Sunday, June 29, 2014

Adolfo Betti

Adolfo Betti was an Italian violinist, teacher, and music editor born (in Bagni Di Lucca, Italy) on March 21, 1875.  (Bagni Di Lucca is a small village in Tuscany, Italy - it is situated about 30 miles northwest of Florence and about 70 miles south of Cremona.)  He is known for leading, as first violinist, the Flonzaley Quartet from 1903 to 1929.  In its first few years, he and second violinist, Alfred Pochon, actually alternated playing first violin.  Two other quartets who used to or still do this are the Emerson and the Jacobsohn string quartets.  The Flonzaley quartet was one of two very famous (and important) American string quartets playing in the early twentieth century - the other was the Kneisel Quartet.  Interestingly, its founder was not a professional musician.  He was philanthropist Edward J. De Coppet.  The quartet was actually named for De Coppet’s summer home near Geneva, Switzerland.  Although I have no idea who Betti’s early teachers were, I do know he made his public debut as a child of either six or seven - accounts vary.  He entered the Liege Conservatory (Belgium) in 1892.  There, he studied with Cesar Thomson.  He graduated in 1896, at age 21.  Thereafter, he concertized in Europe.  In 1900, he was appointed assistant to his former teacher (Thomson) at the Brussels Conservatory.  In 1903, he was invited, by Alfred Pochon, to become part of the Flonzaley Quartet.  Pochon was also teaching at the Brussels Conservatory at the time.  Betti was 28 years old.  After the quartet disbanded, Betti spent his time between New York and his birthplace, teaching, editing music, and playing occasionally.  The public library in Bagni Di Lucca is named after him.  According to one source, he was even mayor of Bagni Di Lucca for a while.  In New York, Betti taught at the Mannes College of Music.  He played, among other violins, a 1782 J.B. Guadagnini and a 1741 Guarnerius Del Gesu.  I don’t know who owns or plays those violins today.  One of his better known students was David Nadien, who very recently passed away.  Betti died on December 2, 1950, at age 75. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dorothy DeLay

Dorothy DeLay was an American violinist and teacher born (in Medicine Lodge, Kansas) on March 31, 1917.  She is well-known as the teacher of many world famous violinists and as a pedagogue as accomplished as Peter Stolyarski, Leopold Auer, Carl Flesch, Ivan Galamian, Otakar Sevcik, Joseph Gingold, and Zakhar Bron.  She easily taught more than a thousand students during her career.  A story is told of how when DeLay was two years old, she had opportunity to hug and kiss the King of Belgium – just as the child prodigy Mozart hugged and kissed Marie Antoinette.  She began her violin studies at age 4.  She first played in public at age 5.  By age 14, she was the leader of her high school orchestra, which numbered about one hundred players.  At 16, she entered Oberlin College (Ohio) where she studied with Raymond Cerf, an obscure violinist who had been a pupil of Eugene Ysaye.  At 17, she entered Michigan State University, from which she graduated at age 20.  Her violin teacher there was another obscure violinist and conductor named Michael Press.  From there, she went (in 1937) to New York to study with Louis Persinger at Juilliard.  She was still only 20 years old.  She also later studied with Hans Letz and Felix Salmond at the same school.  DeLay earned a living while at Juilliard by doing odd jobs and playing wherever and whenever she could.  It was during this time that she founded the Stuyvesant Trio which was active from 1939 to 1942.  She also became a member of Leopold Stokowski’s All-American Youth Orchestra which toured South America and the U.S. in 1940 and 1941.  She graduated from Juilliard in 1941 but also got married that year.  She subsequently traveled with her husband due to his military service during the war but also occasionally performed as a soloist and with the trio.  In 1946, DeLay decided to take a break from performing and returned to Juilliard for further study.  She was 29 years old.  Her teacher then was Ivan Galamian.  In 1948 (one source says 1947), she became Galamian’s teaching assistant.  The rest is history.  She was 31 years old.  DeLay had also considered studying medicine during this time but decided against it.  (Interestingly, Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler did study medicine and actually became a doctor, though, as far as I know, he never actually practiced.)  She also concurrently began teaching at the Henry Street Settlement School and Sarah Lawrence College (1947-1987.)  In 1970, she finally established her own teaching studio at Juilliard.  She was 53 years old and had already been teaching at Juilliard for more than 20 years, although under Galamian’s shadow.  One fine day, after it had become quite obvious that her teaching style and methods were incompatible with Galamian’s, Delay let Galamian know that she would not be teaching at Meadowmount (Galamian’s summer music camp) that summer (in 1970) but would be at the Aspen Music camp instead; the relationship ruptured and Galamian (1903-1981) never spoke to her again.  In fact, he tried to get her fired but was unsuccessful.  DeLay played a 1778 GB Guadagnini (named the Dorothy Delay Guadagnini) which was sold at auction in October of 2013 – for $1,390,000.  She acquired the violin in 1969.  Today, more than a dozen Juilliard teachers are former pupils of hers.  Besides Juilliard, DeLay also taught at the University of Cincinnati, the New England Conservatory, and the Royal College of Music in London.  It has been said that DeLay once stated that “talent is just a mood.”  Among her famous pupils are Anastasia Khitruk, Stefan Milenkovich, Anton Barachovsky, Philippe Quint, Itzhak Perlman, Tijana Milosevic, Miranda Cuckson, Nigel Kennedy, Peter Oundjian, Jaap van Zweden, Shlomo Mintz, David Kim, Robert McDuffie, Aaron Janse, Cornelia Heard, Mark Kaplan, Midori Goto, Frank Almond, Sarah Chang, Angele Dubeau, Paul Kantor, Tamaki Kawakubo, Robert Chen, Gil Shaham, and Akiko Suwanai.  Dorothy DeLay died on March 24, 2002, at age 84.  Today, Itzhak Perlman teaches in her place.  The photo shows DeLay in her early twenties.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Oldrich Vlcek

Oldrich Vlcek is a Czech violinist and conductor born (in Byk, Czechoslovakia) on May 18, 1939.  (I could not find Byk on a map of Czechoslovakia so I don’t know where it is.)  He is known for having recorded over 200 CDs with various European chamber orchestras, although the vast majority (on various labels) have been with the Prague Chamber Orchestra and the Virtuosi di Praga.  He has also performed with some of the most outstanding soloists of our time, including Mstislav Rostropovich, Josef Suk, Sergey Krylov, and Placido Domingo.  Among his distinguished accomplishments has been his appointment (in 2004) as one of the principal conductors of the orchestra of the Estates Theatre in Prague.  You can read a little more about this famous theatre here.  After studying with Bohumila Kotmela, Vlcek was a pupil of Nora Grumlikova at the Prague Academy of Art (Academy of Performing Arts in Prague - film director Milos Forman [aka Jan Tomas Kohn] also studied there.)  Vlcek also studied conducting with Vaclav Neumann, the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic (1968-1990).  He was appointed concertmaster and conductor of the Prague Chamber Orchestra (established in 1951) in 1980.  In 1990, he re-established the Virtuosi di Praga.  He is given credit for quite successfully navigating (with this ensemble) the hard economic times that came upon Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Communist regime in 1990.  He had actually founded the Virtuosi di Praga in 1976 but the orchestra had disbanded for reasons I know nothing about.  Besides Czechoslovakia, Vlcek has also guest conducted in Europe, Korea, and Canada.  As leader and soloist with the Prague Chamber Orchestra and the Virtuosi di Praga, Vicek has toured worldwide.  His very interesting recording of the Four Seasons is here.  You can hear Vlcek play Vivaldi here