Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Andrei Korsakov

Andrei Korsakov was a Russian violinist, teacher, and conductor born on May 7, 1946 (Heifetz was 45 years old and would live an additional 41.)  Korsakov was a distant relative of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian composer known for his book on orchestration and, of course, Scheherazade) and is remembered for his exquisite recordings and for having lived (as did Michael Rabin, Paul Kochanski, and Julian Sitkovetsky) a very short life.  His daughter is concert violinist Natasha Korsakova.  (Korsakov was fluent in three languages – German, Russian, and French – Korsakova is fluent in five.)  It is worth noting that few concert violinists have daughters who grow up to be concert violinists themselves – it is usually sons who follow in their footsteps – Mozart, Kogan, Oistrakh, Sitkovetsky, Markov, and Kaler come to mind.  Korsakov began violin studies with his father, Boris Korsakov, at the Central School in Moscow, at age 7.  He made his debut in 1954 (perhaps 1955), at the Moscow Conservatory.  He was either 8 or 9 years old.  By age 18 he was studying at the Moscow Conservatory with Boris Belenky and Leonid Kogan (famous pupil of Abram Yampolsky.)  Korsakov concertized regularly in Russia, Europe, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S from that point forward.  While still a student, he had already won prizes at the Paganini Competition in Genoa, the Jacques Thibaud Competition in Paris, and the Montreal Competition in Canada.  In 1971, he was awarded second prize in the Queen Elizabeth Competition (Miriam Fried was given first) though he was by far the audience favorite and felt he should have won.  It sometimes happens that juries disagree with the audience, though, as I always say, the audience has a much better instinct for what is best.  Among the jury that year were Joseph Szigeti, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, and Zino Francescatti.  (A similar thing happened to Julian Sitkovetsky at this same competition in 1955.  It happened again in 1967 with Gidon Kremer, who was awarded third prize.  Nobody remembers who came in first or second that year.)  Korsakov later taught at the Conservatory – among his pupils are Natalia Alenitsyna and Alexander Spivak.  One critic called Korsakov’s technique “brilliant and dazzling, full of beauty and nobility.  He played everything as if he were a nineteenth century virtuoso.”  In 1980, at age 34, he founded the Russian Ensemble Concertino which he conducted for 11 years.  In 1989, he became the chief conductor and Artistic Director of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra (founded by Rudolf Barshai in 1956 and originally known as the Russian State Chamber Orchestra.)  A review (by the Holland Telegraaf) stated: "Korsakov can be compared to Heifetz; he is capable of doing anything, and this ability is combined with his remarkable composure and lack of showiness." An example of his refined and breathtaking playing can be found here on YouTube. Another review (of his recording of the Bruch and Paganini first concertos) stated: "for raw electricity, this performance would be hard to beat." Other recordings (of famous showpieces) have also been described as stunning. There is also his recording of a concerto made famous by Heifetz - the Conus - which is a collector's item. It is nearly impossible to find. (Thanks to my Facebook friend - Alison Whalen - I have it.) A few of his recordings can be found here, here, and here. At one point in his career, Korsakov was named the People's Artist by the Soviet government. He initially played an Andrea Guarneri violin from the Russian State Collection and later on a Vincenzo Rogieri.  Korsakov died on January 19, 1991, at age 44.