Sunday, July 7, 2013

Wanda Wilkomirska

Wanda Wilkomirska is a Polish violinist and teacher born on January 11, 1929.  She was the first violinist to play at gala concerts of three world famous concert halls; the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall (1955), the Barbican Hall (London-1976) and the Sydney (Australia-1973) Opera House.  Her concertizing career was especially fruitful between 1950 and 1980.  Her website says she is the most famous Polish violinist but that is, of course, a big stretch, considering she is in the company of such luminaries and geniuses as Karol Lipinski, Henryk Wieniawski, Isidor Lotto, Joseph Hassid, Henryk Szeryng, Szymon Goldberg, Samuel Dushkin, Henri Temianka, Paul Kochanski, Richard Burgin, Ida Haendel, Cecylia Arzewski, George Bridgetower, and the incomparable Bronislaw Huberman.  She is, understandably, known for promoting modern Polish music.  She began her studies with her father at age 5.  At age 7, she made her public debut in a recital, playing a Mozart sonata.  I don’t know which sonata.  Subsequently she attended the Lodz Academy of Music in Poland.  Lodz is about 80 miles south of Warsaw.  She graduated in 1947.  She was 18 years old.  I do not know how she was able to elude the Nazis between 1939 and 1945.  There is no mention of that anywhere.  In 1950, she graduated from the Liszt Academy in Budapest.  She then studied with Henryk Szeryng for three months in Paris.  In 1952, she competed in the Wieniawski violin competition and took second prize.  She was 23 years old.  Her concertizing career began more or less at about that time and she subsequently went on to play around the world with all the major orchestras and conductors.  On August 22, 1959, she played Paganini’s first concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic.  On October 15, 1960, she again soloed with the philharmonic playing the Mendelssohn concerto – none other than Paul Hindemith was on the podium.  On October 22, 1962, she played the Mendelssohn concerto (the one in e minor) with the Chicago Symphony - the performance took place in Milwaukee.  On September 15 through September 20, 1977, she made her first and last appearances with the New York Philharmonic playing the second concerto of Shostakovich.  Erich Leinsdorf conducted.  She was 48 years old.  In 1982, Wilkomirska decided to settle in (West) Germany, where she began to teach at the Advanced Music School in Heidelberg in 1983.  However, as do practically all concert artists who take teaching posts, she continued to concertize.  In 1999, she settled in Australia, where she has lived ever since.  Wilkomirska has been teaching at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music since that time and has also taught at the Australian Academy of Music in Melbourne, although she no longer teaches at either school.  She has been a member of the jury at various violin competitions and has played chamber music concerts with other artists many times.  Among other premieres, Wilkomirska has given the premieres of the violin concertos numbers 5 and 7 by Grazyna Bacewicz.  Here is a You Tube posting of one of her performances.  Her recordings can be easily found on the internet.  Her record labels have included Naxos, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Philips, and Polskie Nagrania.  Wi┼ékomirska performs on a 1734 Pietro Guarneri violin.  She also played a violin for some twenty years which four well-known appraisers (Bein, Beare, Kass, and Rosengard) have said is a fake – a 1740 Domenico Montagnana.  The violin was owned by the Polish government before being sold to Herbert Axelrod who sold it to the New Jersey Symphony in 2003.  The violin had already passed through the hands of Dietmar Machold, the now infamous violin dealer who is in jail for defrauding violin buyers and sellers and banks.  He issued a certificate back in 2002 which assigned a value of $750,000 to the violin.  Experts have said it is likely worth about $25,000. 

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