Thursday, February 16, 2012

Calvin Sieb

Calvin Sieb was an American violinist and teacher born (in Newark, New Jersey) on May 30, 1925.  He is known for having spent most of his career in France and Canada.  He started his violin studies at age five with Mandel Svet but in 1938, began his studies (privately) with Hans Letz, a well-known chamber music player and teacher of the time.  He continued with Letz until 1943, the year he graduated from Columbia High School.  He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1943 or 1944 and was discharged in 1945.  From 1945 until 1948 he was at the Juilliard School, studying with Letz and (perhaps) Ivan Galamian.  In 1949 and 1950, he studied with Emanuel Vardi, the famous violist, though at another music school.  In 1950 he went to France to study with Jacques Thibaud in Paris.  A year later, upon his return to New York, he accepted a position as violin professor at the Quebec Conservatory (1951-1956) and Assistant Conductor of the Quebec Symphony (1951-1953.)  He was 25 years old.  He was concertmaster of the CBC Symphony, with which he did a lot of studio work, from 1954 to 1958.  He then became, in 1960, concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony, remaining with the orchestra until 1979.  He was also an active recitalist and concert violinist during this time.  In 1970, he became a naturalized Canadian citizen.  While he played in the Montreal Symphony, he got to use the Laub Strad, purchased for the orchestra by John McConnell, a Canadian businessman.  According to Sieb, the first American performance of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto was played in Chicago on this instrument.  That is, of course, not true.  That American premiere performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto was given in 1889 by Maud Powell and the New York Symphony, and not with this violin.  In 1979, he relocated himself to France, where he became concertmaster of the orchestra in Toulouse.  He came back to Canada in 1989 and was appointed professor at the University of Ottawa.  He was 64 years old.  He retired from this post in 2001.  Somewhere along the way, he invented a mute and something called a violin chin rest pad.  Sieb died on May 21, 2007, at age 81.

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