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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 3, No. 53

July 6, 2007 at 2:59 AM

7/3/07 – As expected following last week’s announcement that Beverly Sills was gravely ill, the great coloratura has died of lung cancer. According to the New York Times, “Ms. Sills was America’s idea of a prima donna. Her plain-spoken manner and telegenic vitality made her a genuine celebrity and an invaluable advocate for the fine arts. Her life embodied an archetypal American story of humble origins, years of struggle, family tragedy and artistic triumph.”


7/3/07 – For violin-centered fiction, you might want to try Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick, published by Harper-Collins. A YourHub review notes that “Barbara Quick's Vivaldi's Virgins is a coming of age story set in 18th century Venice utilizing and transforming a literary form popular during that era. As a violinist, the narrator allows the reader to experience the richness of Vivaldi's music from a perspective unavailable today to modern listeners….

“This novel will appeal to a wide range of readers: those craving something of literary beauty, Vivaldi and classical music lovers, women wanting to experience history through the eyes of the women who lived it but for whom history rarely relates their story, and anyone wanting to peek into the lesser known history of Venice or music.”
Redbook magazine named it one of the summer’s 10 top reads.


We have another entry in the violin-related fiction category, one that has been eagerly anticipated by violinists everywhere. Eugene Drucker, violinist with the Emerson String Quartet, has published his debut novel, The Savior. The work tells of a violinist imprisoned in a Nazi death camp and how he befriends a music lover among the Gestapo. The Jewish Daily Forward has run a fairly positive review; like Vivaldi’s Virgins, The Savior can be ordered via Amazon and other booksellers.

Musician News

According to the Montecito Journal, Westmont College in California is raising funds for two world-class violins, a viola, and a cello to be made for its music department. Luthier James Wimmer is doing the honors; he hopes the Hubert Schwyzer Quartet (named for an amateur cellist) play its first concert early next year. The college needs to raise $55,000 to accomplish its goal. The article also notes that violinist Philip Ficsor is approaching his first anniversary of joining Westmont’s faculty as assistant professor of violin.

7/5/07 – Quick: what’s your worst nightmare? The New York Times posits, “In the canon of every New Yorker’s worst nightmares, it has to rank high: Put in a long night at work. Fall asleep on a muggy subway platform waiting for a train home. Awake to find that your belongings, which happen to include an exquisitely sonorous 1913 violin handmade by Stefano Scarampella, one of the great violin makers of the past 100 or so years, have been stolen.” This is what happened to Brooklyn violinist Tom Chiu last week. Six days later, the thief returned the violin unharmed.

7/5/07- Johnny Frigo, a Chicago jazz violinist and bassist who toured with Jimmy Dorsey and co-wrote the jazz standard "Detour Ahead," has died. He was 90. Frigo died early Wednesday at a Chicago hospital after battling cancer in recent years, his son Rick Frigo told Fox News. “Johnny Frigo was born on Chicago's South Side and spent much of his career playing bass. After playing with the U.S. Coast Guard band at Ellis Island during World War II, he toured with clarinetist Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra. Around that time, Frigo wrote "Detour Ahead" with Lou Carter and Herb Ellis, a song that became a jazz standard recorded by Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, among others. He was in his late 60s or early 70s when he turned his attention to the violin, appearing twice on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. Frigo was also a poet and artist with a keen sense of humor, his son said. When Carson asked him why he'd waited so long to launch his jazz violin career, he replied that he didn't want there to be enough time for him to become a has-been, his son said.”

7/4/07 – The Lexington Herald-Leader profiled Joe Beach, an 88-year-old violinist/violist and the Lexington Philharmonic’s oldest member.

7/2/07 – For more on the Tchaikovsky competition, we turn to the always-reliable “According to Agence France-Presse, violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov, who was on the jury, has already offered [gold medalist Mayuko] Kamio an engagement to play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia under his baton. There was another unusual decision from one of the juries this year, according to The Moscow Times. The violin judges felt that 23-year-old Artyom Shishkov of Belarus probably deserved to make the finals, but for his poor-quality violin. Spivakov said frankly at a press conference last week that Shishkov "played very well, but on a catastrophically bad instrument. So we simply couldn't advance him." The jury wrote a formal letter to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko asking that his government provide the young violinist with a decent instrument.”

7/1/07 –’s own intern, Caeli Smith, had the substantial honor of having the New York Times publish her letter in response to “Music That Thinks Outside the Chamber” by Anne Midgette [June 24]: “As a 15-year-old violinist, I was drawn to your article about the death of chamber music. Chamber music may very well be moribund in the concert hall setting. But I can report from the trenches that it is alive and well. My string quartet, Seraphina, has performed in its share of concert halls, but our liveliest, most appreciative audiences have been in nontraditional settings.

“Recently, after playing for a group of philanthropists in a luxurious apartment, we went out to Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia and played until dusk. The crowd that gathered included commuters, joggers, homeless people and children.

“Whenever we do this, the response is overwhelmingly positive. If there is such apparent love for chamber music when it’s presented in a nonthreatening, unpretentious manner, how can it be dead?
Caeli Smith

Orchestra News

7/3/07 - Chicago Symphony Orchestra President Deborah R. Card earned a salary of $423,300 for 2004-05, notes the Chicago Tribune. “But she was far from being the highest-paid symphony orchestra executive director that season, according to figures reported to the IRS and posted last week by Drew McManus on his Adaptistration blog ( ... The symphony orchestra CEO who received the fattest compensation package by far was Card's colleague Deborah Borda, executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who drew a whopping $1,325,542."

6/30/07 – The Brooklyn Philharmonic participated in a special concert held in celebration of composer Lukas Foss’s 85th birthday celebration.

From Ben Clapton
Posted on July 6, 2007 at 4:47 AM
Well spoken Caeli, great letter. If the people won't come to us, we'll go to the people.
From Scott 68
Posted on July 6, 2007 at 5:07 PM
vivaldis virgins sounds interesting

way to go caeli !!!

From Linda Lerskier
Posted on July 6, 2007 at 5:30 PM
Great letter Caeli!
From Karin Lin
Posted on July 6, 2007 at 6:16 PM
Good for you, Caeli!
From Anne Horvath
Posted on July 6, 2007 at 6:50 PM
Congratulations to Caeli!

Also, "The Savior" is out now. I just picked up my pre-ordered copy from my local independent bookstore. Yay! I also ordered "Vivaldi's Virgins", and should get that next week. Off to read now...

From Anne Horvath
Posted on July 7, 2007 at 12:03 AM
OK, I read "The Savior". It took about 2 1/2 hours. I give it two thumbs up. It is REALLY good.
From Oliver Bedford
Posted on July 7, 2007 at 3:26 AM
Glad Tom got his violin back.

And a pat on the shoulder to the person who had second thoughts and returned it !


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