Lydia Mordkovitch (Lydia Shtimerman Mordkovitch) was a Russian violinist, violist, and teacher born (in Saratov) on April 30, 1944. She spent much of her later career in England. She began her violin studies at the local music school in Kishinev (Kishniev or Kishinyov), a city in Moldova where her family returned after World War Two. Since Kishinev was a shambles during the war, her mother fled as far as she could (980 miles eastward, all the way to Saratov, in this case) to get away from the fighting forces. Mordkovitch may have been six or seven years old when she first began her studies. I didn’t take the trouble to find out. Beginning in 1960, at age 16, she studied briefly in Odessa (Ukraine) at the Stolyarski School of Music. (Odessa is only 96 miles southeast from Kishinev.) She then moved her studies to the (Nezhdanova) Odessa Conservatory. One of her teachers there was Monzion Mordkovich, a violinist I had never heard about before. [Please see comments below] She was there two years and graduated. She was 18 years old. Later still, she entered the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. She was 24 years old by then. Her main teacher there was David Oistrakh. In fact, when she first met Oistrakh to prepare for her entrance exam, he asked her why she had “come so late,” referring to her age. From 1968 to 1970, she was Oistrakh’s teaching assistant as well. From 1970 to 1973 she taught at the Institute of Arts in Kishinev. A couple of sources say she studied there between those same years but that is highly unlikely – Mordkovitch was already an established violinist by then. In Israel, she taught at the Academy of Music in Jerusalem between 1974 and 1979. Mordkovitch made her British debut on January 7, 1979, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Halle Orchestra (Manchester, England) conducted by Walter Susskind. She moved to England permanently in 1980. She was 36 years old. All the while, she was concertizing in Europe, England, Russia, Israel, and the US. Her American debut came in 1982 with the Chicago Symphony (in Chicago.) George Solti was on the podium. In 1980, she began teaching at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. In 1995, she began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Mordkovitch made over sixty recordings, mostly under the (British) Chandos label. Some of them are unique in that they feature works for violin which are seldom heard – John Veale’s violin concerto, for instance. Her recording of the Shostakovich concertos won awards from British and French music critics. Most of her recordings are easy to find on the internet. Her best-known pupil is probably British violinist Pip Clarke. Mordkovitch played a 1746 Nicolo Gagliano violin for many years but she would use other instruments as well (mostly Strads and Guadagninis on loan from friends or the Royal Academy), especially when recording. Here is a YouTube audio file of her recording of the first Szymanowski concerto. Mordkovitch died on December 9, 2014, at age 70.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Melanie Clapies is a French violinist, teacher, and composer born (in Paris) on December 16, 1981. She is one of less than a handful of concert violinists who currently write works for their own use, in the style of so many violinists of past generations – Tartini, Corelli, Nardini, Geminiani, Biber, Vivaldi, Locatelli, Mozart, Leclair, Paganini, Viotti, Lipinski, Gavinies, Spohr, Wieniawski, Joachim, Ernst, Vieuxtemps, De Beriot, Conus, Enesco, Ysaye, Kreisler, Spalding, and Markov are among them. In fact, the tradition of the violinist-composer has so much been neglected that violinists do not even write their own cadenzas to concerti anymore. Clapies does. As did Bronislaw Huberman so many years ago, Clapies has had a good number of teachers. She began her violin studies at age 5 in Paris and later, in the southern coastal city of Toulon, beginning at age 8, with Solange Dessane (Toulon is located about 520 miles south of Paris but only 25 miles west of Saint-Tropez.) Her public debut came at age 14. She later studied with Pavel Vernikov and Christophe Poiget at the Lyon Conservatory. She graduated in 2003. While studying in Lyon, she also studied with John Glickman at the Guildhall School in London as an exchange student. She later entered the Paris Conservatory where she was a student of Ami Flammer and Claire Desert, graduating in 2011. Clapies also received her Master’s from Yale University in the US this year (2014.) Her chamber music studies were under the tutelage of the world-famous Tokyo String Quartet and the Emerson String Quartet. Clapies has already taught at the conservatories in Toulon and Bordeaux, and at the Alfred Cortot Music School in Paris (Zino Francescatti, Pablo Casals, Charles Munch, Jacques Thibaud, and Paul Dukas were once teachers there.) She has also founded (with French cellist Yan Levionnois) a Chamber Music Festival in Burgundy, France. Clapies has performed most extensively in England, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, and the US. Leonard Bernstein once said that “music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.” In a similar vein, Clapies has stated that her compositions are attempts to catch something from the inexpressible. She has also stated the following: “To me, a good interpreter is a researcher, someone able to find new ways to express and reveal what the pieces possess. I find a direct path to composition from there. For me, composing is a means by which to interrogate my surroundings; to make deeper my relation to it.” She formerly played a Tommaso Carcassi violin and a modern violin by Italian luthier Carlo Colombo Bruno but her current violin is a Joseph Gagliano from 1781. Nonetheless, Clapies also plays an authentic (period instrument) baroque violin on occasion. Among the works in her extensive repertoire is one of my favorites – the Schumann concerto. Here is her recording of the second movement from it on YouTube with the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra. You will immediately notice that her playing is intensely poetic. Her recordings include a collection of duo works – in a more contemporary vein - for violin and cello, available here. She is currently organizing a piano trio in New York as well as a project which will feature the music of Ravel which combines music and mime. In addition, Clapies is also interested in conducting! In her upcoming performances of the Beethoven concerto, she will be using her own cadenza. (There are at least ten cadenzas to the Beethoven concerto out there (Kreisler’s and Joachim’s being the most played) and Heifetz used his own too (some of it borrowed from Leopold Auer), but there are no contemporary violinists who play their own original cadenzas so this will be a unique joy for her audiences.) Photo of Melanie Clapies is used courtesy of Francois Olivier de Sardan.