Sunday, August 25, 2013

Henry Schradieck

Henry Schradieck was a German violinist, teacher, conductor, and composer born (in Hamburg) on April 29, 1846.  Johannes Brahms had been born there 13 years earlier.  Schradieck is best known for his many study books for violin (and viola) and for several editions of various works for violin, including the Mendelssohn violin concerto in e minor.  It has been said that he moved frequently and preferred not to remain in one place too long.  Among other violinists, Willy Hess, Mischa Mischakoff, and Steven Staryk did the same thing.  Schradieck received his first lessons from his father, who was a violinist, and first played in public at age 6, possibly age 5.  One source states that in 1854, at age 8, he entered the Brussels Conservatory and graduated in 1858.  He was 12 years old.  It has been stated that Teresa Milanollo paid for his tuition at the conservatory.  His teacher there was Hubert Leonard.  He then went to Leipzig to study with Ferdinand David.  In 1864, he was hired as professor of violin at the Moscow Conservatory.  He remained there for three years and then returned to Hamburg to lead the Hamburg Philharmonic Society Orchestra.  After 6 years, he joined (in 1874) the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig as concertmaster.  Felix Mendelssohn and Ferdinand David had already left the scene – in fact, David had died the previous year.  Schradieck also taught at the Leipzig Conservatory and conducted the theatre orchestra.  He was 28 years old.  In 1883, he came to the U.S and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio.  There, he organized an orchestra and taught at the College of Music.  He returned to Hamburg in 1889 to teach at the Hamburg Conservatory.  Nine years later, in 1898, he returned to the U.S.  He devoted most of his time to teaching in Philadelphia and New York.  Among the oddly interesting things about his career are that he could play all the Beethoven quartets (presumably the first violin part) from memory and he seriously studied the art of violin making.  Among Schradieck’s pupils are Maud Powell, Theodore Spiering, Ottokar Novacek, and Carl Tollefsen.  Schradieck died (in Brooklyn, New York) on March 25, 1918, at age 71.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Francois Prume

Francois Prume (Francois Hubert Prume) was a Belgian violinist and composer born (in Stavelot, Belgium) on June 3, 1816.  Nicolo Paganini was then 33 years old and Beethoven, though he didn’t know it at the time, had another ten years to live.  Prume was a highly gifted and accomplished violinist who came on the scene, made an impression, and then left almost without leaving a trace.  According to one source, he began his violin studies at age 3.  His father was the organist at Stavelot.  At age 5, he began studying at the nearby town of Malmedy, in the Province of Liege, a French-speaking section of Belgium.  From 1827 to 1830, he studied at the Royal Conservatory of Liege (the Liege Conservatory.)  He then studied for two years with Francois Habeneck (Director of the Paris Opera) at the Paris Conservatory.  After graduation in 1832, he returned to Liege and was immediately appointed professor of violin at the conservatory.  He was 17 years old.  His most famous pupil was probably Hubert Leonard, though Leonard probably only studied privately with Prume since he (Leonard) began his studies at the Brussels Conservatory in the same year (1832) that Prume returned to Liege.  Prume was only 3 years older than Leonard.  In 1839, Prume toured Russia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Holland, and Belgium.  In 1844, he played in Paris and in that same year was made head of the violin department at the Liege Conservatory.  He was 28 years old.  He continued touring and teaching during his entire career.  It has been said that he played with Franz Liszt on several occasions.  One source claims that he was totally blind for the last few years of his life.  Prume wrote six violin studies, a violin concerto, and a few concert pieces for his own use but which were also probably published during his lifetime.  His most famous piece is La Melancolie for violin and piano (or orchestra) which Camillo Sivori (one of Paganini’s pupils) was very fond of playing.  Leopold Auer mentioned that piece in his book on violin pedagogy.  Prume died on July 14, 1849, after a very short illness, at age 33.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Julian Olevsky

Julian Olevsky (Julian Olewsky) was an American violinist and teacher born (in Berlin) on May 7, 1926 - Olevsky's mother was Russian and his father was Polish.  He was a highly respected and admired musician who died at a relatively young age.  At age 7, Olevsky began his studies with his father (Siegmund Olewsky), who was a professional violinist and leader of an orchestra in Berlin.  In 1935, the family had to move from Berlin (by way of Luxembourg) to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they stayed for about 12 years and perhaps many more.  There, he first studied with Aaron Klasse for two years and then with Alexander Petschnikoff, both of whom were pupils of the famous Hungarian violin pedagogue Leopold Auer, although Petschnikoff also studied with Jan Hrimaly in Moscow.  At age 10, Olevsky made his recital debut and about two years later - in 1938 - made his debut with orchestra.  On that occasion, with the Orquesta Sinfonica Argentina under Austrian conductor Kurt Pahlen, Olevsky played the Glazunov concerto.  He was 12 years old.  Interestingly, Mischa Elman made his British debut with this concerto and Nathan Milstein and Efrem Zimbalist both made their U.S. debuts with this concerto as well.  It has been said that Fritz Busch (brother of violinist Adolf Busch) conducted the orchestra for Olevsky's debut but such is not the case.  However, he later did play (in that same year, 1938) with an orchestra conducted by Fritz Busch - Orquesta de la Asociacion Wagneriana (Orchestra of the Wagner Association) - at the Teatro Presidente Alvear.  The work on the program was Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante (for violin and viola) and the violist was Andre Vancoillie.  Olevsky went on to present his Teatro Colon debut (in Buenos Aires - similar to playing a Carnegie Hall debut in the U.S.) in 1942 with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires with Juan Jose Castro on the podium.  Olevsky subsequently toured South America extensively and eventually came to reside in the U.S. (1947.)  He was 21 years old.  I could not find any reference stating that he had ever attended a conservatory so it is quite possible that all of his music studies were done privately.  In 1949, he made his New York debut at Town Hall.  Between 1947 and 1949, he had devoted much of his time to studying and enriching his recital repertoire.  During that time he also briefly studied with Raphael Bronstein, another pupil of Leopold Auer.  His appearance at Town Hall was highly successful and much-praised.  His accompanist was Wolfgang Rose', Mischa Elman's former accompanist.  Until 1965, Rose' would remain his accompanist for concerts and recordings.  In 1950, Olevsky played his first recital at Carnegie Hall.  He played three more recitals there over the course of his career.  He went on to play in most of the great halls around the world and with some of the great orchestras and conductors - too numerous to mention - who have since become icons and legends in the classical music firmament.  In 1965, he formed a duo with pianist Estela Kersenbaum with whom he toured and later recorded all of the Mozart Sonatas.  With the addition of cellist Paul Olefsky (Olevsky's cousin), the duo also performed as the Olewsky Trio, recording all of the trios by Brahms as well as trios by Arensky and Tchaikovsky.*  In 1967, Olevsky was appointed to a teaching position at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), where he taught until the year he died.  His discography on the Westminster label is somewhat limited but includes twelve concertos of Vivaldi (including the Four Seasons with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra), Bach’s six works for unaccompanied violin, Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, the Brahms concerto, Bruch’s first concerto, Mendelssohn’s second concerto, and Wieniawski’s second concerto.  I don’t think all of the records have been digitized but you can still acquire one via record collectors – they usually run about forty dollars - although many of his recordings have also been re-issued on the Doremi label.  You will discover that music critics frequently compared Olevsky to Jascha Heifetz and David Oistrakh.  Here is a YouTube file of a performance by Olevsky.  His collection of orchestral and piano scores is now housed at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Among the violins he played was the Emperor Guarnerius Del Gesu from 1738, one of the better-known Guarnerius violins.  That violin had been owned by one of Napoleon’s Military Assistants and that’s supposedly how it acquired its name.  None of that has actually been confirmed by anyone but is part of violin lore.  Olevsky died suddenly (in Amherst) on May 25, 1985, at age 59.  His students include Charles Sherba, Chris Devine, David Tasgal, Dean Radin, Eric Bachrach, Eric Tanner, Gerald Itzkoff, Matthew Hunter, and Steve Leonard.  
* I am indebted to Ms Estela Kersenbaum Olevsky for much of the information on this blog post. Her website pays tribute to this magnificent violinist, her late husband.