Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vladimir Cosma

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 (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.