Friday, October 26, 2012

All in the Family

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
 and Kevin Berdine

Yo Yo Ma, in PBS's Face of America with Henry Louis Gates, states "It takes three generations to make a musician: the first to leave poverty, the second to go to school, and the third to master an instrument." This quote inspired us to delve into musician families and to see just how many famous musicians have become successful, in some part, due to their upbringing. The results are a wonderful testament to the power of family.

Wilhelm Friedemann's Sinfonia in D minor
Carl Phillip Emanuel's Concerto for Cello in A Major, Mvt 1

Johann Christian's Catone in Utica: Overture

Johann Christoph Friedrich's Symphony in B

The Bach Family remained an important dynasty in music for nearly 200 years with close to 50 family members becoming prominent musicians and composers. Although Johann Sebastian is the best known Bach, his ancestors, three generations back, also dabbled in music. Johann Sebastien's Great-Great Grandfather,Veit, was a baker in Hungary who fled to Thuringia to avoid the religious persecution of Lutherans. Veit's son, Johannes Hans, tried to takeover the family business of baking, but was more drawn to music and became the family's first professional musician, a piper. Johannes Hans' son, Christoph, was also an instrumentalist. Christoph married and produced the offspring that has become, perhaps, the most famous musician of all time-Johann Sebastien. Johann Sebastien married twice producing 20 children. Of his 7 children in his first marriage to Maria Barbara only 3 survived-2 of which, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Phillip Emanuel became highly regarded musicians. His second marriage, to Maria Elisabeth, produced 13 more children, of which Johann Christian and Johann Chistoph Friedrich became musicians of note. Gottfried Heinrich also showed great musical talent, but was stricken with "feeble-mindedness" early on in his life and never proved his great potential.

Sonata for Piano Duo in C Major, Kv 19d-Probably performed with Nannerl

Wolfgang and Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl, Mozart were child prodigies of the first order. Their father, Leopold began teaching them music at an early age and demanded excellence. As a young musician Nannerl often shadowed her brother's talents. Some believe, if the times she lived in were different, she may have been the Mozart we continue to praise. At the age of 18, in 1769, she reached a marriageable age and was no longer allowed to perform. There is even evidence of her composing in Mozart's many letters. Sadly, none of the compositions survive.

Fanny Mendelssohn's "Song without Words Op. 8, No. 3"

Felix Mendelssohn's "Song Without Words Op. 19, No. 1"

Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn were both extraordinarily precocious children whose playtime consisted of music-making. Fanny's wonderful talents were not fostered nor appreciated by society, thus her music went unpublished during her lifetime. Her father, although encouraging when she was young, wrote in a letter to Fanny about her hopes to be a professional musician; "for you it can and must only be an ornament, never the basis of your being and doing." Felix, on the other hand, was wonderfully successful in his life and saw much of his music performed on the world's most celebrated stages.

Clara Schumann's "Three Romances for Violin and Piano"

Robert Schumann's "Traumerei"

Robert and Clara Schumann were both extremely talented musicians who performed exquisitely on the piano and composed great masterworks. Clara was considered by many the preeminent pianist of the Romantic era, in fact, she was one of the first pianists to perform strictly by memory. Her concertizing allowed Robert to spend much of his time composing, while she earned money and brought his works to a wider public. In 194, a film titled "Song of Love" came out on the silver screen starring Katherine Hepburn as Clara, Paul Henreid as Robert, and Robert Walker as Johannes Brahms.

Rostropovich performing Dvorak's Cello Concerto

Dvorak wrote this Sonatina for his kids. To his editor he wrote "It is intended for youths (dedicated to my children), but even grown-ups, adults, should be able to converse with it . . ." Here Josef Suk performs it.

Josef's (I) Asrael Symphony which commemorates the death of his father-in-law and wife

Josef (III) performing his Great-Great Grandfather's Violin Concerto

Antonin Dvorak was a tremendous composer whose talents continue to be enjoyed. His 9 symphonies continue to delight audiences as they are programmed quite regularly. Dvorak's connection to Fein Violins is an interesting side-note as his ancestors have frequented our shop, and have helped to inform our previous blog about the Minnehaha Melody. His student, Josef Suk, married Antonin's only daughter, Otilka. In 1901 Otilka and Josef (I) had their only son, Josef (II). Unfortunately, Otilka died in 1905. Josef (I) never remarried, but did live to see his son become a great musician, but shy away from composing as he did not consider himself to be in the same league as Dvorak and his father. Josef's (II) son, also Josef (III), born in 1929 went on to become a very well regarded violinist who was a founding member of the Czech Quartet.  

Johann I's Radetsky March

Johann II's The Blue Danube 

Joesf's Village Swallows from Austria

Eduard I's Telephone Polka

Johann III's Unter den Linden

The Strauss Family, like the Bachs, were influential in the music scene for quite some time, and for many generations. Johann I began it all as the "Father of Waltz." Johann I was a self-taught musician focusing on violin and composition. In 1824 he formed his own orchestra and composed many waltzes and polkas for it. His best known work, which he composed for the local regiment, is the Radetsky March. Johann I had three sons follow in his footsteps, although not all of them joined willingly. In 1825 Johann II was born. Although his father was the "Father of Waltz," Johann II became the "Waltz King." In 1853, Johann II's younger brother, Josef, took over the helm of the orchestra when Johann was stricken with a nervous breakdown. Josef did so well that the family convinced him to stay on. Johann always believed his brother Josef was a better musician, but not quite as popular. Their youngest brother, Eduard I, joined the orchestra as a harpist when he tired his career in diplomacy. In 1870 Josef met an unfortunate death when he fell of the podium while conducting. To this end, Eduard took over the orchestra's podium. Eduard I had two sons, one of whom, Eduard, went on to become a conductor  while the other, Johann III went into the motor trade. Johann III was not nearly as prominent a figure as his ancestors had been. Unfortunately, he was cajoled to create a pseudonym as the relatives did not wish him to tarnish the family's good name. OUCH! Eduard I's grandson, Eduard III, became the founding orchestra conductor of the Vienna Johannes Strauss Orchestra. Although it would make a great family's legacy even more exciting, the great composer Richard Strauss was unrelated.

Chung Trio performing the first movement of Beethoven's "Triple Concerto"

The Chung Trio is comprised of siblings;  Kyung-wah Chung (violinist), Myung-whun Chung (pianist), Myung-wha Chung (cellist) from South Korea. Since 1995, they have not performed much as a trio. Instead they are each working on their own solo careers.

Ahn trio performing at the TED Conference

The Ahn Trio is a piano trio composed of three sisters Angella, Lucia, and Maria, from South Korea. Lucia (pianist) and Maria (cellist) are twins and the elder sister to Angella. They moved to New York City in 1981 and began their training at Juilliard. The sisters decided to form a trio while they were earning their master's degrees. The Ahn Trio are known for their performance of new classical music, genre-crossing programming, and collaborations with other artists.

Julian Lloyd Webber Performing movement III from Haydns Cello Concerto in C

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim performing musical comedy

Just listen to the commentator's comments. Sheesh!

Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber were both born in Kensington, London, England to William Lloyd Webber, a composer, and Jean Johnstone, a piano teacher. Their life always included music. Andrew has made a name for himself as a composer of musicals with such rousing successes as "Phantom of the Opera." Julian has made a name for himself as a cellist. Both Andrew and Julian studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London. Julian studied with the preeminent cellist, Pierre Fournier. In 1992, Andrew was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Andrew's daughter, Imogen, has been seen on Fox and MSNBC as a political commentator. In fact, another pundit described her as "like a steaming bowl of gruel," both she and gruel are "British and hot!" How about that for a compliment of the first order.

Lili Boulanger's Deux Morceaux Nocturne

Nadia Boulanger on Music and Genius

Peter Bruns performing Nadia's "Trois Pieces"

Nadia and Lili Boulanger are two sisters who made a tremendous impact on Classical music. Lili was the first women to win the coveted Prix de Rome and Nadia taught many of the world's most notable composers of the 20th century. Nadia counted amongst her students George Antheil, Daniel Baremboim, Burt Bacharach, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, David Diamond, Phillip Glass, Quincy Jones, Leo Kraft, Gian Carlo Menotti, Astor Piazzola, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and Skrowaczewski.

Mischa, Sascha, and Lily Maisky performing the Beethoven Triple

Mischa Maisky (cellist), born in Riga, Latvia in 1942 began studying cello at a local children's music school. In 1962 he entered the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1965 he debuted with the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra and was dubbed "Rostropovich of the Future." This moniker was fortuitous, as the following year he won the Tchaikovsky competition and began studying with Rostropovich. In 1970 he was imprisoned at the Gorky work camp for 18 months.Once out of the work camp, he emigrated from the USSR and settled in Israel. In 1974, he became the only cellist to study with both Rostropovish and Piatigorsky. Later in 1987 and 1989 his son and daughter, Sascha (violinist) and Lily (pianist), were born. They continued in their father's footsteps and followed their musical studies to a career in music.
Mischa's older brother, Valery, took a very similar path as his brother. He studied at the Leningrad Conservatory and emigrated to Israel in 1973. In 1974, he founded the Israel Bach Society and continued to perform many concerts, 2 a month, until his tragic death in a car accident in 1981.

Lee Liberace and Jack Benny

The Liberaces performing Hillbilly. Interesting note: the announcer is Bing Crosby's borther, Bob

Wladziu (Lee) Valentino Liberace and his brother, George were both very talented musicians. They, like the writer of this blog, were born in the great state of Wisconsin. Lee, in West Allis, and George in Menasha. Lee was mocked as young man due to his speech impediment, and his avoidance of "normal" childhood activities. Instead of playing football, he practiced the piano, instead of playing tag, he learned to cook. During the great depression, to help the family make ends meet, he spent much of his time in cabarets, strip clubs and bars under the pseudonym "Walter Busterkeys." And, you thought the name Liberace was flambouyant?!? He furthered his career, and became an international sensation when he and his brother, George, produced The Liberace Show, which was syndicated by 217 stations. George played the violin, and arranged/orchestrated music for the show. George also taught piano. In the late 1960's he even opened up two fast food restaurants; Mr. Tukey that specialized in take-out turkey dinners, and a restaurant named Mr. Ed. I do not believe they specialized in take-away horse dinners (get it, Mr. Ed!).

Neeme Jarvi leading the Detroit Symphony in an encore of Meacham's American Patrol

Paavo Jarvi discusses Faure's Requiem

Kristjan Jarvi directs Dance Episodes from Bernstein's On the Town

Maarika Jarvi Performing Eller's Three Pieces for Flute with Kristjan conducting

Neeme Jarvi was born and raised in Tallinn, Estonia. He studied music at the Leningrad Conservatory with Yevgeny Mravinsky and Nikolai Rabinovich. Before emigrating to the US, he held prestigious conducting positions with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, the Estonia Radio and Television Orchestra, and the Opera in Tallinn. He, his wife, Liilia, and their three children emigrated to the US in 1980. In 1987, Neeme became of a citizen of the US. Each of his children have pursued music as well. Paavo and Kristjan are conductors while Maarika is a flautist.

Leonard Slatkin speking at a TED Conference about the importance of music

Leonard Slatkin conducting an excerpt from Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz
Frederick Zlotkin

Hollywood String Quartet performing Hummel's String Quartet in G

Leonard Slatkin is a world-renowned conductor, for working with many groups; the Detroit Symphony, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, and the New York Youth Symphony. He comes from a very musical family. His brother, Frederick Slatkin (Zlotkin) is a concert cellist with an amazing recording of the Bach Suites, which are thought to be the only fully ornamented version recorded. Frederick traced the family lineage back to Jewish Russians living in the area now known as the Ukraine. The family surname was Zlotkin, but it is believed that it was anglacized, perhaps at Ellis Island, by their Grandfather Chaim Peretz Zlotkin or a clerk. Since learning of this history Frederick has assumed the family's original surname. Leonard and Fredericks parents were also fine musicians. Felix, their father, and Eleanor, their mother were the founding violinist and cellist of the Hollywood String Quartet.

Alisa Weilerstein Performing Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello

Weilerstein Trio performing Dvorak's Dumky Trio

Joshua Weilerstein Conducting Dvorak's New World Symphony

Alisa Weilerstein comes from a very musical family. In fact, she regularly performs with her parents as the Weilerstein Trio. Her father Donald Welerstein plays violin and her mother, Vivian Hornuk Weilerstein plays piano. Her brother, Joshua, also a musician, plays violin and has recently been named an Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Alisa has championed new and old music alike. She has been awarded many prestigious awards including the MacArthus Foundation Genius Grant in 2011, and the Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2001.

Yo Yo and Yeou-Cheng Ma 

Yo Yo Ma and his sister, Yeou-Cheng performed together in a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein. The concert was a benefit fundraiser for the Kennedy Center's construction. To this day, Yo Yo Ma continues to perform, teach in masterclasses, and serve as a musical ambassador for the world. His sister, Yeou-Cheng, once a violin virtuoso now serves as the Executive Director for the Children's Orchestra Society which their father, Haio-Tsun, founded.

Alizma is an amalgamation of the identical triplets' names; ALeksandra, IZabela, and MonikA. Their musical collaborations blur the lines between pop, folk, and classical music with each member contributing on violin and vocals.

The Ying Quartet performing Movement 1 from Arensky's String Quartet in A minor

Ying Quartet members were all born in Winnetka, Il, and went to the Eastman School of music. In 1988, while at Eastman, the siblings formed a string quartet. Timothy and Janet played violin, Phillip played viola, and David played cello. As the first recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts Chamber Music Rural Residencies Program ,the quartet began publicly performing in Jesup, IA. There skills as a quartet have allowed them to tour extensively, win coveted awards, and commission many new works. In 2009, Timothy announced his departure from the group and   Frank Huang joined. Upon Frank's departure, Ayano Ninomiya joined the group. Currently, the Ying quartet is in residency at the Eastman school.

Is it genetics? Dedication? Family culture? A combination of all these factors, plus more? It's hard to tell who will become a great musician, but history has shown us that coming from a family of musicians never hurts and might give you an excellent head start.

Are you a string musician or interested in becoming one? Take a look at our Fine Violins, Violas, and Cellos

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