Sunday, February 23, 2014

Wolfgang Schneiderhan

Wolfgang Schneiderhan (Wolfgang Eduard Schneiderhan) was an Austrian violinist, conductor, and teacher born (in Vienna) on May 28, 1915.  He was well-known for being a concertmaster as well as a concert violinist.  His many recordings for the German record label, Deutsche Grammophon, are also well-known and his portrait is easily recognizable in that he almost always wore horn-rimmed glasses – he even bore a resemblance to an American diplomat.  He spent most of his career in Europe, though he toured the U.S. in 1958 as part of a chamber orchestra.  He was also caught up in political movements of the time as were most German and Austrian musicians of that era.  His first teacher was his mother, beginning at age 3.  He made fast progress and his first public performance took place at age 5 in Vienna.  In 1923, he started studying with Otakar Sevcik in Pisek (Czechoslovakia) but later returned to Vienna to study with Julius Winkler because Sevcik was not one to linger long in any one place.  In 1926, he played the Mendelssohn concerto in Copenhagen and subsequently began to tour as a prodigy.  He was 11 years old.  Between 1929 and 1932, he worked in England.  He was 17 years old when he returned to Austria.  He then became concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony.  In 1937, he became concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic and remained there until 1951 (some sources say 1949.)  All the while, he was concertizing and recording as a soloist.  He also formed the Schneiderhan Quartet in 1937 (which he disbanded in 1951) with Otto Strassner, Ernest Moravec, and Richard Kroschak.  In 1947, he presented Elgar’s violin concerto in its first performance in Vienna.  He was 32 years old.  In 1948, he joined a piano trio with which he also recorded, though not much.  He left the trio in 1956.  In that same year, he left the Mozarteum in Salzburg – where he had been teaching since 1938.  He had also taught at the Vienna Academy (Hochschule Fur Musik) from 1939 to 1950 (one source says 1937 to 1950.)  He began teaching at the Lucerne Conservatory (Switzerland) in 1949 and co-founded the Lucerne Festival Strings in 1956.  His first solo appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic took place on November 3, 1942.  He played Viotti’s concerto number 22 in a minor – he was 27 years old.  He soloed with this orchestra many times.  His last appearance with them took place on October 3, 1987.  He played Frank Martin’s violin concerto on that occasion.  He was 72 years old.  He founded the Fritz Kreisler violin competition in Vienna in 1996.  His most popular recordings are probably the Beethoven concerto and the ten Beethoven violin sonatas.  Here is a YouTube audio file in which he plays his cadenza to the Beethoven concerto.  It is actually an arrangement by Schneiderhan of Beethoven’s own revised cadenza to his piano version of the violin concerto.  Schneiderhan does a magnificent job playing it.  The Beethoven concerto probably has had at least ten cadenzas written for it but the most played are the ones composed by Joachim and Kreisler.  Schneiderhan took up conducting in the middle 1970s but he did not do too much of that.  Among Schneiderhan’s violins was a 1715 Stradivarius - now known as the Schneiderhan Stradivarius – which had previously been owned by Martin Marsick – and a 1704 Stradivarius, currently owned by an Austrian Foundation.  Schneiderhan died (in Vienna) on May 18, 2002, at (almost) age 87.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lola Bobesco

Lola Bobesco (Lola Violeta Ana Maria Bobesco) was a Romanian violinist born (in Craiova, Romania) on August 9, 1921.  She spent most of her career in Europe and many of those years were spent in Belgium, which is why Bobesco is frequently referred to as a Belgian violinist.  She initially studied with her father, a noted composer and conductor.  At age 6, she gave her first public recital.  From 1928 to 1935, she studied at the Normal School of Music in Paris.  Her main teacher there was Marcel Chailley, a well-known violinist of the time.  She almost simultaneously studied at the Paris Conservatory from 1931 to 1935, with Jules Boucherit.  She also studied privately with George Enesco and Jacques Thibaud.  She apparently made her orchestral debut in Paris in 1936 with the (Edouard) Colonne Orchestra with Paul Paray conducting.  Paray would later become chief conductor of the Detroit Symphony, when Detroit was in its prime.  It was an unusual debut in that she performed not a concerto from the standard repertoire but a work by a now-obscure Romanian composer, Stan Golestan.  She was 17 years old.  The next year, she won seventh prize in the Queen Elizabeth (Eugene Ysaye) violin competition – David Oistrakh came in first.  After that, she returned to Romania and established a career in Bucharest.  On January 17, 1960 she made her first appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic, playing the Brahms concerto, She was 38 years old.  She performed with most of the major European orchestras, including the Concertgebouw, the London Philharmonic, and the Berlin Philharmonic, under conductors famous at the time, including Rudolph Kempe, Ernest Ansermet, Karl Bohm, and Otto Klemperer.  Having relocated to Belgium in her early thirties, from 1958 to 1978, she led the Royal Wallonia Chamber Orchestra in Mons, Belgium.  Mons is situated about 30 miles south of Brussels.  She was also violin professor at the Brussels Conservatory.  From 1962 to 1974, she taught at the Liege Conservatory.  In 1990, she founded a string quartet as well – the Arte Del Suono Quartet.  She was 69 years old.  You can hear how this quartet sounds here and – I predict - you will most certainly be (pleasantly) surprised.  She recorded quite a bit for various labels and those recordings – mostly standard violin sonatas and concertos – are available and easily found on the internet.  Her violin, among others, was a 1754 GB Guadagnini.  Bobesco died (in Spa, Belgium) on September 4, 2003, at age 82, largely forgotten. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stolen Lipinski Violin Found

News pages have recently been awash in stories about Frank Almond’s stolen Lipinski Stradivarius violin.  On the evening of January 27, 2014, he was attacked with a stun gun while leaving a concert venue near the city of Milwaukee and the thieves (a man and a woman, according to Almond) quickly ran off with the violin, which he dropped - due to the shock – at the very spot he was approached.  Almond was apparently not unduly physically injured.  The papers have been saturated with stories and the FBI and Interpol have become involved with the expected hope that the violin may become impossible to sell or even to show because of the publicity.  I predict it will not reappear for a very, very long time.  My own theory is as follows: This was a very deliberate theft and well-planned.  The attackers were merely hired guns who quickly turned over the violin to another person whom I shall call an intermediary – a professional smuggler, if you will.  The exchange probably took place within minutes of the actual theft – I’m guessing no more than thirty minutes.  The smuggler would have made a fast run (by car or truck or some other inconspicuous vehicle) for the Canadian border - the most likely crossing point being Detroit.  The smuggler would have driven during the night and been in Detroit before 7 a.m. on Tuesday.  He (or she) would have waited for the most opportune time to cross into Windsor but well before the news of the theft was broadcast.  Once in Canada, the most likely place to hide a violin like that would be Montreal.  The problem of getting it out of Canada would be someone else’s and not the smuggler’s – most likely a broker for a trusted ally of the end buyer.  I’m guessing that the buyer is known only to his (or her) trusted ally.  At this time, I’m guessing the violin is still in Montreal and will remain there until sometime in the spring or early summer.  It is unlikely the violin would be stashed in a small city because moving it from place to place presents further risk of being discovered.  If it’s not smuggled out of Montreal (or Toronto) by mid-June, it will have to wait until mid-September and beyond.  The reason for that is that the easiest way to transport an instrument without arousing curiosity is in the midst of traveling groups – most likely chamber ensembles of ten to fifteen players.  Most of these ensembles include violinists who carry their instruments as carry-ons or in luggage compartments.  Walking a violin into a plane under those conditions would be easy for someone pretending to be part of a touring group or even as an independent traveling musician traveling on the same plane as the group, especially if the broker is knowledgeable about classical music or is a violinist – I will assume an amateur violinist, of course.  Concert activities slow down considerably after June but pick up again after September – a person would have to be quite stupid to try to smuggle something like this during the off season.  By April, the attention being paid to this stolen violin would have died down a lot and the time for the broker to act would be ripe.  If I were Interpol, I would be watching every touring ensemble coming into and leaving Montreal (and Toronto as well) for the foreseeable future.  I would also be reviewing video of all border crossers into Windsor on that Tuesday morning.  The final destination of the Lipinski is probably Japan.  It could also be Russia.  The transit points would most likely be Berlin, London, or Paris.  Of course, all of this is pure conjecture on my part – for all I know, at this very moment, the Lipinski might be in somebody’s house in Milwaukee.  This newspaper article contradicts pretty nearly everything I have theorized here.