Sunday, May 22, 2011

Joseph Lambert Massart

Joseph Lambert Massart was a Belgian violinist and teacher born (in Liege) on July 19, 1811 (Paganini was 29 years old and would live another 29.)  He performed as a soloist only infrequently and devoted most of his time to teaching. As a young student, because he was not admitted to the Paris Conservatory (because he was a foreigner), he took private lessons with Rodolphe Kreutzer.  Luigi Cherubini (the Italian composer) was the Conservatory Director at the time. Paradoxically, at age 32, he was accepted as a Professor at the same Conservatory (1843.)  He then taught there for 47 years.  Massart performed Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata with none other than Franz Liszt – his teacher had previously rejected it as unintelligible.  Among Massart’s students were legendary violinists Isidor Lotto, Fritz Kreisler, Franz Reis, Eugene Ysaye, Pablo Sarasate, Julius Conus, Teresina Tua, Arma Senkrah, and Henryk Wieniawski.  When one teaches for forty seven years, one is bound to find at least a few good students.  Among this group, Pablo Sarasate and Fritz Kreisler are the only ones who produced no extraordinary students although, to be fair, Kreisler did teach Samuel Dushkin, the violinist who premiered Stravinsky's violin concerto.  Massart has been credited with the origination of the systematic vibrato.  This is his claim to fame, since he is not among the trio of violinists who earlier established the violin method taught at the Paris Conservatory – Rode, Baillot, and Kreutzer.  It has been conjectured that Kreisler championed such a system, though it was widely criticized at the time, being considered a little too emotive and perhaps even vulgar.  Massart was also a chamber music player and gave many concerts with his wife (Louise Aglae Marson), who was a pianist.  He died in Paris on February 13, 1892, at age 80.  Other than in connection with his famous pupils, his name is infrequently mentioned nowadays.

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