Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ilya Gringolts

Ilya Gringolts is a Russian violinist, teacher, conductor, and composer born (in Leningrad) on July 2, 1982.  He is known for being immersed in period-instrument performance as well as contemporary playing styles.  Ever since he won the 1998 Paganini Competition at age 16, his virtuosity has become well-known.  (The following year, Sayaka Shoji won the competition – she also was 16 years old.)  As is customary with almost all contemporary violinists, Gringolts participates in many music festivals around the world.  (The production of music festivals seems to have exploded after 1950 and festivals of one kind or another can now be found in every corner of the planet.)  Gringolts began studying the violin at age five.  I do not know who his first teacher was.  At age 8, he began studying violin and composition in the St Petersburg (formerly known as Leningrad) Special Music School with Tatiana Liberova and Jeanna Metallidi, two teachers of whom I had never heard.  In 1994, he made his debut with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.  He was 12 years old.  I don’t know which piece he played at that concert.  In 1995, he made his European orchestral debut in Finland, playing Bruch’s first concerto.  After winning the Paganini competition, he relocated to New York (in 1999) and studied at Juilliard with Dorothy Delay and Itzhak Perlman for three years.  During the latter part of those same three years, he was spending a lot of time in London, studying and giving concerts.  Gringolts made his Canadian debut (in Ottawa) in 1999 (one source says 2002) – Pinchas Zukerman was on the podium.  He was 17 years old.  He has been very busy ever since, playing all over the world with every important conductor and in every prestigious venue.  In 2013, he recorded the 24 Paganini Caprices.  A usually-reliable source states that Gringolts now teaches at the Advanced School for the Arts (aka Zurich Academy of the Arts) in Zurich, Switzerland.  Another source says he teaches (or has taught) at the Basel Hochschule.  When I checked, neither school would confirm his position as violin professor.  Regarding his teaching, he has stated – contrary to universally-accepted dogma - that being a motivator is not part of his job.  In his own words: “I think that everyone is his or her own motivator.  You should know why you do something, otherwise you shouldn’t do it.”  In 2008, he founded the Gringolts Quartet.  He maintains a busy schedule with the quartet.  It also allows him to spend more time with his wife, who is the quartet’s second violinist.  His discography is not extensive by any measure but the recordings he has under his belt have been highly praised and have received awards.  Among those recordings are the Arensky and the Taneyev concertos, two works which are very (very) seldom heard.  You might want to obtain his recording of the first Paganini concerto since it is pretty outstanding – it was released in March of 1999.  It is not yet available on YouTube.  A current project in progress is his recording of all of Igor Stravinsky’s works for violin.  Among the violins he has played are the Kiesewetter Stradivarius (1723), the Provigny Stradivarius (1716), and a Guarneri Del Gesu dated 1742.  Here is one of Gringolts’ YouTube videos – a concerto by the mysterious and enigmatic violinist Pietro Antonio Locatelli.