Sunday, May 26, 2013

Achille Rivarde

Achille Rivarde (Serge Achille Rivarde) was a Spanish violinist, teacher, and writer born (in New York) on October 31, 1865.  He is referred to in various sources as either a British, French, Spanish, and even American violinist.  Although he was known to concertize in the U.S., he spent most of his time in Europe.  He is now obscure but was well-known and appreciated by many famous musicians of his day.  He bore a resemblance to another Spanish violinist: Pablo Sarasate.  Although a somewhat reliable source states that Rivarde studied with Henryk Wieniawski and Jose White Lafitte, he would have had to do so privately and before he entered the Paris conservatory to study with Charles Dancla in 1876, at age 11.  Between 1860 and 1872, Wieniawski was in Russia, then he was in the U.S. (on tour) between 1872 and 1875.  In 1875, Wieniawski started teaching in Brussels and began a tour of Russia in 1879 during which he became ill, subsequently dying in early 1880.  Jose White Lafitte was likewise unavailable (in Paris) between 1875 and 1889 because he was either touring the U.S. or teaching in South America.  So, the question is: when would these two violin virtuosos been available to teach young Rivarde?  My conclusion from the circumstantial evidence is that he studied with these virtuosos while they were touring the U.S. - between 1872 to 1875 and 1875 to 1876, respectively.  Rivarde appears to have graduated from the Paris Conservatory in July, 1879, at age 14.  The source mentioned above also states that Rivarde studied with Felix Simon too although it does not say when or where.  Felix Simon, concertmaster of the theatre orchestra in Nantes, France, was Camilla Urso’s first teacher in (Nantes) France so the possibility exists that Rivarde studied with him there, either before entering the Paris Conservatory or after graduating.  It is also possible that Simon had relocated to the U.S. by (approximately) 1870 and little Rivarde would have been able to study with him as a child of four or five.  In any case, at least one music dictionary states that Simon was Rivarde’s first teacher so my conjecture is probably correct.  In 1881, Rivarde left Paris and returned to the U.S.  He was still only 16 years old.  What he did here at that time is unknown to me.  One source says he gave up violin playing entirely.  In 1885, he returned to France and became concertmaster of the Lamoureux Orchestra.  He was 19 years old.  The Orchestra had been founded by Charles Lamoureux just three years previously.  In 1891, Rivarde quit his post, possibly to concentrate on touring.  In 1893, he and pianist Harold Bauer premiered Frederick Delius' b minor violin sonata (an early work without number) in Paris.  His London debut came in 1894 and, in 1895, he gave the first English performance of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol, presumably in London.  On November 17, 1895, he made his U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall (New York) playing Saint-Saens’ third concerto.  The critic for the New York Times praised him for his elegant style and beautiful, crisp tone.  He was mentioned in The Strad magazine as having “a superb tone, perfect technique, and great breadth of style.”  On November 19, 1895, he played in Toronto, Canada.  On March 3, 1896, he played Bruch’s second concerto (in d minor) with the New York Philharmonic with Anton Seidl on the podium.  In 1899, he was appointed violin teacher at the Royal College of Music in London and thereafter spent most of his time teaching.  He retired from that position in 1936.  Among his pupils are violist and film composer Anthony Collins; violist, violin collector, and writer Robert Lewin; and violinist and pianist Margaret Harrison.  Among his admirers were Carl Flesch, Fritz Kreisler, and Eugene Goossens.  A downloadable audio file of a transcription (Dvorak’s first Slavonic Dance played by Leonidas Kavakos) which Kreisler dedicated to Rivarde can be purchased here for about fifty cents.  In 1922, Rivarde published The Violin and Its Technique as a Means to the Interpretation of Music, a small study book on violin technique.  The book is still available and can be purchased for about $20.00.  Rivarde played the 1729 Defauw Stradivarius - being one of the later violins constructed by Stradivari, its back is not made of flamed maple but is quite plain.  The violin was later owned by Leonard Sorkin, first violinist of the Fine Arts Quartet.  (In contrast to the Amadeus String Quartet, the Fine Arts Quartet has gone through more violists than any string quartet in history - a total of 10.)  Rivarde died in relative obscurity (in London) on March 31, 1940, at age 74.  The Second World War had begun six months previously.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ossy Renardy

Ossy Renardy (Oskar Reiss) was an Austrian violinist born (in Vienna) on April 26, 1920.  He had the unenviable distinction of having died at a very young age.  Many critics (and writers) have said he had a very brilliant career ahead of him – one to rival Bronislaw Huberman, Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Ruggiero Ricci, Mischa Elman, and other top violinists of that time.  I don’t know if Paganini ever played his Caprices in public or whether, if he did, he ever played all 24 in a single concert.  Renardy did.  He may have been the very first to do it.  On January 8, 1938, at his Town Hall debut in New York, he played Dvorak’s Sonatina, Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol, and Pietro Nardini’s e minor concerto (a very popular work at the time – Pinchas Zukerman has recorded it) in the first half of the program.  He then played all 24 Paganini Caprices on the second half.  He was 19 years old.  The following year, he recorded the Caprices (the version with piano accompaniment), becoming the first violinist to record all 24 Caprices on a single disc (actually, they were issued on two discs.)  Seven years later, Ricci put out his first version of all 24 Caprices – without the piano accompaniment – and he later went on to record the Caprices a total of four times – the last version in 1988.  Renardy re-recorded the Caprices which again included the piano accompaniment (with a different accompanist) the year he died.  Renardy studied with a now-forgotten Russian violin teacher, Theodore Pashkus (1905-1970), but at what age he began is something I don’t know.  Pashkus and his wife were successful pedagogues until about 1970.  I don’t know if they ever taught at a conservatory or university.  Their pupils included Yehudi Menuhin and Ivry Gitlis and their instructional books are still in print.  In any case, Renardy is said to have been entirely self-taught (which is possible but hard to believe) prior to meeting Pashkus and made sufficient progress to make his first public appearance at age 11.  In October of 1933, he joined a variety show in Merano, Italy.  (Merano is about 120 miles southwest of Salzburg, Austria, or about 250 miles from Vienna.)  It was then that he changed his name.  Another well-known violinist who changed his name was Mischa Mischakoff – three times.  In Merano, Renardy played Paganini’s first concerto at the Merano Casino and then took off to tour Italy.  He was still only 13 years old.  After that, he played in his native Vienna and toured France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Italy.  Interestingly, no mention is made in any source I checked about his having toured Germany or Austria.  He left the European mainland for England in 1937.  He came to the U.S. the same year.  He was 17 years old.   First, he embarked on a tour of a few central states and then made his New York debut, described above, in 1938.  As did many other violinists, Renardy played hundreds of concerts for the U.S. armed services during the Second World War (1941-1945.)  As far as I know, he never played in an orchestra.  In 1947, he began touring once again, playing with most major orchestras in the U.S., Europe, and Israel.  He was 27 years old.  In June of 1948, he recorded the Brahms concerto with the Royal Concertgebouw and Charles Munch.  Although he recorded about 35 works altogether, he did not record another concerto after this.  Here is an audio file of Renardy playing a very familiar work by Wieniawski.  His Guarnerius violin - the Carrodus Guarnerius del Gesu of 1743 – is now being played by Richard Tognetti, concertmaster of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.  This violin is not to be confused with other Guarnerius violins bearing the same or a very similar name.  It is said to be one of the best four or five violins (by any maker) in the world.  I do not know how Renardy acquired the violin (in 1949.)  Supposedly, it remained un-played for 54 years - between December, 1953 and January, 2007.  On December 3, 1953, in the afternoon, Renardy died in an automobile accident while traveling with his accompanist, George Robert, to give a concert in Colorado (USA.)  He was 33 years old.  George Robert and the Guarnerius survived.  Hermilo Novelo (pupil of Louis Persinger and concertmaster of the National Symphony of Mexico) also died in an automobile accident and his accompanist (Violina Stoyanova) was with him at the time as well.  His violin survived but went missing after the accident.  Stoyanova did not survive.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cesar Thomson

Cesar Thomson was a Belgian violinist, teacher, arranger, and composer born (in Liege, Belgium) on March 18, 1857.  Although he was considered a brilliant violinist in his time, he is now remembered more for his teaching.  He began violin lessons with his father at age 5 or 6.  By age 7 he had entered the Liege Conservatory where he studied with Jacques Dupuis, a very strict teacher.  (Liege is about 50 miles east of Brussels, Belgium.)  He also studied with Rodolphe Massart and Desire Heynberg, who also taught Eugene Ysaye.  According to Grove’s Dictionary, it was said that Thomson, by age 16, had a technique unrivalled by any other living violinist – the year was 1873, so that is saying quite a lot.  Take it with a grain of salt.  Thomson later studied additionally with Hubert Leonard, Henryk Wieniawski, and Henri Vieuxtemps.  If he was already a superlative, pre-eminent violinist, it is hard to imagine what it was they taught him.  In 1873, he became concertmaster of a private orchestra (in Switzerland) at the service of Paul von Derwies, a Russian banker, railroad industrialist, and serious patron of the arts.  Thomson stayed for four years and during the interim, married into the nobility.  By 1879, he was assistant concertmaster of Benjamin Bilse’s Band in Berlin, where Eugene Ysaye was the concertmaster.  Thomson was barely 22 years old - Ysaye was 21.  A few years later, this orchestra would become the Berlin Philharmonic, but not under the direction of Benjamin Bilse.  One source clearly states that Thomson was concertmaster of the Bilse Band but that may be due to a tradition in German orchestras of having two or more concertmasters, making no distinction between two or three leaders in the same position.  By 1882, Thomson was back where he started, in Liege, teaching at the Liege Conservatory.  In 1897, he took over for Eugene Ysaye at the Brussels Conservatory.  He was 40 years old.  A year later, he formed a string quartet.  Many sources state that Thomson was austere and cerebral in his approach to music - he can perhaps be compared to Joseph Szigeti.  A review of his first concert in New York City on October 30, 1894, stated the following: “His treatment of the Bruch concerto [in d minor] proved him to be a player of substantial force, but it revealed no influential emotional power.  It was dignified, well-considered, and thoughtful.  Mr. Thomson may be classed with the scholarly players who interest the mind rather than overwhelm the heart.”  On November 9, 1894, he played one of the violin concertos of Leopold Damrosch with the New York Symphony, Walter Damrosch conducting.  That concerto has probably not been heard from since, but that I do not know for sure.  Thomson toured a great deal in Europe, South America, and the U.S.  Between 1924 and 1927, he taught at Ithaca College (New York) and at Juilliard as well.  Students came from faraway places to study with him.  Among Thomson’s pupils are Haydn Wood, Johan Halvorsen (famous for his Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia for violin and viola), Paul Kochanski, Adolfo Betti, Antoinette Zoellner, Joseph Zoellner, Alma Moodie (Carl Flesch’s favorite pupil), Aylmer Buesst, Edwin Grasse, Hugo Alfven, and Guillermo Uribe Holguin (founder of the National Symphony of Colombia.)  Thomson edited, arranged, and transcribed music by Arcangelo Corelli, George Frederick Handel, Giuseppe Tartini, J.S. Bach, Pietro Nardini, and Vitali – I don’t know which of the Vitalis.  Among his own works is a Gypsy Rhapsody for violin but I don’t know if it has been recorded or even published.  He played a G.B. Guadagnini violin (1780), a Santo Serafin (constructed in 1740 – later owned for many years by Zino Francescatti), Giuseppe Guarneri (1703, auctioned in late 1990s for about $400,000), and an Andrea Guarneri violin (1650) which ended up in a museum.  Thomson died (in Bissone, Switzerland) on August 21, 1931, at age 74.  In Liege, a street is named after him.   

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Simone Lamsma

Simone Lamsma is a Dutch violinist and teacher born (in Leeuwarden, Netherlands – about 70 miles northeast of Amsterdam) on October 5, 1985.  Opinions vary, of course, but I think it is no exaggeration to say she is among the top ten present-day violinists in the world.  As has been the case with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, there are few music critics who have resisted the temptation to refer to her striking beauty in their reviews of her performances.  From her photograph, you can see why.  Lamsma’s recordings have already garnered huge praise.  Her tours have included performances with chamber music ensembles around the world.  Needless to say, Lamsma has performed with all of the top orchestras in the Netherlands, including the best orchestra in the world – the Royal Concertgebouw.  She began her violin studies at age 5 at the Northern College of Music.  Soon thereafter, she enrolled at the Sweelink Conservatory in Amsterdam and studied for a while with well-known violin pedagogue Davina van Wely.  In 1997, at age 11, she enrolled at the Yehudi Menuhin School in London, England.  She also studied at the Royal Academy of Music until 2004, the year she graduated, with Hu Kun in the same city.  After that, she began studies with Maurice Hasson at the Royal Academy as well.  In addition, Lamsma also participated in master classes with Yehudi Menuhin, Zakhar Bron, Herman Krebbers, Julian Rachlin, and Zvi Zeitlin, among others.  By 2006, she had made her recording debut which immediately earned the award for Instrumental and Chamber Disc of the Month from Classic FM magazine.  She was 21 years old.  She was named an Associate at the Royal Academy of Music in 2011.  From various sources I checked, it is evident Lamsma loves violin competitions and has won a number of them beginning at a very young age.  Her tours have taken her to China, the U.S., South America, and, of course, throughout Europe.  She frequently collaborates with conductor and former concert violinist Jaap van Zweden, one of her many champions.  Her U.S. debut was in 2009 in Indianapolis with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.  Lamsma frequently collaborates with other major artists to perform chamber music.  A typical review reads something like this: "… a terrific account of Beethoven's Violin Concerto [was heard] with Simone Lamsma as the sensational and glamorous soloist.  Powerful in control, the young Dutch violinist drew silvery meticulousness and burnished tone out of the Stradivarius, but it was her sense of line and phrase that held her audience spellbound.”  Another one: “Lamsma’s mix of high ardor and collegial spirit is something to be treasured.”  And another: “Her sound is full of energy and refreshing.”  Here is a YouTube video of one performance and here is another.  Among other violins, she has played a (Ferdinand) Gagliano (1773), a Carlo Tononi (1709), and the Habeneck Strad from 1734, but her current violin is the Chanot Stradivarius (aka the Braga Stradivarius) of 1718 (or 1681 or 1726 – sources differ.)  It has been loaned to her by an anonymous benefactor.  The violin is reportedly protected by a (Dimitri) Musafia violin case, one of the best violin cases available.  The Chanot Stradivarius is rather unique in that it has no corners and has been described as guitar-shaped although it is definitely not guitar-shaped.  The Chanot was purchased by Joshua Bell in 1987 and subsequently sold.  It is said to have been featured in the 1998 movie The Red Violin.  
Photo is courtesy of Denis Ryan Kelly, Jr