Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tai Murray

Tai Murray is an American violinist and teacher born (in Chicago) on May 22, 1982.  She is known for having recently recorded what is now considered the standard by which all other recordings of the Ysaye solo violin sonatas will be judged - as a young student, she participated in masterclasses with a direct disciple of Ysaye: Josef Gingold.  Murray is also known for having privately played a violin “in the nude” – an unvarnished violin, that is.  That violin was created for her in 2007 by Mario Miralles, one of the best violin makers in the world.  It has been said he has a ten-year waiting list.  I do not know why Murray played it - not in a concert, of course - before it was finished - possibly because Miralles wanted to hear how it was coming along while still in the workshop.  Luthiers find it easy to disassemble and re-assemble violins.  Of course, the violin is now fully varnished although Murray actually used her (circa) 1690 Giovanni (aka Joannes or Johannes) Tononi violin to record the six Ysaye Sonatas.  (Johannes Tononi was the father of the more famous luthier, Carlo Tononi, one of whose violins Jascha Heifetz owned and played - in fact, the Tononi violin was the instrument he played in his famous Carnegie Hall debut.)  Murray began her violin studies at age 5 with Brenda Wurman and shortly thereafter entered the Sherwood Conservatory of Music (founded in 1895) in Chicago.  Even though money was very scarce (a financial condition which befell many nineteenth century child violinists and their families, including the hyper-famous Bronislaw Huberman), by age 8, she had transferred to the University of Indiana where she studied with Mimi Zweig, Yuval Yaron, and Franco Gulli.  At age 9, she made her public debut, playing Mozart’s fourth concerto (in D) with the Chicago Symphony.  (Notorious Czech violinist Vasa Prihoda also made his public debut with this concerto.)  She played Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol with the Utah Symphony (and Joseph Silverstein) at age 16.  The reviews were very favorable.  Her intonation was said to be “superhuman” and her bowing technique “magical.”  The Strad has said that she displays “sophisticated bowing and vibrato.”  You can observe (and enjoy) her superlative handling of the bow on several YouTube videos.  Another music critic described her sound as being imbued with “steely sweetness.”  It is truly almost impossible to describe sound with words but I think that comes close.  You can hear for yourself here.  Murray received her Artist Diploma from Indiana University’s School of Music at 18 then moved on to Juilliard in 2001.  There, she studied with Joel Smirnoff (former first and second violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet and now President of the Cleveland Institute of Music.)  She graduated from Juilliard in 2006 - some sources say 2004.  Meanwhile, she had been concertizing.  On February 3, 2001, she soloed with the San Antonio Symphony, playing the Glazunov concerto.  Michael Morgan was on the podium.  She was 18 years old.  Since then, she has gone on to concertize as a soloist with some of the world’s major orchestras, as a recitalist, and in conjunction with several prestigious chamber music ensembles, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.  In addition to the Tononi and Miralles violins, she has played a 1727 Guarnerius Del Gesu, on loan from the Juilliard violin collection.  Murray is now based in Berlin, indulging in her passion for languages – she has already immersed herself in French, Japanese, and German.  That, unbeknownst to the general public, is not an unusual activity for violinists.  That and chess.  Murray has said that when not performing, she practices into the wee hours of the morning.  She likes to be where people have a “sense of shared general curiosity, a certain crackle-and-pop that drives things.”  (I love that quote.)  Aside from Maxim Vengerov, she is the only violinist I know who loves to dance Tango, although she also dances swing and salsa, and loves ballet.  (Murray’s portrait is courtesy of Marco Borggreve, a European photographer who photographs the world of music.) 

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