“Her technique and command over the instrument are breathe-taking, her playing being fully devoted to the music”, is how the German newspaper Nene Westfalische described Korean violist Hyeyoon Park.
Born in Seoul in 1992, she began to play at the age of four and made her orchestral debut five years later in her hometown with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. During her teens Hyeyoon emerged as one of the most promising violinists of her generation and an artist of outstanding style and virtuosity, winning the prestigious London Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award in 2011 and First Prize and two special prizes at the 58th ARD International Music Competition in Munich as a 17 year-old, the youngest person in the history of the competition.
Hyeyoon signed my portrait sketch after a recital at London’s Wigmore Hall a couple of weeks ago.
Itzhak Perlman is the epitome of the word legend. I know I use it often, and have been very fortunate to spend brief moments with a few who have kindly reciprocated by signing one of my scribbles. But Itzhak is undeniably the reigning virtuoso of the violin – the world’s greatest living exponent of the instrument. The 71 year-old Israeli-American
has won 15 Grammy and four Emmy Awards among countless other accolades.
When I found out he was doing a one-off appearance in London to conduct the Mozart Requiem with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus at the Royal Festival Hall last Sunday I immediately put pencil to paper and did this montage sketch, which he signed and dedicated. It’s one of my prize possessions.
Nicola Benedetti – such a great Scottish name, courtesy of her Italian father (who married her Scottish mother) – was born in West Kilbride in Scotland. The 28 year old is one of the world’s most sought after names when it comes to classical violinists. And she has a most sought after name I wanted on my sketch.
The Times once described her, “it was thrilling to hear and watch Nicola Benedetti in a truly risk taking performance that lived so much in the body and fused the sinews of the violin and the nerve system of the player”. Stirring stuff!
After a few years of waiting at various concert halls around London, but missing Nicky (see I’m now on informal first name abbreviations) every time, I finally went to the Royal Albert Hall where Nicola was playing a one-off performance last month and waited for her arrival. Nothing so I left it with a very obliging gentleman at the stage door who said he would get it to her.
A couple of weeks passed – a lifetime in autograph collecting terms – nothing! Then yesterday, bingo! It arrived!
New York born Sir Yehudi Menuhin spent most of his performing life in the UK. He is considered to be one of the great classical violinists of the 20th Century. His EMI contract lasted almost 70 years and is on of the longest in the history of the music inustry. His first recording was in 1929 at the age of 13 and his last was in 1999 aged 83, the year he passed away.
I left my sketch at his London office in 1995 and he signed and returned it with New Year’s wishes.
French fiddler Stephane Grappelli was considered ‘the grandfather of jazz violinists’. His self taught improvisation skills produced ‘tender lyricism and vivacious swing’.
He was playing concerts around the world well into his 80s. He toured New Zealand many times and signed my sketch in Dunedin in September 1991. In 1997 he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. When asked about retirement, he said he didn’t know the word. Music was his ‘fountain of youth’. He died later that year, aged 89, after a hernia operation in a Paris clinic.
Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson was a former child prodigy. Her father was an English hotelier of Thai descent and her mother a Chinese lawyer. She was born in Singapore, but moved to the UK at the age of 4. She describes her style as ‘violin techno-acoustic fusion’. Vanessa-Mae signed my sketch at her concert in the Queen’s Wharf Events Centre in Wellington, New Zealand on January 25th 1996. A keen skier, she now lives in Switzerland and plans to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in the downhill representing Thailand.