Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ottorino Respighi

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

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.