Saturday, March 12, 2011

Isidor Lotto

Isidor Lotto (Izydor Lotto) was a Polish violinist, teacher, and composer born (in Warsaw) on December 22, 1840 (Paganini died that same year and Brahms was 7 years old.)  Some sources give the year of his birth as 1844.  Even though he lived a long life which covered some of the most outstanding events in classical music history and had a few prominent pupils in an important music school, details of his life remain obscure.  Other than that his family was poor, little is known of his early life.  His father may have been a street musician and little Isidor could well have played with him as he made the rounds of the Warsaw taverns. At age 12 (1852), he received financial backing from wealthy patrons that allowed him to study at the Paris Conservatoire.  Upon arriving in Paris, he gave a concert at Herz Hall (Salle Herz.)  His principal teachers at the Conservatory were Joseph Lambert Massart (pupil of Rodolphe Kreutzer and teacher of Eugene Ysaye, Henryk Wieniawski, and Fritz Kreisler as well), Napoleon Reber (teacher of Benjamin Goddard), and Ambroise Thomas.  At graduation (1855), he made a very successful debut in Paris.  He toured briefly in Germany and Poland after that then, in 1862, was appointed solo violinist and chamber virtuoso to the Grand Duke in Weimar (J.S. Bach lived and worked in Weimar for nine years, more than one hundred years before this.)  Lotto was either 18 or 22 years old, depending on the actual year of his birth.  He was also later appointed professor of violin at the Warsaw Conservatory (Warsaw Music Academy), all the while sporadically concertizing in Europe.  Ten years later, in 1872, he was appointed professor at the Conservatory in Strasbourg (in northeastern France, on the border with Germany, now the official seat of the European Parliament); however, due to ill health, he was mostly unable to teach there and very soon afterward returned to Warsaw.  (A usually reliable source (Grove's Dictionary, which is, of course, not infallibe) has it that Lotto taught at the Strasbourg Conservatory from 1873 to 1880.)  He taught at the Warsaw Conservatory for many years - I don’t know how many - presumably until his death.  Lotto was also concertmaster of the Warsaw Opera Orchestra during this time.  His most famous pupils were Bronislaw Huberman, who probably only studied with him for three months (either in Paris or at the Warsaw Conservatory), prior to 1892, Richard Burgin (concertmaster of the Boston Symphony), Joseph Achron (violinist-composer), Victor Young (violinist-composer), and Henryk Heller (violinist-theorist.)  A contemporary account of his playing declared that Lotto’s virtuosity rivaled Wieniawski’s, though, of course, his fame now does not even come close.  It is indicative of how carelessly some records are passed down from one generation to the next that even Lotto's year of death is in question.  According to Grove's Dictionary, Lotto died on July 13, 1927, though another very reliable source gives the year of his death as 1936 - the day itself is not in question.  Depending on which dates one relies on, he was either 82, 87, 91, or 95 years old.  The few pieces he composed for violin are now never played. 

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