Sunday, October 27, 2019

Rodney Friend

Rodney Friend is an English violinist, teacher, and author born (in Bradford, England) in 1939.  He is best known for being the concertmaster of three of the world’s best orchestras – the New York Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, and the BBC Symphony.  He began his violin studies at age seven.  I do not know who his first teacher was. At 12, he received a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London.  His main teacher was Frederick Grinke, a Canadian violinist who played for Churchill, Truman, and Stalin at the famous Potsdam Conference in the summer of 1945.  Friend later studied with Endre Wolf, Yehudi Menuhin, and Henryk Szeryng.  One usually-reliable source says he also later studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music.  In September, 1964, Friend became the concertmaster of the London Philharmonic.  He was 24 years old.  He played the Britten concerto in his first solo appearance with this orchestra.  However, by then, he had made his London debut playing the Sibelius concerto with the Halle Orchestra (in 1961) at the Festival Hall with John Barbirolli on the podium.  Friend played with the London Philharmonic for 12 years. In 1975, he was invited to be the New York Philharmonic’s concertmaster.  He was 35 years old.  He had already made his American debut with this orchestra playing the Britten concerto.  He probably began his tenure as concertmaster in New York in the fall of 1976.  On March 10, 1977, in his new role as concertmaster, he soloed with the orchestra, this time playing Karol Szymanowski’s first concerto.  Erich Leinsdorf was on the podium.  In 1981, Friend returned to England and became the concertmaster of the BBC Symphony.  In that year also, he became professor of violin at the Royal College of Music.  He was 42 years old.  Since 1990, he has devoted his time to teaching, writing, judging international competitions, and playing and/or directing chamber music concerts.  He formed the Solomon Trio in 1991.  In 2006, Friend’s two-volume work entitled The Orchestral Violinist (a study guide for orchestral players) appeared.  It has been acclaimed by many critics.  In 2010, he founded the Cambridge International String Academy at Trinity College.  In 2015, he joined the Royal Academy of Music faculty.  In 2019, his pedagogic work entitled The Violin in Fifths was published.  Many sources say it is a unique study guide.  It is easily found on the internet.  Among other violins, Friend has played (and might still be playing) a Giuseppe (Battista) Guarneri violin dated 1696 (not a Del Gesu.)  (According to a usually-reliable source, for a time, he also played a Guarneri Del Gesu dated 1731.) Needless to say, he has recorded (as an orchestral violinist) practically the entire orchestral repertoire.  He has also appeared in every important concert hall in the world and worked alongside the most eminent conductors and soloists of the twentieth century.  Here is a very charming YouTube audio file of one of his commercial recordings as soloist.