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.  


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