Friday, September 30, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Robert Virovai is a Hungarian concert violinist born (in Duravar, Yugoslavia) on March 10, 1921. Except for this blog profile, he is today almost totally forgotten. He began his violin studies with his mother at age 6. By age 8, he was studying at the Belgrade Conservatory with Peter Stojanovich, a Serbian violinist, teacher, and composer. He spent four years there. He then studied, from the age of 13, with Jeno Hubay at the Budapest Conservatory. Hubay later said of him, “Virovai plays so beautifully as to astonish even me.” Some sources say Hubay declared him his best pupil. He lived in New York City for a while but later spent most of his career in Europe. He made his U.S. debut (playing a rented Stradivarius) on November 3, 1938, at age 17, with the New York Philharmonic. He played Vieuxtemps’ Fourth Concerto in d minor (Opus 31) and all critics agreed he was sensational, one of them declaring that “his attack was positively ferocious.” He later played a solo recital at Carnegie Hall on December 17 of the same year. Virovai was soon placed among the front ranks of violinists. It was said that his playing was “remarkable for speed, accuracy, and beautiful tone.” He toured the U.S. for two or three years after that, playing with the most important orchestras. Then he dropped out of sight, spending most of his time in Europe. As far as I know, he has never commercially recorded anything, though that would be extremely unusual since recording technology had a progressive surge in the 1950s when Virovai would have been in his thirties. Most violinists reach their apogee between thirty and fifty years of age. Why there is no record of a discography is a mystery. Perhaps I just don’t know where to look. Later on, Virovai played and taught in Switzerland, where he now lives. As a youth, Virovai was fluent in four languages – German, Hungarian, Croatian, and Slovenian. Perhaps today, he is fluent in a few more.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Rudi Berger is an Austrian violinist, singer, pianist, guitarist, and composer born (in Vienna) on November 19, 1954. Be that as it may, Rudi Berger has actually become the most-recorded jazz violinist of another country (Brazil) and may very well be the only Austrian jazz violinist in the world, though he has lived and worked outside of Austria for many years. His classical training on violin and piano – begun when he was six - took place at the Vienna Conservatory where he studied with Guenther Schich and Karl Barilly, learning the works of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Paganini, Kreutzer, Rode, and all the rest. As have other jazz artists, he began playing jazz as a very young student, having been drawn to it from age fourteen. His grandfather (Rudolf Berger) and his uncle were strong influences in this regard. By age fifteen, he had begun to teach himself to play electric guitar and had joined Viennese Blues legend Al Cook in performances and recordings. Later on, he worked as a violinist, pianist, guitarist, and singer in a night club band and with a Viennese Waltz Orchestra. (Jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, although best known as a violinist, also played saxophone, piano, and accordion.) In 1977, he became a soloist with the newly-formed Vienna Art Orchestra. He was 22 years old. He worked with this orchestra for three years while at the same time forming a Jazz Rock group called Good News in 1978. In 1985 and ’86 he was voted Violinist of the Year by Jazz Live, a European jazz music magazine. By then, Berger had formed the Rudi Berger Quartet, Rudi Berger Project, and Rudi Berger Group jazz ensembles. Berger moved to New York in September of 1986, having already released his first album, First Step, in Europe. In New York, Berger restarted his career by working as a street musician for about a year. During that time, New York jazz radio station WKCR invited him and his New York Quartet to play a two-hour live Jazz Concert Special. Among the jazz clubs he worked in were the Village Vanguard, the Bottom Line, the Village Gate, Indigo Blues, and the Knitting Factory. His international reputation was established in 1988 at the American Music Theater Festival in collaboration with Astor Piazzola, well-known Argentine tango cross-over composer. Since 1990, he has toured in Europe, Japan, the U.S., and South America. Berger’s collaborators in film and Grammy-nominated studio recordings have included Tonhino Horta, Mauro Rodrigues, Yuri Popoff, Gerry Weil, Jay Anderson, Phil Bowler, Mike Clark, Ron McClure, Victor Bailey, Michael Gerber, Peter Madsen, Art Frank, Charles Fambrough, Joseph Bowie, and Nana Vasconcelos. In 1993, Berger performed in Brazil for the first time. Between 1998 and 2002, he traveled between Brazil, New York, and Vienna, moving among three cultures and working in essentially different jazz worlds. He was guest instructor at the University of Minas Gerais in Brazil between 1998 and 2000. In 2003, Berger moved to Brazil permanently, working regularly with some of Brazil’s top composers and musicians, including Toninho Horta, Selma Reis, and Nelson Ayres. Here is one of his YouTube videos and here is one of his recent CDs – In Search of Harmony. Rudi Berger plays a 1992 violin by American violin maker David Burgess. His bow of choice is by English bow maker Howard Green - "a really, really great bow," Mr Berger says.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Liana Isakadze is a Georgian (Russian) violinist, conductor, and teacher born (in Tbilsi) on August 2, 1946. She is very well known in Europe and Russia though not in the U.S. She began studying music at age three. One of her first teachers was Leo Shiukashvili. She was to have been a pianist but became a violinist by pure chance. Isakadze first performed in public (as a violinist) at age 7 and by age 9 had already soloed with the Georgian State Orchestra. Her first recital took place when she was 10. She started winning prizes at competitions when she was 12, including First Prize in the 1970 Sibelius Competition (Helsinki, Finland.) She graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1968. She was 22 years old. Her principal teacher there was David Oistrakh. Isakadze has been concertizing in Russia and Europe ever since. Ironically, Isakadze and her cellist brother – Eldar Isakadze - were rehearsing the Brahms Double Concerto with Oistrakh (as conductor) in Amsterdam in 1974 when he suddenly died while there. In 1971, she became a soloist with the Moscow Philharmonic (1970-1994) and ten years later was made head of the Chamber Orchestra of Georgia (a province of the Soviet Union at that time.) She led this orchestra for fifteen years. In 1988 she was named People’s Artist of the USSR, the youngest to be so named. Isakadze has also received various other honors from the governments of various countries. For over two years, she even served as a Deputy in the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies (March 1989 to December 1991.) She has resided in France and Germany for many years and presided over various music festivals in Georgia, Russia, and Europe. She has also given Master classes at the Mozarteum (Salzburg, Vienna) among many other venues. Her recordings are very numerous and YouTube has many videos of her playing. Here is one of them - a small slice of a nice violin concerto by Georgian composer Otar Taktakishvili. For many years, Isakadze played a Stradivarius violin from the Russian State collection. I do not know what violin she is playing these days.