Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tedi Papavrami

Tedi Papavrami is an Albanian violinist, teacher, and actor born (in Tirana, Albania) on May 13, 1971.  Although it can most assuredly be said that he possesses a quite fantastic technique and formidable artistic insight (second to none, in my opinion), he is much better known in Europe than in the U.S. and therefore has a lower global profile than he might otherwise.  Besides being a musician and actor, he is also a writer.  In addition, he has transcribed various works written for other instruments for his use as violin pieces.  Among them are several Scarlatti piano sonatas.  Nowadays, that activity is rare among violinists, though it was commonplace in the old days – say, prior to 1945.  Papavrami first studied with his father – Robert Papavrami, a violinist and violin teacher – from age 5.  At age 7, he enrolled at the Jordan Misja School of Art in Tirana.  He made his orchestral debut at age 8, playing Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs (Zigeunerweisen.)  At age 11, he played Paganini’s first concerto with the same orchestra – the Tirana Philharmonic.  Soon thereafter, he was offered a scholarship by the French government to study at the Paris Conservatory.  He was 12 years old.  His teacher there – among others - was Pierre Amoyal.  Papavrami graduated from the Paris Conservatory at age 15.  He studied further with Zino Francescatti and Victoria Mullova.  According to one source, he also received a degree – I don’t know in what field of study – from the Lausanne Conservatory in 1987.  By 1986, he had already established his base, so to speak, in Paris, France.  Here is a YouTube video of his performance of Paganini’s second concerto.  I’ve already heard nearly all of the recordings of this concerto that are out there and this one is the best among them.  Papavrami has concertized around the world since completing his formal music studies but spends scant time in the U.S.  He is also one of a handful of violinists who have played recitals composed entirely of the 24 Paganini Caprices.  In 2003, he was engaged to play a principal role in the French film, Dangerous Liaisons, with Catherine Deneuve and the notorious Natasha Kinski.  In 2008, he was appointed violin professor at the Geneva Conservatory in Switzerland and has been living in Geneva ever since.  In 2002, Papavrami was named official French translator by the publisher of the works of his countryman, Ismail Kadare.  His recordings on the Naxos and Aeon labels have been praised by every music critic.  His first major recording (for Naxos) was released in 1997.  It features both Prokofiev concertos.  Papavrami’s transcriptions - for solo violin - of the Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas have been published but I know not by whom.  Papavrami is also the violinist of the Schumann Piano Quartet - with violist Christoph Schiller, pianist Christian Favre, and cellist Francois Guye.  Their magnificent recording of the piano quartets of Ernest Chausson and Gabriel Faure can easily be found on the internet.  Papavrami's violin is one constructed especially for him by French violin maker (luthier) Christian Bayon.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gerard Poulet

Gerard Poulet is a French violinist and teacher born (in Bayonne) on August 12, 1938.  His father (Gaston Poulet), with whom he began his violin studies, was also a violinist.  His career has been mainly spent in Europe though he has performed in almost every continent.  He entered the Paris Conservatory at age 11 and graduated at age 12.  His main teacher there was Andre Asselin.  As did Bronislaw Huberman before him, he had many teachers: Zino Francescatti, Nathan Milstein, Yehudi Menuhin, and Henryk Szeryng were among them.  Poulet made his debut at age 12 playing the Mendelssohn concerto.  He recorded the third concerto of Mozart at age 14 with his father on the podium.  At age 18, he won the Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy.  As do all winners of that competition, he got to play Paganini’s violin, the famous Cannone.  He later dedicated a good deal of time to teaching at the National Conservatory in Paris.  In 2007, he began teaching at the University of Arts in Tokyo.  He might not be there any longer since I could not locate his name on any faculty roster.  Poulet played the 1720 Henri Marteau Guarnerius from 1975 until about 1988 and that violin is supposedly now owned by Maxim Vengerov, though I could not find a single public source to confirm that.  His most famous pupil is most probably Renaud Capucon.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Edouard Colonne

Edouard Colonne (Edouard Juda Colonne) was a French violinist and conductor born (in Bordeaux) on July 23, 1838.  He is best recognized as the founder (actually, co-founder) of the Concerts Colonne and what became known as the Colonne Orchestra in Paris, in 1873.  He was an orchestral violinist for at least ten years but is now almost exclusively remembered as a conductor and concert promoter, in the style of Theodore Thomas.  He began his music studies at age 8, but not on the violin.  He entered the Paris Conservatory at about age 17 but did not study with any famous teachers there.  While going to school, he played in the orchestra of the Lyric Theatre.  In 1863 he won first prize for his violin playing and had already (in 1858) won first prize in harmony.  He was engaged as concertmaster for the Paris Opera orchestra in 1858 – he was 20 years old.  He also played second violin in the Lamoureux Quartet at the same time – Charles Lamoureux played first violin.  Possibly (actually, very probably) simultaneously, he also played in Jules Pasdeloup’s orchestra.  In 1867, he came to New York to play in an orchestra for a newly founded comic opera company; while in New York, Colonne later led an ensemble called Niblo’s Garden Orchestra which until now I had never heard of.  He returned to Paris in 1871 and conducted a hotel orchestra for a while.  In 1873, he founded – together with a music publisher – the orchestra that would become the Colonne Orchestra.  His concerts became known as the Concerts Colonne.  This name was used until the 1960s – about ninety years.  At first, the orchestra presented its concerts at the Odeon Theatre and later at the Theatre of the Chatelet.  Colonne was known to champion the music of Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler, and Camille Saint Saens.  It has been said that Pierre Monteux was Principal violist of the Colonne Orchestra.  Other famous players who played in his orchestra for a time were Julius Conus and Jacques Thibaud.  Colonne gave the Paris premiere of Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony in 1878, the year it was completed.  The orchestra toured Spain, Russia, Portugal, Germany, and England.  Among the musical luminaries who conducted the orchestra in performances of their own works were Serge Prokofiev, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Peter Tchaikovsky, Claude Debussy, Edvard Grieg, and Maurice Ravel.  In 1892, Colonne became conductor and adviser at the Paris Opera.  He was 54 years old.  In 1907 (one source says 1906), he was one of the first to record with an orchestra.  It has been said that he was hard on his players.  Colonne was a pioneer in that his program books were the first to include program notes.  Perhaps they included advertisements as well though I’m not at all sure about that.  He died (in Paris) on March 28, 1910, at age 71.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hans Sitt

Hans Sitt (Jan Hanus Sitt) was a Hungarian violinist, violist, teacher, conductor, and composer born (in Prague) on September 21, 1850.  When he was born, Brahms had not yet even begun to make a name for himself – when he died, Stravinsky had turned the musical firmament upside down.  Although Sitt was a prolific composer, he is better remembered – if at all - as a teacher.  Unfortunately, he had no outstanding students who would have turned him into a legend.  Louis Zimmermann was probably his most famous pupil.  Sitt’s father was a violin maker, a luthier.  Sitt entered the Prague Conservatory (Czechoslovakia) at age 11 and studied with Moritz Mildner and Antonin Bennewitz, among others.  He graduated in 1867, at age 17 and almost immediately was engaged as concertmaster of the Breslau Opera Orchestra in Wroclaw, Poland – Wroclaw is one and the same as Breslau.  It is about 120 miles northeast of Prague.  Sitt stayed for six years and then served as concertmaster of an orchestra in Chemnitz (Germany) for another six years.  Chemnitz is about 60 miles northwest of Prague and 35 miles south of Leipzig, Germany.  Sitt enjoyed a very brief career as a touring virtuoso and served as conductor of several orchestras in Europe – I don’t know which orchestras – including some in France and Austria.  In 1883 (some sources say 1884) he began his teaching career at the Leipzig Conservatory.  It was here that he was invited to be part of the Brodsky Quartet as a violist, with Ottokar Novacek on second, Adolph Brodsky on first, and Leopold Grutzmacher on cello.  He left the conservatory in 1921.  He had been there almost forty years.  From 1885 to 1903 he conducted the Bach Society Chorale in Leipzig.  His violin studies – although not as well-known as the Kreutzer or DeBeriot or Rode books - are still in use today.  He was one of the first to systematize the study of scales – in thirds, sixths, octaves and tenths.  He composed six violin concertos, two cello concertos, three viola concertos, many concert pieces for violin, viola, or cello, and a few chamber music works.  One of his piano trios is available here.  He probably played a very fine violin but I don’t know what that was.  Sitt died on March 10, 1922, at age 71.