Ivry Gitlis plays Saint-Saens Rondo Capriccioso (this is compared with a performance by Itzhak Perlman)

Ivry Gitlis (1922- )

Ivry Gitlis is an Israeli violin virtuoso.  He has had a long and varied career performing with many of the world’s major orchestras (such as the London Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, and the Vienna Philharmonic.)  Ivry also played with the Beatles in the Rock and Roll Circus film.  He is also an actor and composer.  He moved to the US in the 1950s.  Since the 1960s he has lived in Paris, France.  Ivry Gitlis style of playing is very different from violinists of today.  He occasionally plays without vibrato, and he uses the bow to get different tonal colours out of the violin.  Sometimes the playing is lush, at other times it has a frantic energy to it.

Here is a clip from 1962 of Ivry Gitlis and Georges Pludermacher playing Saint-Saens Rondo Capriccioso.  He plays this piece unlike any other violinist I have heard.  There is incredible energy and abandon in this performance.

For comparison, listen to this performance of Itzhak Perlman and the Sadler’s Wells Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.  Perlman’s interpretation is quite a bit slower than Gitlis.  Gitlis really goes for it.  Enjoy


Howard Brockway – Cavatina Op. 13

Howard Brockway (1870-1951)

Howard Brockway was an American composer and pianist.  Brockway composed pieces for solo piano, a symphony, piano quintet, sonata for violin and piano, and a suite for cello and orchestra (or piano). He also wrote choral music.

With singer Loraine Wyman, Brockway travelled to the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky to record traditional folk songs.  Howard Brockway later wrote out piano accompaniments for the folk tunes he recorded and Loraine wrote down the words.  The folk songs they collected were published in two volumes in 1916 and 1920.

From 1911 to 1920 Brockway worked as a recording artist and piano roll editor for Ampico (the American Piano Corporation).  He was the company’s most prolific recording artist, recording around 155 pieces (as well as many accompaniments and popular tunes).

Howard Brockway’s Cavatina Op. 13 for violin and piano (which is featured in this post) was featured in the soundtrack to the movie “The Prince of Tides”.  It is played here by violinist Pinchas Zukerman and pianist Marc Neikrug.  Enjoy.

Henryk Wieniawski – Etude Caprice Op. 18 No. 4 (Itzhak Perlman, violin)

Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880)

Henryk Wieniawski was a Polish violinist and composer.  In 1843 (when he was only 8 years old) he was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire.  Wieniawski was a violin virtuoso and toured quite extensively during his career.  He composed several pieces for violin and piano that he often played in recitals when on tour.  Wieniawski was a wonderful melodist, but his pieces are often very challenging to play and require a virtuoso technique.  A violin competition was named after him.  He is to the violin what Chopin is to the piano.

Here is a video clip of violinist Itzhak Perlman (accompanied on the piano by Janet Guggenheim) playing Wieniawski’s Etude Caprice Op. 18 No.4. This video clip was taken from a film of a tour Perlman did in Russia.  As you will see in the video, this piece is extremely difficult to play.  Perlman is such a master of his instrument that he makes it look easy.

Charlie Chaplin song arrangements for violin and piano

Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
Charlie Chaplin was an English comedian, filmmaker, and composer. He became famous during the time of silent films. One fact about Chaplin that many people don’t know about is that he was a prolific composer. Chaplin composed most of the music that was used in his silent films. He was also the composer of the song “Smile” which was recorded by many singers including Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole.

In 2016, violinist Philippe Quint, pianist Marta Aznavoorian, Joshua Bell, and a couple of arrangers got together. After listening to many of Chaplin’s songs, they chose 13 of his most popular songs and arranged them for violin and piano. The project took three years to come to fruition. The recording was released this year. The CD is entitled Chaplin’s Smile and features Quint and Aznavoorian on most of the tracks. Violinist Joshua Bell joins Quint and Aznavoorian on two of the tracks. Here are three selections from that recording. I hope that you enjoy this beautiful music.

Joe Venuti and Earl Hines

Jazz violinist Joe Venuti and jazz pianist Earl Hines both began their careers in the 1920s. Venuti played with great jazz musicians such as Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Eddie Lang (Venuti and Lang were well known for their violin/guitar duos and they had an influence on Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli). Earl Hines played for many years with Louis Armstrong and was the pianist on several of Armstrong’s early recordings. It has been said that Hines was the only musician who matched Armstrong’s skill and inventive ideas when it came to improvisation.

In 1975, Joe Venuti and Earl Hines teamed up (this was the first time they played together) to make a recording called “Hot Sonatas.” Hines was brought out of retirement to make the recording and Joe Venuti was fading into obscurity (his partner Eddie Lang died early in 1933 and Venuti drank heavily). Venuti had a comeback in the late 1960s after a 15 year lull in his career. Here are a couple of tunes from the recording called “The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else,” and “Hot Sonatas.” Enjoy!

Beethoven Romance in F Major op.50 (recorded in 1889)

On September 13, 1889 violinist Herr Krahmer and pianist Herr Schmalfuss recorded Beethoven’s Romance in F Major, op.50. Here is that recording.) First you will hear an extract from the piece played by Louise Chisson (recorded in 2010). Then you will hear the 1889 recording which will be followed by a recording of the whole piece played by Jascha Heifetz with the RCA Victor Orchestra.

The 1889 recording is in very bad shape and it is hard to make out the violin and piano. If you listen carefully you can hear the instruments. In December of 1889 Johannes Brahms was recorded playing the piano. A historic year indeed! Enjoy.

Ginette Neveu plays Gluck Melodie and Chopin Nocturne

Ginette Neveu (1919-1949)

Ginette Neveu was a French classical violinist. She became famous after she won first prize in the Henryk Wieniawski violin competition at the age of 16 beating Russian violin virtuoso David Oistrakh (who won second place). She won a touring contract which took her to Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, United States, and Canada. Her performing tours were interrupted during most of world war II but resumed in 1945. She often toured with her brother Jean-Paul who accompanied her on the piano. With her brother she travelled to Prague, Australia, South America, and the United States. They made some recordings together as well. In 1949, Ginette was on am Air France flight and it crashed into a mountain in the Azores. Both she and her brother were killed. She was only 30 years old.

Here are a couple of recordings of Ginette Neveu with pianist Bruno Seidler-Winkler playing violin/piano arrangements of Christoph Wilibald Gluck’s Melodie and Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor. I hope that you enjoy this music.