Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lucien Martin

Lucien Martin was a Canadian violinist, conductor, and composer born (in Montreal) on May 30, 1908.  He had a brief concertizing career and later worked as an orchestral player, though not a concertmaster.  That, in itself, is unusual.  His first lessons were with his father, who was also a violin maker.  He began playing in public at age 7.  At age 9 he had already earned a gold medal from the National Conservatory in Montreal at which he had been enrolled for two years.  His teachers were Albert Chamberland (1917-1920), Alfred De Seve (1920-1923), and Camille Couture (1923-1925) – Camille Couture was also a highly respected violin maker who had made copies of the violins used by Jacques Thibaud, Eugene Ysaye, Jan Kubelik, and Adolfo Betti.  Martin began playing professionally - concertizing, mostly in the U.S. - in 1925.  He was 17 years old.  From 1928 he continued his studies with Couture for about a year.  He then went to Paris to study with Maurice Hayot at the Normal School for Music (Ecole Normale de Musique), not to be confused with the Paris Conservatory.  In 1933, after receiving his “license” in the art of violin performance, Martin returned to Canada and gave several recitals here and there.  He became a member (first violin section) of the Montreal Symphony in 1935.  He performed Bruch’s first concerto with that orchestra on February 4, 1935.  In 1936, he again traveled to Paris for further study with George Enesco.  Martin returned to Montreal in 1937 – Enesco left Paris to conduct the New York Philharmonic for a couple of years beginning in 1937.  After that, Martin played second violin in the Dubois String Quartet for a year – unfortunately, the quartet was disbanded in 1938, when the founding member died.  Martin was then 30 years old.  In the late 1930s and early 1940s Martin played for numerous radio broadcasts.  I do not know if recordings of those broadcasts were made and are archived somewhere.  He also conducted several concerts at about the same time.  Only one of his compositions – a song - was published during his lifetime.  A popular source which is often very unreliable says that Martin owned a 1769 Ferdinando Gagliano violin from 1972 to 1982, which is, of course, impossible.  None of the sources I found mentioned whether Martin ever taught violin anywhere.  On October 29, 1950, Lucien Martin died.  He was 42 years old.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ruben Gonzalez

Ruben Gonzalez (Ruben De Artagnan Gonzalez) is an Argentinian (most people would say American) violinist, composer, teacher, and conductor born (in Viale, Argentina) on May 4, 1939.  He is best known for having been the concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony from 1986 to 1996.  He is also known for having played the Kreisler Bergonzi violin.  Fritz Kreisler played that instrument for about ten years (1939 to 1949.)  A usually reliable source says that Kreisler used the instrument after he gave up his Guarnerius to the Library of Congress but that is obviously not true since Kreisler gave up his Guarnerius in 1952.  From Kreisler, the (Carlo) Bergonzi went to Angel Reyes (in 1949) then to Itzhak Perlman then to Ruben Gonzalez then to a collector.  According to one source, it is now in the hands of violinist Guro Hagen, though it is not owned by her.  Gonzalez studied with Osvaldo Pessina in Argentina and then with other teachers in Europe who are not exactly household names.  In 1965, Gonzalez won the top prize in a well-known competition in Barcelona, Spain.  He then played in an ensemble in Italy from which he returned to Buenos Aires, Argentina to begin his career as an orchestral player.  From Argentina, he went to Hamburg, Germany where he was concertmaster with the North German Radio Orchestra.  Returning to the U.S., he joined the Minnesota Orchestra as associate concertmaster in 1977.  From 1981 to 1986 he was concertmaster of the Houston Symphony.  In 1986, George Solti named him concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony – actually, one of two concertmasters, in the style of most German orchestras.  Among other schools, Gonzalez has taught at Rice University in Texas.  Here is a very popular video on YouTube in which Gonzalez is at the very end of the Dvorak concerto when something totally unexpected happens.  Gonzalez continues to play but he now devotes most of his time to conducting and composition.