Monday, July 18, 2011

Sidney Harth

Sidney Harth was an American violinist, conductor, and teacher born (in Cleveland) on October 5, 1925 (Heifetz was 24 years old.)  He is best known for being concertmaster of several prominent American orchestras – the Louisville Orchestra (1953 - 1959), the Chicago Symphony (1959 - 1962), the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1973 - 1979.) and the New York Philharmonic (1979-1980.)  He graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1947.  His principal teachers were Mishel Piastro, Joseph Knitzer, and George Enesco.  In 1949, he won the Naumberg Award.  He was 24 years old.  He toured France as a recitalist in the 1951 - 1952 season.  Later, he won second prize in the Wieniawski violin competition in Europe (Poland – 1957.)  It created something of a sensation because he was the first American to win one of the top prizes at that competition.  His recording of the violin solos in Scheherazade with the Chicago Symphony and Fritz Reiner is still much talked about.  Harth’s first appearance with the New York Philharmonic came on June 23, 1964.  He played the Brahms double and the Beethoven Triple concertos on the same program (assisted by Leslie Parnas and Leonard Pennario.)  On January 30, 1965, he soloed with the orchestra in Wieniawski’s second concerto.  He later settled down to an orchestral career with frequent solo and conducting engagements thrown in.  In fact, in Los Angeles, he was often criticized for his numerous absences from his orchestral duties.  He performed with major orchestras in North and South America, Europe, Russia, Israel, and China.  Among the schools at which he was a violin professor or conducting teacher (or both) are the University of Louisville, the University of Texas, the University of Houston, the Mannes College of Music, Carnegie Mellon University (1963 to 1973), Yale University (for 17 years), and Duquesne University (2001 to 2011.)  His conducting career began in Louisville, where he was concertmaster and assistant conductor.  He held the same title in Los Angeles.  His career seems to mirror that of Richard Burgin except that Burgin stayed with the Boston Symphony for 42 years and Harth moved around quite a bit more.  Harth actually became musical director or principal conductor of the Puerto Rico Symphony, the Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (Durban, South Africa), Northwest Chamber Orchestra of Seattle, and the Jerusalem Symphony.  His wife (Teresa Testa) was also a professional violinist.  (Burgin’s wife was a professional violinist too.)  You can find several audio recordings of his on YouTube.  From 1957, Harth played a Domenico Montagnana violin from 1740 aptly named the Duchess of Cleaveland.  He later played a Stradivari violin constructed in 1737 that bears a fancy French name.  Harth died (in Pittsburgh) on February 15, 2011, at age 85.

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