Sunday, February 24, 2013

Augustin Hadelich

Augustin Hadelich is a German violinist born (in Cecina, Italy) on April 4, 1984.  He is best known for a very fast rise to stardom after winning the Indianapolis Violin Competition in 2006.  It was virtually a clean sweep of the competition since he also won special awards for the best performance in the following categories: Romantic concerto, Classical concerto, Beethoven sonata, Bach work, commissioned work, encore piece, Paganini caprice, and sonata other than Beethoven.  His reviews have been full of superlatives since the beginning of his career and, understandably, he has already appeared with most of the world’s top orchestras.  He soloed with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on October 18, 2012, playing the Symphonie Espagnol by Edouard Lalo.  He had three times previously played with this orchestra, though not in New York.  He is not yet 29 years old.  Hadelich began his violin studies at age 5 with his father, a farmer who is also a cellist.  At the time, the family was living in Riparbella, Italy (in Tuscany – Riparbella is about 30 miles south of Florence.)  From about age 7, he studied (sporadically) with, among other teachers, Uto Ughi in Siena for a few years.  He eventually ended up in the Istituto Mascagni in Livorno (Italy) from which he graduated.  He was playing recitals in Europe during this time, too.  Later on, in Berlin, he studied at the Academy of Music.  From there he came to the U.S and enrolled at Juilliard, studying with Joel Smirnoff.  Hadelich graduated from Juilliard in 2007, a year after he won the Indianapolis competition.  His discography is small but, by all accounts, brilliant.  He has recorded all of Haydn’s violin concertos and Telemann’s fantasias for violin - rarely-heard works.  He also sometimes writes his own cadenzas, something that few contemporary violinists do.  Hadelich currently plays the Kiesewetter Stradivarius (1723) but previously played the 1683 Gingold Stradivarius.  One of his many YouTube videos is here.  And here is another – yes, he is that good!   

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Szymon Goldberg

Szymon Goldberg was a Polish violinist born (in Wloclawek, Poland) on June 1, 1909.  Although he became one of the youngest concertmasters in history, he is best known for creating and leading the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra for more than two decades.  He began studying the violin at age 7 in Warsaw.  His teacher was Mieczyslaw Mihalowicz.  After a year, he went to Berlin (in 1917) where he began lessons with Carl Flesch.  At age 12, he made his debut playing a recital in Warsaw (in 1921) but continued his studies with Flesch afterward.  At age 15, he made his Berlin debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, playing three concertos: the Paganini number one, the Hungarian Concerto by Joachim, and the Bach E Major.  Only four other violinists that I know of have played three concertos in one evening – Yehudi Menuhin and Raymond Cohen are among them.  Goldberg embarked on several European tours before settling down to become concertmaster of the Dresden Philharmonic at age 16, becoming one of the youngest concertmasters on record, though not the youngest.  He remained in Dresden until 1929, at which time he became concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.  At the behest of the German government, he was forced out of that orchestra in 1934.  He was 25 years old.  During his time in Berlin, he also played in a string trio, between 1930 and 1934, with Paul Hindemith (violist) and Emmanuel Feuermann.  After his dismissal from the Berlin Philharmonic, Goldberg toured Europe and the Far East as a recitalist, accompanied by Pianist Lili Kraus, from 1935 to 1940.  He settled in London in the late 1930s and continued to play and teach.  In 1938, he made his U.S. debut in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.  He was 29 years old.  While playing a recital in Java (Indonesia) in 1942, he was arrested by the Japanese government and interned in prisoner-of-war camps until the end of the Second World War.  He resumed his career after 1945, touring far and wide.  From 1951 until 1965, he was on the faculty of the Aspen Music School (Aspen, Colorado, USA.)  In 1955, he began his conducting career in earnest by accepting the post of chief conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra.  Some sources give him credit for founding this orchestra but others do not.  He led the orchestra from 1955 until 1977.  From 1977 until 1979, he led the Manchester Camerata.  Eventually, he also guest conducted the London Symphony, the BBC Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, and the Cleveland Orchestra.  He also taught at Yale (1978-1982), Juilliard (1978-1980), the Curtis Institute (1980-1981), and the Manhattan School of Music (1981-).  Goldberg settled in Japan in 1987.  He was 81 years old.  In 1990, he was appointed conductor of the New Japan Philharmonic (Tokyo, Japan) which he led until 1993.  There are several audio files of Goldberg’s playing on YouTube, one of which is here – it is a duo played with Paul Hindemith on viola.  He also recorded many chamber music works which are easy to find on the internet.  Goldberg died (in Japan) on July 19, 1993, at age 84.  Among his pupils are Ronan Lefkowitz, Ruggero Allifranchini, Pamela Frank, and Fiona Simon.  For many years, Goldberg played the Baron Vitta Guarnerius, now owned by the Library of Congress, and the Liegnitz Stradivarius (1711.) 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Johnny Frigo

Johnny Frigo (John Virgil Frigo) was an Italian jazz violinist, bass player, painter, and poet born (in Chicago, USA) on December 27, 1916.  He began his violin studies at age 7 and received only three years of formal instruction.  Out of necessity, he later learned to play bass - by 1942, he was playing bass and violin in Chico Marx’ orchestra.  He was 26 years old.  During the Second World War, he played in New York with Al Haig and Kai Winding.  He later went to Europe, too - it was part of his military service.  From 1945 until 1947, he toured with Jimmy Dorsey’s band.  Jimmy Dorsey was Tommy Dorsey’s brother.  Soon after, Frigo formed a trio which included Herb Ellis on guitar and Lou Carter on piano which performed and recorded in New York.  He later appeared in the film titled The Fabulous Dorseys.  In 1951, he worked as a studio musician and arranger in Chicago and led a band at a place called Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago’s Bohemia.  The trio (The Soft Winds Trio) broke up in 1952.  Between 1951 and 1974, he also played with The Sage Riders, a country band which broadcast nationwide from a radio station in Chicago – as did Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra in New York in the classical music realm.  The show – at various times - included the likes of Gene Autry, Rex Allen, Bill Haley, and Andy Williams.  Here’s one of their videos.  During his career, he played with Mel Torme, Barbra Streisand, Charlie Byrd, Frank Sinatra, and Mahalia Jackson, among other big-name artists.  As did Eddie South after he died, Frigo did not receive much recognition until later in his career, after focusing once again on the violin and its jazz potential.  Frigo’s recordings can still be found on the internet.  His violin sound has been compared to Stephane Grappelli’s.  Frigo died on July 4, 2007, at age 90.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Paul Hindemith

Paul Hindemith was a German violinist, violist, teacher, composer, author, and conductor, born (in Hanau) on November 16, 1895.  He is much better known as a composer, though he spent much of his early life making a living as a violinist and violist.  He is one of several great artists who played in dance bands and musical theatre groups – far removed from the classical music arena - as a young man.  Eugene Ormandy, Vasa Prihoda, Elias Breeskin, Alfredo Campoli, Theodore Thomas, Albert Sammons, Alma Rose', and Jacques Thibaud did the same thing.  He began violin lessons with Eugene Reinhardt and Anna Hegner as a child but later entered the Frankfurt Conservatory (Hoch Conservatory) in 1908.  His violin teacher there was Adolf Rebner (pupil of Jacob Grun and Martin Marsick.)  Hindemith also studied composition there with Arnold Mendelssohn and Bernhard Sekles.  In 1914, Hindemith became assistant concertmaster of the Frankfurt Opera.  He was 19 years old.  In 1915, he played the Beethoven concerto in public although it is not known to me where or with whom.  Two years later, he was made concertmaster of the Frankfurt Opera.  From 1914 onward, Hindemith also played second violin in the Rebner String Quartet.  Between 1918 and 1920, he served as a musician – probably as a violinist - for the German military - World War One was over by then.  In 1921, he founded his own String Quartet – the Amar String Quartet – in which he played viola.  He was 26 years old.  He continued his activities with this quartet until 1929.  By 1923 he had resigned his position with the Frankfurt Opera and was gaining fame as a composer - by 1927, he was already teaching composition in the Advanced School for Music in Berlin.  In 1928, he wrote a film music score for a film by Hans Richter.  The score was subsequently lost.  On October 3, 1929, he gave the world premiere of William Walton’s now-famous viola concerto after Lionel Tertis refused it.  Walton was on the podium.  Hindemith frequently toured as a solo viola player, including several times in the U.S.  Part of Hindemith’s history includes his relationship to the infamous Nazi Party.  He was both denounced and embraced by the officials controlling anything to do with art and propaganda at the time.  Between 1935 and 1937, he traveled to Turkey to help with that country’s musical education programs.  In 1935 also, he quit his teaching position in Frankfurt – some sources call it an extended leave.  In 1938, he left Germany for Switzerland – his wife was part-Jewish.  In 1940, he settled in the U.S.  He mostly taught at Yale and Harvard.  Hindemith also devoted much of his time to writing about his music theory – or system - of composition.  In 1953, he returned to Europe, settling once again in Switzerland.  He took up numerous and frequent conducting assignments, going as far as Japan with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1956.  Among much other music, most of which has been recorded, Hindemith wrote 8 operas, 3 ballets, 14 concertos (for various instruments), 11 large-scale orchestral works, 7 string quartets, and 7 viola sonatas.  His most popular work is probably the Symphonic Metamorphosis for orchestra on themes of CM von Weber.  You can listen to it here.  I’ve only played it once in my life.  Hindemith died (in Frankfurt) on December 28, 1963, at age 68.