Saturday, January 29, 2011

Paganini's Competition

In Paganini’s day, there may have been eight or nine other concert violinists who might have (theoretically) competed with him – Heinrich Ernst, Louis Spohr, Pierre Rode, Giovanni Viotti, Franz Clement, Charles DeBeriot, Pierre Baillot, Rodolphe Kreutzer, and, of course, Karol Lipinski.  That’s it.  All of these potential competitors spent a great deal of their time either teaching or conducting (or playing in) orchestras.  That circumstance left the field wide open for Paganini to exploit.  Even if Paganini was not the astonishing wizard everyone says he was, according to contemporary accounts, he was still the best.  (We do not now know exactly how Paganini sounded nor how well he played but we give him the benefit of the doubt.  If you’ve ever heard the recordings left by Joachim, Ysaye, Sarasate, Flesch, Enesco and other nineteenth century violinists said to be great in their day, you know how deficient they were in some ways, especially in their sound and intonation.)  In this day of sophisticated electronic gadgetry which can reproduce every note of any music score perfectly, we no longer readily forgive technical deficiencies in any violinist.  Nowadays, it is not easy for concert violinists to get established and generate steady concert dates - much more difficult than in Paganini’s time.  There are brilliant violinists all over the place, but, at the same time, only a limited number of open dates.  Of course, if there were no other artists around, it would be so much easier, but violinists have to contend with solo pianists, singers, cellists, horn players, oboe players, clarinet players, trumpet players, percussionists, trombone players, and even viola players, all of them wanting a bigger piece of the concert artist’s pie.  (I have only accompanied three solo violists since I was 16 – Roberto Diaz, Miles Hoffman, and Carolyn Kenneson.)  If it weren’t for teaching spots at music schools and universities, things would be tough indeed.  What does it take to stand out?  Charlie Rose, the interviewer, once asked Zubin Mehta what it was that made a great conductor and Mehta very wisely answered: “it’s not one thing, but a combination of things.”  Perhaps the same can be said of solo violinists.  Leaving the technical brilliance aside, however, I’m sure Paganini would have been very successful in our age.  After all, he was an expert, intuitive showman.  We simply would not be able to ignore him.  In his own day, he scandalized polite society by his lifestyle – as did also Vivaldi, Wagner, Chopin, Liszt, Eugene Goossens, Bronislaw Huberman, Olga Rudge, and a few others.  And, it has been said by people who know about these things, that there is no such thing as bad publicity - we can put two and two together. While there may be many obscure (but great) violinists in our own time – some more obscure than others - nevertheless, let us not forget that Eugene Ysaye, Vasa Prihoda, Albert Sammons, Alfredo Campoli, Jacques Thibaud, and Zino Francescatti were also quite unknown at some point, even after they had proved their exceptional playing abilities.  Then, out of nowhere it seems, they got lucky. (Photo courtesy of violinist Allegra Artis)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Marie Hall

Marie Hall (Marie Pauline Hall) was an English violinist born on April 8, 1884 (Brahms was 51 years old.)  Her claim to fame rests on the fact that Vaughan Williams wrote and dedicated his best known work, The Lark Ascending, for her.  She also (briefly) took lessons from Edward Elgar (1894.)  Her playing was once described as being emotionless.  Her first teacher was her father, a harpist in the Carl Rosa Opera Company (which is still active today.)  It may be (or perhaps not) that a certain Hildegarde Werner also taught her as a very young child.  Other teachers she had included August Wilhelmj (1896) Max Mossel (1898), Johan Kruse (1900), and Otakar Sevcik (1901.)  Early on, being barely nine years old, she had missed an opportunity to study with Emile Sauret because her family did not have enough money to pay her tuition at the Royal Academy (London.)  It has been reported that as a child, she played her violin in the street, in Malvern, England, accompanied by her mother, to help out with family expenses.  Her subsequent music education was financed through scholarships.  Her first concert took place in Prague (where Sevcik taught) in 1902.  She was 18 years old and later said that she had been extremely nervous before her performance.  In January, 1903, she made her Vienna debut and a month later, her London debut.  Physically, she was very petite but possessed great stamina.  She appeared in New York (Carnegie Hall) for the first time on November 8, 1905.  On that occasion, she played the Tchaikovsky concerto and an arrangement of the first Paganini concerto, among other things.  After 1909, she toured far and wide fairly regularly and even recorded, though not nearly as much as most of her contemporaries.  With Elgar conducting, she recorded an abridged version of his concerto in 1916 for the HMV record company.  (Fritz Kreisler, to whom the concerto is dedicated, never recorded it.)  A few of her recordings can be found on YouTube.  She is inextricably linked to The Lark Ascending, which she first performed in 1921, the same way that Franz Clement is linked to the Beethoven concerto, Ferdinand David to the Mendelssohn concerto, Joseph Joachim to the Brahms concerto, Leopold Auer to the Tchaikovsky concerto, and Rodolphe Kreutzer to the Kreutzer Sonata.  In each case, the composition eclipsed the violinist by far.  From 1905 onwards, Hall played what is now known as the ex-Viotti Marie Hall Stradivarius (constructed in 1709 - not to be confused with the ex-Bruce Viotti Stradivarius from 1709 as well, now housed at London’s Royal Academy of Music.)  I do not know how she acquired it.  About thirty years after her death, it was sold at auction for a large sum (more than $800,000.)   She died in Cheltenham on November 11, 1956, at age 72, in hazy obscurity. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Publicity - Huberman's Epilogue

Bronislaw Huberman had many ideas which were somewhat ahead of their time and which took root after he died.  Beginning in 1920, he spoke often in favor of a United Europe – today’s European Union.  It was known as Pan Europeanism in those days but it didn’t actually get its legal start until March of 1957 – ten years after Huberman had left the scene.  Its ultimate goal was to prevent future wars between European nations.  He was also so outspoken regarding the banning of Jewish musicians in Germany that in 1935, the Nazi government named him “the greatest enemy of the Nazi regime among world musicians.”  He proclaimed that Rhythm was the most important factor in musical expression.  His idea of violin mastery was the presentation of Truth - via performing - rather than Beauty.  Perhaps he felt – as the saying goes – that beauty was only skin deep.  Huberman said that art and publicity were inseparable, and necessary to overcome the “law of inertia that rules over the masses.”  In fact, he felt that artists were obliged to provide publicity.  On one of his Russian tours, he contrived to have the newspapers publish rumors that he was going to divorce his wife and marry a Russian aristocrat.  He later explained to his wife that it was a harmless publicity stunt.  She was not amused but the news generated lots of talk and curiosity.  Huberman almost never played to other than sold out houses.  He made people anxious to attend his concerts.  In 1943, he played to an audience of 10,000 in Lewisohn Stadium in New York.  (The Royal Albert Hall, site of the annual Proms concerts, sits 5,550.)  He later said:”The development of artistic taste is another benefit of contact with the public.  The artist learns what influences the masses, what is better for the elite, and what touches everybody's heart.  Art does not belong to the artist only. True art must benefit everybody, otherwise it is not art.  I have to say that I have developed the highest respect for what is called ‘the popular voice.’  Yet the public is a wonder, full of pure instinct, open heart, and the ability to marvel.  At the same time, it is lacking conscience and logic, but these are the qualities that the artist must have to be able to learn from his public.”  I don’t tire of saying that the audience is the final arbiter.  It can make bad judgments in the short term but in the long run, it is always right.  Maybe Huberman was saying the same thing.  In this day of internet promotion, his words cannot be taken too lightly.  He knew well the need to create something other than just the music, just as Paganini did more than 200 years ago.  Of course, Huberman was a brilliant violinist who practiced tirelessly.  Still, that alone is not enough.  There is nothing like drama – tragedy, courage, and triumph - to get the imagination soaring. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bronislaw Huberman

BronisÅ‚aw Huberman was a Polish violinist, teacher, and writer born on December 19, 1882 (Brahms was 49 years old.) He is best known for founding the Israel Philharmonic and for his individualistic style of playing. He is also the only concert violinist who had the same violin stolen from him twice – the 1713 Gibson Stradivarius – in 1919 and again in 1936. As Jacques Thibaud before him, he had to spend a year rebuilding his technique after a plane crash (in 1937.) (Thibaud’s hand injuries were suffered while he served in the armed forces in the First World War. His later plane crash in 1953 was fatal.) He also married an actress, just as Pinchas Zukerman did much later – not the same actress, of course. He also advocated a United Europe, but mostly in his writings and lectures (though he did confer with some high-ranking political leaders.). Later, he had a public disagreement with a German conductor over his refusal to play in Germany after 1932. Violin pedagogue Carl Flesch had an intense dislike for him, though I don’t know why. It may have been because he simply didn't like his style of playing.  Huberman was known in his time for being nervous, intense, and having strong convictions about everything.  Those qualitites were probably reflected in his playing as well.  Huberman first studied with Mieczyslaw Michalowicz and Maurycy Rosen from the Warsaw Conservatory and with Isidor Lotto in Paris (the study with Lotto may have been in Warsaw as well.) He played a Spohr concerto in public at age 7. From age ten, 1892 until about 1896, he studied with Joseph Joachim in Berlin, although his lessons with Joachim were sporadic – Joachim was absent from Berlin quite often. Huberman later said that another teacher – Charles Gregorovitch (student of Wieniawski) - had taught him everything he (Huberman) knew. However, he also studied with Joachim’s assistant (Karl Markees), Hugo Heermann in Frankfurt, and Martin Marsick in Paris. By the time he was 12, he had already toured Holland and Belgium. When he played in London a little later on, he was not as successful as he had been elsewhere. Back in Germany, despite his growing reputation, there were few concerts to play and money became very scarce. He had become the sole provider for his family and things began to take a desperate turn. It has been stated that during this time (1894), in Paris, Count Andrzej Zamoyski presented the Gibson Stradivarius violin to him.  (This particular Count Zamoyski was the son of Count Stanislaw Kostka Andrzej Zamoyski – there are several Counts from this family named Andrzej. Other sources have him receiving the violin from either Count Jan Florian Zamoyski, Count Maurycy Klemens Zamoyski, or the Austrian Emperor in that same year - 1894. However, a respected violin site - Cozio - has him acquiring the violin in 1911, not 1894.  According to the Huberman Archives in Tel Aviv, Huberman himself bought the violin in 1911. Obviously, these discrepancies need to be reconciled and I am therefore pursuing a solution to this seemingly simple riddle.)  In that year also, Adelina Patti, a singer who was well-known back then, invited Huberman to play with her on her farewell tour coming up in 1895. Though he only played at her last concert (January 22, 1895), things went well for Huberman and his family after that - the concert was a huge and critical success for them. He was still only 12 years old. The following January (1896) turned out to be a memorable one, too. Everyone agreed that he was brilliant and unencumbered in his interpretations. At one of his concerts in Vienna (January 29, 1896), he played the Brahms concerto. Brahms was present (among other great musicians), sitting in the balcony, and was incredibly impressed. The critics called him a genius. After 1896, he had no need for further lessons. In November of that year, he toured the U.S., making his debut at Carnegie Hall (New York) with the Mendelssohn concerto on November 21. He was 13 years old. It would be 25 years before he would return (1921). His playing was often described as very original, authoritative, and impetuous, but his tone was said to be somewhat un-beautiful, lacking finesse, sweetness, and warmth. In Europe, he had performed for royalty – including the Austrian Emperor - in the U.S., he played for wealthy patrons. In 1897 and 1898 he toured Russia. After that tour, he took three years off to rest and practice some more – perhaps also to help care for his sick father (who died in 1902.) Though he disliked recording, he did some of that in 1900. He later recorded (among other things, for Columbia Records) the Tchaikovsky concerto (1928-1929), becoming, according to some sources, the first violinist to do so. He toured Italy in 1903 and even played a recital on Paganini’s Cannone Guarnerius – a replica of which luthier Daniel Houck has constructed for me. Up to that time, only Camillo Sivori (Paganini’s pupil) had played the famous violin – Ruggiero Ricci, Eugene Fodor, Salvatore Accardo, Regina Carter, Dmitri Berlinsky, In Mo Yang, Maxim Vengerov, Gerard Poulet, and Leonid Kogan have also played the Cannone since then. He continued to tour extensively and very successfully – including South America - for the rest of his life. After 1932 he did not play in Germany. In 1937, he left Vienna for Switzerland. A year after the airplane accident (1937), he returned to the stage with a concert in Egypt. In 1939, he moved to New York but returned to Switzerland after the end of the Second World War. YouTube has many sound recordings of his on its site. Here is a sample of one of them. Huberman died on June 16, 1947 at age 64. It has been suggested that he died in his sleep. Joshua Bell now plays the twice-stolen Gibson Strad.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Strange Case of Joseph Tang - the conclusion

While it appears that Joseph Tang got away with a lot, it could have been much worse - he never dealt in really pricy violins ($250,000 and above), though perhaps he did want to get to that top tier.  His downfall came as a result of his effort to fool everyone all the time.  Tang should have known it cannot be done.  Many people are attracted to beautiful masterpieces, be they paintings or violins or jewels or books or furniture.  Some take that appreciation for beauty to the level of an obsession.  They will do almost anything (that does not involve violence) to acquire a masterpiece – one or several.  There are many forgers too, who are gifted at replicating exact copies of instruments or paintings or anything worth the trouble.  They sell the copies in lieu of the originals or simply fabricate new works (forgeries) and masterfully antique them.  Elmyr de Hory, David Stein, and Han van Meegeren were three such artists.  They fooled the world’s greatest experts.  This is, of course, the key.  If you can’t fool an expert, then what’s the point?  Imagine discovering an old manuscript by Vivaldi or Bach or Mozart.  Who would authenticate it?  No one would call Jean Baptiste Vuillaume a forger, though he could replicate a violin so perfectly even the owner could not tell the difference.  As early as 1685, none other than Tomasso Antonio Vitali (the assumed composer of the famous Chaconne in g minor – the authenticity of the piece itself is very much in question) claimed to have been fooled by a violin dealer, Francesco Capilupi.  He purchased what was supposed to be a Nicolo Amati violin which turned out to really be a Francesco Ruggieri.  The dealer had placed a false label right on top of the real one and Vitali claimed he paid four times as much as the violin was really worth because he thought it was an Amati.  (Interestingly, today, those violins are of almost equal value.)  Nonetheless, labels are not the only things that can be faked - well-trained violin makers can artificially distress the varnish, simulate wear patterns, insert neck grafts for purported proof of conversion from baroque fingerboards and necks to a more modern neck length, and create strategically placed repaired cracks with interior studs and patches.  In 1997 and 1999, the estate of Englishman Gerald Segelman (who died in 1992, leaving a large collection of rare violins), alleged that several violin dealers and investors defrauded Segelman's charitable trust by providing low appraisals of the instruments (in the collection) before purchasing them from the estate, then selling the instruments to one another at steep markups.  Some of the transactions involved highly reputable dealers in London and Chicago (who need to remain anonymous.)  The estate claimed that investors made six and seven-figure profits on individual Segelman instruments.  In one instance, one dealer allegedly acquired a Guarnerius violin from Segelman for $950,000 and quickly resold it for $2.3 million.  Shortly after the start of the London trial in 2001, one dealer settled, agreeing to pay the estate $4.5 million.  By 2004, every single case had been settled out of court.  Nobody pled guilty and nobody went to jail.  However, not every case of this sort has a happy ending.   In November, 2008, a violin teacher in Rome who was caught selling fake antique violins to his students for vast sums, hanged himself in his apartment.  Sergei Dyachenko, the teacher, had already confessed that he had bought violins at a flea market in Rome and sold them to his students at hundreds of times their true value.  One of his students had bought a violin from him for $830,000.  Dyachenko claimed the instrument had been made in Italy in 1784.  Experts found that the violin was a much newer German model, worth only $3,800.  In addition to all this chicanery, there are also several very valuable stolen violins out there which have never been recovered.  When a valuable instrument is stolen, the insurance company will cover the loss but it will never forget.  Such a thing occurred when the famous Gibson Stradivarius (1713) was located in 1987, after having been stolen in 1936.  The insurance company initially paid the owner $30,000 for the loss but, in 1987, again had to pay a $263,000 finder’s fee in order to acquire it.  They could have paid a lot more but they didn’t.  In 1988, after the instrument had undergone some minor repairs, the company sold it for $1.2 million.  In 2001, violinist Joshua Bell paid $4 million for it.  Had Joseph Tang worked himself up to this level of dealing, he may well have made himself a fortune.  Instead, he decided to cheat a little girl out of $1,250. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Strange Case of Joseph Tang

On the evening of November 28, 2007, Joseph Tang, twenty-something Canadian violinist, played a concert (featuring some of Beethoven's most heroic music) at Beall Hall in Eugene, Oregon.  When he got done, he was arrested backstage, though not for playing out of tune or playing too many wrong notes.  Tang, a sometime student at San Francisco State University and the University of Oregon, was arrested on federal fraud charges for cheating several violin collectors and dealers out of thousands of dollars in the sale of violins from April, 2002 through December, 2006 – ten counts in all.  Each count carried a maximum 20-year sentence – a total of 200 years.  There were actually more victims involved than those of record but several dealers and buyers could not press charges because there was no documentation for their transactions.  Some of San Francisco’s well-known violin dealers were among those strung along by Tang, as well as people from as far away as Japan, Germany, England, and Sweden.  A single collector (who should remain anonymous) lost close to $150,000, according to his own estimate.  For centuries, in the violin trade, dealers, buyers, and brokers, when engaged in a potential sale, have trusted each other implicitly and violins have been borrowed, lent, and played without so much as a tiny, dated receipt changing hands.  So it went with Tang.  He accepted many instruments on consignment (bows, too), sold them, and ran with the money.  It took one irate client to bring Tang down.  The instrument in question was a cheap, $1,250 violin.  The victim was a retired police officer who wanted the violin for his little daughter.  The officer said the violin was not what Tang claimed it was.  He wanted his money back but Tang ignored him then disappeared.  The officer complained to the U.S. postal inspector.  The inspector investigated then pressed charges.  After making a court appearance, Tang was released on bail.  Many people claimed he actually stole more than a million dollars, though most of it (of course) could not be substantiated.  A retired math professor who invested all of his savings in violin acquisitions claimed Tang took everything he had.  Some time later (2008), Tang pled guilty and was sentenced to 37 months in jail and ordered to pay more than $400,000.  He is due out in November, 2011.  (to be continued)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kathleen Parlow

Kathleen Parlow was a Canadian violinist and teacher born (in Calgary) on September 20, 1890 (Stravinsky was 8 years old.)  Today, although there is an abundance of information about her everywhere, she is largely forgotten.  Her biography reads – at least somewhat – like that of Camilla Urso and Guila Bustabo combined.  She never actually studied in Canada.  As a concert violinist, she struggled to make ends meet and finally settled for a teaching career after thirty years of concertizing.  Parlow was said to possess a sweet, legato sound that made her seem to be playing with a nine-foot bow and was admired for her effortless playing.  At age four, she began her violin studies with a cousin, Conrad Coward, in San Francisco (USA). At age six, she gave her first recital.  Still in San Francisco, she continued her studies with Henry Holmes (pupil of Louis Spohr), who helped her obtain playing engagements in England, where he had many good contacts.  The expenses for her (and her mother’s) trip and stay in England were paid by Harriet Pullman Carolan of San Francisco, a wealthy admirer.  After getting settled there, she played at Wigmore Hall (then known as Bechstein Hall), Buckingham Palace, and other places.  She also performed with the London Symphony.  She was fifteen years old.  In 1906, through the sponsorship of a Canadian industrialist (Lord Strathcona – also known as Donald Alexander Smith), she travelled to Russia for further study.  She became the first foreign student enrolled at the St Petersburg Conservatory.  Her teacher there was Leopold Auer.  Her classmates included Efrem Zimbalist (founder of the Curtis Institute) and Mishel Piastro (for a time, concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony.)  She gave nine solo recitals in St Petersburg and learned Alexander Glazunov's violin concerto which she subsequently performed frequently.  (Glazunov was then the Director of the Conservatory.)  Glazunov later chose her to play his concerto at the Ostend Music Festival in 1907, at which he was a featured composer.  She also appeared in Finland several times and even met Jean Sibelius (some sources claim she never met him) whose concerto she often played.  Also in 1907, she made her debut in Berlin, thereafter touring in Europe.  Parlow later said that, after expenses, her Berlin debut netted her exactly ten pounds.  She did not know it at the time but this was an indication of what her future would be like.  She would study with Auer each summer in order to prepare additional repertoire for subsequent tours.  With time, that repertoire became very extensive.  It has been said that she played more than 375 concerts between 1908 and 1915.  In Norway, Einar Bjornson – part of the well-to-do Bjornson family - gave her the Viotti Guarnerius (1735) to play on (1908 - 1962.)  She also several times played for the King and Queen of Norway.  Her first tour in North America began in 1910.  In 1911, the New York Herald declared her “one of the phenomena of the musical world,” on a par with Mischa Elman.  She also made her first appearance with the Toronto Symphony in February of 1911 – the first of many.  Between 1912 and 1925 she lived in England (at Meldreth, near Cambridge) and continued her touring, including tours to China, the U.S., Korea, and Japan (where she recorded for the Nipponophone Company.)  In 1912, she played a benefit concert in New York for the survivors of the Titanic disaster.  She was highly praised everywhere she played.  Her mother, to whom she was very close, accompanied her on all her tours.  She recorded several small pieces for Columbia Records between 1914 and 1916.  As far as I know, she never recorded after that.  Between 1917 and 1919 she was not able to tour outside England due to travel restrictions (due to the First World War.)  In 1920, she toured the U.S. for the fifth time and made her first radio broadcast (from Seattle, in 1922.)  Considering that her prospects in England were not as good as they had been on the Continent of Europe, they (Parlow and her mother) decided to move to San Francisco (U.S.A. - 1926).  It has been stated that she suffered a mental (nervous) breakdown in 1927, perhaps due to a broken personal relationship.  They then took a year off, about which – understandably - little is known.  In 1929, she toured Mexico – travelling without her mother for the first time.  She was 39 years old.  Despite playing many concerts there and receiving very high praise, financially, she barely broke even.  She later told an interviewer that, when things were very hard, she and her mother had talked about her getting a job to ensure their security for the future but that she just couldn’t do it.  She ended up teaching at Mills College (Oakland, California) from 1929 to 1936.  They moved to New York in 1936.  From 1935 to 1941 she taught in Massachusetts during the summers.  In 1941 she was offered a job at the Toronto College of Music and began making appearances with orchestras, a duo she formed with pianist Ernest MacMillan, the Canadian Trio (with Zara Nelsova, cellist, and Macmillan), and a string quartet – the Parlow String Quartet which was active for fifteen years.  During this time, she was being assisted financially by Godfrey Ridout (Canadian composer, teacher, writer, and conductor) and other friends.  In October of 1959 she was made head of the string department at the London College of Music (Western Ontario, Canada.)  Among her pupils were Victor Feldbrill, Joseph Pach, and Marjorie Edwards.  In 1982, the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) broadcast a three-part radio series about her career.  The Kathleen Parlow Scholarship was set up with the proceeds from the sale of her Guarnerius and other money from her estate.  YouTube has a few videos of her playing (sound only), one of which contains exceptionally fast trills – faster than Heifetz , Prihoda, or Rabin.  Parlow died on August 19, 1963, at age 72.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why Dilettante went down

This will sound off topic, but.... Most of us have heard that the music web site Dilettante was shut down recently. I can only provide a good guess as to the reason but I bet it is close or right on target: it ran out of money. Many small businesses fail for the same reason – not enough up-front capital. However, there is a difference in this case and that is that the site is (was) an arts site. As such, it needed patrons - the kind that help fuel the top orchestras and ballet companies and museums of the world - not investors and not more members and not more advertisers. Without philanthropy, the arts would be dead. That’s not the way things should be, but, as long as the massive money goes to Frank Sinatra and Liberace and the Beatles and Lady Gaga, that’s the way it is. With patrons by his side, Mozart might have lived a longer life. Bach and Handel and Haydn and Beethoven and Wagner and Stravinsky did. What does any of this have to do with violins? We are all in this together, whether we are on stage front and center at the Met or playing last chair in the second violin section of a small regional orchestra.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vladimir Spivakov

Vladimir Spivakov (Vladimir Teodorovich Spivakov) is a Russian violinist, conductor, and teacher born on September 12, 1944 (Heifetz was 43 years old.)  He is best known as the Director of the Moscow Virtuosi, a Russian chamber orchestra.  However, he was also the conductor of the Russian National Orchestra (1999-2002 – this is a privately-owned orchestra founded by pianist Mikhail Pletnev.) and has guest-conducted numerous orchestras outside of Russia, including the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, the Houston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the London Symphony, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.  He first formally studied at Moscow’s Central School of Music, under Lubov Siegal.   After that, he continued his studies with Veniamin Sher at the music school of the Leningrad Conservatory (1956-1960), and with Yuri Yankelevich at the Moscow Conservatory, graduating in 1967.  It is not common knowledge that he also studied with David Oistrakh.  By age 13, he had already won first prize in a conducting competition in Moscow.  Conducting he studied with Israel Gusman in Russia and later on with Leonard Bernstein and Lorin Maazel in the U.S.  For a while, he used Bernstein’s baton to conduct all his concerts - the baton was a 1984 gift from Bernstein.  He might still be using it.  While still in school (in Russia) and after graduation, Spivakov won prizes in several competitions, including the Thibaud in Paris (1965), Paganini in Genoa (1967), the Montreal (1969), and the Tchaikovsky in Moscow (second place after Gidon Kremer, 1970.)  By 1970, he was an established concertizing violinist in Russia and Europe.  He first played in New York (USA) in 1975 (in recital) and 1976 (two recitals in Carnegie Hall.)  He toured with the Moscow State Orchestra in 1977.  In that same year, he made his debut with the London Symphony.  On January 11, 1979, Spivakov made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in New York, playing Haydn’s first violin concerto; however, he had already played with the Philharmonic in Leningrad, Russia (on September 8, 1976 with Leinsdorf conducting.)  Henceforth, Spivakov visited the U.S. regularly and played with the orchestras of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and San Francisco, among others, under various well-known conductors.  In the summer of 1979 he made his U.S. debut as a conductor with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois (about 20 miles North of Chicago.)  In that same year, he founded the Moscow Virtuosi, with which he has until now appeared both as violinist and conductor all over the world.  The Moscow Virtuosi was originally made up of Russia's international prize winners but did not enjoy official recognition – and public funding that goes with it – until 1983.  In 1989 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Colmar International Festival in France, which has become one of Europe's leading music festivals, though I had not heard of it until now.  He then (1989) emigrated to Spain where he remained for a few years and where the Moscow Virtuosi had been granted (by someone in the aristocracy) a five-year residency in Madrid.  It is stated in some sources that he also taught at the Madrid Conservatory though I doubt he spent much time there.  Spivakov is also known as a humanitarian and social figure.  In May 1994 (some sources say 1993) he established the Vladimir Spivakov International Charitable Foundation to support young talented musicians, painters, and dancers, and to help orphans in Russia, providing medical care for critically ill children and wheelchairs for disabled young people.  He has worked on behalf of victims of the Stalin regime (1933-1953) and children who suffered from the nuclear power plant accident in Chernobyl.  He has received some of the highest honors available to civilian Russian citizens.  He is also the founder of the European Sakharov Foundation.  Vladimir Spivakov has made more than 40 recordings of a variety of works for the BMG/RCA Red Seal label and there are several videos of his playing on YouTube.  Also for RCA Red Seal, he has recorded the violin concertos of Brahms, Prokofiev, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky.  In 2003, at the suggestion of then Russian President Vladimir Putin, Spivakov formed the National Philharmonic of Russia of which he is now Artistic Director and Principal Conductor.  Just as William Primrose has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Spivakov had, on September 12, 1994, a real star named after him by the Russian International Observatory.  I don’t know where that star is located.  His teacher (Yankelevich) bequeathed to him a Francesco Gobetti violin (1716) which Spivakov used until 1997.  After 1997, Spivakov has used a Stradivarius violin (1712) provided for life by his friends.