Sunday, May 28, 2017

Henri Dupont

Henri Dupont (Henri Joseph Dupont) was a Belgian violinist, conductor, composer, and teacher born (in Ensival) on January 3, 1838.  Brahms was five years old that year and Belgium itself was almost a brand new country at that time.  Other than that he has a very recognizable surname, Dupont is not known – with regard to the violin - for anything in particular.  Belgium has for generations produced many spectacular violin virtuosos but Dupont is not one of them.  His name is most often mentioned as a conductor of opera – according to several sources, he conducted many outstanding performances in England (Covent Garden) which today (had they been filmed for posterity) would probably be acclaimed.  He received his training from the conservatories at Liege and Brussels – I don’t know how early he began his violin studies nor who his teachers were.  In 1863 he won the Belgian version of the Rome Prize (Prix de Rome) for composition.  He was 25 years old.  After that, he took off on a study tour throughout Europe which lasted four years – this excursion was probably subsidized by the Belgian government, although I am not certain of that.  In 1867, he became concertmaster of the Warsaw Opera House.  He was 29 years old.  In 1871, he took a similar post at the Imperial Theatre of Moscow.  One year later, he was back in Brussels where he was hired as professor of harmony at the Conservatory while simultaneously serving as concertmaster of the Monnaie Theatre (Theatre Royal de la Monnaie or Royal Theatre of the Coin – a theatre dating back to 1700.)  He also served as conductor there beginning that same year.  He was 34 years old.  He also guest conducted operas at the Royal Opera House in London many times.  In 1873, he took over as director of the Popular Concerts (Concerts Populaires) from none other than Henri Vieuxtemps (who had become incapacitated as the result of a stroke that same year.)  Dupont was made a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium in 1899.  He died on December 21, 1899, at age 61, just ten days before the start of the Twentieth Century.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Henry Holst

Henry Holst was a Danish violinist and teacher born (in Saeby, Denmark) on July 25, 1899.  He spent quite a bit of time in England but is not related – as far as I know – to the other Holst.  He was probably the first violinist to play (in 1921 with the Berlin Philharmonic) three concertos in the same concert program – before Yehudi Menuhin, Henryk Szeryng, Szymon Goldberg, and Raymond Cohen did it.  Holst must have begun his violin studies while still very young but I don’t know how young nor with whom.  In 1913, he was admitted into the Royal Danish Academy of Music.  He was 14 years old.  His teachers there were Axel Gade (son of Niels Gade) and violinist/composer Carl Nielsen.  At age 18, he made his debut playing Henri Vieuxtemps’ first violin concerto, the longest violin concerto Vieuxtemps ever wrote.  He then studied further with Hungarian violinist Emil Telmanyi.  After that, he traveled to Berlin to study with Willy Hess, a German violinist who played far and wide during his career, including the U.S.  In 1923, Holst became concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.  He was 24 years old.  He quit that post in 1931 and went to live in England where he taught at the Royal Manchester College of Music.  There, he founded the Henry Holst String Quartet which he disbanded in 1941 to start the Philharmonia Quartet which itself was disbanded in 1952.  He was also active as a soloist.  Holst gave the European Premiere of the Walton violin concerto, a work which had been championed by Jascha Heifetz for a time, in 1941.  Holst also gave the world premiere of the revised version of the concerto in 1944.  The Walton concerto is very seldom played now.  In 1945, Holst moved to London to teach at the Royal College of Music.  He was 46 years old.  Holst moved back to Denmark in 1954 where he taught at the Royal Danish College of Music.  I don’t know how many years he was there but it must have been quite a few.  Henry Holst died on October 19, 1991 at age 92, largely forgotten. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Eduardo Asiain

Eduardo Asiain (Eduardo Hernandez Asiain) was a Spanish violinist born (in Havana, Cuba) on May 17, 1911.  He is best known for his interpretations of the works of Pablo Sarasate and for being one of the longest-lived violinists in history, in the style of Roman Totenberg.  He began his studies with his father, a violinist and composer, at a very early age.  He gave his first concert at age 7.  At age 14, after receiving first prize in violin at the National Conservatory of Havana, he became concertmaster of the Havana Symphony.  If that is factual (I could not verify it from more than one source), he joins Paul Kochanski in being the youngest concertmaster (of a professional orchestra) in history.  In 1932, Asiain, along with his family, moved to Spain.  He was 21 years old.  In Madrid, he studied with Enrique Fernandez Arbos and Antonio Fernandez Bordas.  He later graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid, obtaining special mention and receiving the Pablo Sarasate Prize.  The major part of his career was spent in Europe although he did perform outside of Europe a few times.  His discography is limited although his recordings of Sarasate’s music are still highly praised.  He founded the Chamber Orchestra of San Sebastian but I could not ascertain in what year that was.  In 1968, he became first violinist of the RTVE (Spanish Corporation for Public Radio and Television) Quartet.  From 1977 onward, he received various medals and honors from the Spanish government.  He played an Amati violin constructed in 1633.  Here is a YouTube audio file of Asiain playing music by Sarasate and here is another.  Asiain died on May 11, 2010, at (almost) age 99.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Augustin Dumay

Augustin Dumay is a French violinist, teacher, and conductor born on January 17, 1949.  He has enjoyed an international career since 1979, although he has spent most of his time in Europe and Japan.  He has recorded most of the standard repertoire (a repertoire consisting of about 15 concertos plus a few sonatas by the upper crust of composers for the violin – Bach, Vivaldi, Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Franck, Prokofiev, Strauss, and Debussy) on more than forty discs.  Dumay has appeared with most major orchestras and conductors in the most important and prestigious venues around the world.  He began his studies as a child but with whom I do not know.  He entered the Paris Conservatory when he was 9 years old.  After two years at the Conservatory, he studied privately with a few teachers, including Nathan Milstein and Arthur Grumiaux.  His public debut came at age 14 at the well-known Montreux Festival in Switzerland.  Orchestras he has conducted include the Royal Chamber Orchestra of Wallonia (since 2003), the Salzburg Camerata, the Picardie Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, the Kansai Philharmonic, the Sinfonia Varsovia, and the English Chamber Orchestra.  It has been said that none other than Herbert von Karajan gave him conducting lessons.  He has taught at the Queen Elizabeth College of Music in Brussels.  Here is a YouTube video of him playing the seldom heard Mendelssohn concerto for violin in d minor.