Sunday, December 9, 2018

Ayla Erduran

Ayla Erduran is a Turkish violinist and teacher born (in Istanbul) on September 22, 1934.  She is one of Turkey’s best known concert violinists.  She is also one of the very few pupils of Zino Francescatti.  Erduran is still active as a recitalist.  Although her career began with a recital at age ten, she was never known as a child prodigy.  That first recital included Mozart’s fourth concerto and Beethoven’s Spring Sonata.  She began violin lessons at age 4 - her first teacher was her mother (who was a violinist though not a very good one.)  Erduran’s early years were difficult because her mother was not unlike Guila Bustabo’s mother, which is to say, she was domineering and very pushy.  (Guila Bustabo’s mother was known to beat her on occasion.  Bustabo’s fellow pupils many times saw her with bruises on her little head and arms.)  After a short while, Erduran began lessons with Karl Berger in Istanbul.  Berger was known as the best violin teacher in Turkey at the time and Erduran studied with him for five years.  From age 10 to age 15 or 16, Erduran studied in Paris with Rene Benedetti, also a very well-known French violin teacher of that day.  (Several biographical summaries say Erduran studied at the Paris Conservatory but I was not able to confirm that.  Perhaps it’s true.)  In 1951, she traveled to the U.S. where she studied for four years with Ivan Galamian and Zino Francescatti, presumably in New York and not at the same time.  Many concert violinists concertize while studying but I do not know if Erduran did that.  She left the U.S. in 1955 – she was either 21 or 22 years old.  Before leaving, she made her American debut in New York but I do not know with which orchestra she played or when or what she played – all I know is that Thomas Scherman conducted the program.  Her European debut took place in Warsaw, Poland, where she played the Glazunov concerto with the Warsaw Philharmonic.  In 1957 she went to Moscow to study with David Oistrakh.  She stayed until sometime in 1958.  She was 24 or 25 years old.  In 1957, she was awarded fifth place in the Wieniawski violin competition – there were more than 120 competitors that year.  The next 40 years she spent concertizing around the world playing with many famous conductors and orchestras in prestigious concert halls.  Erduran premiered the Elgar concerto in Turkey.  Between 1973 and 1990 she taught at the Lausanne Conservatory in Switzerland.  She returned to Istanbul in 1990 – she was 56 years old.  Erduran has been recognized for her artistic achievements by several countries, including Turkey, the Netherlands, England, Poland, and Belgium.  Among the violins she has played are a Guarnerius from 1720 (not a Del Gesu) and the famous Roederer Stradivarius from 1710, now played (though not owned) by French violinist David Grimal.  Two biographies have been written about Erduran – they are probably still in print.  Here is a YouTube audio file where Erduran plays a popular Kreisler piece. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

David Grimal

David Grimal is a French violinist, conductor, and teacher born on February 9, 1973.  He is best known as the Artistic Director (and Conductor) of the French group Les Dissonances.  Ironically, Les Dissonances plays without a conductor and performs challenging repertoire (such as the Rite of Spring) which no other conductor-less orchestra would dare.  Grimal leads from the first chair.  Regarding Les Dissonances, Grimal has stated: “We work together in the sense of community of mind, a gathering of very strong positive energy and joy.”  Regarding the violin itself, he has said: “What interests me is the invisible - that something which makes the dancer take flight and causes his gesture to be eternal.”  The Dissonances musicians are from different parts of France and Europe – from various other ensembles – almost none are permanent members.  The orchestra plays in many different cities and venues.  Understandably, Grimal frequently plays the violin concerto repertoire with this orchestra.  When he does, he never actually conducts, as all other conductor/violinists do - he just lets the orchestra play by itself (and it is fully capable of doing so.)  His style of playing, although virtuosic and brilliant, is relaxed, unassuming, and unpretentious.  His repertoire includes the Schumann concerto, which is now gaining in popularity.  Grimal began lessons at age five but I do not know the name of his first teacher.  First teachers are usually not famous pedagogues or even famous violinists – sometimes they are immediate family members.  At the Paris Conservatory Grimal won first prizes in violin and chamber music at age 20 (1993.)  He later studied with the enigmatic Philippe Hirschhorn, most likely in the Netherlands, where Hirschhorn was then teaching.  He also briefly studied with other violinists after he graduated.  In 1996, he received the European Culture Prize.  He was 23 years old.  Needless to say, he has played in most of the world’s great halls with high-profile conductors and orchestras.  However, other than live recordings, his discography (on various labels) is not extensive.  Nonetheless, the few studio (commercial) recordings he has done have received national and international awards and recognition.  A great many composers have written works for him.  In 2004 Grimal founded Les Dissonances.  In 2008, he became artist in residence at the Dijon Opera.  (Dijon is about 200 miles southeast of Paris and is the birthplace of Rameau.)  Grimal has taught at the Advanced School of Music in Saarbrucken (Germany) for some time although I don’t know how long he has been there.  (Saarbrucken is about 180 miles north of Dijon and 200 miles east of Paris.  It is very close to the French border with Germany.)  Additionally, he plays at many music festivals around Europe and has frequently held masterclasses wherever he performs.  His violin is the Roederer Stradivarius from 1710, previously owned by Turkish violinist Ayla Erduran.  He also plays a modern violin made for him by French luthier Jacques Fustier.  You can listen to the finale from Brahms’ Third Symphony hereHere is Grimal playing Mozart’s fifth concerto – first movement.  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Valery Klimov

Valery Klimov (Valeri Alexandrovich Klimov) is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Kiev) on October 16, 1931.  He is known for having won the very first International Tchaikovsky Violin Competition (in March, 1958), the best known violin competition in the world.  He was 26 years old.  That was the same competition at which Van Cliburn (the American piano player) won first prize in the piano division, subsequently becoming popular and famous.  That year, Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich was the chairman.  Klimov’s first teacher was his father.  He later studied at the Odessa Conservatory and later still at the Moscow Conservatory with David Oistrakh.  As far as I was able to determine, Klimov did not perform outside Russia until 1967.  Quite possibly his first concert outside the Soviet Union was in London, England.  Although he has toured around the world, his career has mostly been spent in Russia.  He has been teaching at the Moscow Conservatory for a long time and has received many official awards.  Among his many pupils are Elena Denisova, Hisaya Sato, Alice Waten, Fiona Ziegler, Evgeny Grach, Rachel Schmidt, and Alena Tsoi.  Here is a YouTube video with Klimov playing the Khachaturian concerto.  Among other things, it gives you a chance to hear the excellent acoustics of the Sydney Opera House.  

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mayu Kishima

Mayu Kishima is a Japanese violinist born (in Kobe, Japan) on December 13, 1986.  She is known for having won one of the largest (if not the largest) monetary prizes in a violin competition – the Isaac Stern Violin Competition in Shanghai awarded her a first prize of $100,000 in 2016.  That was a competition that she almost decided not to enter until the last minute.  Kishima began her violin studies in Tokyo at age 3 and has had quite a number of teachers during her career, including Izumi Hayashi, Kazuyo Togami, Toshiya Eto, Dorothy DeLay, Masao Kawasaki, Machi Oguri, Chihiro Kudo, and Zakhar Bron (with whom she began studying at age 13.)  She graduated from the Advanced School for Music in Cologne in 2012.  She was 26 years old.  By then however, she had already established herself as a concert artist, having begun her professional career in the year 2000 at age 14.  Kishima made her first studio recording in 2003 with the NHK Symphony.  Needless to say, she has played all over the world with some of the finest orchestras and conductors.  Among the violins she has played are a 1779 G.B. Guadagnini and a Stradivarius from 1700.  Here is one of many YouTube videos posted of her performances.  Here is another.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Marianna Vasileva

Marianna Vasileva (Marianna Vasilyeva, Marianna Wasiljewa) Is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in St Petersburg) on November 25, 1986.  In addition to a fantastic technique and a very expressive style of playing, she is known for performing all 24 Caprices by Paganini in a single recital – currently, probably the only female violinist to do so.  As far as I know, she has not recorded the famous Caprices but probably will in the near future.  (The first female to record all 24 Caprices is Bulgarian violinist Vanya Milanova, back in 1985.)  Vasileva began her violin studies at age five with her father, a professional violinist.  She has stated that even at that tender age she practiced several hours a day.  Her first accompanist was her mother, a professional pianist, with whom she has performed in recital many times.  At age 7, she began her studies at the St Petersburg Conservatory’s School for Gifted Children with an obscure teacher named Vladimir Ovcharek.  At age 11, she began studying with Dora Schwarzberg at the Advanced School for Music in Vienna.  At age 17 she began studying with Zakhar Bron at the Advanced School for Music and Dance in Cologne.  During all those years, she was also (simultaneously) studying at the St Petersburg Conservatory.  (The St Petersburg Conservatory is where the famous Leopold Auer taught for many years.)  Her performing career actually began at age 8, when she played in public for the first time.  At age 10, she made her formal debut in Russia and Germany playing the first concerto (the one in g minor) by Max Bruch.  In that year, she also won her first violin competition in Russia.  In 2001, she actually won a violin in the International Spohr Violin Competition – I don’t know what violin it was but I’m certain it was a high quality instrument.  She was 15 years old.  In 2009, she won first prize in the International Competition for Young Violinists in honor of Karol Lipinski and Henryk Wieniawski in Lublin, Poland (not to be confused with the well-known Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition held in Poznan, Poland, every five years.)  She was 23 years old.  In 2010 she won first prize in the Prague Spring International Music Competition.  She currently teaches at the Music Academy in Madrid, in addition to teaching masterclasses around the world, as so many other soloists do.  Her concert tours span the entire world and she has played in almost all of the important musical venues and concert halls.  Her repertoire is very extensive although her discography is still quite small.  I know Vasileva has played a Guarneri Del Gesu violin from 1724 and a 1752 Carlo Antonio Testore violin on many concerts but I don’t know if those are her current instruments – I will try to find out and post it as a comment below.  Vasileva is fluent in four languages; Russian, English, German, and Hebrew.  Here is a YouTube video where she plays a well-known piece by Tchaikovsky.  Here is a sound file where she plays the seldom-heard Ysaye sonata for two violins – the other violinist is Dmitri Kogan, grandson of the great Leonid Kogan.  

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Antal Zalai

Antal Zalai (Antal Szalai) is a Hungarian violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Budapest) on January 31, 1981.  He is known for what has been described as a perfect technique and refined artistry.  He is a former child prodigy who was offered his first recording contract while still a teenager and his musical education is very broad.  Zalai began his violin studies with his father and mother at age 5.  From age 7 to age 14 he studied, in Budapest, with Laszlo Denes.  His other teachers in Budapest were Josef Kopelman and Peter Komlos.  In fact, it has been said that he acquired his 1733 Stradivarius violin from Professor Komlos.  That violin had been owned by another Hungarian violinist, Gyorgy Garay, who is now almost completely forgotten.  Zalai graduated from the Royal Conservatory in Brussels in 2009.  He was 28 years old.  However, Zalai had been concertizing since age 12.  Along the way, he had participated in masterclasses given by Erick Friedman, Pinchas Zukerman, Tibor Varga, Lewis Kaplan, Isaac Stern, Gyorgy Pauk, and an assortment of other concert violinists.  He made his British debut in Liverpool in 2008.  That same year he made his debut in Berlin.  The venues he has played in include Carnegie Hall (New York), the Musikverein (Vienna), the Philharmonie (Berlin), and the Moscow Conservatory.  Zalai has toured almost the entire globe and played with some of the most famous names in the conducting world.  He also frequently conducts masterclasses wherever he performs.  As are so many violinists, he is a chess player.  The cadenzas he plays are very frequently his own.  Here is a YouTube video where he teams up with Russian violinist Marianna Vasileva to play the violin duos by Shostakovich – Zalai plays the second violin part.  These duos are written in a style which we do not associate with the famous Russian composer.  The (intense and emotional) performance is easily the best on YouTube.  This othervideo is also quite unique and interesting. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Kristof Barati

Kristof Barati is a Hungarian violinist and teacher born (in Budapest) on May 17, 1979.  Although born in Hungary, he and his family spent a few years in Venezuela (for reasons unknown) and he even began violin lessons there with his mother at age 5.  By age 8 he was giving concerts with orchestras in Venezuela.  I don’t know at what point the family moved from Venezuela to Europe but several sources state he performed in France at age 11.  Sometime after or before this, he relocated to Hungary to study at the well-known Franz Liszt Academy.  Exactly what year that was is unknown to me.  His teachers at the academy were Miklos Szenthelyi and Vilmos Tatrai.  By 1995, at age 16, he began entering violin competitions at which he was very successful, placing either first, second, or third at all of them.  In 1996, he began studying privately with a little-known professor of violin, Eduard Wulfson, in Paris.  Music critics frequently praise his musicianship (artistry) in addition to his phenomenal technical prowess.  In addition to his world-wide concertizing, he also takes part in important music festivals in Italy, France, Switzerland, and elsewhere as a chamber music player.  Barati’s discography is not yet extensive, but his recordings of the first and second Paganini concertos are among the best.  His recording of the Mozart concertos (all five) has also been very highly praised.  Although he has played other very fine and valuable violins, for about 14 years (from 2003), he played (and recorded with) the Lady Harmsworth Stradivarius violin constructed in 1703.  I don’t know if he is currently using that instrument.  He is known for being a very strong chess player and avid photographer.  Barati has taught at the Sorbonne in Paris and at other venues as a masterclass professor.  Although he has not (as far as I know) performed all 24 Paganini Caprices at a single recital, he has performed all six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin by Bach in one (very lengthy) recital (in France, then again in Russia.)  Here is a link to the entire recording of the Mozart concertos, courtesy of Brilliant Classics recordings.  Here is a YouTube video of a movement from the Bach Sonata number 1. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Alexander Markov

Alexander Markov is a Russian (some would say American) violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Moscow) on January 24, 1963.  Although his repertoire is very extensive, he is best known for his performances (in concert, on CD, and DVD) of the 24 Paganini Caprices.  One YouTube video of his performance of the last Caprice has over 6 million views.  In fact, Markov’s playing of the pizzicato section of this Caprice sometimes leaves the audience so spellbound they interrupt the performance with rapturous, spontaneous applause – as the New York Times music critic recently explained it: “…the dazzling left-hand pizzicato variation drew a vigorous ovation midway through the work.”  Markov also plays a six-string electric violin in a rock band which he co-founded.  He co-wrote a unique rock concerto for his own use which he has had great success with.  I don’t think a commercial recording of this concerto is yet available.  Markov’s violin studies began at age 5.  His father (concert violinist Albert Markov) was his first (and most influential) teacher.  However, Markov was also enrolled at the famous Central Music School for gifted children, which is part of the Moscow (Tchaikovsky) Conservatory. There, he studied with the well-known violin pedagogue Felix Andrievsky.  (Andrievsky is now teaching at the Royal College of Music in London.)  By age 8 he had already appeared in public.  His family emigrated to the U. S. when he was 12.  They arrived in Vienna on September 11, 1975 and spent three months there before heading for the United States.  He continued studying with his father for many years.  At age 16, he made his Carnegie Hall debut in New York.  (Two sources state that he made his Carnegie Hall debut on October 9, 1983, at age 20.  He himself has said he made his debut at age 16.  The first was his debut with orchestra; the second was as soloist, in recital.)  At age 18, he began studying with Juilliard teacher Ivan Galamian.  Galamian died a few months afterward.  (Emanuel Vardi used to tell a joke that he killed Leopold Auer because Auer died a few months after Vardi began taking lessons with him.)  At age 19 (1982) Markov won second prize (most sources say the Gold Medal) at the famous Paganini Competition (Genoa, Italy) and five years later he received the Avery Fisher Career Grant.  As a result of his Paganini Competition award, he was granted the use of Paganini’s own 1743 Cannone Guarnerius for a recital performance.  (Other violinists who have played this famous violin are Leonid Kogan, Schlomo Mintz, Eugene Fodor, Salvatore Accardo, Maxim Vengerov, Gerard Poulet, Regina Carter, Anna Tifu, Dmitri Berlinsky, and Ruggiero Ricci.)  Markov’s concertizing has taken him to all corners of the world and to most of the world’s great concert halls and orchestras with top conductors on the podium.  As do most concert violinists, he also participates in music festivals far and wide.  He also frequently gives masterclasses all around the world.  He has recorded for the Erato and Warner Classics labels.  His recordings are easy to find on the internet.  Although he used to play a Guarnerius Del Gesu violin, Markov has been playing a 1970 Sergio Peresson violin for some time.  He recorded the 24 caprices on that violin.  I have heard it up close - it is indistinguishable from any Strad or Guarneri violin.  Here is a YouTube video of the Paganini Caprice number 5 with Markov using the original bowings.  The photo is courtesy of the Alexander Markov website

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Johann Peter Salomon

Johann Peter Salomon was a German violinist, composer, arranger, conductor, teacher, and concert impresario, born (in Bonn) on or about February 20, 1745 – he was christened (baptized) on February 20 so it’s a sure thing he was born a few days before that.  Salomon spent more than half of his career in England.  To say that he was a well-rounded musician is quite an understatement; nevertheless, nowadays, he is remembered for two things: (1) he was born in the same house as Ludwig Van Beethoven and (2) he persuaded Joseph Haydn to visit London - twice.  It has been said that he had a unique style of playing, especially in chamber music with his string quartet.  He must have had more than one teacher but I only know of one: Franz Benda, a member of the Benda musical dynasty.  By age 13, he was playing violin in the court orchestra, presumably in Bonn since that was where his benefactor (Clement August, a lover of the arts) presided.  Salomon also made a brief concert tour as a soloist (begun in August, 1765) which took him to Frankfurt and Berlin.   By age 20, he was concertmaster of the orchestra in the court of Prince Heinrich of Prussia (Germany), a brother of Frederick the Great, presumably in Rheinsberg, a town which is about 40 miles north of Berlin.  (An interesting thing about Prince Heinrich is that he almost became King of the United States.)  While working for Prince Heinrich (a period which lasted about 15 years), Salomon composed many works, among which were a number of operas, all of them now forgotten.  Sometime in 1780, after his patron had suddenly disbanded his orchestra, Salomon visited Paris and from there decided to travel to London.  He was 35 years old.  There, he gave his first concert at Covent Garden, as conductor and violinist, on March 23, 1781.  From that day forward, Salomon was very active in English musical life, giving concerts as leader (concertmaster), violin soloist, conductor, composer, organizer, and quartet player.  How he became fluent in the English language is unknown to me although it has been reported that he was actually fluent in four languages.  He also found time to teach privately.  As far as the famous Haydn visits to England, I was able to ascertain, from various sources, everything that follows.  After Joseph Haydn had become internationally popular from the dissemination of much of his music, several persons in England tried to persuade him, since the early 1780s, to visit and to present concerts there.  These efforts were all unsuccessful because Haydn was still under contract to one of the Esterhazy Princes (for whom he ultimately worked thirty years) and was very loyal to him.  Regarding a visit or tour, Salomon had also corresponded with Haydn for a while and had even sent a personal emissary but that trip had not been totally successful.  So Haydn remained out of reach.  As luck and coincidence always play a part in everybody’s life, so it was with Salomon.  After a particular trip that he made to Italy (to secure the services of several opera singers for a London event) – being the well-known and energetic impresario that he was – Salomon stopped in Cologne on his way back to London.  While there, he read in the newspapers that the good Prince Nikolaus from Esterhazy (Haydn’s employer) had died (in Vienna, on September 28, 1790.)  Salomon immediately seized the opportunity to seek Haydn out and ask him (again) to come to London.  This time, Haydn agreed.  After signing an agreement and figuring out the logistics, they left Vienna on December 15, 1790.  It was a Wednesday.  On their way to England, they stopped by Bonn to pay their respects to Beethoven, which they did on December 26, 1790.  Salomon had known Beethoven much earlier (in their Bonn days) and by this time he had also programmed some of his works for his London concerts.  They were good friends.  Haydn had never met Beethoven.  In any case, Haydn and Salomon crossed the English Channel (from a point in Calais, France) on or about January 1, 1791 (a Saturday) and shortly thereafter arrived in London.  Salomon was 45 years old.  The rest is history.  Haydn went on to write 12 symphonies for Salomon’s concerts in London and other works as well.  Salomon would soon be at work arranging most of these symphonies for small chamber ensembles.  One such work is the symphony number 104 which Salomon arranged for string quartet, flute, and double bass.  It may be that these arrangements were not artistic endeavors but a purely commercial venture on Salomon’s part.  Salomon’s arrangements were available to the public before any orchestral parts were even printed.  (In his contract with Salomon, Haydn had given up all rights to those works he composed in London for Salomon’s concerts.  However, Haydn was paid very handsomely for his efforts.)  In March of 1813, Salomon and a few other English musicians and patrons of the arts founded what was called the Philharmonic Society, which still exists today.  It was a de facto sponsor and/or administrator of a professional symphony orchestra and choral society which established concerts which were regularly presented to and for the general public and not associated solely with the aristocracy.  The orchestra did not have a name but it could very well have had a name if they had thought of one.  Salomon conducted its first concert in March of 1813.  He was 68 years old.  As far as I know, Salomon was active as a violinist, composer, teacher, impresario, arranger, and conductor until the day he died.  As a composer, his most famous work is probably the opera titled Windsor Castle, written in 1795.  All of his other compositions (including his many arrangements) have been neglected and forgotten.  It has been said that Salomon played a Stradivarius violin which Corelli had played before him but I could not substantiate that from more than one source.  It has also been said that Salomon gave the Jupiter nickname to Mozart’s last symphony, number 41.  Perhaps it is true.  Salomon’s most famous pupils are Franz Anton Ries (Beethoven’s violin teacher and father of pianist Ferdinand Ries) and George Pinto, English violinist, pianist, and composer.  Salomon died on November 28, 1815, after a brief illness brought on by an accident.  He was 70 years old.  Here is a Vimeo file of Salomon’s Romance in D for violin, played by English violinist, Simon Standage.  The photo is courtesy of ArtUK and Oxford University.  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Igor Ozim

Igor Ozim is a Slovenian (Yugoslavian) violinist and teacher born (in Ljubljana) on May 9, 1931.  (Ljubljana – formerly in Yugoslavia - is now in Slovenia and it is its capital.)  He is widely known as a violin pedagogue rather than as a touring concert violinist, although that is how he began his career.  He started violin lessons in his native city with Leon Pfeifer (a student of Otakar Sevcik) at the Academy of Music at age 8.  However, by that time, he had already been studying violin for three years but with someone I don’t know anything about.  When he was 18, after graduating from the academy, he traveled to England to study with Albert Sammons at the Royal College of Music (commonly referred to as the RCM.)  He followed that up with two years of study with Max Rostal, either as a private student or at the Guildhall School of Music where Rostal was a teacher.  Ozim was now 20 years old.  In 1951, he won the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition.  After that, Ozim made his formal debut in England – first in a recital at the Wigmore Hall in London and then in Liverpool, playing the Mendelssohn e minor concerto with the Liverpool Philharmonic.  In 1953, he won another violin competition (the ARD Competition, in Munich, in its second year of existence.  The name ARD in German is a very long name but translates to something like “German Consortium of Public Broadcasters.”  Technically, every German household is a member of the ARD since fees charged by and paid to the ARD are not optional; they are mandatory.)  He was 22 years old.  Ozim then embarked on a concertizing career which eventually took him to the Far East, Australia, the U.S., Europe, and Russia.  He has appeared with top orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the London Philharmonic, the Warsaw Philharmonic, and many others.  His repertory ranges from early Baroque to contemporary and includes approximately 60 concertos.  Understandably, he has premiered many works by Slovenian composers.  His recordings are few but cover some of the standard repertoire as well as many contemporary, modern works.  He continues to tour as a much-respected violin pedagogue, holding master classes in several countries.  Ozim has held teaching posts at the Advanced Music School in Cologne (Germany), the Advanced School of the Arts in Bern (Switzerland), and the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.  His most famous pupils are probably Richard Tognetti and Lea Birringer.  Here is a YouTube audio file of the Mozart Rondo in C with Ozim and the Ljubljana Symphony Orchestra. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Joseph Lendvay

Joseph Lendvay (Jozsef Lendvay) is a Hungarian violinist and conductor born (in Budapest) on November 7, 1974.  He is best known as a crossover violinist who is very successful as a traditional classical violinist and a gypsy fiddler.  He often performs with his own gypsy band – a group of five or six players – two violins, cello, cembalom, bass, and guitar.  He (probably) began his violin studies with his father, a very popular gypsy violinist.  By age 14, he was already playing some of the most difficult standard works for classical violin.  He studied at the Bela Bartok Conservatory in Budapest as well as the famous Franz Liszt Academy, also in Budapest.  He has won numerous European-based violin competitions; the Koln International Violin Competition and the Tibor Varga International Violin Competition are among them.  In 2002, the President of the Hungarian Republic awarded him the Golden Cross for his artistic contributions to the nation.  He was 28 years old.  It has been said that due to his classical training, his folkloric interpretations sound lighter and more virtuosic and, because of his folkloric roots, his classical performances are more emotional and powerful.  Lendvay was concertmaster of an orchestra called the Philharmonic of Nations (founded by pianist and conductor Justus Frantz in 1995) for a time.  Lendvay has been playing the Ries Stradivarius from 1691 (or 1693 - opinions vary on the date) since 2008. There is another Ries Stradivarius dated 1710 but I don't know who owns or plays that one.  Here is a YouTube video of Lendvay and Vadim Repin playing Csardas.  Here is another where he is playing Gypsy Airs by Sarasate – the harmonies have been altered in several places and the accompaniment includes some traditional folk instruments.  You may likely want to watch it more than once in order to appreciate some of the unusual bowings and fingerings which Lendvay uses.  Finally, here is one where Lendvay plays the Tchaikovsky concerto. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Franz Benda

Franz Benda was a Czech violinist, teacher, writer, and composer born (in Benatek, Bohemia) on (approximately) November 22, 1709.  It has been said that his 1763 autobiography is an excellent source for information regarding the lives of many important musicians of his time, including the great J.S. Bach.  Benda was one of many family members who became indistinguishable from the musical arts, down to the present day, in the same vein as the Bach family.  This musical tradition (or music dynasty) was started by Franz Benda’s father, Jan Benda.  In addition, the family gave rise to at least two female composers, a rarity in those days.  Franz Benda spent much of his career working at the court of Frederick the Great, the Prussian (German) King – in fact, Benda died the same year as his benefactor.  Benda received his earliest music education from his father.  At age nine, he was engaged as a singer at the St Nicholas Monastery in Prague.  At age 10 he ran away from home and settled in Dresden where he also found work in the choir of the Royal Chapel.  He also began to study the violin while there.  At age 12 he returned home and joined the choir of the Jesuit College in Prague.  In 1726, at age 17, he began playing violin in orchestras engaged by various members of the nobility situated in or near Vienna – in effect, he was a free-lance violinist since he also played for social events such as weddings and fairs.  In Vienna, he continued to study the violin, most notably with a court musician named Johann Gottlieb Graun, a violinist who had studied with the famous Italian violinist Giuseppe Tartini.  Two years later, Benda moved to Warsaw with a group of musician friends and was eventually appointed concertmaster of the Chapel orchestra in Warsaw.  He remained there until the orchestra was dissolved after their patron died.  Benda moved to Dresden after that.  He was either 22 or 23 years old by that time.  Finally, he entered the service of the Crown Prince Frederick (who later became Frederick the Great) in 1733 – one source says 1732.  He was either 23 or 24 years old.  Henceforth, he participated in countless concerts with the King, often working alongside C.P.E. Bach who was the King’s harpsichordist for many years.  Although he spent most of his time in Potsdam, Benda met J.S. Bach while working in Dresden.  (One source states that Benda played 50,000 concertos over the course of forty years – an utterly ridiculous statement on the face of it.)  Benda was appointed concertmaster of the orchestra in 1771 – he was 62 years old.  Three of his brothers eventually joined him as members of the orchestra.  For at least two decades between 1740 and 1760 (approximately), Benda toured Germany as a soloist while in the employ of his patron.  He also had many violin pupils, among them being Johann Peter Salomon, the man who became Haydn’s impresario in London.  In addition to exercises and study books for the violin, Benda composed many symphonies, concertos, and sonatas, many of them (understandably) for flute.  YouTube has some files of his recorded output.  His composition style bridged the gap between the Baroque and the Classical epoch.  Franz Benda died on March 7, 1786, at age 76, five months before his famous benefactor.