Sunday, November 29, 2015

Antonio Brosa

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

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

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.