Sunday, November 12, 2017

Peter Rybar

Peter Rybar was a Czech violinist and teacher born (in Vienna, Austria) on August 29, 1913.  His playing style was not showy and flashy but he was very well regarded as a soloist and concertmaster - Rybar’s recordings (mostly produced prior to 1960) are now collector’s items.  (His recording of the Bach Double Concerto (for two violins) with Henryk Szeryng is probably the best I have ever heard.)  Nonetheless, as were so many other artists of the time, he was eclipsed by the likes of Heifetz, Ricci, Oistrakh, Menuhin, Milstein, Francescatti, Kogan, Grumiaux, and a few other soloists who performed in the limelight during the same period.  Like Szeryng, he became fluent in seven languages, although (ironically) English was his mother tongue.  His first teacher (a pupil of both Otakar Sevcik and Cesar Thomson) was his mother.  He then studied in Geneva and Leipzig with teachers whom I don’t know anything about.  He eventually (in 1929, at age 16) ended up at the Prague Conservatory where he spent three years (perhaps more.)  One of his teachers there was Josef Suk - the elder Josef Suk (1874-1935.)  (There are three Josef Suk: the grandfather (composer and son-in-law of Antonin Dvorak); the father (an engineer but also an accomplished amateur violinist); and the son (the well-known concert violinist.)  Rybar also later (from 1934 onward) studied with Carl Flesch in Paris.  By then, he had already begun his concertizing career (at age 19) and been playing professionally for at least two years.  He toured Europe many times and became known for playing the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin to which he had dedicated more than a year of study during a sabbatical in Portugal.  Although he did not premiere the piece (Samuel Dushkin did in Berlin), Rybar was the first to play the Stravinsky violin concerto (composed in 1931) in Prague and in Paris.  He was also the first to record the Goldmark and the Viotti (number 22 in a minor) concertos.  In 1937 (some sources say 1938), he was hired as violin professor at the Winterthur Conservatory (one of the oldest in Europe) and as concertmaster of the Winterthur Symphony in Switzerland.  He was 25 years old.  (Winterthur can almost be considered a suburb of Zurich.)  In 1952, he formed a duo with his wife who was a pianist.  He retired from his posts (as well as first violinist in the orchestra’s string quartet) after about 30 years.  In 1970, he was persuaded to abandon his retirement to become concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Suisse Romande in Geneva.  At the same time, he began teaching at the Geneva Conservatory.  He was 57 years old by then.  In 1980, he left the orchestra but I don’t know if he left the conservatory as well.  He often gave recitals with pianists Wilhelm Backhaus, Edwin Fischer, and Helene Boschi.  He also sometimes partnered with Clara Haskil as well (who often accompanied Arthur Grumiaux) in recitals and recordings.  Rybar last played in public in 1986.  His discography is not extensive but it fills at least two dozen CDs and includes the standard concertos as well as some not-often-heard works like the Tartini d minor concerto and the Schumann concerto.  A few of his hard-to-find recordings are priced at over one thousand dollars.  Here is a YouTube audio file of the Tartini concerto.  Rybar died in Lugano, Switzerland, on October 4, 2002 at age 89.