  However, even as he led hundreds of orchestral concerts, he was also concertizing worldwide.  An especially busy concertizing period came between 1967 and 1972.  He has taught at the Amsterdam Conservatory (1960), Northwestern University (1963), American Conservatory (Chicago), University of Victoria (1973), Vancouver Academy of Music (1972), University of Western Ontario (1977), Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto, Canada - 1975), University of Toronto (1978), University of Washington (Seattle - 1987), and the University of Ottawa (1975.)  In 1968, he became the youngest full professor at Oberlin College Conservatory in Ohio (USA.)  Staryk has recorded over 190 works (up to the year 2003) and has compiled a 30 CD set which is available on the internet - known as the Staryk Anthology.  He is easily in the top five of recorded violinists – including Ruggiero Ricci, Louis Kaufman, and Jascha Heifetz.  This discography has been highly praised and his sound has been compared to Heifetz’.  An unusual bonus is Staryk’s recording of seldom-heard Caprices by Rode, Dancla, Fiorillo, Kreutzer, Locatelli, and Sevcik.  As a chamber music player, Staryk has played with the Oberlin String Quartet, Quartet Canada, the CBC String Quartet, and the Staryk-Perry Duo (with pianist John Perry) with which he recorded the complete Beethoven sonatas.  Staryk also served as the first Canadian adjudicator for the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1982.  Many works have been dedicated to him and been premiered by him.  In 1987, Staryk played the part of Vivaldi in the two-hour documentary drama film about the famous violinist-composer.  There are several videos of his playing on YouTube.  He has owned and played many different violins - the Muntz Strad (1736), the Hochstein Strad (1715), the Wieniawski Strad (1719), the Rode Strad (1721), the Sacconi Guarnerius (1740), a Ruggieri, a Goffriller, a Guadagnini (1768), and a 1610 Maggini among them.  In 2000, Staryk co-authored a book with Thane Lewis about his life as a professional musician, Fiddling With Life.  One of his students is Lenny Solomon, (leader of the group Bowfire.) 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Otakar Sevcik

Otakar Sevcik was a Czech violinist and teacher born on March 22, 1852 (Brahms was 19 years old.)  (Emile Sauret – French violinist - was born exactly two months after Sevcik.)  He lived long enough to witness the transition from the old school of violin playing (Paganini, Lipinski, Spohr, Viotti, Kreutzer, Vieuxtemps, Ernst, Enesco, Wieniawski, Remenyi, Sarasate, Joachim, De Beriot, Ysaye, etc.) to the modern era (Thibaud, Elman, Milstein, Heifetz, Kogan, Ferras, Francescatti, Grumiaux, Szerying, Stern, Schneiderhan, Campoli, Haendel, Ricci, Oistrakh, etc.) which to us is now the old school.  When he reached old age, it was said that during the course of his career he had had well over five thousand pupils.  Of those five thousand, about seven are well known.  As far as I know, he taught in more conservatories (and more cities) than any other pedagogue; Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Kiev, Pisek, Kharkiv, London, Chicago, Boston, and New York among them.  He, like Henryk Szerying, spoke seven languages fluently.  At age 7, he took his first lessons from his father, though his father never intended for little Sevcik to become a violinist.  His first public appearance he made at age 9.  Even though he failed the entrance exam twice, he entered the Prague Conservatory at age 14 (1866) where one of his teachers was Antonin Bennewitz, Director of the Conservatory who later on became his bitter enemy.  While he was there, Sevcik made his living singing in the choir in a convent.  (I don’t know which convent.)  At age 18 (1870), he graduated from the conservatory and made his debut soon thereafter playing Beethoven’s violin concerto.  He then took a job as concertmaster (and professor) of the Mozarteum orchestra in Salzburg.  In 1873, he was appointed concertmaster of the Provisional Theatre in Prague (playing under composer and conductor Bedrich Smetana) and (apparently simultaneously) conductor of the Comic Opera in the Ring Theatre in Vienna.  Only two years later (1875), he took a job as professor of violin in Kiev (Ukraine) at the music school of the Russian Music Society where he remained until 1892.  All the while, he had been touring as a soloist in Poland, Austria, and Russia.  He had by then developed a violin method which he used in his classes (published 1880-1893.)  In 1892, at age 40, he took the position of violin professor at his old school, the Prague Conservatory.  He was, however, forbidden (by the Director - Bennewitz) from using his violin method at the conservatory; nevertheless, he secretly used his method using manuscript copies which students made from printed ones.  He remained at the conservatory until 1906.  Between 1906 and 1909, he taught privately in Pisek, a small town in Southern Bohemia.  He took a position at the Vienna Music Academy in 1909 and was there until 1918 (some sources say 1919.)  He left to go back to the Prague Conservatory and this time stayed until 1921.  After that, he traveled in the U.S. and England, teaching as he went.  It has been said that he insisted that his pupils practice eight hours a day.  Some say that what he actually said was that it did not matter how long they practiced as long as they achieved the results he asked for.  Among his famous pupils are Jan Kubelik, Efrem Zimbalist, Marie Hall (for whom Vaughan Williams wrote The Lark Ascending), Victor Kolar (conductor of the Detroit Symphony), Jaroslav Kocian (teacher of Josef Suk), Erica Morini, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and Josef Karbulka (teacher of Peter Stolyarsky.)  His various method books are still being used today.  Otakar Sevcik died on January 18, 1934, at age 81, in Pisek.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eduard Grach

Eduard Grach is a Russian violinist, teacher, and conductor born on December 19, 1930 (Heifetz was 29 years old.)  He is considered Russia’s preeminent and most illustrious violin pedagogue – currently, head of the violin department at the Moscow (Tchaikovsky) Conservatory from which he graduated.  Though he has traveled the world as a touring virtuoso, he has chosen to remain in Russia (as did David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan before him) rather than emigrate, as so many other Russian artists have done.  His first teachers (as a child in Odessa) were Veniamin Z. Mordkovich and Peter Stolyarsky – in fact, he was among Stolyarsky’s last pupils (Stolyarsky died in 1944.)  At the Moscow Conservatory he was in Abram Yampolsky’s class.  Nevertheless, he also studied with David Oistrakh after graduation.  Between 1949 and 1962 he received first prizes in three international violin competitions – Bela Bartok (1949 – at age 19), Jacques Thibaud (1955), and Tchaikovsky (1962 – some sources say 1958.)  He had by then already embarked on a concertizing and teaching career across Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Asia. For a time, Grach was soloist of the State Philharmonic Society as well. Every top honor afforded the finest Russian artists has been bestowed on him, including the Order of National Merit.  He has over 100 recordings to his credit (many of them live performances which have been highly praised), has premiered many contemporary works, has conducted master classes worldwide (including the U.S., China, and Israel), and judged in several international violin competitions (including the Paganini, Wieniawski, and Tchaikovsky), the latest being the First Buenos Aires International Violin Competition (July, 2010.)  Many of his recordings are readily available on the internet.  Along the way, Grach was named honorary professor of the Shanghai Conservatory too, though I do not know in what year. In 1990, he founded the Moscovia Chamber Orchestra; however, he had been conducting other ensembles since 1979.  He has taken the Moscovia on tour to Germany, Greece, Cyprus, France, and China.  (Some fascinating performances of the Moscovia are available on YouTube. It does not shy away from playing a very eclectic repertoire, from Bach to Rossini to popular Argentine tangos.)  In 1996, he organized the Yampolsky International Violin Competition and has been its President several times. There are many videos of his playing on YouTube and a magnificent interview of him on Blip.tv (if you speak Russian, I recommend it.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

All We Want Are The Facts

I have said several times that the list of violinists on my webpage (numbering 500 and growing) is arbitrary.  Similarly, the list on this blog is arbitrary; however, in choosing which violinists to write about on this blog, there are two categories from which I select: (1) the older generation (born 1650-1920) and (2) the contemporary (1920-1995.)  The older ones are easier to pick among: I try to stick to the obviously legendary and the significant, though forgotten, violinists - the more forgotten, the better.  Among the contemporary bunch, I try to search out those whom I think are already brilliant or promising to be.  But, again, I must say that all my choices are totally and completely arbitrary.  The facts presented here are given without reference, though not (of course) without sources.  I double check everything presented as fact and often triple check those facts.  Whenever I find discrepancies or differences, I note them on the blog.  Anything that sounds like an opinion would be mostly my own doing, of course.  I trust that anyone choosing to quote from this blog or use it as a reference will search other sources.  There are certain dates (and facts) that are available in obscure (and old) source material but are there nonetheless, if one will only look diligently.  Orchestral (rank and file) violinists are almost totally absent and for good reason; there is close to zero information available about them, no matter how significant, and, more importantly, their contribution is not individual.  Orchestra players – like studio musicians - are anonymous, except for concert programs.  There are precious few exceptions, mostly coming from the ranks of concertmasters such as William DeFesch, Ferdinand David, Raymond Cohen, Nahan Franko, Steven Staryk, Theo Olof, Frank Almond, Glenn Dicterow, etc.  Neville Marriner was a second violinist in a London orchestra but he became an important conductor so I wrote something about him.  Now that this has been cleared up, it’s time to write a blog about Adele Anthony or Eduard Grach or Fabio Biondi or Vladimir Spivakov, or who knows.... 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sadistics

Compiling statistics can sometimes be enlightening. Numbers can tell us any number of things.  On this blog however, they are completely irrelevant because the micro biographies are written about violinists which are selected purely arbitrarily.  In any case, here are some numbers you might find interesting.  Oldest living violinist on this blog: Ruggiero Ricci, age 92 (born 7/18/1918) – Raymond Cohen is second (7/27/1919.)  Otto Joachim, Canadian violinist, would have been 100 in October of this year but he died in July, 2010.  Oldest deceased violinist: Arcangelo Corelli (born 1653.)  Youngest violinist is Emmy Storms, age 21.  Violinist with shortest career: Josef Hassid whose career lasted two years, if you count the recordings he made in 1939 as the beginning of his career, otherwise it lasted one year.  Violinist with longest career: Ruggiero Ricci, whose career ran for 70 years.  Violinist whose biography has had the greatest number of views: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (January, 2010); runner up: Albert Markov (November, 2010.)  Biography with the least number of views: Carl Rosa (March, 2009); runner up: Ion Voicu (October, 2009.)  Composer most often referenced: Ludwig Van Beethoven.  Violinist most often mentioned: Jascha Heifetz.  The nationalities with 10 or more representatives are: American (21), Austrian (10), English (20), French (15), German (16), Hungarian (10), Italian (24), Polish (11), and Russian (28.)  Month in which the greatest number of famous violinists were born: August.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Albert Markov

Albert Markov is a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist, composer, pedagogue, and conductor born on May 8, 1933 (Heifetz was 32 years old.)  He occupies a place in the musical firmament which is unique in the 20th and 21st centuries – he is the only concert violinist who is also a composer of major works and concertos.  Not since Emile Sauret (1852-1920), Jeno Hubay (1858-1937), and Albert Spalding (1888-1953) did any violinist of international stature produce not only symphonic works, but violin concertos which he himself performed, in keeping with a longstanding tradition which included Tartini, Vivaldi, Paganini, Spohr, Viotti, Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps, DeBeriot, Chevalier DeSaint George, and Joseph Joachim.  Of course, Eugene Ysaye, Pablo Sarasate, Kreisler, Milstein, Heifetz and others wrote or arranged many recital pieces or cadenzas but it stopped there – no operas, symphonies, tone poems, rhapsodies, or concertos came from their pens.  In addition, not since David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan, has a concert violinist produced a son who is also a concert violinist, in this case, Alexander Markov.  (In fact, Alexander Markov has never had a teacher besides his father.  Zino Francescatti and Daniel Barenboim also never studied with anyone other than their father.)  He began his violin studies as a child but by age ten he was studying with Jacob Meksin and the legendary pedagogue, Peter Stolyarsky.  Composition he studied with Henrich Litinsky and Aram Khachaturian.  He graduated from the Gnessin Academy in Moscow in 1960.  By then, he had already won the Gold Medal at the Queen Elizabeth (Belgium) Violin Competition (1959) and gold medals at other European and Russian competitions (1957-1964.)  He concertized extensively in Russia and Europe from that point forward.  A highlight of one of his European tours was an appearance with Rostropovitch (cellist) in Holland in 1964 with Khachaturian conducting.  From 1960 to 1975, he was a soloist with the Moscow State Philharmonic as well as a professor at the Gnessin Academy in Moscow.  In December of 1975 he came to the U.S.  His U.S. debut on May 24, 1976 was memorable and unusual because it was not in New York but in Houston (Eddy Brown’s U.S. debut was in Indianapolis, Isaac Stern’s in San Francisco, Iso Briselli’s in Philadelphia), where he played Paganini’s second violin concerto (b minor.)  (He later recorded this concerto with the Moscow Radio Orchestra, Rozhdestvensky conducting – very likely the best recording of this work in existence.)  His Carnegie Hall debut came later and, from that point, Markov’s concertizing became international in scope.  In 1977 he was appointed to the faculty of the Mannes College of Music (New York), where he stayed until 1979.  In 1981 he began to teach at the Manhattan School of Music (where he still teaches) and from 2007 has also taught at the Long Island Conservatory.  Markov has also served on the juries of the Tchaikovsky and the Paganini Violin Competitions and led many music festivals and master classes around the world.  In May of 1994, Markov embarked on a tour of Russia after an absence of almost twenty years.  In 1999, he formed the Rondo Chamber Orchestra, based in Bennington, Vermont, which he has conducted ever since.  His recordings are on the Melodia, Sunrise, Musical Heritage Society, and RMS labels.  Most of his prolific output has been published by Muzyka and Kompositor in Russia as well as Schirmer’s and RMS in the U.S.  His violin method book, Violin Technique is also available worldwide.  It has been said (by Bernard Holland of the New York Times) that Markov's pedagogy “avoids the traditional teaching of hand positions and fingerings on the violin….  Markov also breaks the art of bowing into three basic positions - another departure from ordinary teaching practices.”  There are many videos of his playing on YouTube and several audio recordings on the Classical Connect website as well.  Markov’s instruments have included a Stradivarius, an Antonio Gagliano, and a Sergio Peresson (based in Philadelphia, Peresson is considered to be the world’s best violin maker of the modern era - he was in so much demand he had to stop taking orders for new instruments in 1982.)  Markov’s compositions include two operas, a violin concerto, a Suite for violin and orchestra, a symphony, 3 Rhapsodies for violin and orchestra, a string quartet, 2 sonatas for solo violin, various works for two violins, 9 works for violin and piano, vocal works, piano pieces, works for viola, at least 20 cadenzas for various violin concertos (including those of Paganini, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms), and no fewer than 70 arrangements of works by various composers.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Julia Igonina

Julia Igonina is a Russian concert violinist born on April 3, 1978 (Heifetz was 77 years old.)  She is widely known as a champion of contemporary violin works, though her repertoire includes the standard concertos of Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Prokofiev, Sibelius, and all the rest.  One of the rare pieces she plays is Alexander Tchaikovsky’s second violin concerto, a fiendishly difficult work.  Her recital repertoire is also incredibly extensive.  She began her violin studies at the age of six with Vyacheslav Khavkin at the Glinka Music School in Minsk (1984-1997.)  Afterward, she studied with Eduard Grach at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, from which she graduated in 2004.  (Grach has become the most eminent violin pedagogue in the Russian Federation since Zakhar Bron went to the Royal Academy in England.)  Her debut came at the age of fourteen with the Belarus State Orchestra playing the Mendelssohn concerto.  She has since concertized extensively in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  As far as I know, she has never played in the U.S.  Igonina has also won (between 1998 and 2005) several major violin competitions.  As Nicolo Paganini played for royalty, Yehudi Menuhin played for the Pope, Isaac Stern played for the U.S. President, and Chloe Hanslip played for the Queen of England, Julia Igonina has also played for a highly placed world dignitary - the President of the Republic of China (Jiang Zemin - 2004.)  In 2008, she became the leader of the New Russian Quartet, based at the Moscow (Tchaikovsky) Conservatory.  She began to judge at international violin competitions in 2009.  YouTube has several videos of her playing, including a brilliant interpretation of the Vitali Chaconne which Heifetz made famous.  Igonina plays on a Vincenzo Panormo (aka Vincenzo Trusiano) violin (made circa 1789) - formerly, Julian Sitkovetsky's violin.  (Photo of Julia Igonina by Anna Chobotova) 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lucien Capet

Lucien Capet (Lucien Louis Capet) was a French violinist, teacher, and composer born on January 8, 1873 (Brahms was 40 years old.)  He is remembered for his book on bow technique, Superior Bowing Technique (1916), and for being the teacher of Ivan Galamian, Jascha Brodsky, Charles Munch, and Mario Dias de Figueiredo.  In fact, thanks to Capet, Galamian emphasized bow technique over most everything else.  I do not know who his teachers were when he was a child but he later studied at the Paris Conservatory where he was a pupil of someone named Morin.  He appeared as soloist with many French orchestras, but especially the Lamoureux Orchestra, of which he was concertmaster from 1896 to 1899.  Capet had been supporting himself by playing in dance halls and cafes since he was fifteen.  From 1899 to 1903, he taught at the Society of Saint Cecilia School.  With Henri Casadesus on viola and Marcel Casadesus on cello (uncles of pianist Robert Casadesus) he formed the Capet Quartet in 1893.  In 1924, Capet and fellow violinist Suzanne Chaigneau founded the Modern Violin Institute.  Between 1925 and 1930, after several changes in personnel, the Capet Quartet recorded at least 12 quartets – 5 of them by Beethoven and the others by Mozart, Haydn, Ravel, Debussy, Schumann, Franck, and Schubert.  Josef Gingold heard the quartet perform in Brussels in 1928 and many years later said that it was the greatest string quartet concert he had ever heard.  It was an all-Beethoven program.  There is an audio file on YouTube of the Capet Quartet playing Mozart.  Capet also wrote three string quartets which are now completely forgotten.  He died on December 18, 1928, at age 55. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ivan Galamian

Ivan Galamian (Ivan Alexander Galamian) was an Armenian violinist and teacher (some sources say Persian because he was born in Iran) born on January 23, 1903 - some sources say February 25 and others say February 5 - (Heifetz was 2 years old.)  He is remembered as one of the best violin teachers of the 20th Century – an institution at the Juilliard School (New York.)  As a young man, Galamian studied at the School of the Philharmonic Society with Konstantin Mostras, in Moscow, where he resided with his family from infancy.  It is said he also studied with Julius Conus.  Conus taught in Moscow until 1919, so that is entirely possible. Galamian graduated from the school in 1919, at age 16, and began playing in the opera orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre.  In 1922, he moved to France where he studied further with Lucien Capet in Paris (1922-1923.)  He made his Paris debut on May 5, 1924 although he played another recital there on December 24, 1926 which is also called his debut recital.  It has been widely reported that he suffered from an incapacitating but undefined nervous condition (possibly stage fright) and soon gave up his dream of a concertizing career – unlike Ruggiero Ricci who never experienced nervousness when playing.  From 1925 until 1929 he taught at the Russian Conservatory in Paris while still performing occasionally.  Even at this early stage of his teaching career, he produced a special student in the person of Vida Reynolds, the first woman to play with the first violins of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Galamian came to the U.S. in 1937, where he remained for the rest of his life.  While setting up a private studio in New York City he also taught at the Henry Street Settlement House there.  He was hired by Efrem Zimbalist – via a recommendation by Zino Francescatti - to teach at the Curtis Institute (1944) and then was also offered a similar post at Juilliard (1946 – some sources say 1948.)  In 1944 he founded the Meadowmount Music School (Westport, New York) which operated during summer months – a sort of intense music camp which became very successful.  Galamian had hundreds of students and therefore used more than half a dozen teaching assistants – Dorothy DeLay and Robert Lipsett among them.  (In 1970, he and Dorothy DeLay acrimoniously parted ways because of a difference of opinion regarding teaching approaches and he refused to speak to her for the remainder of his life.  He also tried to get her fired from Juilliard – unsuccessfully.)  It has been said that due to his authoritarian methods all his pupils sound the same – unlike Leopold Auer’s.  In 1962, Galamian published two books on violin technique which are still in print.  He also edited many standard works for violin.  As far as I know, he never recorded anything commercially.  Among Galamian’s famous pupils are Michael Rabin, Pinchas Zukerman, Eugene Fodor, Tigran Vardanyan, Hyman Bress, Simon Standage, Stuart Canin, Linda Rose, and Ani Kavafian.  Galamian taught until the day he died, April 14, 1981, at age 78.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Iso Briselli

Iso Briselli (Isaak Briselli) was a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist born on October 20, 1912 (Heifetz was 11 years old.)  Although he concertized for over two decades, he is remembered (as is Franz Clement) for having commissioned a famous concerto – Samuel Barber’s violin concerto.  He began studies at age 3 and while still a child studied with Peter Stolyarsky before his family moved to Berlin (1922) where he began his studies with Carl Flesch.  Two years later, when Flesch moved to the U.S. to teach at the new Curtis Institute (Philadelphia), he encouraged Briselli to go with him.  He arrived in the U.S. - together with the Flesch family - in December of 1924.  Briselli entered Curtis during the winter of 1925 and thus became part of the very first class, at age 13, to enter Curtis.  After Flesch left Curtis (1928), Briselli studied with Leopold Auer and Efrem Zimbalist, among others.  He graduated in May, 1934.  Soon after Briselli arrived in the U.S., a rich Philadelphian – Samuel Fels - informally adopted Briselli and became his patron as well.  Briselli made his debut in 1926 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Artur Rodzinski, playing the first Paganini concerto.  He was 14 years old.  In 1939, Fels engaged (for $1000) the unknown Barber – who was a fellow Curtis student, although much older - to write a concerto for Briselli.  The concerto was finished in December of 1939.  The myth about Briselli finding the third movement of the concerto too difficult started with Barber and a writer by the name of Nathan Broder.  It was documented later on by Barbara Heyman, a Samuel Barber biographer (1992), that the story was wholly untrue.  Thousands of historically incorrect concert program notes (and liner notes for albums) have been written since Broder’s false story first came out.  Although Barber knew the true facts, he never did anything to set the record straight.  At the time of the commission, Briselli was already a brilliant violinist who regularly played the works of Paganini, Wieniawski, Sarasate, Vieuxtemps, Ysaye, Bruch, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Dvorak, and all the rest.  It is logical to suppose that the third movement of the Barber would have posed no serious challenges.  Indeed, Briselli never said the movement was too difficult or unplayable.  He objected to the music itself – it did not musically fit the other two movements and it was not an appropriate finale and not grand enough – speaking from a traditional point of view, it was too weak.  It is interesting that critics who first heard the concerto agreed with Briselli’s opinion, though they did not know it at the time.  Briselli never played the concerto in public.  Briselli stopped concertizing in the mid 1940s to devote his time to the various Fels Fund philanthropic projects.  He died on April 9, 2005, at age 92. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Peter Stolyarsky

Peter Stolyarsky (Pyotr Solomonovich Stoliarsky), was a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist and teacher born on November 18, 1871 (Brahms was 38 years old.)  He, like Leopold Auer, Carl Flesch, and Ivan Galamian, is remembered as a pedagogue and not a concertizing soloist.  He began his studies with his father then progressed to Stanislaw Barcewicz, Emil Mlynarski (the founder of the Warsaw Philharmonic) in Poland, and Josef Karbulka back in Odessa.   He graduated from the Odessa Conservatory in 1893 and went to work almost immediately in the orchestra of the Odessa Opera House where he played for about 26 years.  He started teaching privately in 1898 and opened his own music school in 1912 (some sources say 1911), at age 41.  From 1919 he taught at the Odessa Conservatory.  He was instrumental in the opening in Odessa of a music school for gifted children in 1933.  His famous pupils include David Oistrakh, Nathan Milstein, Boris Goldstein, Albert Markov, Naoum Blinder, Elizabeth Gilels, Eduard Grach, and Zakhar Bron (himself an eminent teacher.)  Stolyarsky died on April 29, 1944, at age 72.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Johanna Martzy

Johanna Martzy was a Hungarian violinist born on October 26, 1924 (Heifetz was 23 years old.)  She is remembered for her short career.  Martzy began studying violin at age six.  Soon afterward she started lessons with Jeno Hubay at the Liszt Academy in Budapest and continued with him until 1937.  By age 13 she was already touring Hungary and Romania.  Her debut, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto, took place in 1943 with Mengelberg conducting the Budapest Philharmonic.  In October of 1947, she won first prize in a competition in Geneva, Switzerland.  In February of 1949 she made her debut in Amsterdam (again with the Tchaikovsky concerto), accompanied by the orchestra of the Concertgebouw.  Once established, Martzy enjoyed great success throughout Europe.  Her first appearance in England was in 1953.  Her New York City debut, with the New York Philharmonic, came in November 1957 playing Bach’s E Major concerto, an unusual work with which to debut.  In December 1958, she played the Mendelssohn concerto with this same orchestra with Bernstein at the podium.  Bernstein had just been appointed chief conductor of the Philharmonic.  She continued touring worldwide until 1976 though by 1969 she had effectively slipped from the limelight.  Some say it was because she had by then married a very rich man – Daniel Tschudi – and lacked any financial incentive to stay active.  She did comparatively little recording – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvorak, Bartok, Stravinsky - though many tapes of radio broadcasts still exist.  Rumors have circulated that she chose to give up her recording career rather than give in to Walter Legge (EMI’s Director.)  Martzy mostly played a Carlo Bergonzi violin (1733) though she also owned a 1733 Stradivari (previously owned by Kreisler and Huberman) and a Peter Guarnerius - Carl Flesch’s old violin.  She died in Switzerland, her death virtually unnoticed, on August 13, 1979, at age 54. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Camilla Urso

Camilla Urso was an Italian violinist born in France on June 13, 1842 (some sources say 1840) (Brahms was 9 years old.)  She began violin studies at the age of five with Felix Simon, a violinist in the Nantes (France) opera orchestra.  She made her first public appearance at a small concert at age 7.  She is known for having been the youngest child, at the age of eight, ever enrolled at the Paris Conservatory and the first female ever to be admitted to study the violin.  A fellow pupil, though ahead of her in his classes, was Henri Wieniawski with whom she became friends.  After graduating from the Conservatory in 1852, she came to the U.S. after being encouraged by a promoter and gave a very successful debut concert in New York City.  Overcoming considerable difficulties and economic uncertainty for several years, she established a highly lucrative, interesting, and productive worldwide concertizing career.  Inexplicably, she retired from playing in 1855 and did not reappear until 1862.  Those years were spent somewhere in the Southern U.S.  Details of those missing years are probably found in Jennifer Schiller’s 127-page dissertation (2006) on the life of Urso but I didn’t bother with it.  Her concert in Boston on February 14, 1863 marked her return, at age 20, to active concert life.  She returned for concerts in France in the summer of 1865 then came back to the U.S. in September of 1866.  She later repeatedly toured Canada, Europe, Australia, South America, and South Africa as well as the U.S., playing in places where classical music was not well-known.  It has been said that later in life, she even participated in vaudeville shows.  One of the highlights of her career was a seven-month tour of California in the years 1869-1870.  She also organized, during that same tour, a memorable music festival comprised of several concerts given in San Francisco in February of 1870.  Incredibly, she did not perform in England until 1871, at age 29, playing the Mendelssohn concerto in London.  Later on, her main residence was in New York City, where she died on January 20, 1902, after an unsuccessful surgery, at age 59. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maud Powell

Maud Powell was an American violinist, writer, and arranger born on August 22, 1867 (Brahms was 34 years old.)  She is remembered for having been a concert violinist at a time when women violinists – even among orchestral players - were a rarity.  Her career was spent almost exclusively in the U.S. Her first violin studies began when she was seven.  At age 9 she became a pupil of William Lewis in Chicago.  She then began playing in and was soon made assistant concertmaster of the Aurora (Illinois) Symphony Orchestra.  Her debut as soloist with this orchestra took place in 1880.  She further studied in Europe with Henry Schradieck in Leipzig (1881-1882) and Charles Dancla in Paris (1882-1883.)  She spent a year intermittently concertizing in London and then studied briefly with Joseph Joachim (1884-1885) who conducted the orchestra when she gave her Berlin debut with the Berlin Philharmonic in March of 1885 playing the Bruch g minor concerto.  Returning to the U.S., she gave her New York debut with the New York Philharmonic on November 14, 1885 again playing Bruch’s first concerto.  She was then eighteen years old.  She soon began including works by contemporary American composers in her programs, including Arthur Foote, Henry Huss, Victor Herbert, and John Carpenter.  She gave the American premieres of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos.  Her fan club claims she premiered the Dvorak concerto but that is not true.  Max Bendix premiered the Dvorak concerto with the Chicago Symphony on October 30, 1891.  Powell gave the first New York performance of the concerto in 1893 but that's all. Mastering a very extensive repertoire, Powell also frequently played the concertos of Saint Saenz, Lalo, Arensky, Conus, and Rimsky Korsakov, among others.  Her premiere of the Sibelius concerto on November 30, 1906 was especially significant although this concerto did not enter the standard violin repertoire until after Jascha Heifetz championed it.  Powell founded a quartet in 1894 and a trio in 1908.  She frequently wrote her own program notes and wrote numerous articles for music journals.  I don’t know if she ever took students.  Among her many violins was a supposed JB Guadagnini (1775) which was later sold to Henry Ford, the car maker.  The Guadagnini was later declared (by Kenneth Warren) to actually be a copy made by New York Luthier George Gemunder on or about 1865.  (She had purchased -  around 1886 - a violin from a dealer named Victor S. Flechter which turned out to be a fake. Powell later sued the dealer because she had paid $500 and the violin was said to be worth only $40. The violin had  supposedly been made by Gaspard Duiffoprugcar in 1515.)  Powell also owned a Guarneri from 1731, the Mayseder Guarneri.  She did a lot of recording for RCA during the industry’s infancy (1904-1907).  YouTube has postings of a few of her recordings.  Maud Powell died (in Uniontown, Pennsylvania) on January 8, 1920, at age 52, while preparing for a concert. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eddy Brown

Eddy Brown was an American violinist, teacher, and radio pioneer born on July 15, 1895 (Brahms was 63 years old.)  His father, with whom he had his first lessons, was Austrian and his mother, Russian.  He later studied with Hugh McGibney in Indianapolis while still a child.  He is known for having launched and hugely influenced classical music radio programming in the U.S.  In fact, he gave the first radio performance of all ten Beethoven sonatas.  In 1936, he pioneered radio station WQXR in New York City (devoted exclusively to classical music) which survives to this day.  His first public appearance as a violinist was at age six.  At age nine (1904), he enrolled at the Royal Conservatory in Budapest where he studied with Jeno Hubay, Bela Bartok and others.  Two years later, he took first prize in the Budapest Concerto Competition.  Eugene Ormandy took second.  Brown graduated in 1909 and soon after made his formal debut in Budapest playing the Beethoven concerto.  That same year he made his London debut with the London Philharmonic playing Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto – he was fourteen years old.  His Berlin debut came in 1910 with the Brahms concerto.  He then studied further (until 1916) with Leopold Auer at the St Petersburg Conservatory and concertized world wide for some time after that.  His U.S. debut was at Indianapolis in 1916 with the Beethoven concerto.  He made his New York debut that same week.  He began to record (if one can call it that) in 1916.  He also formed a string quartet (name unknown) and established the Chamber Music Society of America.  After becoming involved in radio in 1930, he essentially stopped touring, though he played for many of the different radio programs which he created and in various venues close to New York.  Ironically, almost none of the hundreds of performances he gave on radio survive.  Brown started to teach at the University of Cincinnati in 1956.  He was named Artist-in-Residence of Butler University (Indianapolis) in 1971.  His only modern recording was of a violin concerto by Mana Zucca, which few people have ever heard.  A complete recording of it is posted on YouTube, if you should be curious, as are other Eddy Brown recordings. Brown died unexpectedly (in Italy) on June 14, 1974, at age 78. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Top Ten?

This type of thing has very few followers but that’s ok.  Here is my arbitrary list of the top ten most-in-demand, darling, high-fee violinists, in no particular order: Sarah Chang, Nigel Kennedy, Maxim Vengerov, Hilary Hahn, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Leila Josefowicz, Gil Shaham, and Leonidas Kavakos.  Except for Kavakos, Kennedy, and Mutter, they all live in New York.  They are all brilliant players.  Among that bunch, the only ones with a recognizable sound and style are Joshua Bell and Leila Josefowicz.  The others all pretty much sound the same to me.  Now, here are ten – again, arbitrarily chosen - who are just as brilliant but whose profiles are noticeably lower: Elmar Oliveira, Augustin Hadelich, Lara St John, Julia Igonina, Stefan Jackiw, Corey Cerovsek, Kyung Wha Chung, Miranda Cuckson, Eugene Fodor, and Vadim Gluzman.  Except for Oliveira, Igonina, Fodor, and Gluzman, they, too, live in New York.  What is the difference?  Personality?  Marketing?  Patronage?  Management?  Looks?  Social connections?  I know not.  It is certainly not playing ability.  This ladder is very hard to climb to the top, especially when there are unknown, hard-to-identify factors and twists and turns in a career.  Here’s to plain good luck.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shlomo Mintz

Shlomo Mintz is a Russian violinist, violist, teacher, and conductor born on October 30, 1957 (Heifetz was 56 years old.)  He is known for a career which encompasses a very wide range of activities – solo appearances, teaching, chamber music, recording, recitals, judging, philanthropic sponsorships, and conducting.  He began his violin studies in Israel with the famous and beautiful Hungarian violinist Ilona Feher at age two.  He studied with her until 1973.  At age 11 (April 23, 1969), he made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic playing Mendelssohn's concerto (Uri Segal conducting.)  Soon afterwards, as Itzhak Perlman fell ill, he substituted for him (again with the Israel Philharmonic), playing the first concerto of Paganini.  Many concert musicians have launched their careers in exactly this same fashion.  He made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of sixteen with the Pittsburgh Symphony playing the Bruch g minor concerto.  He then began his studies with Dorothy DeLay at Juilliard although his career was already well on its way.  In 1997, he played Paganini’s famous Cannone violin (Guarneri del Gesu, 1742) - a replica of which I will soon have in my hands (thanks to luthier Daniel Houck) - during a concert in Maastricht (the Netherlands) with the Limburg Symphony.  From the age of eighteen, Shlomo Mintz added the role of conductor to his artistic life and has since conducted many orchestras worldwide, including the Royal Philharmonic (England), the NHK Symphony Orchestra (Japan), the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and the Israel Philharmonic.  On April 6, 1992, Mintz made his New York conducting debut, conducting the Israel Chamber Orchestra on that occasion.  In March 1994 he was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Maastricht Symphony Orchestra (The Netherlands).  In 2008 Mintz was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Zagreb Philharmonic.  Shlomo Mintz gives master classes worldwide and has been a member of the jury of several international violin competitions.  His discography does not include the Tchaikovsky concerto nor the concertos of Bach or Paganini.  Otherwise, it is fairly extensive.  It has been reported that Mintz has recorded all of Vivaldi’s violin concertos in a single collection but I seriously doubt that – Vivaldi wrote about 230 violin concertos.  I would have to see the collection to believe it.  There are many videos of his on YouTube.  As far as I know, Mintz still plays a Guarneri del Gesu (1700) and a Carlo Testore viola built in 1696.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chevalier de Saint George

Joseph de Bologne (Chevaliere) de Saint George was a French violinist, harpsichordist, composer, conductor, military leader, and champion swordsman, born on December 25, 1745 (Bach was 60 years old.)  He was never what one might call a touring concert violinist.  He is remembered for being part of the French aristocracy and military prior to and during the French Revolution, despite being the son of a slave (his mother.)  As early as age 18 (1764), he obtained the position of Officer of the King's Guard.  He was also one of the first Black Masons in France.  In 1787, he beat Charles De Beaumont (the infamous French spy, diplomat, and transvestite) in a famous fencing duel.  His first teacher in music was his father.  Later on, after age 8, he may have studied violin and composition with Jean Marie Leclair in Paris.  It is thought that by 1771, he was concertmaster of the orchestra known as the Concert des Amateurs (the title is deceiving.)  It was thought to be the best orchestra in Paris and perhaps all of Europe.  By 1773, at age 28, he was its director.  Mozart was then 17 years old.  He also frequently played his own violin concertos with this orchestra.  Composers of the time, including Antonio Lolli and Carl Stamitz, dedicated works to him.  In 1779, at her request, De Saint George, began performing for and with Queen Marie Antoinette at Versailles.  In 1787, De Saint George, with a different orchestra, premiered Haydn’s six Paris Symphonies (82-87.)  Mozart was in the city at the time, though it is not known whether he attended any of the concerts.  (In fact, De Saint George has often been called the Black Mozart.) De Saint George wrote at least 15 violin concertos, 12 string quartets, 9 sonatas for violin, 10 sonatas for harpsichord, 3 symphonies, 8 symphonies concertante, and other works, among them an opera and other works for the theatre.  One of the violin concertos has been recorded by Rachel Barton.  Other than that, his music is now almost never played.  However, YouTube has a six-part biography of him as well as several videos of his music.  Joseph De Saint George died on June 10, 1799, at age 53. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Elena Kharitonova

Elena Kharitonova is a Russian violinist born on September 12, 1964 (Heifetz was 63 years old.) She is presently one of the top chamber musicians in Russia. She graduated from the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatoire, class of Professors B.Belenky and O.Krysa and completed postgraduate studies in quartet class under Professor A. Shishlov - the first violinist of the Shostakovich Quartet. She was second violinist with the Glazunov Quartet for eight years. During her studies at the Moscow Conservatoire, she won All-Union quartet's competition and received diplomas of the Shostakovich First International quartet's competition and the Sixth International competition of chamber ensembles in Tokyo. From 1998 to 2008, she was the second violinist of the Glinka Quartet, whose repertoire ranged from Bach to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Shostakovich, and all the rest. She is now the second violinist of the New Russian Quartet, which is barely two years old. I do not know if she has ever played in the U.S. She has also recorded more than 12 CDs.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New Russian Quartet

The New Russian Quartet is the resident string quartet of the Moscow Conservatory.  Established in January, 2008, it is already one of the world's best string quartets. Its members are also all graduates of the Conservatory.  It is more or less the equivalent of the Juilliard Quartet in the U.S.  Julia Igonina is the quartet's first violinist, Elena Kharitonova plays second violin, Alexander Galkovsky is the violist, and Alexey Steblev is the cellist.  Except for Julia Igonina, who is actually a brilliant concert violinist, they are all seasoned chamber music players.  As their website indicates, the name of the ensemble implies that the musicians  remain faithful to the Russian performing tradition as they also explore uncharted areas in chamber music.   Their core repertoire consists of the standard literature by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Bartok and all the rest but they also perform contemporary works composed specifically for them.  They have collaborated with such outstanding artists as Jessie Norman, Vladimir Spivakov, Alexander Rudin, Yuri Bashmet, and Shlomo Mintz (playing viola.)  The New Russian Quartet frequently performs in Russia’s best concert venues and participates in music festivals throughout Europe and Asia.  As far as I know, they have not yet toured the U.S.  The members of the quartet perform on Italian instruments from the Russian State's collection.  They also have many superlative videos on YouTube.