Franz Schubert was an Austrian violinist, pianist, composer, and teacher born on January 31, 1797. His micro biography is among the posts for January, 2009.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Mischa Elman (Mikhail Saulovich Elman) was a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist born on January 20, 1891 (Stravinsky was 9 years old.) He was known for his short stature, unusual vibrato technique, soulful style, and beautiful tone. He auditioned for Leopold Auer at age 11, playing Wieniawski's concerto in d minor and Paganini's 24th Caprice. Auer then had Elman admitted to the St Petersburg Conservatory, where he (Auer) was a violin instructor. (An amusing song later composed by the Gershwin brothers mentioned Mischa (Elman), Jascha (Heifetz), Toscha (Seidel), and a few other students of Leopold Auer.) In 1903, Elman began to play concerts in the homes of wealthy patrons and, in 1904, made his debut in Berlin. In 1905, he made his London debut with Glazunov's concerto. In 1908, he came to the U.S. and played in Carnegie Hall. He recorded extensively but not nearly as much as other violinists of his time (such as Heifetz, Menuhin, Gitlis, Francescatti, and Ricci.) Elman died on April 5, 1967, at age 76.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Jose Silvestre White Lafitte was a Cuban violinist and composer born on January 17, 1836 (Brahms was 3 years old.) Some sources give December 31, 1835 as his date of birth (an indication that record keeping can sometimes get sloppy.) He began studying as a child and later studied at the Paris Conservatory (1855-1871) because of encouragement and financial assistance he received from American pianist-composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Delphin Alard (Pablo Sarasate's teacher) was his teacher at the conservatory. Lafitte later taught for a year at the same conservatory when Alard took a leave of absence. Later, he was made Director of the Imperial Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1877-1889) after which he returned to Paris. He concertized in Europe, Latin America, and in the U.S., where he performed with some of the major orchestras (including the New York Philharmonic) in 1875. His most famous composition is La Bella Cubana. His long-neglected violin concerto has been recorded by Rachel Barton on the Cedille label. Lafitte also wrote a string quartet and other small chamber works. He died in Paris on March 12, 1918, at age 82.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Eduard Remenyi (Eduard Hoffmann) was a Hungarian violinist and composer born on January 17, 1828 (Beethoven was already dead but Paganini was 45 years old.) He studied under Joseph Bohm (Joachim's teacher) at the Vienna Conservatory from 1842 to 1845. His specialty was playing for private audiences. He participated in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 (on the losing side) and was subsequently evicted from Austria. In 1851, he came to the U.S. and worked as a free-lance violinist for a couple of years. He returned to Europe in 1853, befriended Franz Liszt for a time, and ended up in England in 1854 where he was appointed solo violinist to Queen Victoria. In 1860, he returned to Hungary where he was then made violin soloist to Emperor Franz Joseph. In 1865, he undertook a tour of Europe. He lived in Paris for six years (1871-1877) then in London and finally crossed the ocean again in 1881 and played in the U.S. and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. From 1886, he concertized throughout the world, by then having established himself and his family in New York City. On the afternoon of May 15, 1898, he was playing a vaudeville show (with orchestra) at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco when, after playing three pieces, he fell over dead on stage. He was 70 years old.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Daisy Kennedy was an Australian violinist born on January 16, 1893 (Stravinsky was 11 years old.) She studied with Otakar Sevcik in Vienna in 1909, appeared in London in 1911, and toured widely in Europe and the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. She was also violinist Nigel Kennedy's second cousin. She made several recordings in 1919 and 1920. I don't know if she recorded after that. Daisy Kennedy died on October 12, 1981, at age 88.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Have you heard Achron's violin concerto? No? Neither have I. How about Krenek's violin concerto? Sivori's? Molique's? Reed's? Well, it's ok. These are not works that have entered the standard repertoire. They probably never will. I will list here a few composers who have written concertos for the violin which have been popular for a brief time then completely dropped out of sight and out of earshot. Who determines the staying power in a work? The performers? No. The composers? No. The critics? No. It is the public - the audience. From the Vivaldi concertos to the Sibelius, it has always been the public that demands to hear a work again, and again. It is also the public that chooses to forget a work. A majority of works are neglected, but for good reason. Some are brought back by well-meaning performers but they don't stay. They have no staying power. Even if the works are recorded and promoted to the nth degree, if the public does not embrace a work, it will be forgotten. The violin concerto repertoire is comprised of approximately 30 concertos - the war horses. Some (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Lalo, Bruch, Sibelius) are played more often than others, but all 30 of them are played year in and year out. The neglected ones are perhaps played five times then completely forgotten forever. For instance, have you ever heard the concertos by Achron, Aitken, Arensky, Arutunian, Atterberg, Baillot, Bennet, Bliss, Britten, Clement, Collins, DeBeriot, Delius, Egge, Gabaidulina, Ginastera, Goldmark, Halffter, Hubay, Krenek, Laderman, Larsson, Lees, Lipinski, Marteau, Massenet, Maw, Molique, Ogermann, Ott, Panufnik, Pfitzner, Previn, Rautaavara, Reed, Reger, Remenyi, Richter, Rode, Rosenman, Sauret, Secunda, Schnittke, Sivori, Spalding, Svendsen, Szeryng, Tower, Wiren, Yardumian, Ysaye, or Zimbalist? If you hear any of them once, you will probably not feel compelled to hear them again. Take my word.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Andrew Manze is an English baroque violinist and conductor born on January 14, 1965 (Perlman was 19 years old.) He studied with Simon Standage, one of the founding members of the English Concert, at the Royal Academy (London), as well as with Lucy van Dael and Marie Leonhardt. In 1988, (at age 23) he became concertmaster of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. He was also a member of the ensemble Romanesca with John Toll (harpsichord) and Nigel North (lute.) From 2003, he was director of the English Concert, after harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock retired but gave the position up in September, 2007 (to organist Harry Bicket.) In 2006, Manze became chief conductor of the Helsingford Symphony Orchestra (Sweden.) He has made several recordings for Harmonia Mundi records but you can also catch him on YouTube.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Alma Moodie (Alma Templeton Moodie) was a Scottish (some would say Australian) violinist and teacher born on September 12, 1898 (Stravinsky was 16 years old.) She is remembered for never having recorded and for being the favorite pupil of Carl Flesch. She was a highly successful concert violinist of the early twentieth century who dropped from public view and who today is even omitted from the most popular music dictionaries. She initially studied with her mother. By age 5, however, she had a private violin tutor (Louis D'Hage) in Rockhampton, Australia, which is where she was probably born (sources differ.) By age 6, she was playing in public and by age 9. she was studying with Oskar Back at the conservatory in Brussels, Belgium. In 1919, she began studying with Carl Flesch. By 1922, she was playing ten concerts per month throughout Europe and elsewhere. She premiered several works by important composers of that era - Krenek, Pfitzner, Atterberg, and Stravinsky, among others. Many other works were also dedicated to her. After her marriage in 1927, her schedule became less hectic. She settled in Cologne and taught at the Hoch Conservatory (Frankfurt) for a time. Musical luminaries, including Leopold Auer and Arthur Nikisch, spoke highly of her. She never returned to her native Australia. She also became addicted to alcohol and sleeping pills. On March 7, 1943, Moodie died (from some type of thrombosis), at age 44. Some say she committed suicide.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Christian August Sinding was a Norwegian violinist and composer born on January 11, 1856 (Brahms was 23 years old.) The love of art and culture ran in his family and he was immensely popular before the Second World War. He first studied music in Oslo before going to Leipzig, Germany, where he studied at the conservatory under Salomon Jadassohn. One of his other violin teachers was Henry Schradieck. In 1920, he came to the U.S. to teach at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He wrote a large number of short piano pieces and songs, one of which he is best remembered for (Rustles of Spring, 1896.) Sinding later spent much of his life in Germany. He also wrote a suite for violin which Heifetz used to play very often. A recording of it is posted on YouTube. Among his larger works are three symphonies, three violin concertos, a piano concerto, choral works, and an opera (The Holy Mountain, 1914.) For political reasons, his music is seldom heard today, not even in Norway. You can read the complex story about that situation (his black listing) at other sites if you care to. Sinding died on December 3, 1941, at age 84.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Nadia Salerno Sonnenberg (Nadja Rose Catherine Salerno Sonnenberg) is an Italian violinist born on January 10, 1961 (Perlman was 15 years old.) In 1969, she and her family came to the U.S. from Italy and settled in New Jersey. She had been a pupil of Marianna Gabbi as a very young girl but afterward studied at the Curtis Institute and later on with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School of Music. She is known for her uniquely idiosyncratic and iconoclastic style - somewhat like Nigel Kennedy. She wrote her autobiography in 1989. There are several videos of her on YouTube and she has already recorded most of the standard repertoire. Sonnenberg is currently the Director and Concertmaster of the New Century Chamber Orchestra based in San Francisco. The NCCO currently has several recording and performing projects underway. Perhaps for that reason, she does not have many concerts scheduled with major orchestras in 2010.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Erica Morini (Erika Morini) was an Austrian violinist born on January 5, 1904 (Heifetz was 3 years old.) Morini was known for a refined, silken tone and for being one of the few female concert violinists of the early twentieth century. She received her first instruction from her father (Oskar Morini, student of Joseph Joachim) and mother and completed her studies under the famous pedagogue Otakar Sevcik although she also studied with Jakob Grun, Alma Rose, and Adolf Busch. In 1916, she made her orchestral debut in Vienna, playing Mozart's A major concerto. In 1917, she made her debut in Berlin under Arthur Nikisch. Her U.S. debut in New York on January 26, 1921 (in Carnegie Hall) was a phenomenal success. She was 17 years old. Soon afterward, Maud Powell's Guadagnini violin was presented to her, though most likely only as a loan, since the instrument was later sold to Henry Ford, the car maker. She made her first visit to London in 1923. When she was 21, her father purchased the Davidoff Strad from a Paris dealer for her and that's the instrument she used for the remainder of her career. After 1938, Morini lived in New York City. She concertized far and wide until her retirement in 1976. She was 72 years old. It has been said that she taught Jascha Heifetz the bowing technique known as staccato. There are numerous recordings of hers still available and at least one video on YouTube. Some time in 1994 or 1995, her Stradivarius was stolen from her Fifth Avenue apartment but (according to one source), Morini was never told about the theft. It has not been heard from since. Whether the instrument was insured or not is unknown to me. Erica Morini died on October 31, 1995, in relative obscurity, at age 91.
Josef Suk was a Czech violinist, composer, and teacher born on January 4, 1874 (Brahms was 41 years old.) He is famous for having married one of Antonin Dvorak's daughters and for being the grandfather of violinist Josef Suk (whose micro biography is on this blog for August, 2009.) From 1885 until 1892, he studied at the Prague Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Antonin Dvorak, among others. He formed the Czech Quartet and played second violin with the quartet for most of his life. From 1922 he taught at the Prague Conservatory where his pupils included Bohuslav Martinu (composer) and Rudolf Firkusny (pianist-conductor.) His compositions include much chamber music and a few large-scale works. His second symphony (Opus 27 - 1905) was recorded by the Czech Philharmonic in 1952 and the recording is still available. His last composition (Sousedska, 1935) was a piece for five violins, bass, cymbals, triangle, side drum, and bass drum. Suk died on May 29, 1935, at age 61.