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.  

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