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.  

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