Oscar Shumsky was a Russian (most people would say American) violinist, violist, conductor, and teacher born (in Philadelphia) on March 23, 1917. He had a long and busy career during which he almost completely stopped concertizing in favor of teaching. It has been said that Otokar Sevcik had over 5,000 students over the span of a greater-than sixty-year teaching career. Shumsky had lots of students but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than five thousand. It has also been said of Shumsky that he had an un-compromising, opinionated personality – in the style of Berl Senofsky. Shumsky began to study the violin at age three - one source says age 4 - with Albert Meiff. He first appeared with orchestra at age seven with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski on the podium, playing Mozart’s fifth concerto – known as the Turkish concerto. At age 8 he began to study privately with Leopold Auer in New York. Three years later (1928) he entered the Curtis Institute where he continued to study with Auer and later on (beginning in 1930) with Efrem Zimbalist. He made his New York debut in 1934. He was 17 years old. He graduated from Curtis in 1936 but continued to study privately with Zimbalist until 1938. He joined the NBC Symphony under the ill-tempered conductor Arturo Toscanini in 1939. He was the youngest member of the orchestra and sat in the second stand of the first violins. That same year, he also joined the Primrose Quartet as first violinist – William Primrose was also a member of the NBC Symphony. At the time, many top-flight New York musicians had become members of either the NBC Symphony or the New York Philharmonic because solo work was scarce. From 1941, he served in the Navy, playing as one of the orchestral soloists and playing in the Navy string quartet with cellist Bernard Greenhouse, violist Emanuel Vardi, and David Stone. After the war, Shumsky was featured on weekly radio programs on NBC, as were a few other violinists of the time. However, a very reliable source says that this broadcast activity actually occurred in 1939, before the war. It may have been both, before and after. Whether any of those programs survive in recordings is anybody’s guess. Shumsky also worked as a studio musician, leading the RCA and the Columbia Symphonies as concertmaster on various occasions. Shumsky taught at the Curtis Institute (1961 to 1965), the Peabody Conservatory (from 1942), Yale University (from 1975), and the Juilliard School (from 1953.) I do not know how long he taught at each particular school. On December 15, 1956, he appeared with the New York Philharmonic playing the Beethoven concerto. Leonard Bernstein was on the podium. Shumsky made his conducting debut in 1959. As far as I know, he never conducted any major orchestras. His commercial discography includes Rode’s 24 Caprices, Beethoven’s concerto, Brahms’ concerto, two Mozart concertos (4 and 5), three Bach concertos, the Glazunov concerto, the complete Mozart Sonatas, the complete Brahms Hungarian Dances, and the Bach solo Partitas and Sonatas. He also recorded with the Primrose Quartet and those recordings are still available. Here is a YouTube video of one of his recorded performances. It is the famous Richard Strauss sonata – the one responsible for the attack on Jascha Heifetz (which resulted in his broken arm.) Glenn Gould is the accompanist. Shumsky’s students include Steven Staryk, Stanley Ritchie, Guillermo Figueroa, and Ida Kavafian. Among many other violins, Shumsky played (and owned) the 1715 Stradivarius known as the Pierre Rode Stradivarius. The violin was inherited by Shumsky’s two sons who sold it to Tokuji Munetsugu in 2004. According to at least one source, this violin was subsequently played (at least for a while) by Ryu Goto, brother of the famous violinist, Midori. Shumsky died (in New York) on July 24, 2000, at age 83.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Angel Reyes was a Cuban violinist and teacher born on February 14, 1919. There is little information about him readily available and this blog post is one I had very little time to write so I will conduct further research and expand it later in the week. His first teacher was Juan Torroella in Cuba and he made his first public appearance at age 12. Reyes then studied in Europe at the Paris Conservatory from which most sources say he graduated at age 16. His main teacher there was Firmin Touche (1875-1957), concertmaster of the Paris Opera as well as the Edouard Colonne Orchestra. Touche also had his own quite successful string quartet - the Firmin Touche Quartet. Reyes had a brief concertizing career before settling down to a teaching career at the University of Texas (1947 to 1955), Northwestern University (1955 to 1965), and the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), from which he retired in 1985. He was appointed Chairman of the String Department at Michigan in December of 1977. Reyes was also first violinist with the quartet-in-residence at the University of Texas. The quartet probably had a name but I do not yet know what it was. He made his U.S. orchestral debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra on January 7, 1944. Eugene Ormandy conducted that concert and Reyes played the Brahms concerto on that occasion. He again appeared with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra on April 16, 1948, playing Karol Szymanowski's second concerto. Reyes first performed with the New York Philharmonic on March 23, 1946, playing the Mendelssohn concerto at Carnegie Hall with Artur Rodzinski on the podium. The performance was recorded and the recording is still available from the Richard Rodzinski collection. On June 6, 1946, he again played with the Philharmonic - he performed the first movement of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnol at a pops concert on which a variety of works (and several artists) were on the program. He was 27 years old. He later soloed with the Havana Philharmonic (pre-Fidel Castro days, of course) and many other orchestras in Europe, Canada, and Latin America many times. He played, among other violins, the Lipinski Stradivarius (1715) and the Kreisler (Carlo) Bergonzi violins. It has been said that the Lipinski Strad was first owned by none other than Giuseppe Tartini. It is now played (and has been for a while) by Frank Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony. Among Reyes' many students are Barbara Barber, Tyrone Greive, Joseph Sylvan, Laura Hammes Black, Michael Goldman, and Marilyn McDonald. Reyes died on November 17, 1988, at age 69.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Mayuko Kamio is a Japanese violinist born (in Toyonaka, Osaka) on June 12, 1986. She has been fortunate to have played with well-known, established artists from an early age. When she was barely out of her teens, one of the critics for the New York Times described her as being “distinguished by her warmly luxurious, buttery tone and long, seamless phrasing.” In Japan, she has played in every major venue and appeared with practically every orchestra. She has also appeared in every major city in Europe. In the U.S., her activity has been more limited, but no less successful. She has also been (in 2003) the subject of a documentary by Josh Aronson, the director of the recent film about Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman – Orchestra of Exiles. The film is the last film in which Isaac Stern appears. Kamio’s record labels are SONY-BMG and RCA. In 1999, she won a major competition in England – the Menuhin competition. She was 13 years old. In 2000, she won a major competition in the U.S. In 2004, Kamio took first prize in another competition in Monte Carlo. In 2007, she won the best-known violin competition in the world – the Tchaikovsky. She was 21 years old. Kamio began to study violin when she was 4 years old. Her teachers were Chikako Satoya and Chihiro Kudo, among others. At age ten (1996), she made her debut with orchestra in Tokyo. The concert was broadcast on TV and Charles Dutoit was on the podium. Later on, in the U.S., beginning at age 14, she studied with Masao Kawasaki and Dorothy DeLay. After that, she studied further in Europe with one of the best teachers currently still teaching – Zakhar Bron – at the Advanced School for Music and Theatre in Switzerland. She received her artist’s diploma from that school but I know not in what year – it may have been 2007. By then, she had already made her New York recital debut (in 2003.) Kamio has played a 1727 (nameless, run-of-the-mill) Stradivarius and more recently, the Sennhauser Guarnerius (del Gesu) from 1735. You can see and hear Kamio – at age 18 - perform the last section of the famous Mendelssohn concerto in this YouTube video. In this other one, you can hear a PaganiniCaprice – number 13.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Sergey Krylov is a Russian violinist, teacher, and conductor born (in Moscow) on December 2, 1970. A bit of trivia about Krylov’s life is that his father was a violin maker (luthier), a rarity in Russia because Russian violin makers are few and far between, for reasons I know nothing about. For hundreds of years (1550-1950), the overwhelming majority of violins were produced in Europe and nowhere else. Another bit of trivia is that none other than (cellist) Mstislav Rostropovich was supposed to have declared Krylov to be one of the top five violinists in the world. You can judge for yourself in this YouTube video – you can hear a pin drop in the immense audience which you can sense is simply spellbound. Krylov began violin lessons at age 5. A year later, he played his first public concert. He entered the Central School either in Moscow or Kiev (a well-known music school for gifted children) at age 10. His teachers there were Abram Shtern and Sergey Kravschenko. His first recording came at age 16 on the Melodiya label, the official (government) Russian label at the time, with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, which resides in Vilnius, city where Jascha Heifetz was born - Krylov would much later (2008) be appointed conductor of this orchestra. After winning a violin competition in Italy at age 18, he began studying with Salvatore Accardo. He later won another competition in Cremona, Italy, and still another in Vienna. By that point, Krylov had begun his concertizing career, spending most of his time in Russia and Europe. His playing has been described as “hypnotic.” His articulation is very clean and reminds me of Leonid Kogan’s although Krylov’s sound is much sweeter than Kogan’s. If you feel so inclined you can hear and see his performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto here. My favorite recording of this work is Tossy Spivakovsky’s but Krylov’s certainly comes in a close second. He has also participated in countless chamber music concerts throughout the world with a diverse group of musicians, including Maxim Vengerov, Mischa Maisky, Nobuko Imai, Yefim Bronfman, and Yuri Bashmet. In 2012, he became part of the music faculty at the University of Music and Art in Lugano, Switzerland. His recording labels are EMI, Agora, and Melodiya. He has played the Scotland University Stradivarius of 1734 but I don’t know if he is presently playing that particular violin.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Sergey Khachatryan is an Armenian violinist born (in Yerevan, Armenia) on April 5, 1985. He has managed to establish a very busy and successful career from a very young age. After Ivan Galamian, he is the most famous Armenian violinist. His violin studies began at age 6 (one source says age 5) with Pyotr Haykazyan in his native Armenia. At age 8 (1993), he moved to Germany with his family. There, he studied with – among others - Hrachya Harutyunian (concertmaster of the Stuttgart Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, and the Munich Philharmonic.) At age 9, he played his first orchestral concert in Germany, which, as far as I know, is still his home base. He began to study in Karlsruhe under Josef Rissin at age 11. Khachatryan credits Rissin with most of his violinistic development and – as Jascha Heifetz did with his own teacher, Leopold Auer – still asks Rissin’s advice. After winning the Sibelius competition at age 15 (the youngest winner in the competition’s history), Khachatryan began to be engaged to play concerts far and wide. His first orchestral recording (the Sibelius concerto) was released in 2003. He was 18 years old. In 2005, he won the Queen Elizabeth competition, another prestigious violin competition. Khachatryan made his New York debut on August 4, 2006 playing the Beethoven concerto at the Mostly Mozart Festival. On February 28, 2007, he played the Sibelius concerto with the New York Philharmonic. Kurt Masur was on the podium. He has played with all the major orchestras and with most of the top names in the conducting world since then. As does Gil Shaham, he sometimes plays recitals with his sister as piano accompanist. Khachatryan actually recorded his debut CD in 2002 with both his sister and his father as piano accompanists. YouTube has several videos of his performances. Here is one. He has played the 1708 Huggins Stradivarius (from 2005 until 2009), the 1702 Lord Newlands Stradivarius (from 2009 until 2011 – this violin was sold to a collector for $12,500 way back in 1915 and is now on loan to violinist Ray Chen), and the 1740 Ysaye Guarnerius (previously played by Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman.) I do not know if he is still playing the Guarnerius but I do know the Nippon Music Foundation provided all three violins to him on loan. Khachatryan also previously played a G.B. Guadagnini violin from 1773. His sound has been described as sweet, beguiling, and rich; his playing as “poetic, introspective. effortlessly virtuosic.” A quote from him: “You see many of today’s artists go out on stage and you can tell they’re there because it’s their job. I’m afraid of that word. Every time I go out on stage, I want … to create a special atmosphere.” Photo is courtesy of Marco Borggreve, well-known photographer to (mostly European) musicians.