Sunday, June 16, 2019

Anna Tifu

Anna Tifu is a Romanian (some would say Italian) violinist born (in Cagliari, Italy) on January 1, 1986.  (Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia, a large island off the western coast of Italy.)  She is known for having studied and spent most of her career in Italy.  She was widely recognized as a child prodigy from the age of eight.  Her first teacher was her father at age 6.  She made such fast progress that by age 8 she had won the Vittorio Veneto competition with a first prize.  (Vittorio Veneto is a small city in northern Italy, situated 60 miles north of Venice, not far from the southern Austrian border.)  At age 11 Tifu made her first solo appearance with orchestra.  At age 12, she played the Bruch g minor concerto at the famous La Scala opera house in Milan.  She graduated from the Cagliari Music Conservatory at age 15.  Tifu studied further with Salvatore Accardo in Italy and with Aaron Rosand (2005 to 2008) in the U.S.  Later still, she studied in Paris also.  Along the way, she won violin competitions in Italy and Romania.  It is possible that Tifu stopped taking lessons when she turned 24 years old but I am not sure about that, although it can be said that Tifu has been concertizing since age 11.  For some time, her violin was the Berthier Stradivarius from 1716 but I do not know if she is still playing it.  She has also played Paganini’s Cannone 1743 Guarnerius.  Here is a YouTube video of Tifu playing Chausson’s Poeme.  Here is a link to a nice article about Paganini’s violin.  

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Wilma Neruda

Wilma Neruda (Wilhelmine Maria Franziska Neruda aka Madame Norman-Neruda aka Lady Halle) was a Czech (Moravian) violinist and teacher born (in Brno) on March 21, 1838.  (As far as I could determine, her year of birth is still in question - it could be 1838, 1839, or even 1840.)  She was very famous and influential in her day but now – even among serious music enthusiasts – is largely forgotten.  However, her name will be immortal in music history for the fact that she married one of the best known names in the conducting world, Charles Halle, founder of the Halle Orchestra.  She began violin studies with her father, Josef Neruda, at age 4.  At age six, Neruda began studying with Leopold Jansa, in Vienna.  Jansa was also the teacher of Composer Karl Goldmark.  At age 7, she made her public debut in Vienna, with her sister at the piano, playing a Bach violin sonata.  In 1848, she made her English debut in London – she was 10 years old.  (One source gives the date as June 11, 1849.)  In 1852, she presented a series of concerts in Moscow.  It has been said that none other than Henryk Wieniawski considered her one of his main rivals.  In 1859, Neruda formed the Neruda Quartet, comprised of three of her siblings and herself as first violinist.  She was 20 years old.  She subsequently enjoyed a very busy and successful career.  In 1864, she married F. W. Ludwig Norman, a well-known Swedish musician, and subsequently presented herself as Wilma Norman Neruda.  The couple separated after four years and she soon moved to London – she had not returned to England since 1848.  She was now 30 years old.  In 1869, she was named professor of violin at the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm.  Many years later, in 1888, Neruda married Charles Halle and, after Halle was knighted that same year, became Lady Halle.  She and Halle, who was an accomplished pianist, had participated in many chamber music concerts together before their marriage and continued to do so afterward.  In 1890, they toured Australia.  In 1895, they toured South Africa.  Shortly after her husband died in October of 1895, she was gifted a palace in Italy (near Venice) by several members of the aristocracy.  She resided there for a while.  In 1899, four years after Halle died, she toured the United States and Canada.  Although she retired from concert life at age sixty, she continued to perform sporadically.  In late 1898, she moved to Berlin to teach, but continued to live part of the year in London.  In 1907, she played at the memorial concert for Joseph Joachim.  Neruda played a Stradivarius violin from 1709 (or 1710), known as the Vieuxtemps Strad.  The violin was a gift to her made (by several members of the aristocracy) in 1876.  She also owned several other violins.  Neruda died on April 15, 1911, in Berlin, at age 73. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Alexandra Soumm

Alexandra Soumm is a Russian violinist, teacher, philanthropist, and poet born (in Moscow) on May 17, 1989.  She is one of the best known Russian violinists living (and based) in France and has performed with practically every French orchestra and in every French venue.  When her parents left Russia for France, she was only 2 years old.  As far as I know, her main teacher has been Boris Kuschnir, with whom she studied (according to one very reliable source) for almost fourteen years.  Soumm also frequently participates in music festivals, though mostly in Europe.  She began her violin studies with her father (a violinist) at age 5.  Her first public appearance took place at age 7 in Ukraine with her mother at the piano.  (Her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian.)  She entered the Vienna Conservatory, where she began studying with Kuschnir, at age 10.  Two years later, Soumm made her formal debut in Vienna’s Konzerthaus (in 2002) and has been concertizing ever since.  She won the Eurovision Competition in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 2004, at age fourteen.  According to one source, she dropped out of high school when she was 16 years old in order to devote herself to the study of the violin full time and more intensely.  In 2011, Soumm began presenting masterclasses wherever she performed.  She made her U.S. debut in November, 2013, with the Detroit Symphony.  She played the Sibelius concerto - Leonard Slatkin was on the podium.  A few days after that appearance, she made her debut in Chicago, although not with the Chicago Symphony.  She played Mozart’s third concerto with the Illinois Philharmonic.  David Danzmayr was on the podium.  She was 24 years old.  She has twice appeared at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, before an audience of about 20,000 people – August 15, 2014, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto and August 20, 2015 playing the Bernstein Serenade.  Playing for huge audiences is something which violinists of a former generation (including Yehudi Menuhin, Jascha Heifetz, and Bronislaw Huberman) used to do there and in New York at Lewisohn Stadium with the New York Symphony or the New York Philharmonic.  Soumm is fluent in the German, French, English, Spanish, and Russian languages.  Although her discography is not at all extensive, she has performed in almost every famous venue and with every major orchestra (and conductor) in the world.  Soumm used to play a 1785 (or 1782) G.B. Guadagnini violin but I do not know if she is still playing it.  She has also played a Gioffredo Cappa violin constructed in 1700 (approximately.)  Since 2018, Soumm has been associated with the Musica Mundi music school (and festival) which is based in Belgium.  She has stated that one of the key ingredients for learning to play well is an insatiable curiosity.  A direct (and very interesting) quote from a recent interview follows: “A lot of people just play nicely, but that is not the idea because when Beethoven or Tchaikovsky composed their music, they gave their life to it and so should we.” Here is a YouTube video of a Bach concerto played by Soumm with the Galicia Symphony Orchestra. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Juliette Kang



Juliette Kang is a Korean violinist (many would say American or Canadian) born (in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) on September 5, 1976.  She is currently the associate concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  She began her career as a soloist but gravitated toward a high position as an orchestral player, a choice that possibly provides the best of both worlds since she continues to successfully concertize as soloist, chamber musician, and recitalist.  (Sometimes, orchestral players leave orchestral work to launch solo careers but that is very rare – only Janos Starker, Zino Francescatti, Emanuel Vardi, Pablo Casals, William Primrose, Emanuel Vardi, Berl Senofsky, Lynn Harrell, and Tossy Spivakovsky come to mind.  It is far more common for soloists to abandon the touring life in favor of a more tranquil existence as a first-desk orchestral player and/or teacher at a top music school.)  Kang began violin lessons with James Keene (concertmaster of the Edmonton Symphony) when she was 4 years old.  Three years later, she made her debut in Montreal.  Two years after that, at age 9 (or 10), she entered the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where her main teacher was Jascha Brodsky, a well-known violin pedagogue.  At Curtis, she also studied chamber music with Felix Galimir.  In 1991 (after graduating from Curtis), she began studying at the Juilliard School in New York under Hyo Kang and Dorothy Delay.  She was 15 years old.  At 16, Kang made her New York debut in March, 1993 at the 92nd Street Y.  Between 1983 and 1994, Kang won major prizes at several violin competitions here and abroad, including first prize at the Yehudi Menuhin violin competition in 1992 and first prize at the Indianapolis Violin Competition in 1994.  She was 18 years old when she won the Indianapolis competition.  (Among the top 60 prize winners since the Indianapolis competition’s inception in 1982, only six or seven players have achieved high-profile international recognition – Leonidas Kavakos, Simone Lamsma, Clara-Jumi Kang, Sergei Khachatryan, and Augustin Hadelich.)  After many solo appearances, Kang began her orchestral career in 1999, playing with the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra.  She was 23 years old.  She then played in the first violin section of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra from 2001 to 2003 – Raymond Gniewek had just retired as concertmaster.  From 2003 to 2005, Kang was assistant concertmaster with the Boston Symphony.  In 2005, at age 29, she was appointed associate concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Now, she has curtailed her solo appearances to just three or four concerts per season.  As is customary, she also gets to be a featured soloist with her orchestra.  On her first solo appearance with the orchestra in 2012, she played Prokofiev’s first concerto.  In November of 2014 she played the Stravinsky concerto and in January, 2018 she played Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with the orchestra.  Her discography includes her solo recital at Carnegie Hall and the Wieniawski and Schumann concertos with the Vancouver Symphony.  Kang plays a Camillo Camilli violin constructed in 1730 (approximately.)  I do not know whether she has or has had any students.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Eda Kersey

Eda Kersey was an English violinist and teacher born (in Goodmayes, a district of London) on May 15, 1904.  She was a very accomplished musician whose career was mostly spent in England.  She was also one of quite a few female violinists who died young – Maud Powell, Johanna Martzy, Ginette Neveu, Edith Volkaert, Alma Rose, Alma Moodie, and Arma Senkrah are among them.  Several sources speak very highly of her and emphasize that she would have left a great legacy if only she had lived long enough to record the great works of the violin repertoire.  She is also known to have stated that practicing seven hours a day (which she routinely did) should be sufficient for any violinist.  Her musical education began on the piano at age four.  She took up the violin at age six when she actually began studying at the Trinity College of Music in London.  Two years later, she was awarded a certificate from the college with very high marks.  She was eight years old.  After that, she began studying with Edgar Mouncher (a pupil of Otakar Sevcik.)  After only two years, at age ten, she played Wieniawski’s second concerto (first movement only) in Southampton, a city which is 65 miles from London.  That concert (in 1915) was a great success.  At age 13, she moved to London to live with an aunt and uncle in London and began studying with Margaret Holloway, a pupil of Leopold Auer.  Her first London recital took place three years later at the Aeolian Hall when she was sixteen years old.  (New York City also had its own Aeolian Hall.)  Along the way, she premiered the concertos of Arnold Bax, Erno Dohnanyi, and Stanley Wilson, as well as works by other contemporary composers.  She also gave the first English performance of the Barber concerto at a Proms concert in 1943.  Her first Proms concert had been in 1930 playing the Beethoven concerto with the famous Henry Wood conducting.  She was 26 years old.  That performance was the first of several appearances she made at the popular Proms concerts.  In 1931, she formed a piano trio which was simply named The Trio Players.  Her last concert took place in June, 1944, at the Albert Hall in London.  Kersey played a Nicolo Amati, a J.B. Vuillaume, and a Guarnerius del Gesu (which she acquired from Belgian violinist Alfred De Reyghere in 1942), among other violins.  Eda Kersey died on July 13, 1944, at age 40.  Negotiations for many recordings of the standard repertoire had nearly been concluded before her sudden death but she never got to actually record anything other than some small pieces (with piano accompaniment) and the Bax concerto (with orchestral accompaniment) several months earlier.