Friday, December 28, 2012

Daniel Guilet

Daniel Guilet (Guilevitch) was a Russian violinist (some would say French or American) born (in Rostov) on January 10, 1899.  Although he was for a few years concertmaster of the famous NBC Symphony under the ill-tempered Arturo Toscanini, he is better known as the original violinist and founder of the Beaux Arts Trio.  His parents moved from Russia to Paris before the turn of the century, and he later trained at the Paris Conservatory with George Enesco.  After graduation, he toured Europe as a recitalist with Maurice Ravel as his accompanist.  He also played second violin in the Calvet String Quartet (with Joseph Calvet, Leon Pascal, and Paul Mas.)  A YouTube audio file of one of their recordings can be found here.  Guilet came to the U.S. in 1941.  He was about 41 years old.  He soon formed a quartet (which at various times included Henry Siegl, Jac Godoretzky, William Schoen, Frank Brieff, David Soyer, and Lucien Laporte) under his own name.  A YouTube performance by this quartet can be heard here.  Three years later (1944) he joined the NBC Symphony.  Seven years after that (1951), he became its concertmaster and remained in that position after Toscanini retired in 1954, although the orchestra had to change its name – a string quartet from the NBC orchestra which included Emanuel Vardi and Daniel Guilet, used to play for the retired maestro at his home almost every Sunday in order to cheer him up.  In that same year (1954), Guilet formed the Beaux Arts Trio with pianist Menahem Pressler and cellist Bernard Greenhouse.  The trio gave its first concert on July 13, 1955 and its last on September 6, 2008.  Guilet retired from the trio in 1968 and from playing altogether (publicly) in 1969.  The trio (featuring Guilet) has a few audio files on YouTube although files and videos with subsequent violinists are more numerous.  One such audio file is here.  After his retirement, Guilet taught at Indiana University, the Manhattan School of Music, the Royal Conservatory in Canada (Montreal), Oklahoma University, and Baylor University (Waco, Texas.)  He owned a JB Vuillaume violin from 1867, a Carlo (or Michele Angelo) Bergonzi from 1743, and a 1727 Guarnerius Del Gesu which he got rid of in 1973 (after he retired from playing) and which passed through the hands – perhaps in 1998 - of infamous violin dealer Dietmar Machold, who is now in prison for defrauding clients and banks.  I’m guessing Guilet used the Vuillaume and Bergonzi violins for most of his recordings since the Guarnerius was not acquired until 1965.  The violin now bears Guilet’s name.  Guilet died in New York on October 14, 1990, in relative obscurity, at age 91.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sherlock Holmes quote

“There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen.”  - Arthur Conan Doyle, quoting Sherlock Holmes 
Holmes was talking about the London weather, which can sometimes be nasty. The quote is from the story entitled The Five Orange Pips. If you have played for some time, you know full well that once you get "into" your playing, you forget pretty nearly every other problem or concern you have - the violin is like a refuge from mundane matters. Perhaps the reason is not a poetic one, but a practical one - it takes a lot of concentration so you are simply not able to focus on anything else with meaningful intensity. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Robert Schumann quote

“If we were all determined to play the first violin we should never have an ensemble.  Therefore, respect every musician in his proper place.”  Robert Schumann, pianist-composer   

Schumann had the right idea. Throughout history, the orchestra has supported innumerable musicians of considerable talent. Many orchestral players have gone ahead to forge great music careers after leaving the orchestra. Those players include Israel Baker, Max Bendix, Elias Breeskin, Pablo Casals, Carmine Coppola, Joseph Joachim, Louis Spohr, Heimo Haitto, Neville Marriner, Frank Miller, Charles Munch, Eugene Ormandy,  Arturo Toscanini, Roberto Diaz, Mischa Elman, Zino Francescatti, Leonard Rose, Joseph Fuchs, Milton Katims, William Primrose, Josef Gingold, Daniel Guilet, Alan Gilbert, Felix Galimir, Orlando Barera, Mischa Mischakoff, Louis Persinger, Andor Toth, Gerard Schwarz, Oscar Shumsky, Peter Stolyarski, Theodore Thomas, Lynn Harrell, Jaap Van Zweden, Emanuel Vardi, Tossy Spivakovsky, and Eugene Ysaye.  You never know if you'll be sharing a stand with the  next Mischa Elman, Alan Gilbert, or Arturo Toscanini.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Isaac Stern quote

"Outsiders always look for a reason to explain why they are not inside.  They never look in the mirror. Let's face it, the profession I'm in is a very simple and a very cruel one. There is no way that you can create a career for someone without talent and no way to stop a career of someone with talent." - Isaac Stern,  violinist 
Stern was sometimes accused of getting in the way of artists he didn't like. This was part of his response to that criticism.  I think it's very likely that people can and do suppress careers for whatever reasons they may have - professional jealousy, vengeance, financial gain, personal differences....  It happened to Mozart and Zelenka, just to name two. The irony (sometimes) is that those artists who are "black-listed" can (with time) come back and surpass those who tried to stand in the way.  If Stern was ever one of those who actually dampened someone's career, he won't suffer for it - he was too great an artist. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Napoleon quote

"I love power, but it is as an artist that I love it.  I love it as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies."  Napoleon Bonaparte   
It has been said that Napoleon once damaged a cello (the Duport Stradivarius) by holding it in position with his stirrups – while trying to play it.  The cello was owned (for a long time) by cellist-conductor Mstislav Rostropovich.  As far as I know, his heirs have not yet sold it. It is valued in the millions. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jascha Heifetz quote

"I occasionally play works by contemporary composers and for two reasons: First, to discourage the composer from writing any more and, secondly, to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven." - Jascha Heifetz, violinist  
I'm pretty sure Heifetz said this half-jestingly. The serious half is what bothers me, although I might have said this myself.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Artur Rodzinski quote

"Every violinist is a Misha or Sasha who has been built up by his parents to be a Heifetz and sweep the world.  In the second fiddle section he has to play tremolo—ta-ta-ta. A soloist never plays tremolo. How do I make them like the ta-ta-ta?  By building their self-respect, by calling them to my room, by endless talks…  [Hearing a great soloist] brings back their childhood memories of how they planned to be soloists.  Orchestral work is maybe 75 percent psychology."  Said to an interviewer by Artur Rodzinski, conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony. 
This quote pretty much sums up the view held by conductors and players alike. The Misha and the Sasha he mentions probably refers to Misha Elman and Sasha Jacobsen, just spelled a little differently. I'm guessing about that, of course. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Heimo Haitto

Heimo Haitto was a Finnish violinist, teacher, conductor, writer, and actor born (in Viipuri, Finland) on May 22, 1925.  He is Finland’s most famous violinist, although he is now (unjustly) forgotten.  Haitto was a notorious, unconventional classical musician, in the style of Nicolo Paganini, Arthur Hartman, Elias Breeskin, and Eugene Fodor.  He was a gambler and loved drinking, although it has been said he was not an alcoholic.  He deliberately turned his concertizing career off a couple of times.  For a time, he actually lived the life of a vagabond, being literally homeless, traveling by train, in boxcars.  However, notwithstanding all of the turmoil, idiosyncrasies, romantic excesses, and bohemian lifestyle, he was a brilliant violinist and a genuine artist.  I think it can be said he had an extraordinary zest for life.  YouTube now contains some of his performances.  As Pinchas Zukerman has done, Haitto married a cellist (Beverly LeBeck, pupil of Pablo Casals) and, later on, an actress (Marja-Liisa Nisula.)  He married a third time in the mid 1970s.  Haitto’s playing style reminds me somewhat of Ivry Gitlis.  Haitto wrote his memoirs in the early 1970s (Heimo Haitto Maailmalla - published in 1976) but I don’t think there’s an English translation available.  He also published a book on his violin playing experiences in 1994 - Viuluniakka Kulkurina.  Although his father worked for the railroad, he was also a violinist and gave Haitto his first lessons, beginning at age 5.  At age 9, Haitto’s father took him to the Vyborg Music Academy and left him entirely in the care of professor Boris Sirpo (1893-1967.)  (Vyborg and Viipuri are one and the same city.)  Under Sirpo’s tough and rigid supervision, Haitto practiced almost constantly.  At age 13, Haitto made his public debut in Helsinki with the Helsinki Philharmonic and Sirpo on the podium.  He also appeared in his first movie – Soldier’s Bride – playing the part of a boy violinist.  In that same year he won an international violin competition sponsored by the British Council of Music in London and soon after briefly toured the Scandinavian countries.  In that year also, due to the Russian-Finnish war, Sirpo brought Haitto to the U.S. to tour on behalf of the Red Cross.  In fact, Haitto's Guarnerius had been destroyed in an air raid.  By then, Haitto had already been studying rigorously under Sirpo’s very strict tutelage for five years.  According to some sources, Haitto was not allowed to have contact with his family during those years.  Arriving in the U.S. in February of 1940, Haitto appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra in April of that year, playing the Paganini D major concerto.  That was his U.S. debut.  He also soloed with many other American orchestras.  He played in Carnegie Hall under John Barbirolli as well.  Eventually, accompanied by Sirpo, he settled in Portland, Oregon in 1942.  Most European artists arriving in the U.S in those years chose to begin their American careers from home bases in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, or even Chicago, but not Haitto.  In 1943, Haitto was released by his strict teacher and set out on his own.  He then settled in Los Angeles.  There, he played in the Los Angeles Philharmonic (September/1952 to May/1954) and in Hollywood studio orchestras but appeared far and wide as a soloist as well.  He was 18 years old.  He also appeared in another movie: There is Magic in Music.  That's the same movie that violinist Patricia Travers appeared in as a very young teenager. One source says he enlisted in the military but another says he was not accepted because he was foreign-born.  In actuality, he desired to be a parachutist in the Marine Corps but his enlistment was declined, even though he had a letter of recommendation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Instead, he was made a part of the Army Special Services.  That's how he ended up in New York.  Among the group that was in that Special Services Unit with Haitto were Ruggiero Ricci, Red Skelton, Mickey Rooney, and Eddie Fisher.  In New York, he studied privately with Ivan Galamian, famous teacher at Juilliard.  Haitto and Isaac Stern became friends there during this time - Stern was studying with Louis Persinger.  With five other violinists, Haitto performed Paganini's 24 Caprices, each Caprice being alternately played by each violinist until all five played together at the end.  Later, in Los Angeles, Haitto became friends with Jascha Heifetz and was a guest at Heifetz' house many times.  Haitto had married Beverly LeBeck in New York in the spring of 1945.  He was 20 years old.  His new wife later (like him) became a cellist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic - 1949-1950 and, again, 1954-1955.  Evidently, they did not play in the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the same time.  Brilliant as he was, Haitto was dismissed from the orchestra due to excessive absences and other problems.  It has been reported that he loved to go to Las Vegas and gambled heavily.  During the 1950s, he concertized and became the conductor of an orchestra in Salem, Oregon.  Haitto and Beverly moved to Seattle after Beverly left the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  He eventually became the concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony and also conducted a youth orchestra at the Cornish School of Arts in Seattle.  The third photo (circa 1955) shows Beverly and Haitto in the kitchen of the home of a close friend in Seattle.  The photo is courtesy of Mr Ed Vainio, now a resident of Montana (USA), in whose parents' home the photo was taken.  Haitto visited Finland in 1948 and again in 1956.  He moved to Mexico City and lived there (with Beverly LeBeck) between 1960 and 1962, serving as concertmaster of an orchestra, but I don’t know which orchestra.  At the time, there were four professional orchestras in the city.  In 1962, Beverly LeBeck began playing in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (New York.)  Haitto spent the years between 1963 and 1965 in Finland.  After divorcing LeBeck, he married Marja-Liisa Nisula (the actress) in 1964 but divorced her 2 years later.  From 1965 to about 1976, he was a vagabond (in the U.S.) and even spent some time in jail.  In 1976, Haitto returned to Finland permanently and began to practice again.  He was 51 years old.  He also remarried (Eva Vastari this time) in that year and, six months later, he was ready to play again.  Vastari had been a journalist.  In childhood he had played a Guarnerius violin but in adulthood I don’t know what he played.  He actually built two (red) violins which he used for performances and recordings.  Those violins now hang in Haitto's favorite restaurant in Helsinki - Tin Tin Tango.   Vastari and Haitto formed a duo.  She read poetry and he played.  He also did some teaching and lecturing at the Lahti Conservatory and other schools.  They finally settled in Marbella, Spain.  The photo shows him playing dominoes there.  Haitto fell ill in 1995 and died on June 10, 1999, at age 74.  Haitto made several commercial recordings which are still available, though they are not easy to find; however, his recording of the Sibelius concerto (along with Six Humoresques which Sibelius wrote as Opus 87 and Opus 89) can be found here.  Finlandia Classics has also released Haitto's recording of the Paganini concerto (number 1) and the Vieuxtemps concerto (number 4) - that release can be found here.  He also recorded for Finnish National Radio (YLE) broadcasts -  those recordings might not be available.  You can hear his unique style of playing here and here.  Most of Heimo Haitto's video and audio files can be found on this Channel - it is Tuomas Haitto's YouTube channel - Tuomas Haitto is Heimo Haitto's nephew.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Norman Carol

Norman Carol is an American violinist and teacher born (in Philadelphia) on July 1, 1928.  He is best known for being the Philadelphia Orchestra’s concertmaster from 1966 to 1994.  Among orchestral musicians and concert artists around the world, his name is instantly recognized.  When musicians speak of concertmasters, Norman Carol is one of a small handful who immediately come to mind.  He began his violin studies at age 6 and made his first public appearance at age 9.  At age 13, he entered the Curtis Institute (Philadelphia) from which he graduated in 1947.  There, he studied with Efrem Zimbalist (one of Leopold Auer’s famous pupils) and William Primrose, among others.  In that same year, Carol, then 18 or 19 years old, was invited (by conductor Serge Koussevitsky) to join the Boston Symphony but Carol declined.  He gave his Town Hall debut two years later – April of 1949.  He was 20 years old.  The debut was very successful and was highly praised.  Interestingly, Carol then joined the Boston Symphony (first violin section, but I don’t know at which desk) and played in that orchestra from 1949 until 1952.  Thereafter, he embarked on a solo career which was soon interrupted by the Korean War.  After his military service, he restarted his solo career but was soon tempted to join the New Orleans Symphony as concertmaster.  He remained there between 1956 and 1959.  In 1959, Carol became concertmaster of the Minneapolis Symphony and stayed until 1965.  He and conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski began their tenures with the Minneapolis Symphony in the same year.  In 1965, Eugene Ormandy chose Carol to lead the Philadelphia Orchestra as concertmaster and his career there began in the 1966-1967 season.  He was 39 years old.  His first of dozens of appearances with the orchestra took place on December 26, 1966.  However, he had already appeared as soloist with the orchestra back on March 12, 1954, during his brief concertizing career.  On that occasion he played the Mendelssohn concerto.  He played (in 1966) the Barber concerto, the same concerto which Albert Spalding had premiered with the orchestra (with Ormandy on the podium) in 1941.  Coincidentally, Carol was by then playing the same violin Spalding had used for his premiere performance of this concerto.  [On November 13, 1954, Carol  made his New York Philharmonic debut, playing Mozart's fifth concerto.]  Carol stayed in Philadelphia for 28 seasons.  His retirement in 1994 was mostly due to a shoulder injury he had sustained three years previously.  Other violinists who have sustained injuries which affected their careers are Rodolphe Kreutzer, Bronislaw Huberman, Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, and Erick Friedman.  It is likely that only concertmasters Richard Burgin (Boston Symphony) and Raymond Gniewek (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) exceed his longevity with a single orchestra.  He may also have been the first to play the concertos of Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, and Carl Nielsen, as well as Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade in Philadelphia.  In 1979, Carol began teaching at the Curtis Institute and is still teaching there.  He has played a 1743 Guarnerius del Gesu since about 1957.  It had been previously owned by Felix Slatkin, father of conductor Leonard Slatkin, and by Albert Spalding before him.  He has also owned a 1966 Sergio Peresson violin and a 1695 Stradivarius previously owned (and played) by American violinist Leonora Jackson and, before her, by Emil Mlynarski (one of the founders of the Warsaw Philharmonic and father-in-law of pianist Artur Rubinstein.)  One of Norman Carol's recordings – done for RCA in 1958 – is available here.