Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Martin Marsick

Martin Marsick (Martin Pierre Joseph Marsick) was a Belgian violinist, teacher, and composer born on March 9, 1847.  He created a scandal toward the latter part of his life as did Jean Marie Leclair at the very end of his.  Thanks to a few of his students, he will forever remain in the history books, even if his name is not exactly the most remembered among violinists.  These students included Bronislaw Huberman, Carl Flesch, George Enesco, and Jacques Thibaud.  He is also identified with the violin David Oistrakh played from 1966 until the day he died – the Marsick Stradivarius of 1705.  That violin ended up in the hands of Igor Oistrakh, but its present whereabouts are unknown to me.  In 1854, seven-year old Marsick was admitted to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Liege (in other words, the Liege Conservatory.)  He studied violin with a very obscure teacher named Desire Heynberg and graduated in 1864.  Brahms was about 31 years old at the time.  Marsick then continued his studies in Brussels with Hubert Leonard.  Later still (1868) he went to Paris – which he made his home from that time forward - to study with Joseph Lambert Massart at the Paris Conservatory.  He was 21 years old.  Sponsored by the Belgian government, he went to Berlin in 1870 to study privately with Joseph Joachim.  In 1871, he founded a string quartet – not an unusual thing to do for recently-graduated violinists.  His debut took place in Paris in 1873.  He then concertized in Europe and the United States for about 20 years.  He was by then playing a Nicolo Amati violin from 1652, given to him by a member of the French nobility.  Conductors with whom he frequently worked in Paris included Edouard Colonne, Jules Pasdeloup, and Charles Lamoureux.  He also gave concerts with a piano trio which included Anatolyi Brandukov (teacher of Gregor Piatigorsky), and Vladimir de Pachmann (pupil of Anton Bruckner.)  In 1892, Marsick was appointed professor of violin at the Paris conservatory.  He was 45 years old.  He stayed until 1900.  In that year, he left his job, his students, and his wife and did not return until 1903.  The woman he lived with during this brief time was married and the situation, which was widely known, created a scandal.  It has been said that this incident ruined his career.  In 1906, he published a study book for violinists entitled Eureka (Opus 34, 18 pages long) and another book (Violin Grammar) published in 1924.  Perhaps these books are available in France.  Thibaud did record at least one of his pieces (Opus 6, number 2, Scherzando) about one hundred years ago and that recording is still available.  Among many other things, Marsick also composed three violin concertos, a quintet, a piano quartet, and a music drama.  Whether these works are nowadays performed is unknown – I would guess probably not, except perhaps in France.  According to some sources, Marsick died in poverty (in Paris) on October 21, 1924, at age 77.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Russian Violinists

These Russian violinists (and a few more) are included among those about whom I have written micro biographies:  Joseph Achron, Iso Briselli, Zakhar Bron, Mischa Elman, Leonard Friedman, Elizabeth Gilels, Ivry Gitlis, Boris Goldstein, Alexei Gorokhov, Eduard Grach, Jascha Heifetz, Julia Igonina, Iliana Isakadze, Ilya Kaler, Leonid Kogan, Andrei Korsakov, Natasha Korsakova, Louis Krasner, Albert Markov, Nathan Milstein, Viktoria Mullova, David Oistrakh, Anna Rabinova, Vadim Repin, Alexander Schneider, Abram Shtern, Toscha Seidel, Vladimir Spivakov, Steven Staryk, Peter Stolyarsky, Maxim Vengerov, Abram Yampolsky, Zvi Zeitlin, Efrem Zimbalist,....  Even among avid and knowledgeable concert goers, only three or four are known.  I asked a violinist colleague the other day whether he had heard a certain recording by Ivry Gitlis.  He did not even know who Gitlis was.  It is generally agreed that Heifetz, Gitlis, Kogan, Milstein, and Oistrakh, are at the very top.  The others are superlative players who for reasons known only to a few, have never achieved that rank which bequeaths an aura of violinistic sainthood of sorts – more than mere historic immortality.  Nevertheless, they form the superstructure on which the others stand, the ones against whom we identify the greatest.  It is also interesting that some of the greatest Russian players were students of a Hungarian, not Russian, violinist: Leopold Auer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Felix Galimir

Felix Galimir was an Austrian violinist and teacher born (in Vienna) on May 12, 1910.  Although he was one of the early members of the Israel Philharmonic (the Palestine Symphony Orchestra) he did not stay there long.  Today, he is mostly remembered for having taught at the Juilliard School of Music for some time and his long tenure (more than four decades) at the Marlboro Music Festival.  He also enjoyed a very successful career as an orchestral player and chamber music player.  Galimir entered the Vienna Conservatory at age 12 (some sources say age 14.)  He studied with Adolf Bak and Simon Pullman and graduated in 1928.  He played the Beethoven concerto in his public debut performance.  He studied further with Carl Flesch in Berlin in 1929 and 1930.  He had by then already founded the Galimir String Quartet with three of his sisters (1927 – the sisters were Adrienne on second violin, Renee on viola, and Marguerite on cello.)  Between 1930 and 1936, he must have had numerous engagements in Europe both with the quartet and as a soloist, though I am simply assuming that to be the case.  In 1936 (one source says 1934), he recorded Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite and Ravel’s string quartet with the Galimir Quartet.  It may have been the first recording of the Berg Suite.  Some sources claim it was the first recording of the Ravel quartet though it was not, it was the second recording of that work – the first recording of the Ravel was by the International Quartet in 1927.  The Galimir recording won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1937.  Also in 1936, he was accepted into the violin ranks of the Vienna Philharmonic although he was forced out in 1937.  He had until then only been a regular substitute player at the Vienna State Opera.  He (and two of his sisters – one of them being Renee, the violist in the quartet) then went to Palestine, having been urged to do so by violinist Bronislaw Huberman.  His father and his other sister left for Paris.  In 1938, he came to the U.S from Palestine and played a solo recital at Town Hall the same year.  He was 28 years old.  He founded another Galimir String Quartet (which played for radio broadcasts at WQXR) and joined the NBC Symphony in 1939, then being led by the ill-tempered conductor, Arturo Toscanini.  Mischa Mischakoff was the concertmaster at the time (and remained so until 1952.)  Galimir stayed until 1954, when the orchestra was disbanded.  Galimir then served as concertmaster of the NBC Symphony of the Air from 1954 until 1956.  Also in 1954, he began teaching at the City College of New York.  He finally joined the Juilliard faculty in 1962.  The Curtis Institute (Philadelphia) appointed him to its faculty in 1972 (some sources give an earlier date.)  In 1976, he began teaching at the Mannes College of Music.  Galimir recorded many times (on the Vanguard, Period, Decca, and Columbia labels) as a member of chamber groups, orchestras, or as soloist.  A rare live performance of a rarely heard Beethoven piece (on YouTube) is available here.  He remained active until just a few weeks before he died, on November 10, 1999, in New York City, at age 89.  The quartet with the Galimir name had finally disbanded in 1993, after 65 years.  Among Galimir’s students are Mark Kaplan, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Koh, Miranda Cuckson, Leila Josefowicz, and Ani Kavafian.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Edouard Dethier

Edouard Dethier (Edouard Charles Louis Dethier) was a Belgian violinist and teacher born (in Liege) on August 25, 1885.  Though he was a well-known recitalist and concert violinist for a time, he is now best remembered as a teacher at the Juilliard School of Music, since before it became the Juilliard School of Music.  He began his violin studies with his brother Gaston while still a child.  At the age of eight, he enrolled in the conservatory of his hometown (Liege), from which he graduated with a First Prize – Eugene Ysaye had studied there also (1865) as a seven-year-old child.  Dethier entered the Brussels Conservatory at age 15, winning a first prize one year later (at age sixteen) after entering the Brussels violin competition.  One year after that, he was already teaching at the Brussels Conservatory.  He was 17 years old.  He was then also appointed concertmaster of the opera orchestra of Brussels.  During his student days and early career, he was a close friend of Polish violinist, Paul Kochanski.  Dethier came to the U.S. (New York City) in 1905, establishing himself as a recitalist and teacher, although he toured for a few years.  He played the Vieuxtemps concerto in d minor (number 4) with the New York Symphony on June 6, 1905.  On November 29, 1907, he debuted with the New York Philharmonic, playing Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy.  He again soloed with this orchestra on December 18, 1910, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto.  Gustav Mahler conducted on that occasion.  By then, he had already been appointed (in 1906 or 1907 – sources vary) to the faculty of Juilliard – he was 21 years old.  As did Ivan Galamian after him, Dethier taught there until the day he died.  As far as I know, there are no commercial recordings by him and I also have no idea what violins he played.  After 1911, Dethier must have had no financial worries as he had that year married Avis Putnam, the daughter of a famous publisher.  Among his many pupils were Julius Hegyi, Robert Mann, Louis Lanza, Emanuel Vardi, Sally Thomas, Genevieve Greene, Julius Schulman, Anna Tringas, Joan Milkson, and Paul Zukofsky.  Dethier died (in New York City) on February 19, 1962, at age 76. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Arabella Steinbacher

Arabella Steinbacher is a German violinist (and pianist, as were Fritz Kreisler, Arthur Grumiaux, Louis Persinger, and as is Julia Fischer) born (in Munich) on November 14, 1981.  She is now in the forefront of concert violinists performing all over the world.  She began studying the violin with Helge Thelen at the age of three.  He was her teacher for six years.  At age nine, she became the youngest violin student of Ana Chumachenko at the Munich Academy of Music. She received further musical inspiration and guidance from Ivry Gitlis, one of the oldest living concert violinists (among whom are also Zvi Zeitlin, Camilla Wicks, Ida Haendel, Robert Mann, David Nadien, Albert Markov, Abram Shtern, and Ruggiero Ricci.)  In 2001, she was awarded a scholarship by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation.  She made her debut in March, 2004, in Paris, playing the Beethoven violin concerto, actually stepping in at the last moment for an indisposed violinist.  She was 22 years old.  Many other artists have begun their careers in similar fashion – Leonard Bernstein and Shlomo Mintz come to mind.  Steinbacher made her New York recital debut in June, 2006.  She has also already appeared with most major orchestras in the world – the New York Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic are the exceptions.  Steinbacher has recorded extensively and many videos of her playing can be found on YouTube.  One such can be found here. She received the German Record Critics Award in 2005 for her recording of both of Darius Milhaud’s rarely-heard Violin Concertos.  She now records exclusively for PentaTone Classics.  Arabella Steinbacher plays the Booth Stradivarius (1716) provided by the Nippon Music Foundation and uses a bow from luthier Benoit Rolland.