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.