The Artistry of Louis Persinger, Violinist and Teacher

In his newly published book, Have Violin, Will Travel: The Louis Persinger Story, Raymond Bruzan documents the life of an important twentieth century violinist and pedagogue. Born in the small town of Rochester, Illinois in 1887 and raised in Colorado, Louis Persinger rose to prominence as a gifted violinist and pianist. In 1900, he enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory where the conductor Arthur Nikisch declared that he was “one of the most talented …

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Josef Hassid: Three Historic Recordings

A fiddler like Heifetz is born every 100 years; one like Hassid every 200 years. So said the great violinist, Fritz Kreisler, after attending an impromptu concert at the home of the noted Hungarian pedagogue, Carl Flesch. The “fiddler” was the Polish teenage virtuoso, Josef Hassid (1923-1950). Kreisler was so impressed with Hassid’s playing that he lent him a fine instrument made in 1860 by the French luthier, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. Yet, Josef Hassid’s …

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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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Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”: Fritz Kreisler’s 1927 Recording

Irving Berlin’s timeless 1926 song, Blue Skies, was a last-minute addition to a Rodgers and Hart musical called Betsy, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld. The vaudeville singer and actress, Belle Baker, called up Berlin complaining that the show’s score didn’t contain a “Belle Baker song.” According to Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, Berlin resented the interpolation of songs by other composers into the score of his shows, but he must have been delighted at the …

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Henri Vieuxtemps at 200: Historic Recordings of Heifetz and Nadien

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Belgian violinist and composer, Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881). A student of Charles Auguste de Bériot, Vieuxtemps toured Europe as a young prodigy, attracting the attention of Louis Spohr, Schumann, Berlioz, and Paganini. At the age of 14, he learned Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in two weeks and performed it in Vienna. As unimaginable as it may seem now, this cornerstone of the violin repertoire was a …

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Rossini’s William Tell Overture: Toscanini and the NBC Symphony

Guillaume Tell, which premiered in 1829, was the last of Gioachino Rossini’s 39 operas. Its four acts tell the story of the revolutionary folk hero William Tell who, with the expert use of his bow and arrow, launched the struggle for Swiss independence from Austria. Donizetti once proclaimed that the opera’s second act was so sublime that it had been composed not by Rossini but by God. The complete opera is rarely performed now. …

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Verdi’s “Otello”: Three Excerpts from Toscanini’s Legendary 1947 Recording

Today marks the anniversary of the first performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello, which premiered at Milan’s La Scala on February 5, 1887. The four-act opera, based on Shakespeare’s tragedy, drew Verdi out of a lengthy retirement. For years, the composer had been reluctant to write anything new following the success of Aida in 1871. In so doing, he followed the model of Rossini, who at the age of 37 never wrote another opera after William Tell. The …

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