Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jose Luis Garcia

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) 

No comments:

Post a Comment