The Well-Tempered Ear

On Friday, you can hear the same violin that Brahms heard in the world premiere of his Double Concerto: The Ear’s interview with Frank Almond, Part 1 of 2

October 5, 2009
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Frank Almond, winner of the Paganini Prize and other competitions, is one of my favorite musicians. (I first heard him with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Madison many years ago.) frankalmond

The Milwaukee-based violinist is one of those players you never have to worry about, When he puts his bow to the strings, beautiful, pitch-perfect sound, songful and with rich tone, invariably comes out. And his interpretations are energetic and exciting without being distorted.

Almond is the Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, which will perform at the Wisconsin Union Theater this Friday, Oct. 9, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18, $40 and $45 with $10 for UW students. Call 608 262-2204 or visit this link:

The all-masterpiece program, under the baton of the new music director Edo de Waart, gets this concert and seaosn-opener a MUST-HEAR rating from  The Ear. The Milwaukee group will play Mozart’s darkly dramatic Overture to “Don Giovanni”; Brahms’ tuneful but rarely heard Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, with Almond and first-chair cellist Joseph Johnson as soloists; and Beethoven’s sprightly but soulful evergreen Symphony No. 7, the Ear’s favorite of The Nine.

Almond will be the violin soloist in the Brahms.

He recent agreed to an email interview with The Well-Tempered Ear. So for today and tomorrow, the blog will feature his informative question-and-answer session.

THE EAR: Is there some special aspect of this concert that listeners might not know about and should know about?

ALMOND: One interesting item regarding the Brahms Double Concerto involves the instrument I’m currently playing on.

It’s a Stradivarius from 1715 that was formerly owned by the Baroque virtuoso and composer Tartini (!) and later Karol Lipinski, who was very close with both the Schumanns and Paganini. (Schumann dedicated the piano work “Carnaval” to Lipinski.)

Lipinski also taught the famous violinist Joseph Joachim in his youth, and this same violin was later played by the Concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig around the time that Brahms and Joachim were regulars there.

In fact, this instrument was played by the Concertmaster (Engelbert Roentgen) both for the premiere of Brahms’ “German” Requiem and his Violin Concerto, both with Brahms conducting, the latter of course with Joachim as soloist.

My guess is that this violin was also played by Roentgen at the Leipzig premiere of the Double Concerto (also with Joachim), although I haven’t been able to determine if the concerto was played in Leipzig during the initial premiere concerts of 1887-88.

That’s quite a legacy. More info. Go to:

THE EAR: Last year, we in Madison heard conductor Andreas Delfs with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and this year we will hear Edo de Waart, the new music director, conducting. Can you shed any light on their different styles of conducting and the results they get, their interpretations?

ALMOND: It’s very difficult to compare at this point, for a variety reasons. The MSO hasn’t worked with Edo a whole lot yet, but I would anticipate great things. He’s a towering figure in the music world with great depth and experience, and a refined, low-key visual language that focuses on artistry and musicality rather than flamboyance or hair flying around.

I happened to work quite a bit with Edo in Holland several years ago, and am very pleased that he’s our new music director. We spent about 12 years with Andreas Delfs, which was an evolutionary period for both him and the orchestra.

As would be expected, there were certainly peaks and valleys artistically, but the trajectory was pretty steadily headed upwards the whole time. I expect that will continue.

Tuesday: Being a soloist versus being a Concertmaster

Posted in Classical music

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