Classical Music Buzz > Prone to Violins
Prone to Violins
violinhunter
About violinists, violins, and the violence that occurs between the two.
438 Entries
Eddie South (Edward Otha South) was an American jazz violinist and bandleader born (in Louisiana, Missouri) on November 27, 1904.  He is known for having achieved legendary status only after he died.  It has been said that had he not been black, he would have chosen a career in classical music.  He began his violin studies at a very early age and by age 10, was studying at the Chicago Music College, from which he graduated, possibly in the year 1921.  He entered the world of jazz in 1921, with assistance from Darnell Howard (a leading jazz violinist of that era), playing with Erskine Tate and Mae Brady.  In 1923, he was musical director of Jimmy Wade’s Syncopators in Chicago.  South's first recording came in that same year with Wade's Moulin Rouge Orchestra.  He formed his own band, the Alabamians, in 1927.  The group was named after the place they performed in, the Club Alabam, on the corner of Rush and Chicago Streets, a section of Chicago then known as Chicago's Bohemia.  Along the way, South also worked with bandleaders Charles Elgar, Henry Crowder, and Freddie Keppard, as well as bassist Milt Hinton, and pianist Billy Taylor.  He toured Europe with this band between 1928 and 1930.  Having arrived in Europe, he also studied at the Paris Conservatory.  While in Budapest, Hungary, in 1929, South took a liking to Gypsy (Roma) music and eventually made it a part of his improvisations.  It is well-known that during a tour of Europe in 1937, he performed and recorded with jazz legends Stephane Grappelli, Michel Warlop, and Django Reinhardt (who famously played with his two usable fingers only) in Paris.  Among the tunes recorded was Bach's concerto for two violins - in jazz style, of course.  Besides recording, he also played on radio and television.  From 1947 to 1949 he played in the big bands led by Earl Hines.  South also worked in New York and Los Angeles.  Nevertheless, despite the exposure he got from working with the biggest names in Jazz, as far as the public was concerned, he stayed unknown for the remainder of his life.  It has been said that his playing style suffered from the strictures imposed by his classical training – it didn’t swing sufficiently.  He recorded for the Chess and Mercury labels among others.  One of his last recordings was produced in 1951, though he last recorded in 1959.  YouTube has several audio files of his playing, one of which you can hear here.  South died in Chicago on April 25, 1962, at age 57.  
2 years ago | |
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Alina Ibragimova is a Russian violinist born (in Polevskov) on September 28, 1985.  She is known for playing on modern as well as period instruments – equally well.  She is also known for having played at Yehudi Menuhin’s funeral in Westminster Abby in 1999, at age 13.  She began her violin studies with her mother at age four.  She then entered the well-known Gnessin Music School in Moscow at age five, studying under Valentina Korolkova, a familiar name in Russia but not anywhere else.  In 1996, at age ten, she relocated to London with her family and began studying at the Yehudi Menuhin School.  Her main teacher was Natalya Boyarskaya, also known as Natasha Boyarsky.  She spent six years there then moved on to The Royal Academy of Music (Guildhall School of Music) and finally the Royal College of Music, from which she graduated in the summer of 2007.  Her main teacher there was Gordan Nikolitch.  She was 21 years old.  She has been concertizing ever since and has played with some of the major orchestras in the world.  Along the way, she founded a quartet – the Chiaroscuro Quartet – which plays on period instruments.  The quartet does not play on a regular basis since all of its members (Pablo Benedi, Emelie Hornlund, and Claire Thirion) have independent careers.  Ibragimova has recently conducted the Academy of Ancient Music, the famous period instrument ensemble based in England.  Her exclusive record label is Hyperion Records and her discography so far includes 9 CDs on that and the Wigmore Hall Live labels.  She also, of course, has a website, which contains extensive information about her, including all of her future engagements, which are considerable.  YouTube has several videos of her playing, one of which is here.  Ibragimova has played a 1738 Pietro Guarneri violin since 2006 – a violin provided her by industrialist Georg von Opel.  However, she is currently playing a 1775 violin by Anselmo Bellosio (a Venetian violin maker who died young), also provided by Mr. von Opel. 
2 years ago | |
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Cecylia Arzewski is a Polish (some would say American) violinist and teacher born (in Krakow, Poland) in 1948.  She is known for playing in some of the top U.S. orchestras as either Concertmaster or Associate Concertmaster, namely the Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, and the Atlanta Symphony.  Although a highly gifted orchestral violinist, her solo repertoire is very extensive – in fact, as extensive as almost any concert artist’s.  The tradition of the concertmaster-soloist reaches as far back as William DeFesch and Leopold Mozart.  More recent examples of this tradition are Rodolphe Kreutzer, Ferdinand David, Joseph Joachim, Ferdinand Laub, Eugene Ysaye, Max Bendix, Karl Halir, Theodore Spiering, Louis Persinger, Abram Shtern, Steven Staryk, Albert Sammons, Hugh Bean, Calvin Sieb, Sydney Harth, Raymond Cohen, David Nadien, Richard Burgin, Simon Standage, Frank Almond, and Glenn Dicterow.  Arzewski began her violin studies in Poland at age 5.  One of her first teachers was Eugenia Uminska at the Krakow Music Academy.  Four years later (1957), she and her family moved to Israel where she was enrolled at the Tel Aviv Conservatory.  Her principal teacher there was Odeon Partos, a violinist I had never heard of until now; he is better known as a Hungarian composer rather than violinist.  Arzewski later came to the U.S (probably 1960, though the year is not entirely certain) and studied with Ivan Galamian at Juilliard (New York) and Joseph Silverstein at the New England Conservatory (Boston.)  She also very briefly studied under Jascha Heifetz and Joseph Gingold.  She played in the Buffalo Philharmonic for one season – 1969 to 1970.  In 1970, at age 22, she joined the first violinist ranks of the Boston Symphony.  She then gradually moved up to the Assistant Concertmaster position, a position she reached in either 1978 or 1985 – sources differ.  Subsequent to receiving a prize at the Bach International Competition in Leipzig, she played a debut recital in New York at Carnegie Hall in 1978.  The program consisted entirely of Bach unaccompanied violin works.  From 1987 to 1990, she played as Associate Concertmaster in the Cleveland Orchestra.  Her tenure as Concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony began in 1990 and ended in 2008.  She has, of course, performed as soloist on many occasions with the Cleveland and Atlanta Symphonies.  She played the Wieniawski concerto in her first appearance with the Atlanta Symphony in 1990 and the Prokofiev second concerto in her last in 2003.  Today, she devotes herself to solo playing and is also the Artistic Director of the North Georgia Chamber Music Festival.  I do not know what violin she plays.  There are several posts of her playing on YouTube – here is one of them, the Strauss Sonata, said to be one of the best violin sonatas ever written. 
2 years ago | |
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Edouard Lalo (Edouard Victoire Antoine Lalo) was a French violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Lille, France) on January 12, 1823.  Some sources – in fact, most sources – give his date of birth as January 27, 1823.  Today, he is not remembered as a violinist, but rather, as the composer of the famous violin concerto, Symphonie Espagnol (1874, opus 21), a work which every concert violinist learns and plays and, if they are lucky, records.  It has been said that his marriage to one of his young pupils when he was 42 inspired him to write the Symphonie, though it actually was not written until nine years later.  In fact, he composed nothing between the year he got married (1865) and 1973, the year he wrote his violin concerto in F.  As a child, Lalo studied violin, cello, and piano at the Lille Conservatory.  He left home at age 16 and entered the Paris Conservatory.  His father then disowned him because he was firmly opposed to the idea that the teenager Lalo should make music his profession.  Nevertheless, Lalo stuck it out and paid for his tuition at the Paris Conservatory by giving lessons and playing in ensembles.  At the conservatory, his violin teacher was Francois Habeneck, one of the foremost violinists and conductors of the day.  Lalo made his living by only playing and teaching privately until about age 50, when he seriously entertained the idea of composing large-scale works.  He had already been composing chamber music for many years prior to this but his reputation as a composer was slowly acquired.  He formed the Armingaud Quartet in either 1848 or 1855 (sources vary) in which he played viola at first then second violin.  Chamber music in France was not much appreciated until about the late 1800s but Lalo’s quartet helped change that.  Early works of his were a Fantasy for violin and piano (1848, opus 1), a piano trio (1851, opus 7), and a violin sonata (1853, opus 12.)  Among his major compositions are three symphonies, two violin concertos, a cello concerto, an opera, a ballet, and a piano concerto.  Other than the Symphonie Espagnol and the cello concerto, none of these works is ever performed, except perhaps in France.  However, the premiere of his opera in 1888, was a huge success for Lalo.  Trio Oriens can be seen and heard on YouTube playing Lalo's first trio and Lynn Harrell can be heard playing the cello concerto here.  Lalo died on either April 22 or April 23, 1892, at age 69.  
2 years ago | |
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Tivadar Nachéz was a Hungarian violinist, teacher, and composer born (in Budapest) on May 1, 1859.  He began his violin studies at age 5, then later studied with the concertmaster of the Budapest Opera, known to me only as Mr. Sabathiel.  He was never a virtuoso of the first rank but was nonetheless successful as a performer, arranger, and composer.  He lived in England most of his life and even became a naturalized English citizen.  While still a young boy, he was accompanied by Franz Liszt.  In Berlin, he studied for three years with Joseph Joachim - at the same time as Jeno Hubay - and privately in Paris with Belgian violinist Hubert Leonard.  He made formal debuts in Hamburg and London in 1881.  He was 22 years old.  He toured regularly - and made friends with all the important musicians of his day - for the rest of his life.  Even as early as 1889, critics who heard him expressed admiration for his musicianship but pointed out technical deficiencies in his playing.  An indication of his limitations as a violinist can be gathered from his opinion that Ernst’s arrangement of Schubert’s Erlkonig for solo violin was “so difficult, in fact, that it should not be played.”  He was quoted as saying that he often practiced between 8 and 10 hours a day.  He performed his second violin concerto with the London Philharmonic on April 17, 1907.  His best known works are probably his edition of one of Vivaldi’s concertos for two violins – the one in a minor, Opus 3, Number 8 – and his Gypsy Dances.  It has been said he used a Tourte bow previously owned by Heinrich Ernst.  He also owned several magnificent violins, including a 1716 Stradivarius which I was not able to find on any list of Stradivari violins.  Nachez died in Switzerland on May 29, 1930, at age 71.  
2 years ago | |
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Karl Halir (Carl Halir) was a Czech violinist, teacher, and composer born on February 1, 1859.  In his day, he was famous for his interpretation of the Beethoven concerto.  However, he is also remembered for having played the first performance of the revised version – the version now commonly heard today – of the Sibelius concerto.  He was also a very tall man with an imposing presence, as were August Wilhelmj and Erick Friedman (and is Arnold Steinhardt.)  It has been said that in his hands, the violin looked like a toy.  His father was his first violin teacher.  At the Prague Conservatory he studied under Antonin Bennewitz (teacher also of Josef Suk and Otakar Sevcik) and later (from age 15) with Joseph Joachim in Berlin, at the Advanced School for Music.  Upon graduation, Halir joined Benjamin Bilse’s Band in Berlin, the precursor of the Berlin Philharmonic.  He was either the concertmaster of this band or played among the first violins.  I do not know for sure.  He was concertmaster also of the orchestra at Konigsberg in 1879.  He was 20 years old.  Two years later, he became concertmaster in Mannheim and remained for 3 years.  One source states that after Konigsberg, he spent two seasons in Italy as part of the private orchestra of a Russian nobleman.  In 1884, he was appointed concertmaster of the orchestra in Weimar (Grand Ducal Court Orchestra) and was there for 10 years (1884-1894.)  That same year, as part of the Bach Festival, he and Joachim played the Bach concerto for two violins in Eisenach to great acclaim.  He was 25 years old.  Joachim was more than twice his age.  Halir much later (in 1897) joined Joachim’s string quartet as second violinist – the quartet had originally been formed in 1869.  After Joachim’s death, Halir formed his own quartet.  After leaving the Weimar orchestra in 1894, he became concertmaster of the Berlin Court Opera orchestra and teacher at the school from which he had graduated (the Hochschule fur Musik) – he taught there until the day he died.  In Berlin, he also formed a piano trio which included pianist George Schumann and cellist Hugo Dechert.  All the while, he continued his solo concerts and recitals.  In 1888, Halir played the Tchaikovsky concerto in Leipzig.  Tchaikovsky was at the performance and was so impressed with the concert he later described it as a memorable day.  In 1896, Halir toured the U.S.  He arrived on November 4, 1896, for a 25-concert tour.  For the tour, Joachim lent Halir his Red Stradivarius of 1715 (now called the Joachim Strad – not to be confused with the Red Mendelssohn), said to be worth $12,000 at the time.  That violin was a gift to Joachim from the City of London in 1889.  It went to Joachim’s nephew, Harold Joachim, upon Joseph Joachim’s death.  Today, it is in Cremona, Italy and is worth more than $12,000.  Joachim’s generosity was a further sign of the affection and respect he had for Halir.  Halir’s itinerary included the cities of Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Cambridge, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, among other places.  On November 13, 1896, in New York, he made his U.S. debut with the Beethoven concerto.  On December 4, he gave the U.S. premiere of Spohr’s eighth concerto.  On October 19, 1905, in Berlin, with Richard Strauss conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, Halir gave the famous performance of the final version of the Sibelius concerto.  In Berlin, most of his students were American violinists.  Among other things, Halir wrote violin etudes and scale studies and a cadenza for the Brahms concerto, works which are not well-known today.  Halir died (in Berlin) on December 21, 1909, at age 50. 
2 years ago | |
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Alessandro Rolla was an Italian violinist, violist, composer, conductor, and teacher, born on April 22, 1757.  Although he was a very successful virtuoso of his time, he is most famous for being one of Paganini’s teachers.  Unfortunately, he lived during a time when many great musical luminaries roamed the earth – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Rossini, Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Berlioz, to name the better-known among them.  For example, after Mozart died in 1791, Rolla lived an additional 50 years and was witness to Mozart’s eventual universal success.  His life also encompassed Beethoven’s and Schubert’s entire lifetimes.  As a violinist, he was eclipsed by the likes of Paganini, Giovanni Viotti, Louis Spohr, Karol Lipinski, Rodolphe Kreutzer, Heinrich Ernst, and Pierre Rode.  Some of his compositions (about 600 in all according to one source) attest to the fact that many techniques which Paganini routinely used later on – including left-hand pizzicato, extremely high hand positions on the fingerboard, octaves, and double stopping - were first put forward by Rolla.  After his early studies, he moved to Milan where he studied from 1770 to 1778.  At his first public performance, he played a viola concerto of his own composition, said to be the first viola concerto ever heard.  That was in 1772 - he was 15 years old.  However, he did not write the first viola concerto – the first viola concerto was, in all likelihood, written by George Telemann.  In 1782, he was made leader of the Ducal Orchestra in Parma, Italy, playing violin and viola.  He was 25 years old.  He first met Paganini in 1795.  Paganini was then 13 years old.  How much time Paganini actually spent studying with Rolla is anyone’s guess.  It could have been one lesson or several or many.  During those years in Parma, Rolla traveled widely, published many of his works in Paris and Vienna, and conducted far and wide.  He was at Parma until 1802.  He then moved to Milan, where he was concertmaster and conductor of the opera orchestra at La Scala.  It has been said that none other than Louis Spohr praised this orchestra highly.  In 1808, the year of its inauguration, Rolla was made violin and viola professor of the Milan Conservatory, having been invited by Bonifazio Asioli, its first Director.  In 1811, Rolla was also director of the Cultural Society in Milan.  He was associated with La Scala until 1833 – thirty one years.  Upon leaving, Rolla was 76 years old.  At La Scala, he had conducted many of the operas of Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, among others.  He had also conducted Beethoven’s early symphonies as part of his activities with the Cultural Society.  He was among the first contributors to the music catalog of the famous Italian publisher, Ricordi.  These works included violin etudes in all keys.  His fame spread far and wide via publication of his works in Leipzig, Paris, Vienna, London, and Milan.  For the viola, he wrote no fewer than a dozen concertos, as well as duos for viola in combination with an assortment of other instruments.  He also wrote many violin concertos.  One of the more recent champions of Rolla's music was Emanuel Vardi.  Some, but certainly not many, of Rolla's works have been recorded and some of his music is still in print.  You can listen to tiny bits of some very charming works by Rolla here.  One of several YouTube postings can be found here and an extensive list of his works is available at this website.  Rolla died on September 15, 1841, at age 84.  Though very highly regarded and almost surely well-compensated during his lifetime, he became neglected in more modern times.  Before someone rescued their music from oblivion, the same fate befell Bach, Vivaldi, and Zelenka.  Perhaps things will change for Rolla, though that is unlikely.  
2 years ago | |
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A question regarding sources of information used in the compilation of these blog posts has recently come to my attention.  I, of course, do not pull stories or facts out of thin air.  For every statement regarding a date or occurrence found on this blog there is at least one corresponding source.  I have found that the misinformation out there is indeed considerable.  One must be careful.  However, if there is ever any question as to the validity or reliability of any source, I always clearly state it.  This blog often contains details which are very hard to come by though sources do exist for those details.  I simply do not divulge them because that would make them less special.  I have found that other people who write things on violinists (elsewhere) are not terribly objective - nor are they persistent in their research.  There are three sites in particular which are very sloppy in their detective work – I will not name them but they are well-known.  One of those sites is notorious for publishing erroneous information.  A case in point: the writer who stated that Theodore Spiering had made many appearances with the Chicago Symphony under conductor Theodore Thomas simply did not bother with checking the one source which would have set the facts straight.  Another example is the story about how Beethoven changed the dedication of his last violin sonata from George Bridgetower to Rodolphe Kreutzer – the true facts are simply not known, though many music historians insist that their version is the correct one.  That’s how things get Romanticized - not to say presented dishonestly - and become objects of ridicule and speculation.  Nevertheless – having said all this – if there is anyone out there who cares to challenge anything presented here as fact, let him tell me so and I will make clear where my information comes from.  Until such time, my sources will remain unmentioned.  After all, this is not a dissertation – it is a blog to be enjoyed for what it is.  It is, however, trustworthy.  
3 years ago | |
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Theodore Spiering (Theodore Bernays Spiering) was an American violinist, teacher, composer, and conductor, born (in St Louis, Missouri) on September 5, 1871.  He is remembered for a number of accomplishments which today are largely forgotten, though he was a pioneer of musical life in America (on both coasts) in the early part of the Twentieth Century.  His first lessons, at age 5, were with his father (Ernst Spiering), concertmaster of the St Louis Symphony.  He first played in public at age 7.  His later studies from age 15 (1886 to 1888) were with Henry Schradieck, violin professor at the Cincinnati College of Music.  When he arrived, Simon Jacobsohn was also probably still teaching there.  He then went to Europe in 1888 where he studied with Joseph Joachim in Berlin from 1888 to 1892.  He returned to the U.S. in 1892 and soon joined the violin section of the Chicago Symphony which had been formed a year earlier (1891.)  He was 21 years old.  One source states that he made many solo appearances with the orchestra under Theodore Thomas.  Regrettably, the source is incorrect.  Spiering only played once as soloist under Thomas  - that was on February 17, 1893.  The work he played was Schumann’s Fantasy for violin, opus 131.  (Since Max Bendix was concertmaster until 1896, that can only mean that Spiering was one of the other top violinists in the orchestra.  Theodore Thomas was known for selflessly promoting new music and new artists.  He presented no fewer than 112 U.S. premieres as conductor of the Chicago Symphony, a record which I predict will never be matched by anyone.)  Spiering also immediately began his teaching career there and eventually became Director at the Chicago Musical College (1902 to 1905.)  He also soon organized the Spiering String Quartet which was very successful and remained active between 1893 and 1905.  He left the Chicago Symphony in 1896.  After 1905, Spiering took to concertizing in Europe for four years.  When he again returned to the U.S. - four years later – he became concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic (1909-1911) at Gustav Mahler’s invitation, the salary offered being $5,000 (equivalent to about $130,000 in today’s dollars.)  In fact, when Mahler returned to Europe due to serious illness (from which he died), Spiering conducted the last 17 concerts of the orchestra’s season.  He was 40 years old.  Spiering debuted with the Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall on November 10, 1909 with the Bach E Major concerto.  Mahler requested this work himself.  On February 25 and again on March 27, 1910, Spiering played the Vieuxtemps violin concerto number 5 with the Philharmonic.  For each solo appearance, Spiering received an additional $200.  It was expected that Spiering would be offered the conducting job after Mahler’s death but he was passed over in favor of a European conductor – Josef Stransky.  Spiering subsequently returned to Europe to guest conduct the Bluthner Orchestra of Berlin and (possibly) the Berlin Philharmonic, among other orchestras.  He was highly regarded in Germany and England – a review of a concert given in Berlin by the Bluthner Orchestra in late December of 1912 is a testament to that fact.  When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Spiering once more returned to the U.S.  He was 43 years old.  He guest conducted the New York Philharmonic, concertized, and did a lot of teaching.  Reviewing a recital he presented at Aeolian Hall in New York on November 3, 1916, the music critic of the New York Times perceptively noted that Spiering’s virtuosity as a violinist was somewhat diluted (“especially as it referred to his bowing”) by his varied interests in music – conducting, teaching, and composing.  On December 8 of the same year, he played the Bruch concerto in g minor with the Chicago Symphony under Frederick Stock.  In 1921, he expected the conducting job at the St Louis Symphony to be offered to him - St Louis was his hometown, after all - but that, too, went to someone else – Rudolf Ganz.  In September of 1923, he again relocated to Europe, resided in Berlin and Vienna, wrote music, and guest conducted various orchestras.  On March 18, 1925, having once more made the trip back to the U.S., Spiering guest conducted the Portland (Oregon) Symphony and was almost immediately offered the post of Music Director.  He accepted and then traveled to Europe once again to rest and select new scores for the upcoming season of his orchestra.  Spiering died suddenly (in Munich) on August 11, 1925, at age 53, having never gotten any of the conducting jobs he really wanted.  He played a Guarnerius Del Gesu from 1729.  
3 years ago | |
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Emanuel Vardi (Emanuel Rosenbaum) was a Russian (many would say American or Israeli) violinist, violist, composer, arranger, conductor, teacher, and painter, born (in Jerusalem, Israel) on April 21, 1915.  There is anecdotal evidence which actually gives his date of birth as October 14, 1917.  He is known for having been one of only two violists to have ever given a solo recital in Carnegie Hall.  He was also the first violist to record the 24 Paganini (violin) Caprices – transposed a fifth lower, of course.  Vardi began his violin studies with his violinist father at about age 3 in Israel (Palestine, at that time.)  He began piano studies simultaneously with his pianist mother.  The family was already settled in New York when he – at age 6 - gave a piano recital in Aeolian Hall which created a very favorable impression, even among professional critics.  Vardi continued private violin lessons with Joseph Borisoff and others until age 12, at which time he entered the Institute of Musical Art, the precursor of the Juilliard School.  There, he studied with Constance Seeger.  It has been said that he also took one lesson from Leopold Auer, who died soon thereafter (1930.)  Later, he enrolled at Juilliard, where he studied with Edouard Dethier and Felix Salmond, among others.  However, he was then still a violinist.  At age 21 he left Juilliard to join the NBC Symphony as a violist.  He became the youngest member of this legendary orchestra.  Carlton Cooley and William Primrose were on the first stand of the viola section so Vardi was further back, but I don’t know how far back.  In any case, after Primrose left the orchestra, Vardi moved up to the first desk as Assistant Principal.  The ill-tempered Arturo Toscanini was the conductor.  Five years later, Vardi’s New York recital debut at Town Hall in February, 1941 was a sensation.  He was 25 years old.  He also soon thereafter played at the White House, accompanied by pianist Earl Wild, for President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.  During World War II, he played in the Navy Band (the Navy’s Symphony Orchestra) and with the Navy’s string quartet, which included violinists Oscar Shumsky and David Stone, and cellist Bernard Greenhouse.  He was one of four official soloists, the others being Shumsky, Earl Wild, and David Soyer, whose duty it was to alternatively perform a concerto with the orchestra once every month.  After the war, Vardi rejoined the NBC orchestra, but continued to expand his solo activities.  On May 23, 1946, he appeared as viola soloist in Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic - something considered unorthodox in those days - playing Alessandro Rolla’s viola concerto – Rolla had been a violinist and violist and was one of Nicolo Paganini’s teachers.  From 1950 to 1952, Vardi was studying art in Florence, Italy, and concertizing all over Europe, playing a 1770 Guadagnini violin.  Returning from Europe, Vardi again played with the NBC orchestra but became Principal Violist of the Symphony of the Air, the orchestra which was formed after the NBC Symphony was disbanded.  He also played with the Guilet Quartet, led by the last NBC Concertmaster Daniel Guilet – Guilet later organized the well-known Beaux Arts Trio.  By then, Vardi had begun to solidly put the viola on the musical firmament as a solo instrument.  From that point, Vardi’s career encompassed painting, teaching, concertizing, conducting, and recording with both classical and jazz and pop musicians - this was many years before crossover work had become fashionable or had even been contemplated by violinists Ivry Gitlis, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, and Nigel Kennedy, and cellist YoYo Ma.  Among many others, he worked with Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Nina Simone.  As have Joshua Bell, Toscha Seidel, Louis Kaufman, Yehudi Menuhin, Ytzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Israel Baker, and Glenn Dicterow, Vardi recorded for many movie soundtracks – Aladdin, Tootsie, Fame, Kramer Vs Kramer, and Sleepless in Seattle are among them.  He also championed contemporary composers and inspired them to write music for the viola.  A very rare audio file of Alan Shulman’s Variations for Viola (with Vardi and the NBC Orchestra) is available here.  YouTube also has various audio files of Vardi’s Paganini Caprices recording – you can listen to number 17 here.  Several of his solo recordings are also available on the internet although Vardi recorded on violin as well – the two Bartok Rhapsodies and the Tibor Serly violin concerto are examples of Vardi’s violin discography.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s (1978 to 1982), Vardi was chief conductor of the South Dakota Symphony.  In addition, he conducted for movie and television soundtracks.  In 1984, at age 69, as have several other highly gifted artists (Andre Previn, Charles Dutoit, Eugene Ysaye, Ole Bull, Pablo Casals, and Richard Wagner), Vardi married a much younger woman – violinist and painter Lenore Weinstock, a student of his.  They relocated from New York to the state of Washington in 2007.  By then, Vardi had injured an arm (in 1993 – I don’t know which arm) and had given up playing almost entirely.  He had nevertheless continued giving master classes, teaching privately, working with various music festivals around the world, and painting.  An iconic painting of William Primrose by Vardi can be seen at the Vardi art website.  I do not know where the original painting is.  I do know that Lenore Vardi plans to publish a book about Vardi’s life in the near future.  Among his many compositions for viola is the Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Paganini.  As far as paintings go, he completed more than 300 originals.  Vardi played two Strad violas early in his career – one of them the Strauss Stradivarius (Stradivari possibly only made between 13 and 18 violas – nobody knows for sure.)  I had not heard of the Strauss Strad viola until now.  The Strad violas I know of are the Archinto, the Axelrod, the Gibson, the Cassavatti, the Mahler, the Russian, the Tuscan, the Spanish Court, the MacDonald, the Paganini, and the Kux.  Nonetheless, Vardi’s favorite viola was one constructed in 1980 by Hiroshi Iisuka of Philadelphia.  He also played a Vincenzo Postiglioni violin.  Vardi died (in North Bend, Washington) on January 29, 2011, at age 95.
3 years ago | |
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