Joseph Roisman (Josef Roismann) was a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist born (in Odessa) on July 25, 1900. He is best known for playing in the Budapest String Quartet from 1927 to 1967. Prior to 1932 he played second violin and then played first violin from 1932 onward. Although he was a very prominent chamber music player, known throughout the world, there is scant information about him on the internet and no Wikipedia article on him. He began his violin studies at age 6. One source states that his first teacher was Peter Stolyarsky although that is highly debatable since prominent pedagogues like Stolyarski never take on beginners. From Odessa the family went to Berlin where Roisman studied with Alexander Fiedemann. In 1914, they returned to Odessa where the young Roisman studied with Naoum Blinder at the Imperial Conservatory. After graduating, he was appointed concertmaster of the Odessa Opera Orchestra. After the 1917 revolution, Roisman made a living in Russia playing in farms and factories. In 1923, he left Russia and soon settled in Prague, playing in the Czech Philharmonic and in cafes. By 1925, he had arrived in Berlin where he landed a job in a movie theatre orchestra. According to one source, the theatre orchestra paid better than the Berlin Philharmonic. He supplemented his income by playing in cafes there too. He joined the Budapest Quartet after auditioning in the spring of 1927. He played his first concert with the quartet on September 17, 1927 in Oslo, Norway – it was an all-Beethoven program. Roisman, as far as I know, never played solo concerts or recitals. Here is an audio file of the quartet playing a Haydn quartet in (circa) 1925, prior to Roisman's joining. Here is a recording (from 1934) of a Mozart quartet, including Roisman and the players which lasted the longest with the Budapest String Quartet and are traditionally associated with it. Roisman played a Domenico Montagnana violin constructed in 1723 and a magnificent 1785 Lorenzo Storioni. Joseph Roisman died on October 10, 1974, at age 74.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Naoum Blinder was a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist and teacher born (in Lutzk) on July 19, 1889 – since various sources vary his exact date and place of birth are approximate. He is best remembered for being one of Isaac Stern’s teachers – between 1932 and 1935. He was a touring concert violinist for a while but finally settled in San Francisco to become the orchestra’s concertmaster for 25 years. He began his violin studies as a child although I don’t know at what age. By age 14 he had graduated from the Imperial Conservatory in Odessa. There, he had studied with Peter Stolyarsky and Alexander Fiedemann. He then entered the Moscow Conservatory (in about 1904) and studied with an unknown teacher there until about 1910. He was by then 21 years old. From there, he went to pursue further study in England at the Royal Manchester College of Music. His main teacher there was Adolph Brodsky. Blinder graduated from the RMC in 1913 or 1914 and then returned to Odessa to teach at the Conservatory. He was 25 years old. He remained there until 1920. All the while, he toured (mostly Russia and the Middle East) as a soloist. Between 1923 and 1927, he taught at the Moscow Conservatory. I don’t know what he did or where he was between 1920 and 1923. Blinder and his family (his wife and daughter) came to the US (via Japan) in December, 1927. Between 1929 and 1931, Blinder taught at Juilliard in New York. In 1931, he became the concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony at the invitation of a friend who had known him in Russia. Blinder was 42 years old. He continued to tour intermittently as a soloist and founded the San Francisco String Quartet in 1935 as well. In that year, he and Isaac Stern played the Bach concerto for two violins with the orchestra. That is fairly typical of teachers and their favorite students to do. Blinder had a very large body of students; many of them became members of the San Francisco Symphony and other orchestras. Glenn Dicterow also studied with him for a time. Blinder owned and played several violins – a 1774 G.B. Guadagnini, a 1753 G.B. Guadagnini, and an 1850 J.B. Vuillaume are among them. He died on November 21, 1965, at age 76. Here is a rare solo recording of his.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Antonio Brosa was a Spanish violinist and teacher born (in La Canonja, Spain) on June 27, 1894. He is best known for having premiered Benjamin Britten’s violin concerto. The premiere took place in New York on March 28, 1940 with the New York Philharmonic - John Barbirolli conducted. Brosa was also known for being fluent in 5 languages. It is not unusual at all for violinists (and conductors) to be fluent in two or three languages but five is rather unusual. It has been said that Henryk Szeryng was fluent in seven. According to one usually-reliable source, Brosa was also the first to record the Britten concerto – in April, 1952 or September, 1953. That recording – as far as I know – is not commercially available. The concerto was at first not very successful but by 2005, there were more than twenty recordings already produced. He began his violin studies with his father at age 4. At age 10, he made his public debut in Barcelona. Brosa later studied in Brussels with Mathieu Crickboom. His training there must have taken place in the early part of the twentieth century. He made his debut in London in 1919. He was 25 years old. In 1924 (one source says 1925), Brosa founded the Brosa String Quartet. The quartet was disbanded in 1939. His first tour of the U.S. occurred in 1930. From 1940 to 1942, he was first violinist with the Pro Arte Quartet as well. He later also taught at the Royal College in London and concertized until his retirement in 1971. Brosa played the 1727 (or 1730) Vesuvius Stradivarius (now in a Cremona museum) as well as a Giovanni Paolo Maggini violin from the year 1600 (approximately) which had previously been owned by Ole Bull. Here is an audio file of a Brosa recording of the slow movement of the Mendelssohn e minor concerto. Brosa died (in Barcelona) on March 23, 1979, at age 84.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Endre Granat is a Hungarian violinist, music editor, and teacher born (in Miskolc, Hungary – about 100 miles northeast of Budapest) on August 3, 1937. He is best known for having recorded prolifically in Los Angeles as a studio (session) musician, (as did Louis Kaufman, Toscha Seidel, and Israel Baker before him), where he almost always served as concertmaster. He has played and recorded for hundreds of movie soundtracks, CDs, and Television shows. Granat is easily the most experienced studio violinist working today. He may also be the only concert violinist in history whose wife was a murder victim (1975). His first teacher was his father (Josef Granat) who was the concertmaster of the Budapest Philharmonic for many years. He then studied with Gyorgy Garay at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest in his native country. I don’t know at what age he entered the Academy. He fled the country during the revolution in 1956. He was 19 years old. He then spent five years living in Switzerland although his initial plans were to go to Paris, France. Between 1956 and 1964 he was concertmaster or a section violinist with the Hamburg Symphony, the Orchestra of the Suisse Romande, and the Gothenburg Symphony. He also graduated from the conservatory in Basel with a Master’s degree during that time. In 1962 he entered and won a violin competition at Heidelberg, Germany. He was 25 years old. He came to the U.S. in 1964 and studied further with Josef Gingold at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. Granat was assistant concertmaster with the Cleveland Orchestra from 1964 to 1966. In 1967 he participated in the Queen Elizabeth violin competition and came in lower than fifth place – I don’t know how much lower. He was 30 years old. He then studied for five years with Jascha Heifetz in Los Angeles. Between 1975 and 1977, he played very little, spending two years in South Korea studying God-knows-what. I did not take the trouble to find out; however, he and pianist Edith Kilbuck did record the complete works for violin and harpsichord by J.S. Bach in 1976. When he returned from Korea, he began playing in the studios in Los Angeles where he has been working ever since. Granat has taught at various music schools during different times in his career, including the Royal Academy of Music in Gothenburg (Sweden), Seoul National University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and USC in Los Angeles, where he might still be teaching. He has also frequently participated in several music festivals in the U.S. and abroad and intermittently concertized as a soloist working with some of the world’s conducting luminaries, including George Szell, Zubin Mehta, and Georg Solti. He was concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony in California from September 1983 to June 1993. With regard to that experience, Granat has said: “It's one thing to have a great number of wonderful players; it's another thing to have a great orchestra. Eighty extraordinary musicians do not equal an extraordinary orchestra. That takes years.” Granat plays a 1721 Domenicus Montagnana violin which he acquired in 1968. He may have sold that violin in 2005.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Nicola Benedetti is a Scottish violinist and teacher born (in West Kilbride) on July 20, 1987. (West Kilbride is a very small village located about 33 miles west of Glasgow) She is known for being a child prodigy. She began her violin studies with Brenda Smith at age 4. By age 8, she was the concertmaster of the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain. In September of 1997, she began studying at the Yehudi Menuhin School. She was 10 years old. There, she studied with Natasha Boyarskaya. She made her public debut one year later at Wigmore Hall in London. I don’t know what piece she played then. Her later teachers included Pavel Vernikov (concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, according to one source) and Maciej Rakowski, concertmaster of the English Chamber Orchestra. She has received quite a number of awards, too numerous to mention; however, as far as I know, she has never entered a major violin competition. By her late teens, she was already an established concertizing artist. She also formed a piano trio in 2008. Benedetti has played a Stradivarius from 1717 (the Gariel Stradivarius, previously owned by Jaime Laredo) and the Earl Spencer Stradivarius (1712 or 1723) which she is probably currently playing. Her discography is not extensive (quite understandably, given that there’s not much repertory left to record - new concertos are not worth recording and every standard concerto has already been recorded dozens of times by very prominent and some not-so-prominent artists.) Here is one YouTube video of her playing. Photo is courtesy of Simon Fowler.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Emmy Verhey is a Dutch violinist born (in Amsterdam) on March 13, 1949. She is known for having placed very highly in the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition. She was only 17 years old. Although she also began concertizing at a very young age, she kept studying with various teachers. Her first teacher (at age 7) was her father (Gerard Verhey) but she soon (one year later) began her lessons with one of the top Hungarian violin pedagogues – Oskar Back. She later studied with Herman Krebbers, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and David Oistrakh. She made her debut on December 7, 1961, playing the Havanaise by Saint Saens. She was 12 years old. On September 3, 1962, she played the Tchaikovsky concerto. She was 13 years old. Her career has mostly been spent in Europe, particularly the Netherlands. Verhey has an extensive discography (more than 55 CDs) and has collaborated with some of the world’s top artists; Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Mariss Jansons, Bernard Haitink, Neville Marriner, and Janos Starker are among them. She began teaching at the Conservatory in Ultrecht in 1983 and retired from there in 2002. According to one source, Verhey was also the concertmaster of the Ultrecht Symphony Orchestra for 8 years – possibly from 1977 to 1985. (Ultrecht is about 20 miles southeast of Amsterdam.) Verhey has also performed chamber music extensively with a variety of artists. She has frequently brought attention to little-known composers such as Arthur Laurie, Othmar Schoek, Alphonse Diepenbrock, Charles Avison, Theo Loevendie, and Chris Duindam. In 1991, she co-founded the Camerata Antonio Lucio with whom she made several recordings. Among the violins she has played are the Earl Spencer Stradivarius from 1723 (or 1712 – accounts vary - now being played by Nicola Benedetti) and an Andrea Guarneri from 1676. Verhey will play a final public concert (after which she is retiring from concertizing) on November 29, 2015. The program includes Schubert’s Trout Quintet, Schubert’s String trio (the one in B flat), a violin sonata by Tristan Keuris, and another violin sonata by Theo Loevendie. YouTube has many videos of her playing. Here is one featuring the well-known Rondo Capriccioso.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Boris Brovtsyn is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Moscow) in 1977. He is known for his amazing technique and the use of rubato – in the style of many virtuoso violinists of another generation – violinists such as Mischa Elman, Fritz Kreisler, Jacques Thibaud, Ida Haendel, Nathan Milstein, and Ivry Gitlis. He began playing the violin at age 4. At age 6, he made his public debut at the famous Bolshoi Theatre. His grandfather, a pupil of the famous pedagogue, Abram Yampolski (teacher of Leonid Kogan) was his first teacher. At age 7 (1984), Brovtsyn entered the Central Music School in Moscow and graduated ten years later. Then he entered the Tchaikovsky (Moscow) Conservatory where he studied with Maya Glezarova. From there he graduated in 1999. He had already made his U.S. debut in 1995 and his U.K debut in 1998. He had already played for the Pope in 1993. He studied further at the Guildhall School of Music in London where he won the Gold Medal in 2004. His main teacher there was David Takeno. His career has taken him to places all over the world, but especially Europe. As do practically all concert violinists, he plays at music festivals all over the world. Brovtsyn plays an 1862 Vuillaume violin. Here is a performance of his on YouTube – the Mendelssohn concerto in e minor with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. He gets a tremendous ovation and is obliged to play a very nice encore by Ysaye.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Valeriy Sokolov is a Russian (Ukrainian) violinist born (in Kharkiv) on September 22, 1986. He has a very busy concert career and he tours throughout Europe regularly. He is known for having a highly personal (and distinctive) style of playing. He began his studies in his native Ukraine but left at age thirteen (1999) upon receiving a scholarship (from the Sarasate violin competition) to study in England with Natalya Boyarskaya. He began his violin studies in Kharkiv at age five but I do not know who his first teachers were. He later studied with Felix Andrievsky and in Germany and Vienna with (among others) Ana Chumachenco, Mark Lubotsky, and Boris Kuschnir. By 2006, his career was firmly established. He was barely 20 years old. Sokolov is particularly well known for his interpretation of Bartok’s second concerto which he has recorded. He made his U.S. debut in 2007. Sokolov is the subject of a 2004 documentary about his emerging career. Here is a short YouTube video of him playing Beethoven. Photo is courtesy of Derry Moore.
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Otto Buchner was a German violinist and teacher born (in Nuremberg) on September 10, 1924. He is well known (among aficionados) as a specialist in the solo violin sonatas by JS Bach. Buchner founded a string chamber orchestra based in Munich in 1962. He taught at the Munich Conservatory for many years too. One source states (without citing the years, so it is debatable) he was also concertmaster of the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra (associated with Carlos Kleiber for many years) as well as concertmaster of the Munich Philharmonic. His recording of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos, with the Munich Bach Soloists (founded in 1982), may well be the best of all time. You can hear the first movement of number 4 here and judge for yourself. Those of you who know these works or have played them know how difficult number 4 is for the solo violin. The complete version of the concertos is here. The first movement of the second Brandenburg Concerto in the set is included among the music works sent into space on the Golden Record which is attached to the spacecraft Voyager 1. If an extraterrestrial finds it, they might like the music and enjoy Buchner's playing although they probably won't know it's him playing - unless that information is included in the Golden Record but I don't think it is. Buchner also recorded many Bach solo works which are easily found on the internet. He played a Stradivarius violin dated 1727. Buchner died on September 28, 2008, at age 84.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Robert Lipsett (Robert Crawford Lipsett Jr.) is an American violinist and teacher born (in Louisville, Kentucky) on October 23, 1947. He is best known for holding the violin chair at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, a position named after Jascha Heifetz. He literally teaches in Heifetz’ old music studio, which was disassembled at Heifetz' home in Beverly Hills and reassembled on the Colburn School’s campus. The studio includes almost all of Heifetz’ furnishings and décor as well. He has been on the faculty for more than 25 years. Lipsett gives master classes all over the world and also teaches at the Aspen School of Music. He began his violin studies as a child, at age 7, in Dallas, Texas with Zelman Brounoff (concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony) and Ruth Lasley. After his family moved to Saint Louis (Missouri), he continued his music studies with Melvin Ritter (concertmaster of the St Louis Symphony and former student of William Kroll.) Eventually, he graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music and, after graduation, also studied with Ivan Galamian at Juilliard (New York) and Endre Granat, presumably in Los Angeles. In 1986, he began teaching at USC (University of Southern California.) Lipsett has also worked as a session (studio) violinist in Los Angeles, recording for movies, television, and CDs. He has received several awards for his distinguished career as a teacher. Among his many pupils are Robert Chen, Tamaki Kawakubo, Kathryn Eberle, Leila Josefowicz, Jennifer Frautschi, and Lindsay Deutsch. From the photo you can see Lipsett plays a fine violin but I don’t know what it is. About achieving a top concert career, Lipsett has said the following: “One eventually has to face a sort of reality. Being a top concert violinist is like running for President. There’s just not much room up there at all.”
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Aida Stucki was a Swiss violinist and teacher born (in Cairo, Egypt) on February 19, 1921. She was a concert violinist who, like countless others, settled down to a teaching career, although she continued to perform as a soloist and chamber musician even as she taught many world class violinists. One of her teachers was Stefi Geyer, Bela Bartok’s beloved muse. Another was Carl Flesch. She began violin lessons at age 10, with Ernst Wolters, concertmaster of the Winterthur (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra. Stucki made her public debut at age 13, playing Mozart’s third concerto, although I don’t know where it took place – I’m guessing either Winterthur or Zurich, Switzerland. Stucki’s concertizing career began in 1940. She was 19 years old. She began teaching at the Winterthur Conservatory in 1948. In 1959, she founded a string quartet with her violinist-husband, Giuseppe Piraccini. The two would often trade places, alternatively playing first or second violin. As far as I know, the first string quartet to regularly alternate first and second violin parts between violinists was the Jacobsohn String Quartet – it was founded in Chicago in (approximately) 1890. Stucki frequently partnered with pianist (and violinist) Clara Haskil to perform as a duo. Nevertheless, Haskil also performed with other violinists, including Isaac Stern, Joseph Szigeti, Henryk Szeryng, Eugene Ysaye, George Enesco, and Arthur Grumiaux. In 1983, Stucki fell and broke both of her wrists. She had to stop concertizing but continued teaching. She left a substantial discography which is easy to find on the internet. Among her many hundreds of students are Manrico Padovani, Anne Sophie Mutter, Noemi Schindler, and Matthias Enderle. From some recordings I've heard I concluded she must have played a pretty good violin but I was not able to find out what it was. Stucki died on June 9, 2011, at age 90.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Ottorino Respighi was an Italian violinist, composer, and musicologist, born (in Bologna) on July 9, 1879. Although making a living by playing the violin for many years, today, he is known for his very popular tone poems – The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome, and The Roman Festivals among others. He also composed at least eight operas which are not as popular. Respighi was very prolific and his music still sounds modern, even 80 years after his death. His father was his first teacher of both violin and piano. Respighi later entered the Music Lyceum in Bologna where he studied violin with Federico Sarti. He graduated in 1899. He was 19 years old. He then traveled to Saint Petersburg, Russia to play principal viola in the Russian Imperial Theatre. The Russian Revolution would not occur until seventeen years later. He took advantage of his stay there by studying composition with Rimsky-Korsakov. After returning to Bologna, he took a degree in composition, perhaps from the same institution. However, his principal income came from playing violin. Until 1908, he was first violinist of the Mugellini Quartet. He also spent time playing in Germany. Upon returning from Germany, he turned his attention, almost completely, to composition. He settled in Rome in 1913 and used it as his base of operations for the rest of his life. He also began teaching composition at the Rome Conservatory that year. Whether he ever gave violin lessons is unknown to me. By 1917, he had become famous as a composer. In 1923, he was appointed Director of the Conservatory. Here is Heifetz’ rendition of Respighi’s violin sonata in B minor – first movement. Respighi died on April 18, 1936, at age 56.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Susanne Lautenbacher is a German violinist and teacher born (in Augsburg) on April 19, 1932. She is known for being an advocate of baroque music before it was in vogue. She is also known for recording seldom heard works – the works of Locatelli, Biber, Rolla, Hummel, Viotti, Weill, Schorr, and Reger for example. One of her early teachers was Karl Freund in Munich. She later studied with Henryk Szeryng. She recorded for many labels and her discography is fairly extensive – her recording activity spans more than forty years. She was the violinist of the Bell’ Arte Trio as well. She taught for many years (beginning in 1965) at the Stuttgart Conservatory. Here is an audio file of one of her recordings, a concerto by Pietro Antonio Locatelli, a virtuoso, mysterious, and elusive violinist of the 18th Century. Lautenbacher herself is becoming an iconic figure for her thoughtful, incisive, and engaging interpretations.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Boris Belkin (Boris Davidovich Belkin) is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Yekaterinburg – aka Sverdlovsk) on January 26, 1948. He began his violin studies at age 6. One year later, he made his first public appearance with Kiril Kondrashin on the podium. He was a student at the Central Music School (for specially gifted children) in Moscow, a branch of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. At the Moscow Conservatory, his teachers – among others – were Yuri Yankelevich (teacher also of Leonid Kogan, Ilya Kaler, Zakhar Bron, Vladimir Spivakov, and Ruben Aharonyan), Maya Glezarova (assistant to Yuri Yankelevich), and Felix Andrievsky. He began his concertizing career in Russia while still a student, a very common practice everywhere. In 1974, at age 26, he left Russia and settled in Western Europe. (He had applied to take part in the Paganini Competition in Genoa but the authorities denied him a visa so he then applied to emigrate to Israel and from there, he made his way to Belgium.) He has appeared with virtually every major orchestra in the world. He performed the Tchaikovsky concerto with the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein on April 22 and 24, 1975. On June 6 and 7, 1978, he played the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic. Belkin's discography is not extensive by any measure but it includes the rarely performed Strauss concerto. He began teaching in Italy – at the Accademia Chigiana (founded in 1932) – in 1986. He also teaches in the Netherlands at the Advanced Music School (College of Music) in Maastricht (about 90 miles south east of Amsterdam – the city is a lot closer to Cologne, Germany and Brussels, Belgium than it is to Amsterdam.) Belkin has played a Stradivarius from the Russian State collection, a 1754 Guadagnini, and two modern violins (1994 and 2007) by Roberto Regazzi. For many years, he has used a bow made by a famous maker - Daniel Tobias Navea Vera. Here is one of Belkin’s YouTube files.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
Gyorgy Garay was a Hungarian violinist, teacher, and music editor born (in Rakospalota) on December 2, 1909. He is now a very obscure violinist who was well-known in his day. His first teacher was Joseph Bloch at the Budapest Academy of Music. Garay was 9 years old when he started his studies. Three years later, he was a student of Oscar Studer. In 1925, he began studying with Jeno Hubay and graduated a year later. Interestingly, his public debut took place in Vienna (1926.) He made his debut in Hungary (Budapest) in 1927. Garay soon gravitated toward a career in chamber music, playing violin in the Hungarian Trio from 1927 to 1930. Between 1930 and 1933, he was first violinist with the Garay Quartet. In the 1930s, he developed a second career as a soloist in Europe. Between 1940 and 1945, he was a violinist with the Fovarosi Orchestra in Budapest. He became principal violinist at the Hungarian State Opera House in 1945 and stayed until 1951. From 1951 to 1960, he was concertmaster of the National Philharmonic (State Concert Orchestra) – this orchestra may or may not be the same orchestra which exiled itself (to Germany) in 1956 and became the Philharmonia Hungarica. From 1949 to 1961, Garay was also a violin teacher at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. In 1960, he became concertmaster of the Radio Symphony in Leipzig (MDR Symphony Orchestra.) While there, he also taught at the Mendelssohn Academy of Music. Henceforth, he performed less and less as a soloist. He gave many premiere performances of new works (mostly by Hungarian composers) and recorded some of these works as well. Here is one of several of his audio files on YouTube - the violin concerto (1973) by Wilhelm Neef. Garay died (in Leipzig) on May 15, 1988, at age 78. His violin was a Stradivarius of 1733 – as far as I know, it bears no name. It is now played (and perhaps owned) by well-known Hungarian violinist Antal Zalai.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Hagai Shaham is an Israeli violinist and teacher born (in Haifa) on July 8, 1966. For reasons I know nothing about, he has never left Israel as his home base, as have so many other concert violinists – Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Guy Braunstein, Jonathan Berick, Lydia Mordkovitch, Vadim Gluzman, and Ivry Gitlis, to name a few. He is also known for recordings of little-known works by Joseph Achron. Shaham is often asked whether he is closely related to American violinist Gil Shaham – he is not. Shaham began his violin studies at age 6. He later studied (from age 12) with Ilona Feher (1901-1988) in Tel Aviv - it has been said that he was her last student. He also studied with Emanuel Borok (the highest-paid concertmaster in the world), Elisha Kagan, and Arnold Steinhardt. Shaham has taught at USC (in the US - 2007), the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, and Tel Aviv University, among other places. He has also given numerous master classes throughout the world. His recording labels have included Decca, Chandos, Hyperion, Naxos, Nimbus, and Biddulph. His Achron recordings are on the Hyperion label – some of these works have never before been available to the general public. It has been said that he found these forgotten works (in manuscript form) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. These recordings have been highly praised. One reviewer stated that “through the richness of his tone, superior vibrato usage, expressiveness of phrasing and top-drawer facility, he fulfills his potential in striking fashion. It is a treat to hear such tonally satisfying violin playing when commonplace sound, even among accomplished artists, is so prevalent." Another has stated that he has “an impressive a technique as anyone except Heifetz…” In 2009, he formed a piano trio with Arnon Erez (piano) and Raphael Wallfisch. Since then, the trio has toured regularly but mostly in Europe. Here is a YouTube video of him playing a well-known piece by Jeno Hubay.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Stefan Gheorghiu was a Romanian violinist and teacher born (in Galatz) on March 23, 1926. Although he concertized around the world, he spent most of his time playing and teaching in Romania. As most professional violinists have done, he began his violin studies very early in life – at age 5. He later (at age 9) became a student at the Royal Conservatory in Bucharest and later still at the National Conservatory in Paris, studying with Maurice Hewitt, a violinist I had never before heard of. He completed his studies in Moscow under the tutelage of David Oistrakh. In 1946, he became violin soloist with the George Enesco Philharmonic in Bucharest. He also formed the Romanian Piano Trio. He was 20 years old. Using Bucharest as his home base, he toured various parts of the world (mostly Europe and Russia), championing the music of Romanian composers, especially George Enesco, recording several first editions of their works. In 1960, he was appointed violin professor at the University of Music (Music Academy) in Bucharest. He was 34 years old. Among his many pupils are Angele Dubeau, Corina Belcea, and Silvia Marcovici. Gheorghiu died on March 17, 2010, at (almost) age 84.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Vladimir Cosma is a Romanian violinist, composer, and conductor born (in Bucharest) on April 13, 1940. He is one of several musicians who began their careers as violinists and digressed to other (musical) endeavors. In France, he is well-known as a prolific film composer although he is a composer of classical (concert) works as well. Perhaps he can be compared to Victor Young, American violinist-composer. There is scant information about Cosma’s career as a violinist other than that he began his violin studies while still quite young and he graduated from the Bucharest Conservatory of Music and then moved on to the Paris Conservatory in 1963. In Paris, he also studied with Nadia Boulanger, the famous French teacher. Up until about 1968 (between 1964 and 1967 approximately), he played in orchestras and toured as a concert violinist. After that, he focused on composition and (necessarily) on conducting. He credits a meeting with French composer Michel Legrand with his entry into the world of soundtrack composing. He was 28 years old by then. It has been said that one of his grandmothers (I don’t know which one) studied with the famous piano player, Ferruccio Busoni. According to one (usually-reliable) source, Cosma is the composer of more than 300 scores for films and television programs. Another source puts the number at 150. He has conducted a number of orchestras outside of the recording studios though mostly in France. The French government has bestowed several honors on him as he is considered a national artistic treasure. Several of his scores have also been awarded the French equivalent of an Academy Award. As you can see from the photo, Cosma has never entirely given up the violin. Whether he has or has ever had any pupils is something I do not know. He is on record saying that melody is the most important thing in a composition. In an interview, Cosma was quoted as follows: “In a few centuries, we shall see what will come of the serial experiments and of these [atonal] composers. I think that all this decadence of the Viennese romantic music is an end and not a beginning as, for such a long time, Boulez and the promoters of new music wanted to make us believe.” Here is a YouTube audio file of one of his film works featuring the Berlin Philharmonic - I don't think I need to identify the violin soloist because you will immediately recognize it is the inimitable Ivry Gitlis.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Vilde Frang (Vilde Frang Bjaerke) is a Norwegian violinist and teacher born (in Oslo) on August 19, 1986. She is known for having successfully made the jump from child prodigy to mature violin superstar. That transition does not always prove successful for artists. In addition to being technically brilliant, her playing has been described as being fresh, seductive, sinewy, inspired, voluptuous, and possessed of startling emotional sincerity. A highly regarded music critic went so far as to say that he had never heard such a great violinist since the late Jascha Heifetz. Her playing is rhythmically and tonally flexible, not straight-laced, predictable, and pedantic. She began her violin studies at age four, on a violin built by her father, a professional bass player. By 1993, she was a student at the Barratt Due Institute of Music (founded in 1927) in Oslo. She was 7 years old. Her teachers there were Stephan Barratt Due, Alf Kraggerud, and Henning Kraggerud. Frang made her public debut at age ten with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (some sources say Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.) She graduated from the Barratt Due Institute in 2002. In 1999, aged 12 (or 13), she debuted with the Oslo Philharmonic, playing Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. Mariss Jansons was on the podium. The concert was a great success and her career took off after that. However, from 2003 to 2009, Frang studied further with Kolja Blacher at the Advanced School for Music and Theatre in Hamburg and with Ana Chumachenco at the Kronberg Academy in Kronberg (about ten miles from Frankfurt, Germany.) She debuted with the London Philharmonic in 2007. Her first album was released in 2009. She records exclusively for EMI/Warner Classics and has received numerous awards for her recordings, including the Diapason d’Or, Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Classical BRIT, and the ECHO Klassik Award. As far as I know, Frang has never entered any violin competitions. In 2010, Frang received an award of 1 million NOK (Norwegian Krone – about 175,000 U.S. dollars) from a large Norwegian business enterprise. She also received an award of 75,000 Swiss francs (approximately 79,000 U.S. dollars) from Credit Suisse (international bank) in 2012. The award included a performance with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Lucerne Festival. She made her BBC London Proms debut in August, 2013, playing Bruch’s first concerto. She was 26 years old. By now, Frang has played with virtually every major orchestra in the world and been accompanied by most major conductors. She has also played recitals or made solo appearances in all of the world’s important venues, including those in China, Japan, Korea, Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Russia, and the U.S. Frang now teaches at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. One of her violins is one constructed in 1864 by J.B. Vuillaume, a maker not considered to have the status of a Guarneri, a Stradivari, or even a Guadagnini. She has also played (since the summer of 2013) the 1709 Stradivarius known as the Engleman Strad. Frang has made the following interesting comment regarding her artistic perspectives: “I need things to worry about. I need some resistance and struggle. That’s part of my music making. I think talent has a lot to do with knowing how to be inspired. Inspiration is really the most important thing. ” On April 1 and 2, 2015 (last week) Frang was to have played the Korngold concerto with the Toronto Symphony (and James Conlon) but had to cancel due to “scheduling difficulties.” What that really means is anyone’s guess since concerts are scheduled (and contracts are signed) very far in advance (sometimes three years in advance) in order to avoid this sort of difficulty. Perhaps all it means is that her concert managers are disorganized, although that is extremely unlikely. Here is a YouTube video of one of her performances. Photo is courtesy of Marco Borggreve, photographer of (mostly European) musicians.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Jinjoo Cho is a Korean violinist and teacher born (in Seoul) on July 12, 1988. She is well-known as the winner of several violin competitions around the world (2005, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014), the Indianapolis being the most important among them. It is the nature of competitions that in 2012, Cho entered the Queen Elizabeth (of Belgium) violin competition and did not make it to the finals. (Igor Pikayzen, a very successful violinist with a brilliant technique did not make the semi-finals in that same competition (that year), although he later won other competitions. Erick Friedman came in sixth place in the Tchaikovsky competition in 1966…, and so it goes.) Cho has – for the most part - studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Her main teachers have been Paul Kantor (for four years), Jaime Laredo, Zakhar Bron, Arnold Steinhardt, and Mark Steinberg. She began her violin studies at age 5 and later attended the Korean Art School. Cho came to the US at age 14 and enrolled at the CIM almost immediately. In Cleveland, she also attended the Gilmour Academy, a private (boarding) school. At age 26 (September, 2014), she won first prize in the Indianapolis International violin competition. As a result, she is performing on the Gingold Stradivarius of 1683 (also known as the Martinelli Stradivarius), a four year loan from the competition. Prior to winning the Indianapolis, she had been concertizing for many years (since the age of 16) and had gained extensive experience in orchestral work and chamber music playing due to her attendance at various summer music camps. Her technique has been described as stunning and her playing as being full of passion. She has been quoted as saying: “I think the importance of music is that it enables you to reach places in your heart that you might otherwise never reach. It promotes soul searching. Music also helps you see part of yourself and better understand people even in diverse situations. Once you've experienced profound art, I really feel you are a citizen of the world. You have a whole other means of traveling to different times and places that have shaped lives.” Here is one YouTube video of her playing with piano accompaniment – the seldom-heard Francis Poulenc violin sonata.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Pamela Frank is an American violinist and teacher born (in New York City) on June 20, 1967. She is now best known as a chamber music player and teacher, although she has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s top orchestras and conductors. In the early 2000s she had to stop performing due to a serious (hand) injury suffered in 2001. In that regard, she joins (among others) Rodolphe Kreutzer, Jascha Heifetz, Bronislaw Huberman, Fritz Kreisler, Erick Friedman, Maxim Vengerov, Emanuel Vardi, Kyung Wha Chung, Hilary Hahn, and Jacques Thibaud, each of whom had their career interrupted by hand or arm injuries. After extensive rehabilitation, she returned to the stage in August of 2012. She has taught at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore (since 2003), the Curtis Institute (since 1996) in Philadelphia, and the State University of New York. She has also served on several juries of violin competitions around the world and played at various music festivals, including the well-known Verbier, Salzburg, and Ravinia festivals. Frank has also frequently given masterclasses in Europe, Israel, Canada, and the U.S. She is fluent in German, French, and (of course) English but is one of the few violinists who does not have a website. Frank began her studies at age 5, studying violin privately with Shirley Givens for about eleven years. She then studied further with Szymon Goldberg (1909-1993) and Jaime Laredo. Her formal (public) debut took place in 1985 at New York's Carnegie Hall with the New York String Orchestra under Alexander Schneider. She was 18 years old. She had been a section player with that ensemble since the age of 15. Frank later debuted a second time in Carnegie Hall playing a recital there in April of 1995. She graduated from the Curtis Institute in 1989, presenting her graduation recital on February 15, 1989, playing works by Bach, Ysaye, Kreisler, Schubert, and Beethoven. She first appeared with the New York Philharmonic on October 27, 1994, playing the Dvorak concerto. Leonard Slatkin was on the podium. Her second and last appearance with the orchestra was on December 1, 1998. On that occasion she played Mozart’s third concerto. Andre Previn conducted. On September 11, 1996, she appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic alongside cellist Clemens Hagen playing the Double Concerto by Johannes Brahms. Daniel Harding was on the podium. She was 29 years old. Her father, the pianist Claude Frank (1925-2014), often accompanied her in recital. (Leonid Kogan and his pianist daughter (Nina) often played together too.) In December of 1997, she and her father presented the entire Beethoven sonata cycle at London's Wigmore Hall. Frank’s discography is not extensive although it includes the complete Mozart concertos and the complete Beethoven and Brahms Sonatas. Her playing is featured in the soundtrack to the movie “Immortal Beloved.” Among other violins, Frank has played a Guarnerius Del Gesu from 1736 known as the Wieniawski. Here is a YouTube audio file of one of her Beethoven performances. Photo is courtesy of Nicolas Lieber
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Adele Anthony is an Australian violinist and teacher born (in Tasmania) on October 1, 1970. She is known for having won first prize in the (fifth) Carl Nielsen violin competition in 1996 (at age 25) and for being the wife of Gil Shaham, with whom she frequently performs. Twelve years before that, at age 13, she had won the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Instrumental Competition – she played the Sibelius concerto on that occasion. Soon afterward, she played the Tchaikovsky concerto in a concert sponsored by the same organization. That concert in 1983 is considered her Australian public debut. Anthony began her violin studies at age 3. She studied at the University of Adelaide with Beryl Kimber. In 1987, she came to the U.S. to pursue further study at Juilliard (New York City) where her main teachers were Hyo Kang, Felix Galimir, and Dorothy Delay. According to one source, she studied at Juilliard for eight years, having received funding from several benefactors, including the Starling Foundation. However, she was an active concert artist even while she was still at Juilliard and still maintains a very active solo concert career. Her repertoire is very extensive and includes all of the standard violin literature in addition to many contemporary works less frequently heard by audiences. As do almost all concert violinists nowadays, Anthony also plays chamber music at various festivals throughout the world, but especially in New York, where she resides. She has recorded for various labels and among her notable recordings are those featuring violin concertos by Carl Nielsen, Ross Edwards, and Nicolo Paganini. Anthony plays a Stradivarius violin constructed in 1728. Here is one of her YouTube audio files featuring the work of Ross Edwards – a refreshing and unusual new work for the violin. A few Stradivarius violins (perhaps one hundred or so) have been given names which have remained attached to the instruments for many years but – as far as I know – this one has no specific name. I have heard it up close a number of times and it has a wonderful sound. Perhaps later on, it will be known as the Anthony Stradivarius.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Sascha Jacobsen was a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Helsinki, Finland) on December 10, 1895. Jacobsen’s birthdate is also given as November 29, 1895 and December 11, 1895. Little is known of his early life. It has been said that he grew up in St Petersburg. He has been often confused with another violinist (from Philadelphia) named Sascha Jacobson. A humorous song written by George Gershwin in 1921 includes his (first) name (along with those of Jascha, Toscha, and Mischa – Russian violinists Heifetz, Seidel, and Elman, respectively.) It is known that he enrolled at Juilliard in 1908 where his main teacher was Franz Kneisel. He graduated from Juilliard (Institute of Musical Art) in June of 1914 (some sources say 1915.) He was 18 years old. (A fellow-student of his was Elias Breeskin.) In February of 1915, Jacobsen played parts of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol at an Aeolian Hall concert. On November 27, 1915, he made his official recital debut at Aeolian Hall playing (among other things) Saint Saens’ third concerto. After the announced program was concluded, he had to play numerous encores and he received very favorable reviews the following day. He first soloed with the New York Philharmonic on March 9, 1919 (at age 23) playing Bruch’s first concerto with Walter Damrosch conducting. Jacobsen concertized as a soloist between 1915 and 1925. He began teaching at Juilliard in 1926. After being hired, he almost immediately formed the Musical Art Quartet which disbanded in 1945, after almost 20 years of concert activity. Recordings of this quartet are not hard to find. Jacobsen also did solo recordings, although mostly of short works for violin and piano. A well-known recording of his is the Chausson concerto for string quartet, violin, and piano with Jascha Heifetz as violin soloist. You can listen to that recording here. He moved to Los Angeles (California, USA) in 1946 and taught at the Los Angeles Conservatory but at other music schools as well. From September 1947 and May 1949, he was guest concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Some sources say he was concertmaster up to 1952 but I could not confirm that. It has been said that Albert Einstein was one of Jacobsen’s pupils. (Einstein also took lessons from Toscha Seidel.) Jacobsen’s most famous pupils are probably Julius Hegyi and Zvi Zeitlin. Among the violins he played are the Red Diamond Stradivarius (1732), the Cessole Stradivarius (1716), the Windsor Stradivarius (1717), a GB Guadagnini (1779), another GB Guadagnini (1772), and a Del Gesu Guarnerius constructed in 1732. Jacobsen died on March 19, 1972, at age 76.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Barnabas Kelemen is a Hungarian violinist and teacher born (in Budapest) on June 12, 1978. He is known for having won the prestigious Indianapolis Violin Competition in 2002. His repertoire is very extensive and includes Schumann’s concerto and Bruch’s second concerto which are seldom heard live. Kelemen also plays a great deal of contemporary music. On May 2, 2013, he premiered (in New York’s Carnegie Hall) a long lost concerto by Mihaly Nador, composed in 1903 (and revised in 1941-42) but never performed. Reviewers of the performance compared Kelemen to Heifetz. The audience applauded after each movement of the concerto, which is not typical, especially in the case of more modern works. Kelemen began studying violin at age six with Valeria Baranyai. He entered the Franz Liszt Academy at age 11 and studied with Eszter Perenyi. He graduated in 2001. He was 23 years old. By then, he had already won first prize in the Mozart Violin Competition in Salzburg (1999.) Three years after winning the Indianapolis competition, he began teaching (in 2005) at the same school from which he graduated. In 2010, he founded (with his violinist wife Katalin Kokas) the Kelemen Quartet. (Among violinists who married other concert violinists are Olga Kaler, Adele Anthony, Marina Markov, Ruth Posselt, and Elizabeth Gilels.) The Kelemen Quartet has also received top prizes at chamber music competitions. In addition, several of Kelemen’s recordings have also received awards from music periodicals and critics. Interestingly, except for the cellist, the Kelemen Quartet players sometimes switch places with each other – alternating between first violin, second violin, and viola. Kelemen has taken conducting lessons from Leif Segerstam and has already conducted a few concerts in Europe. He often appears in the dual role of soloist-conductor with chamber orchestras. Needless to say, Kelemen has toured the world several times (and continues to do so) as a soloist and with the quartet. In 2014, he began teaching at the Advanced School for Music and Dance in Cologne, Germany. Here is a YouTube video of his playing a well-known Mozart sonata. It shows how different his temperament and style are from a more conventional concert violinist but you be the judge. After winning the Indianapolis competition, Kelemen played the 1683 Stradivarius (Martinelli Stradivarius) that all Indianapolis competition winners get to use for four years. (The Martinelli was “restored” in 2014 and is currently being played by Jinjoo Cho) Kelemen is currently playing a Guarneri (del Gesu) constructed in 1742.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Jose Luis Garcia (Jose Luis Garcia Asensio) was a Spanish violinist born (in Madrid) on February 25, 1944. He is best known for being the concertmaster of the English Chamber Orchestra for about 25 years. Just as the names Ferdinand David, Raymond Gniewek, Glenn Dicterow, Norman Carol, and Richard Burgin unfailingly bring up the names of their respective orchestras (the Gewandhaus, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony, respectively), Garcia's biography is inextricably linked to the history of the ECO. He spent nearly his entire career in England. His first studies were with his father beginning at age 6. If he studied with anyone else in Spain, I do not know who that was. In 1960, he received first prize at the Sarasate competition in Pamplona. He was 16 years old. Thereafter (in 1961) he traveled to London to study with Antonio Brosa at the Royal College of Music. He appeared in concert in a Vivaldi concerto (for four violins in B minor) at a Proms concert (in 1963) at age 19 with the BBC Symphony. Malcolm Sargent was on the podium. Two years later, in 1965, he joined the pit orchestra of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. In 1967, he toured South America with the English Chamber Orchestra (playing Principal Second Violin.) However, by then, he had already (intermittently) played several concerts with the orchestra. In 1968, he was appointed associate concertmaster of the orchestra. He was 24 years old. In 1970, he made his second debut as a soloist at another Proms concert. On that occasion, he played Michael Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante (on a theme by Corelli) with the English Chamber Orchestra, of which, as previously mentioned, he was then Associate Concertmaster. The composer was on the podium. By that time, Garcia was already teaching at the Royal College of Music, where he had begun teaching at age 22, being the youngest to ever get a teaching appointment at that school. (Garcia taught at the Royal College of Music until 1982 - a total of fifteen or sixteen years.) At age 23, he led the string section for one of the Beatles’ most famous albums. With the English Chamber Orchestra, Garcia would also conduct and perform as soloist. He eventually toured almost every country in the world. Although he recorded as a soloist, he far more frequently recorded as an orchestral leader with the ECO. His best-known solo recording is probably Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. He also recorded Mozart’s five concertos and the Bach Double Concerto with the ECO. The recordings are easily found on the internet. It has been said that the English Chamber Orchestra is the most recorded chamber orchestra in the world, having recorded more than 1,500 individual works, even though multiple recordings of the same works (the Mozart piano concertos, for instance) are probably included in that number. (Although the orchestra generates quite a bit of revenue on its own, the orchestra also has an outstanding Patron - the Prince of Wales.) Garcia never wavered from his romantic interpretations of baroque works, unlike other British chamber ensembles (the English Concert, the Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, English Baroque Soloists, etc.) which embraced the period instrument (authentic performance practice) musical movements beginning in the late 1960s. It is quite interesting that in 1983-1984 Garcia offered his services to the musical establishment in Spain to conduct master classes free-of-charge (in Spain) but never got a call in response. Later on – between 1992 and 1999 – he taught at the Queen Sofia School of Music in Madrid and conducted the school’s orchestra with which he also toured extensively. Garcia studied conducting with Sergiu Celibidache. Among the orchestras he guest conducted (outside of England and Spain) are the National Symphony (Washington, D.C.), the Detroit Symphony, and the Israel Chamber Orchestra. He also guest conducted the Ft Worth (Texas, USA) Chamber Orchestra many times, beginning with a concert going back to October of 1977. His last concert with that orchestra was probably in October of 1992. As does another famous concertmaster in the U.S. (from the Boston Symphony), Garcia loved golf. He was also one of the very few musicians (and possibly the only violinist anywhere) who owned a Rolls Royce automobile. Garcia played the (Fritz) Hirt Stradivarius from 1704, also known as the Prince (Serge) Obolensky Strad and now known as the Hirt-Garcia Strad. Among the many other violins he played was a modern violin constructed by American luthier Terry Borman. (Among the many players who also play Borman violins are Pinchas Zukerman, Jaime Laredo, Pamela Frank, and Joseph Silverstein.) The Strad is presently owned by a private collector but is on loan to American violinist Esther Yoo. If there are any videos of Garcia's myriad solo concerts out there, they have not yet been uploaded to YouTube. Garcia died on August 11, 2011, at age 67. (Photo is courtesy of the English Chamber Orchestra)