Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bernard Chevalier

Bernard Chevalier is an American violinist and teacher born on October 21, 1949 (Heifetz was 48 years old.)  He typifies the violinist who, despite having the ability to perform as a soloist on any stage in the world, deliberately chooses to work with a group of colleagues like himself – a professional orchestra’s string section.  In Chevalier’s case, it’s the San Francisco Symphony’s first violin section.  Playing in a prestigious professional orchestra requires highly developed skills that soloists often do not attend to.  After playing as a guest with many orchestras, Gil Shaham has often sat among the violin ranks (trying to look inconspicuous) to learn what it takes and to learn the orchestral repertoire, which is infinitely larger than the solo repertoire.  Leonard Friedman used to do exactly the same thing. (Concert violinist Guila Bustabo tried playing in the string section of the Alabama Symphony but was unsuccessful due to her training as a soloist.  She was also unable to read music well enough.)  Chevalier’s first teacher was Isabel Stoval (Isaac Stern’s first teacher as well, many years earlier.)  He was six years old.  After Stoval came Carol Weston, pupil of Russian pedagogue Leopold Auer (the intended dedicatee of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto.)  He later studied with Zaven Melikian, Ivan Galamian, Stuart Canin, Lazlo Varga, Andor Toth, Rolf Persinger, and Frank Houser, among others.  His debut came at age 16 with the San Francisco Symphony playing Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol.  He later joined the San Francisco Symphony at the invitation of Seiji Ozawa (who would later lead the Boston Symphony as well.)  As a violinist in one of the top orchestras in the U.S. (Gramophone listed it at number 13 in the world, right after the New York Philharmonic, which came in at 12), Chevalier has shared the stage with all of the world’s great artists, too numerous to list, and has also toured widely as soloist, chamber musician, and (needless to say) with the orchestra.  Even prior to being engaged by the San Francisco Symphony, Chevalier was already embarked on his teaching career.  His recordings include the Kreutzer book of 42 Etudes – the only recording of these works other than Steven Staryk’s - and the Caprices of Pierre Rode.  The complete Beethoven Sonatas, the 24 Paganini Caprices, and the Bach Partitas for solo violin, are already among works on his upcoming recording schedule.  Chevalier also has several videos on YouTube  - including the very seldom recorded Scene De Ballet by De Beriot - which you can view here.  Among his violins have been a Nicolas Lupot (1813 – purchased from Frank Passa, pupil of Sacconi), a Guarnerius (1728), and three violins by Anthony Lane, California Luthier (1999, 2006, and 2010.) 

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