Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Isolde Menges

Isolde Menges (Isolde Marie Menges) was an English violinist born on May16, 1893 (Igor Stravinsky was 11 years old but Fritz Kreisler was already 18 years old.)  She is known for having a major prize named after her at the Royal College of Music (RCM-England.)  Menges was said to possess a very legato and fine tone and her playing was described as being soulful and exuberant.  She began her violin studies with her father.  She later studied for three years in Russia (St Petersburg) with Leopold Auer, although she was never known as one of his famous pupils.  She also studied with Carl Flesch – she was not one of his famous pupils either.  She began her concertizing career at an early age, as do most violinists, while still a very young student.  For her formal London debut in February of 1913, she played both the Tchaikovsky concerto and the Symphonie Espagnol by Eduard Lalo, something that no concert violinist today would dare do (for a debut.)  She was 19 years old.  (A few violinists – Raymond Cohen and Yehudi Menuhin, for instance - have played three concertos in one evening, but not two in a debut performance.)  Two weeks later, she played the Beethoven and the Wieniawski concertos at another concert.  Soon thereafter, she again played two concertos in a single program - the Brahms and the Glazunov concertos.  Her interpretations were highly praised and she was compared to Marie Hall.  In 1918, she spent several months teaching in Canada.  Menges was entrusted with presenting the English premiere of Ernst Von Dohnanyi’s first violin concerto (opus 27 - 1915) in 1923, a work which was later championed by another English violinist, Eda Kersey.  She also toured the U.S.  Three famous conductors with whom she worked early on were Willem Mengelberg, Bruno Walter, and Ernest Bloch.  In September 1931, she was appointed violin and chamber music teacher at the Royal College of Music in England.  She was 38 years old.  Coincidentally, she also founded the Isolde Menges Quartet in that same year.  The quartet was somewhat unusual for the time in that it brought together female and male players – Isolde Menges, Beatrice Carelle, John Dyer (viola), and Ivor James (cello.)  Menges also played and gave many concerts with a Quintet.  In 1938, her Quartet was one of the first to present the entire cycle of Beethoven Quartets in London.  Menges retired from the Royal College of Music in 1971.  She was 78 years old.  Her pupils include Leonard Salzedo, Norma Varga, Isobel Murray, and Malinee Peris.  The only YouTube performance of hers is here – Bach’s Air on the G String.  Interestingly, her brother, (conductor-composer) Herbert Menges, conducted the recordings by Joseph Szigeti, of the Brahms and the first violin concerto of Prokofiev.  Isolde Menges died on January 13, 1976, at age 83.  She is now completely forgotten, although there is a fan page on Facebook.

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