Monday, February 22, 2010

Albert Sammons

Albert Edward Sammons was an English violinist, teacher, and composer born on February 23, 1886 (Brahms was 53 years old.) As had Alfredo Campoli, Vasa Prihoda, Grigoras Dinicu, Louis Krasner, Jacques Thibaud, and Geza Legocky, he was not above playing in hotels and dance halls in his early days. He also premiered no fewer than 6 string quartets, 9 violin sonatas, and 4 violin concertos. He first began violin lessons with his father at age 7. As a young teenager, he studied briefly with Alfredo Fernandez, an obscure Spanish violinist who had studied with Ysaye. Other than that, he taught himself to play. By age 12, he was already playing professionally in a band. He also left school at that time. He made his solo debut with orchestra in 1906 playing the Mendelssohn Concerto. He was twenty years old. He was playing popular music with Ernesto Bucalossi’s orchestra at the Waldorf when he was discovered by conductor Thomas Beecham who invited him to join his orchestra as concertmaster. He formed the London String Quartet in 1910. In 1921, he founded the Chamber Music Players with cellist Lauri Kennedy, Nigel Kennedy’s grandfather. During the formation of the BBC Symphony (1929), he heard, along with Lionel Tertis (violist), over 1000 string auditions. Sammons made the first complete recording of the Elgar Concerto in 1929. He later said he played the concerto at least a hundred times during his career, the last time on February 23, 1946. From 1939 onward, he taught at the Royal College of Music. He also published books of exercises and studies which are now largely forgotten. Due to an illness which made it impossible for him to play, he retired in 1948. He was 62 years old. He died on August 24, 1957, at age 71.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fritz Kreisler

Friedrich (Fritz) Kreisler was an Austrian violinist and composer born on February 2, 1875 - it is assumed that Jascha Heifetz was born on the same day in February in 1901. Kreisler is rememberd for his warm sound, his singing style of playing, and for the many violin pieces he composed which became a permanent part of the violin repertory. As were Tartini, Vivaldi, Paganini, Spohr, Wieniawski, and Sarasate, he was a violinist whose compositions were not quickly forgotten. His attention was never spent on a showy display of brilliant technique. It has been said that he practiced sparingly or not at all. His early studies were at the Vienna Conservatory under Jacob Dont and Joseph Hellmesberger (Jr.), among many others. He also studied with Joseph Lambert Massart, from whom he almost certainly picked up a new thing for violinists (back then) called the continuous vibrato. On November 10, 1888, he made his U.S. debut (age 12) in New York City. He then toured the U.S. for a brief time. As a teenager, he tried joining the Vienna Philharmonic but was not accepted. Shortly thereafter, he gave music up entirely in order to study medicine. Then, in 1899, he took up the violin again and did not stop concertizing until about 1950. In 1910, he commissioned Edward Elgar's violin concerto which he subsequently premiered, though he never recorded the work. Between 1924 and 1938 he lived in Berlin (despite being semi-Jewish) then in France (until 1939.) He lived in the U.S. from 1940 until his death on January 29, 1962, at (almost) age 87. Several recordings of his are posted on YouTube, including an arrangement of the first Paganini Concerto in D, re-orchestrated and re-harmonized.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Jascha Heifetz was a legendary Russian violinist born on February 2, 1901. That is the traditionally given date of his birth - some sources dispute it. His micro biography is posted here, among the February, 2009 blogs.