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Prone to Violins
violinhunter
About violinists, violins, and the violence that occurs between the two.
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Arthur Judson (Arthur Leon Judson) was an American violinist, conductor, and artist manager born (in Dayton, Ohio, USA) on February 17, 1881.  After giving up his career as a concert violinist, he became the most powerful artist manager and promoter in U.S. history.  One source has him starting his violin studies at age 8 and another at age 12.  Two of his teachers were Max Bendix (famous for his connection to Theodore Thomas) and Leopold Lichtenberg (teacher at the National Conservatory in New York, where Antonin Dvorak was the Director from 1891 to 1895.)  He graduated from High School in 1899 but his enthusiasm and ambition were soon evident in the fact that he became the Director of the music department at Denison University (Ohio) at age 19.  At that University in 1903, he performed the (Richard) Strauss violin sonata, said to be the best violin sonata ever written.  The performance, according to Judson, marked the U.S. premiere of the work.  That claim, however, is debatable, since the sonata was completed in 1888 and it is unlikely that it would have taken fifteen years for it to reach the American public.  After his stint at Denison (1900-1907), he went to New York City to establish himself as a concert violinist.  By then, he had also been concertmaster of the orchestra at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton.  Since his efforts to make a living as an artist yielded few results, he went into the magazine business, finding employment as music critic and advertising manager for the magazine Musical America.  He spent 8 years there.  In this capacity, he became very well-known by artists and administrators around the country.  It thus appears that his playing career lasted about 7 years.  In 1915, he was named manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  He was 34 years old.  Shortly thereafter, he created an artist management agency in Philadelphia and in New York as well.  In 1922, he became manager of the New York Philharmonic.  By 1927, he had launched his own radio network, something called the United Independent Broadcasters, which was, within a few months, bought by William Paley.  Paley renamed it the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS.)  Judson thus became a major stockholder in the new company.  The initial intent of Judson’s broadcasting network had simply been to bring artists which he managed to national attention through various radio programs, but, the end result was something far more significant.  He was 46 years old.  By 1930, Judson had control of Columbia Artists Management, and managed the careers of 125 artists and organizations.  Columbia Artists Management had been created via a merger of one of Judson’s agencies with 7 other management firms.  After public criticism of the conflicts of interest created by his myriad activities, Judson resigned his position with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934.  Also, because of his monopolistic influence – by 1935 he controlled two thirds of the concert action around the U.S. – and the incestuous business structures resulting from his management of orchestras, radio networks, and artists, he was in 1939 investigated by the federal government.  This resulted in his slowly restructuring and diversifying his empire, though his considerable influence, even in the area of orchestral programming, continued unabated for many years thereafter.  It has been said that Judson stopped representing the conductor Otto Klemperer after Klemperer programmed one of Mahler’s symphonies for a New York Philharmonic concert, a decision which Judson disagreed with - I don’t like Mahler either so I would have sided with Judson.  He kept his position with the New York Philharmonic until 1956.  He was 75 years old.  Of course, he was very wealthy by then.  Arthur Judson died (in New York) on January 28, 1975, at age 93. 
3 years ago | |
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Laura Archera (Laura Archera Huxley) was an Italian violinist, writer, filmmaker, and lay psychologist born (in Turin, Italy) on November 2, 1911.  She is best known for having been the wife of writer, philosopher, and LSD guru Aldous Huxley.  Her career somewhat mirrors that of Olga Rudge, a highly accomplished violinist who gave up her career for Ezra Pound, the controversial writer, poet, composer, and political activist.  Several sources state that Archera began her violin studies at the age of ten in Turin, Italy.  Encouraged by her father, she dropped out of formal school at age fourteen in order to focus on her music studies.  At that age also, she played for the Queen of Italy (Marie-Jose’.)  According to a usually reliable source, she then traveled to Berlin, Paris, and Rome for further study.  The same source states that she earned her degree in Rome at age 17.  Another source, however, states she graduated at age 21.  In Paris she studied with George Enesco; in Berlin, with Carl Flesch; in Rome, I do not know.  She gave numerous recitals throughout Europe during these years.  It is also stated in various easily available sources that she traveled between Europe and the U.S. for several years.  She made her U.S. debut in 1937 in Carnegie Hall playing Mozart’s fifth concerto, accompanied by the New York Women’s Orchestra.  She was 26 years old.  She then went on to study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.  How much playing she did (or where) in the U.S. is not well-documented on the internet, so I have no clue about that.  Some sources state that she played at Carnegie Hall as a teenager but those same sources say that she first came to the U.S. shortly before the war.  Both statements cannot be right.  After the start of World War II (1939), she did not return to Europe.  She played in the Los Angeles Philharmonic from the beginning of the 1943-1944 season to the end of the 1945-1946 season.  She owned and played a 1705 (Cozio says 1703) Guarnerius violin, an early gift from her father (a stockbroker), which, supposedly, she later donated to violinist Yehudi Menuhin, though I find that very, very hard to believe.  Even extremely generous people do not donate such valuable instruments, unless they are wealthy philanthropists.  In any case, Menuhin had the violin until 1978, after which the violin was auctioned off.  Archera did have her precious Guarnerius at least up until 1961.  It was one of the few things she was able to save when her house in Hollywood burned down.  She began working as a free-lance film editor at RKO Studios at about the time she quit her job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic though she had been delving into documentary filmmaking since 1945.  If she ever played the violin again after 1946 is anybody’s guess.  She was only 35 years old.  Along the way, she wrote several self-help books, a memoir-biography of Huxley (whom she married in 1956), and started a group that helps children and parents of children.  Archera died on December 13, 2007, at age 96.  As far as I know, she died without ever having recorded anything.  
3 years ago | |
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Emanuel Borok is a Russian (many would say American) violinist and teacher born (in Tashkent, Uzbekistan) on July 15, 1944.  Although he was Associate Concertmaster of the Boston Symphony for 11 years, he is best known for being the long-time concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony, a post from which he retired in 2010.  As a child, he studied violin at the Darzinya Music School in Riga (Latvia) with Voldemar Sturestep.  At age 15, he entered the well-known Gnessin Music School in Moscow.  One of his teachers there was Michael Garlitsky.  After winning some of the top prizes in the All Russian Republic and All Soviet Union Violin Competitions, he joined the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra as Assistant Concertmaster in 1969.  He was 25 years old.  He became Second Concertmaster of the Moscow Philharmonic in 1971.  Two years later, he went to Israel to serve as concertmaster of the Israel Chamber Orchestra.  In 1974, he came to the U.S. to join the Boston Symphony as Associate Concertmaster, a post which automatically made him concertmaster of the famous Boston Pops Orchestra.  In 1985, he joined the Dallas Symphony as concertmaster.  He was 41 years old.  The Principal conductors under which he was concertmaster were Eduardo Mata, Andrew Litton, and Jaap Van Zweden.  Besides concertizing in South America, Canada, and Europe, he has several times partnered in solo appearances with Yehudi Menuhin, Pinchas Zukerman, and Janos Starker, among many others.  He continues to perform and teach at several music festivals in the U.S.  Borok has taught at the Tanglewood Music Center, the University of Houston, Southern Methodist University, and the University of North Texas.  However, he has also occasionally taught in Italy, Switzerland, France, Russia, the Czech Republic, and England.  In addition to the dozens of recordings with the Boston and Dallas orchestras, Borok has recorded as a soloist on the Eroicalabel and has also published cadenzas for the Mozart concertos.  Borok plays a 1608 Amati violin which he purchased in 1976.  It is definitely one of the oldest violins being played on a concert stage today.  You can hear the magnificent (gorgeous) tone of this Amati in this YouTube video.  
3 years ago | |
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Alan Gilbert is an American violinist, conductor, and teacher, born (in New York) on February 23, 1967.  Although trained as a violinist from an early age, he pursued a conducting career while still very young – Daniel Barenboim did essentially the same thing.  His conducting pursuits took such a serious turn that the highest post he attained as a violinist was assistant concertmaster of the Santa Fe Opera Company (New Mexico) in 1993.  He was 26 years old.  Gilbert is much better known as the recently appointed conductor of the New York Philharmonic.  He joins Neville Marriner, Jaap Van Zweden, Jean-Pascal Tortelier, David Zinman, Lorin Maazel, Eugene Ormandy, Pierre Monteux, Charles Munch, and Theodore Thomas, in a group of violinists who essentially almost entirely left the violin for the podium.  There is another group of contemporary violinists who also conduct but who continue to concertize assiduously – Jaime Laredo, Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman, Salvatore Accardo, Joseph Silverstein, and Leonidas Kavakos are in this group.  Do violinists or pianists make better conductors?  I would not know.  According to at least one source, Gilbert made his violin debut with the New York Philharmonic in October of 2011.  The piece he chose was Bach’s two-violin concerto.  The same piece was chosen by Alma Rose' for her debut in 1926.  Gilbert has an affinity for modern music, music which is, for the most part, unintelligible, as far as I’m concerned.  Though Gilbert has already programmed a number of world premieres, it is doubtful that he will ever match Theodore Thomas’ record of 112 world premieres with the Chicago Symphony.  In any case, Gilbert’s premieres would be music which almost nobody wants to listen to a second time.  Thomas, by the way, conducted the New York Philharmonic for four years way back in 1887.  Gilbert began his violin studies as a child.  It was not difficult since his mother, his father, and his grandfather were (are) all professional violinists.  He later enrolled at Harvard University, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Curtis Institute, and Juilliard.  Beginning in 1994, Gilbert won a number of conducting prizes which helped further his conducting career.  Gilbert was assistant conductor with the Cleveland Orchestra from 1995 to 1997.  In January of 2000, he became conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, a post he held until 2008.  From 2003 to 2006, he served as Music Director of the Santa Fe Opera.  He has also been Principal Guest Conductor of the NDR Symphony (Hamburg, Germany) since 2004.  In September of 2009, he began his tenure as Chief Conductor of the New York Philharmonic, although his appointment came in July of 2007.  He was 42 years old.  In September of 2011, he was appointed Director of Conducting and Orchestral studies at Juilliard.  As for his violin, I guess it is safely put away, though not forgotten.  I happened to hear the performance of the Bach double violin concerto and was impressed with Gilbert’s style as well as his technical accomplishments as a violin player.  Gilbert’s website features him as a conductor and chamber musician and there are several videos of performances on YouTube – one such is here with the Sibelius concerto.  
3 years ago | |
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Joseph Fuchs (Joseph Philip Fuchs) was an American violinist and teacher born (in New York) on April 26, 1899.  His early studies were with his father.  He later studied at Juilliard (Institute of Musical Arts - New York) with Franz Kneisel and Louis Svecenski and graduated in 1918.  His American debut took place in 1920 at the Aeolian Hall.  He then went to Berlin for further study and to play in several German orchestras in Frankfurt, Munich, and Berlin.  Returning to New York in 1922 or 1923, he played in the Capitol Theatre Orchestra for some time (where Eugene Ormandy was concertmaster) but also played wherever else the opportunity arose.  Though very highly respected with a distinguished career as teacher and concert violinist, his profile was never very high because – Alessandro Rolla comes to mind - he lived during a time when Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Mischa Elman, Nathan Milstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Michael Rabin, Isaac Stern, Leonid Kogan, David Oistrakh, Arthur Grumiaux, Joseph Suk, Christian Ferras, Zino Francescatti, Joseph Szigeti, and Ruggiero Ricci dominated the violin scene.  Since he was concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra for fourteen years (1926 to 1940), his delayed entry into the concertizing world for that many years may have cost him dearly.  His Carnegie Hall debut did not come until 1943.  He was 44 years old.  Nevertheless, Fuchs toured extensively all over the world (Europe – 1954, South America – 1957, Russia - 1965) while developing a teaching career in the U.S.  Fuchs was also one of a few violinists who had to retrain after undergoing surgery on his left hand – Huberman and Thibaud did the same thing.  His first appearance with the New York Philharmonic was on August 1, 1945.  He played Bruch’s first concerto on that occasion.  Soon thereafter – on October 27, 1945 - he premiered the Nikolai Lopatnikoff concerto with the same orchestra.  That concerto has probably not been played much after that though it was recorded by Fuchs.  He premiered several other modern works as well.  In 1946, the same year he acquired the famous Cadiz Stradivarius violin, he began teaching at Juilliard and taught there almost until the day he died – 51 years.  One of his pupils is Anna Rabinova.  In 1952, he recorded (with Artur Balsam) one of the first complete sets of the Beethoven violin sonatas.  His last appearance with the New York Philharmonic was on August 1, 1962.  A YouTube audio file featuring Fuchs playing Beethoven’s Romance in G can be found here.  Fuchs’s last recital was in 1992, at Carnegie Hall.  He was 93 years old.  Nathan Milstein, Joseph Szigeti, Ruggiero Ricci, Ida Haendal, Abram Shtern, Ivry Gitlis, Zvi Zeitlin, and Roman Totenberg have also played recitals at a very advanced age.  On the other hand, it may well be that Nicolo Paganini played his last concert when he was only 52.  Joseph Fuchs died in New York City on March 14, 1997, at age 97.  By the way, the Cadiz Strad (1722), having been sold to an American Foundation, is now on loan to another American violinist.  
3 years ago | |
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I have been meaning to put together a list of celebrity violinists for a while, but I have not done so for reasons I do not understand.  However, I have decided – instead - to now put together a list of violinists on this blog who, for reasons I also do not understand, have gotten very little attention – fewer than 70 (unique) views.  And, here it is, in reverse chronological order: Arthur Hartmann, Jacob Grun, Franz Kneisel, Eddie South, Tivadar Nachez, Karl Halir, Camilla Urso, Nahan Franko, Albert Sammons, Jose Lafitte, Daisy Kennedy, Isidore Cohen, Erick Friedman, Victoria Mullova, Joseph Hellmesberger, Robert Mann, Emmanuel Wirth, William Reed, Otto Joachim, Ion Voicu, Jan Kubelik, Willy Hess, Pierre Baillot, Jacques Thibaud, Antonio Bazzini, Roman Totenberg, Jeno Hubay, and Emile Sauret.  With time, perhaps these violinists may get a few more views and reach 100 views or so.  Few people seem even aware that these once-famous people were very influential musicians in their day.  Of course some profiles have gotten over 500 (unique) views but the reason eludes me.  Why some old names stick and others don’t is a mystery.  The ones who are contemporary but have very few views are Robert Mann and Victoria Mullova but the reason for that is that my Pronetoviolins blog post about them does not even show up in the first ten pages of Google.  I wonder if, fifty years from now, Gil Shaham or Itzhak Perlman or Hilary Hahn will still be remembered.  Not too long ago, I asked a violin student if she had heard a certain Heifetz recording.  She said she had never heard of Jascha Heifetz.  Well, there it is. 
3 years ago | |
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It now comes to light that Dietmar Machold, a respected dealer in fine instruments is under investigation for supposedly dealing fraudulently with buyers and sellers.  He had offices all over the world and was well-known among high-end dealers.  He was known as Mr. Stradivarius and had built his business very quickly.  His father used to be a violin maker.  Spiegel Online has a rather comprehensive article about Machold's troubles, if you can make time to read it.  I wrote a story about Joseph Tang a few months ago and mentioned at that time that his victims had at least not suffered huge losses because they had not dealt in high-end instruments.  Dietmar Machold appears to be the Major League version of Joseph Tang.  He has been accused of perpetrating frauds to the tune of $35,000,000, selling fakes or inflating prices, or simply not paying owners for instruments he sold which had been placed with him on a consignment basis.  Some sources speculate that the swindles were in excess of $100,000,000.  I wouldn’t know.  The New Jersey Symphony was allegedly one of his victims.  A European bank made him loans of more than $4,000,000 which were secured by instruments purportedly worth a lot more than $4,000,000 but whose real value was closer to $5,000.  By the way, I am still very much of the opinion that the so-called Messiah Stradivarius is a fake.  It sits in a British Museum (the Ashmolean) away from any and all scrutiny.  I have very little respect for dealers who have everything to gain by issuing certificates of authenticity and giving opinions of value on violins they sell.  In fact, I prefer new violins to old, be they Guarnerius, Stradivarius, or Guadagnini. Fritz Reuter knows. 
3 years ago | |
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Jacob Grun (Jakob Maurice Grun) was a Hungarian violinist and teacher born (in Budapest) on March 13, 1837.  When Grun was born, Brahms was 4 years old, Felix Mendelssohn was 28 years old (and already very famous), and Paganini was 54 and would live four more years.  Today, Grun is known as a teacher who had several critically important and famous pupils. He is also known as a very capable concertmaster who spent most of his life and career in Austria.  He first studied with someone named Gustav Ellinger in his hometown.  Later on, his most important teacher was Joseph Bohm at the Vienna Conservatory.  From 1858 to 1861 he played in the Grand Duke’s Royal Band in Weimar.  He was 21 years old.  Then he played in the Royal Band at Hanover (The Queen’s Orchestra) from 1861 to 1865.  Joseph Joachim was the concertmaster of the Hanover orchestra at the time.  Because Grun was not granted a position in the prestigious Court Chamber Orchestra (which would have entitled him to a pension), Joachim resigned his position as concertmaster in protest (together with Grun) in February of 1865.  Grun then embarked on a long concertizing tour of Germany, England, Holland, and Hungary.  Officially, Grun did not qualify for a position in the Chamber Orchestra because he was Jewish.  Joachim, the Chamber Orchestra’s concertmaster, was also Jewish but his situation was viewed somewhat differently because he (like Mendelssohn) had converted to Christianity.  Three years later (1868), Grun was appointed concertmaster of the Vienna Opera Orchestra (aka Vienna Court Opera, very closely tied to the Vienna Philharmonic.)  He was 31 years old.  His Jewishness apparently played no part in that appointment.  In 1877, he began teaching at the Vienna Conservatory, retiring in 1909.  He was 72 years old when he retired from teaching and playing in the Vienna Opera.  It has been said that he was very kind-hearted with his beginning pupils.  Among his students are Carl Flesch, Oskar Back, Oscar Morini, Franz Kneisel, Erica Morini, and Rosa Hochmann.  He played a 1714 Stradivarius which bears his name and which was later owned by Franz Kneisel.  Grun died in obscurity (in Vienna) on October 1, 1916 at age 79.  The First World War had already begun, Claude Debussy had composed Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Richard Strauss had composed Don Juan, Igor Stravinsky had written his Rite of Spring, and Serge Prokofiev was already 25 years old.  
3 years ago | |
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Arthur Hartmann (Arthur Hartman) was a Hungarian (some would say American) violinist, teacher, composer, and writer, born (in Philadelphia) on July 23, 1881.  He was a rather enigmatic, romantic, and restless figure in the world of music during the turn of the twentieth century.  He is best known today for having transcribed a work by Claude Debussy which almost all concert violinists play – The Girl with the Flaxen Hair - a piece which Jascha Heifetzmade famous and recorded at least four times, the first time when he was 26 years old.  Hartmann was a child prodigy and first performed in Philadelphia when he was six years old (1887.)  His first teacher was his father.  Later, he studied with Henry Hahn and Martin van Gelder.  In 1891-92, he studied in New York at the New York College of Music.  He toured Europe very successfully from 1892 to 1894.  He was 11 years old.  From 1894 to 1897, he played in America wherever his father could find him opportunities.  He then studied with Charles Loeffler in Boston for two years, beginning in 1897.  His patron in Boston was a wealthy merchant: Arthur Curran.  From 1899 to 1903, he studied in Europe – I do not know where (perhaps Berlin) or with whom.  Although he appears to have begun his career quite strongly, he suffered reversals which put him in very precarious financial circumstances a number of times.  The year 1929 was especially difficult – he suffered from very poor health, his wife and children left him, and he could not work at all for many months.  His concertizing was done in fits and starts but it has been said his performances were acclaimed.  He appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1906.  He was 25 years old.  On November 13, 1908, he played Saint Saens’ third concerto with the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall.  Again, on March 2, 1913, he played a Mozart concerto with the philharmonic.  On February 5, 1914, he gave a recital in Paris with Claude Debussy at the piano.  A recording of some of his music – by violinist Solomia Soroka - came out in 2009 which finally illuminated some of his work.  He seems to have been a prolific writer and a very enthusiastic promoter of new music and miscellaneous projects.  He was prone to wear fancy Spanish hats and a cape.  He also knew – in the style of Tivadar Nachez - almost every major figure in music and regularly corresponded with them – Claude Debussy, Edvard Grieg, Bela Bartok, Richard Strauss, Anton Webern, Arnold Schoenberg, Aaron Copland, Christian Sinding, Alexander Glazunov, Zoltan Kodaly, Efrem Zimbalist, Tivadar Nachez, Leopold Auer, Joseph Joachim, Eugene Ysaye, Walter Damrosch, Carl Flesch, Frank Bridge, Fritz Kreisler, Maud Powell, Emil Sauret, Albert Spalding, Joseph Szigeti, Edward MacDowell, and Otakar Sevcik were among them.  However, he was no dilettante; he was on the founding faculty of the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, New York) in 1921 – he had initially been recruited in 1918.  He left Eastman in 1922 to concertize in Germany.  On October 21, 1922, he played both, the Tchaikovsky and the Saint Saens B minor concertos with the Berlin Philharmonic – something that no violinist today would attempt or even contemplate doing.  He was 41 years old.  He returned to the U.S. in 1923 and taught privately in New York.  In 1925 he formed his own quartet – the Hartmann Quartet – which made its debut in New York on November 16, 1925.  It was very favorably received.  It went on a U.S. tour in 1928 but was disbanded in 1929, despite the success it was experiencing.  Hartmann began having difficulties with his health in 1929.  For a decade, life was hard for him.  He would play and teach sporadically.  In 1931, he was forced to sell one of his violins, a Maggini, in order to make ends meet.  From 1931 to 1933, he had a studio in Toronto, Canada, though he continued living in New York.  On December 16 and 17, 1932, he played the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Syracuse (New York) Symphony.  He was 51 years old.  Up to that point, he may easily have already given over a thousand performances – Ruggiero Ricci gave over five thousand performances during a 75-year career.  One source states that Hartmann was a composer of a substantial body of symphonic music, choral works, and chamber music but that may be an exaggeration.  He did write over 200 transcriptions for violin, several works for orchestra, a few for string quartet, and some vocal music.  A great abundance of his music was published, especially that written for violin.  Timar, a symphonic poem, is an example of a work which was initially very well-received and then forgotten.  Every piece he wrote was performed and favorably received.  As far as I know, all of this music is now out of print.  Hartmann was also an authority on J.S. Bach’s violin works, but especially his famous Chaconne, about which he wrote a lengthy analysis.  However, just as Joseph Achron is known for his Hebrew Melody, Hartmann is known for his Debussy transcription – The Girl with the Flaxen Hair.  After 1932, Hartmann dedicated the rest of his life (more than twenty years) mostly to writing and composition.  A small book written by Hartmann – Claude Debussy as I Knew Him and Other Writings –  though never completed, came out (with extensive notes) in 2010.  It is probably the best writing on Debussy in existence.  Among Hartmann’s violins was a 1735 Stradivarius which he acquired in 1901 and which was later played by Mischa Elman - it eventually ended up in the hands of a collector in Pennsylvania: Raymond Pitcairn, great uncle of violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn.  Between 1905 and 1925, Hartmann also owned a 1752 Guadagnini.  It’s anyone’s guess where that violin ended up.  He may have acquired it from Franz Kneisel, though that’s only a wild conjecture on my part.  As far as I know, Hartmann never recorded anything commercially.  He died in obscurity (in New York City), on March 30, 1956, at age 75.  
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Franz Kneisel was a German (some would say American or Romanian) violinist, conductor, composer, and teacher born (in Bucharest) on January 26, 1865.  He is known for having taught for many years at the Institute of Musical Arts (Juilliard) and for having led the famous Kneisel Quartet for more than thirty years (1886-1917.)  Together with Theodore Thomas, Max Bendix, Simon Jacobsohn, Theodore Spiering, Ferdinand Laub, and Hans Letz, he was a violinist who set the groundwork for the establishment of classical music as a viable and serious art in the U.S. at the turn of the twentieth century.  In Europe, that tradition had already been in motion and thriving for over 200 years.  Kneisel graduated from the Bucharest Conservatory in 1879, at age 14.  In Vienna, he studied with Jacob Grun and Joseph Hellmesberger at the Vienna Conservatory for three years.  In 1882, he made his debut in Vienna.  He then soon became concertmaster of the Hofburg Theatre Orchestra in Vienna.  He was 18 years old.  The following year (1884), he became concertmaster of Benjamin Bilse’s Band in Berlin, the precursor of the Berlin Philharmonic.  By then, however, it was actually known as “Former Bilse’s Band,” since most of its musicians had broken away (in 1882) from conductor Benjamin Bilse to form their own organization.  It did not adopt the Berlin Philharmonic name until 1887.  Eugene Ysaye had just left the concertmaster’s post in that orchestra to become a concert violinist, teacher, and composer.  Kneisel left Germany for the U.S. in 1885 and was soon appointed concertmaster of the Boston Symphony, where he played for 18 years (1885-1903), and with which he appeared as soloist many times.  He was also its assistant conductor.  He was 20 years old.  It has been said that over the years, Kneisel conducted the Boston Symphony over a hundred times.  Joseph Silverstein was probably the last concertmaster in Boston who enjoyed the privilege of being an assistant conductor as well.  Kneisel formed the Kneisel Quartet from among members of the orchestra (Emanuel Fiedler, Louis Svecenski, and Fritz Giese.)  Kneisel and Svecenski (violist) stayed with the quartet until it was disbanded in 1917 but the other positions were filled by many other players later on.  The Kneisel Quartet became known all over the U.S. and Europe.  Several sources state that Kneisel gave the premiere performances of the Brahms and Goldmark violin concertos in the U.S. as well as the famous Cesar Franck A major sonata.  According to Bridget Carr, Archivist for the Boston Symphony, Kneisel first performed the Brahms concerto in Boston on December 6, 1889 (almost ten years after it was premiered in Germany by Joseph Joachim) and the Goldmark concerto almost exactly a year later, on December 5, 1890.  In 1897, Kneisel acquired a 1714 Stradivarius which he owned until his death.  It is known as the Grun ex-Kneisel Strad but I have no idea who plays it now.  He had previously played (and presumably owned) a G.B. Guadagnini from 1752.  He also acquired a 1780 Guadagnini in 1914.  In 1905, Kneisel moved to New York to become the head of the violin department at the Institute of Musical Arts (Juilliard) which was newly established.  He was fifty years old.  Eventually, Kneisel became so busy teaching that he had to disband his quartet, by then, considered the best in this country and one of the best in the world.  He taught at Juilliard until the day he died – about 11 years.  Kneisel’s pupils include Elias Breeskin, Louis Kaufman, Joseph Fuchs, Sascha Jacobsen, Samuel Gardner, Michel Gusikoff, Robert Talbot, Bernard Ocko, Lillian Fuchs, Joan Field, and Olive Mead.  He published several study books which are probably no longer in print.  He also wrote a Grand Concert Etude for violin which, as far as I know, nobody plays anymore.  The Kneisel Quartet may have recorded only once – in 1917.  Kneisel died (in New York City) on March 26, 1926, at age 61.  
3 years ago | |
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