S0490. EMANUEL VARDI (Viola), w.Solomon Cond. M-G-M String Orch.: Yizkor (Partos); Trauermuski (Hindemith), both recorded 1957; Emanuel Vardi & Michael Colgrass: Variations for Four Drums & Viola (Played by the Composer, Colgrass); w.Serly Cond. Vienna S.O.: Violin Concerto (Cond. by the Composer), recorded 1976; w.Stopak Cond. American Broadcasting S.O.: Viola Concerto (Walton), recorded 1943. Cembal d'Amour 159. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 798167118927
“With his recital debut in 1941, Mr. Vardi established himself as one of the world’s leading viola soloists, a group that included the Englishman Lionel Tertis; the Scotsman William Primrose; the German-born Walter Trampler; and few others. Over half a century, Mr. Vardi performed on storied stages, including Carnegie and Town Halls in New York and Wigmore Hall in London, as well as at the White House, for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He recorded widely and was heard often as a chamber musician. Critics praised Mr. Vardi’s virtuosic technique, masterly control of color and tone, and willingness to perform music by 20th-century composers, a circumstance born partly of necessity, as the viola has suffered historically from a dearth of solo repertory.
In the public imagination, as Mr. Vardi was painfully aware, the viola was considered merely a humble alto cog in the vast orchestral machine. As a solo instrument it was long overshadowed by its soprano sibling, the violin, with its glittering trove of repertory, and more recently by its tenor one, the cello, with its dark brown, floor-shaking sonorities.
For a violist even contemplating a solo career, the paucity of literature was a perennial stumbling block. When Mr. Vardi began his work the very idea of a solo viola recital was unorthodox: finding enough worthwhile material to fill two hours seemed practically impossible. To this problem Mr. Vardi brought a four-pronged approach. First, he adapted violin and cello literature for his instrument, a time-honored strategy by which violists have added arrows to their quivers.
An especially noteworthy achievement was his recording in the 1960s of Paganini’s 24 caprices for solo violin. On the violin, they are merely demonically difficult. On the viola, where the distance between notes is larger and the response time of the strings slower, they are harder still.
Partly through Mr. Vardi’s efforts, the viola emerged from the shadows, with solo recitals now a routine feature of classical concert programming. Emanuel Vardi, familiarly known as Manny, was born in Jerusalem on April 21, 1915. His father was a violinist and painter, his mother a pianist. As a small child, Emanuel studied the piano and violin. When he was about 4, the family settled in New York; at 6 ˝ he made his recital debut on the piano at Aeolian Hall, on West 42nd Street in Manhattan. THE NEW YORK EVENING MAIL called him a young pianist to watch. Verdi haunted archives in search of forgotten compositions unearthing, for instance, a sonata by Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841), Paganini’s teacher and a composer of many works for viola. He solicited new music from contemporary composers, giving premieres of pieces by Henry Brant, Michael Colgrass, Alan Hovhaness, Alan Shulman and others. Finally, he composed solo viola works, among them ‘Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Paganini’.
He entered the Institute of Musical Art, a forerunner of the Juilliard School, as a violin student at 12, and studied there until he was about 20. Around that time he heard a recording by Primrose, had a conversion experience and took up the viola. As a young violist, Mr. Vardi was a member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini; he made his solo recital debut in February 1941 at Town Hall to glowing notices. During World War II he was a soloist with the United States Navy Symphony Orchestra.
In 1993, after suffering a broken wrist and torn rotator cuff, Mr. Vardi retired from playing. He turned full time to painting, an art he had begun in boyhood, studied in Italy after the war and pursued throughout his musical career. Over the years Mr. Vardi’s vivid canvases of musicians and cityscapes have been exhibited in galleries in New York City and elsewhere. Critics routinely praised his masterly control of color and tone.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 7 Feb., 2011