Franck’s Violin Sonata in A Major: An Enduring Wedding Gift, “Con Amore”

One of the most famous and enduring works of the violin repertoire began as a wedding gift. In 1886, César Franck presented the Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano to the great Belgian violinist, Eugène Ysaÿe, on the occasion of his wedding to Louise Bourdeau. At the time, the 64-year-old Franck was best known as a prominent organist and professor at the Paris Conservatory. Ysaÿe, a committed champion of new French music, …

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Remembering Ivry Gitlis

Ivry Gitlis, the legendary Israeli violinist, has passed away. He was 98. Born in Haifa, Palestine to Russian-Jewish parents, Gitlis began playing the violin at the age of five. His teacher, Elisheva Velikovsky, had been a student of the German violinist, Adolph Busch. (About the same time, a  young Zvi Zeitlin studied with Velikovsky). Later, Gitlis studied with Mira Ben-Ami (a student of Joseph Szigeti). The influential violinist Bronisław Huberman opened doors …

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Brahms’ String Quartet No. 1 in C Minor: Music Written for Posterity

For Johannes Brahms, writing a string quartet was no casual undertaking. Brahms was profoundly aware that he was walking in the footsteps of giants—Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert to be specific. In an 1869 letter to his publisher, Brahms noted that Mozart had taken “extreme care” with the set of six string quartets that he dedicated to Haydn. Now, Brahms intended to do his “very best to turn out one or two passably …

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1941 Recording: Korngold’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” Toscha Seidel

In 1918, the 21-year-old Erich Wolfgang Korngold received a commission to write incidental music for a Vienna production of Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. Wartime restrictions, along with the intimacy of the theater, with its small orchestra pit, necessitated that the work be scored for a chamber ensemble. As Brendan Carrol writes in a recent article, the project went through a series of incarnations. When the original theater company went bankrupt, the …

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Remembering Yehonatan Berick

The Israeli-born violinist, Yehonatan Berick, has passed away following a battle with a rapid form of cancer. He was 52. A prizewinner at the 1993 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation, Berick combined a busy concert schedule with teaching. At the time of his death, he was professor of violin at the University of Ottawa. Earlier, he served on the faculties of the University of Michigan, McGill University, and the Eastman School. His gifts as …

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Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata: Oistrakh and Richter in 1969

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata, Op. 134 was completed in the autumn of 1968. The title page bears the inscription, “For the 60th birthday of David Oistrakh.” Shostakovich had attempted to commemorate the great Ukrainian violinist’s 60th birthday a year too early with the Second Violin Concerto. Oistrakh explained, Dmitri had been wanting to write a new, second concerto for me as a present for my 60th birthday. However, there was an error …

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Bach’s Sonata for Violin and Continuo in E Minor, Rachel Podger

Sparks fly in the exhilarating Preludio which opens J.S. Bach’s Violin Sonata in E minor, BWV 1023. The solo violin unleashes a bold and virtuosic toccata over a mighty E pedal tone in the continuo bass. In many of Bach’s other sonatas, the violin enters into a supporting role with the harpsichord. Here, amid a torrent of bariolage (the alternation of notes on adjacent strings to outline chords), it moves squarely into the spotlight. The Adagio …

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