Sunday, May 18, 2014

Akiko Suwanai

Akiko Suwanai is a Japanese violinist and teacher born (in Tokyo) on February 7, 1972.  Suwanai won the Tchaikovsky violin competition at age 18 (1990) and is well-known for playing one of Heifetz’ old violins, the Dolphin Stradivarius of 1714.  She initially studied in Tokyo with Toshiya Eto.  Eventually she moved to the U.S where she studied with Dorothy DeLay and Cho Liang Lin at Juilliard.  Then she moved to Berlin to study with Uwe Martin Haiberg at the Advanced School of Art (the University of Art.)  Suwanai has since solidly established her career, gaining praise from critics and audiences throughout the world.  She frequently tours with top orchestras, but mostly in Europe.  She soloed with the New York Philharmonic on November 20, 1997, playing the Mendelssohn concerto – the one in e minor.  Suwanai first performed with the Berlin Philharmonic on September 12, 2000, playing Ravel’s Tzigane.  She was 28 years old.  Charles Dutoit was on the podium.  She opened the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival in 2009, being the first Japanese violinist invited to do so.  She has recorded with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, among others.  Suwanai also teaches master classes occasionally.  As far as I know, Suwanai presently has her home base in Paris.  Paris, New York, Berlin, Rome, and London are probably the most popular cities for concert violinists to work from.  Here is a YouTube video of her playing (in the orchestra) with a few other musicians at the Louvre.  And another is here at the same concert, playing the double concerto by Bach.  Among her collaborators at the concert are Manrico Padovani, Sergey Khachatryan, Viviane Hagner, Hyun-su Shin, Manuela Janke, Steven Isserlis, and Arabella Steinbacher.  There are many other videos of Suwanai in concert on YouTube.  The photo is courtesy of Leslie Kee.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Noel Pointer

Noel Pointer was an American jazz violinist, composer, and record producer born on December 26, 1954.  Just as the lives of many musical luminaries were cut short – Wolfgang Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, George Gershwin, Franz Schubert, Vasa Prihoda, Glenn Gould, Ginette Neveu, Josef Hassid, Arma Senkrah, Andrei Korsakov, and Michael Rabin come to mind – his life was also cut short at a very early age.  What he could have accomplished is anyone’s guess but he was well on his way to becoming a legend.  Early in his career he decided to take up jazz violin and went as far as producing albums.  Pointer also became involved in national social causes such as literacy and the arts, receiving special citations from the U.S. Congress.  In 1981, he was nominated for a Grammy.  He was 26 years old.  Pointer began his music studies at an early age but exactly what age I do not know.  He became interested in jazz while studying at New York’s High School for Music and Art.  He began playing for studio sessions while at the Manhattan School of Music.  His public debut took place at age 13 in New York, with the Symphony of the New World.  He went on to appear with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony as a classical violinist.  By age 19, Pointer was playing regularly with many theatre orchestras in New York City, including the Radio City Music Hall Symphony, the Dance Theatre of Harlem Orchestra, and the Apollo Theatre Orchestra.  Pointer enjoyed steady work as a club jazz violinist in New York as well.  He recorded for the Blue Note, United Artists, and Liberty record labels.  He also recorded with a variety of artists.  Of his seven solo albums, four reached Billboard’s top five jazz albums list.  As a composer, Pointer wrote music for several dance troupes in New York.  He died suddenly on December 9, 1994, at age 39.