S0581. GALIMIR STRING QUARTET: Quartet in F (Ravel), recorded 1934; Lyric Suite (Berg), recorded 1935. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-192. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Felix Galimir was a violinist who was one of the last links to the vital musical world of prewar Vienna, and a chamber music player who was revered by several generations of instrumentalists as a demanding and inspiring coach. It would be difficult to overstate Mr. Galimir's centrality in American chamber music life, but perhaps the best measure of his influence is that at virtually any chamber concert today, at least one musician on the stage is likely to have studied with, been coached by or performed in an ensemble with him. He was, with the pianist Rudolf Serkin, a guiding spirit at the Marlboro Festival in Vermont, where for 50 years young musicians and experienced colleagues have spent summers exploring the chamber literature.
In addition to his work at Marlboro, a typical concert season for Mr. Galimir included teaching commitments at Juilliard School and the Mannes College of Music, both in New York, and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia -- he was on the faculty of all three -- as well as at the New York String Orchestra seminar, a program for young musicians. One reason Mr. Galimir was such a compelling and authoritative teacher is that in addition to his long experience as a quartet player -- he formed the Galimir String Quartet when he was still a teenager, in 1929, and kept it going with younger musicians until 1993 -- he knew and worked with many of this century's great composers. The circle in which Mr. Galimir traveled early in his career included the composers Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern -- the founders of Serialism -- as well as Ernst Krenek, Alexander von Zemlinksy and other members of Schönberg's Society for Contemporary Music.
Berg coached the Galimir Quartet in his ‘Lyric Suite’ in 1931 and inscribed the score to the 20-year old violinist, ‘To Felix Galimir, outstanding quartet leader, excellent violinist, splendid musician, in remembrance’. In [1934 and 1935], when the Galimir Quartet recorded the ‘Lyric Suite’ and Ravel's String Quartet, both composers were on hand to oversee the ensemble's rehearsals and recording sessions. The recordings were awarded the Grand Prix du Disques. For his entire life, Mr. Galimir was an eloquent and passionate champion of the composers he knew in his youth, and in discussing Schönberg, Berg and Webern, he always emphasized the soulfulness he found in their works, rather than the austerity that many listeners hear in the music.
'Berg asked for enormous correctness in the performance of his music’, Mr. Galimir told The New York Times in 1981. ‘But the moment this was achieved, he asked for a very Romanticized treatment. Webern, you know, was also terribly Romantic -- as a person and when he conducted. Everything was almost oversentimentalized. It was entirely different from what we have been led to believe today. His music should be played very freely, very emotionally’. As a teacher, he sought to instill a love for new music in students, and he spoke wistfully of a time when that did not require such an effort.
At 12, Galimir entered the New Vienna Conservatory, where he studied the violin with Adolf Bak and chamber music with Simon Pullman. In the early 1930's, he continued his studies with Carl Flesch. But by then he had already made his public début as a soloist in the Beethoven Violin Concerto and formed the Galimir String Quartet, in which his sisters were the other players. In 1936, Galimir was hired by the Vienna Philharmonic. The following season he was barred [as a Jew] from playing in a performance at a resort outside Vienna, and then dismissed from the orchestra. By then, his father and his older sister had left for Paris and were urging him to follow. Instead, he and two of his sisters accepted the invitation of Bronislaw Huberman to come to Palestine, where Huberman was starting the orchestra that became the Israel Philharmonic.
In 1938, Mr. Galimir emigrated to New York. He immediately played a recital at Town Hall, formed a new version of the Galimir String Quartet and had some freelance performing jobs at WQXR, the radio station owned by The New York Times. He also played for several years with Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony. By the early 1950's, though, Mr. Galimir had become increasingly involved in chamber music, both with his own quartet, with the New York Philomusica ensemble and at Marlboro, to which he was invited by Serkin in 1952 after the death of one of the festival's founders, the violinist Adolf Busch. And after 1954, when he joined the faculty of the City College of New York, he devoted himself increasingly to teaching. His affiliation with the Juilliard School began in 1962, and he was appointed head of the chamber music department at the Curtis Institute in 1972. In 1976 he began teaching at the Mannes College of Music. In his teaching Mr. Galimir was a master at balancing criticism and encouragement. He often presented insights in amusingly folksy way. 'I sometimes tell my students that vibrato is a string player's lipstick’,' he said in a 1996 interview. ‘When you get dressed up, you use a little more. When you go on a trip to the mountains, a little less. Every piece has moments of repose. Beauty must have variety’."
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Nov., 1999
“The Austrian composer Alban Berg is usually mentioned in the same breath as his two like-minded contemporaries, Arnold Schönberg and Anton Webern, with whom he formed the Second Viennese School of composition and explored the potential of Serialist techniques for expanding music’s perspectives in the wake of Wagner and Mahler.
Berg is generally considered to have developed a more human, emotional style than the stricter Serialists, and his works often have a more lyrical feel.”
- David Smith, Presto Classical
“Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent… [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer – made without filtering, like all his dubbings – it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.”
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011