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Elmar Oliveira (b1950)

The first American to win the Tchaikovsky Competition and the first violinist to be awarded an Avery Fisher Prize, Elmar Oliveira is known by colleagues as a hard-working musician—something he attributes to seeing his father sustain two jobs to support the family. He studied with Ariana Bronne and Raphael Bronstein in New York and it was the latter who insisted he compete in the Tchaikovsky Competition. Vladimir Spivakov (joint-second in 1970) was horrified by his choice of Vieuxtemps’s Concerto No. 5 for the final, saying ‘big mistake […] here no-one plays it live’; the audience and orchestra, however, were enraptured by Oliveira’s performance, leaving the judges little choice but to award him first prize.

In organising each season’s programmes Oliveira balances standard concertos with those by less popular composers such as Korngold, Walton and Glazunov as well as introducing at least one new work; he has given an impressive number of premières, including works by Panufnik, Wuorinen, Laderman, Tower and Morton Gould. His favourite violin is a 1729–30 Guarneri, the ‘Lady Stretton’; he had an exact copy made in 1994 which he has used undetected in concert. He uses a mixture of strings, creating a blend across the instrument, and selects carefully (from his large collection) the best bow for each occasion, according to repertoire and venue.



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