Thursday, October 28, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
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
Monday, October 11, 2010
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
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.