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Emanuel Vardi

Son of two Israeli instrumental teachers, Emanuel Vardi began piano and violin lessons at an early age. Racist riots in 1920 drove the family from Jerusalem to America, where Vardi attended a public school until he was old enough, at fourteen, for a specialist music school. He seems to have struggled through this period of his life, failing in the end to graduate from The Juilliard School. Hearing William Primrose’s 1934 recording of two of Paganini’s violin Caprices on the viola, however, ignited a spark for the disillusioned Vardi who proceeded to transcribe all twenty-four Caprices for the viola and later (in 1965) became the first violist to record the complete set – in fact this recording remained one of a kind until Scott Slapin repeated the feat in 2008. Primrose, who was principal violist in Toscanini’s NBC Orchestra, heard Vardi play in 1938 and arranged a meeting with Toscanini. The audition was straight to the point, according to Vardi: ‘I understand you play Paganini caprices […] play me one. So I […] played da duh, he says ok, you’re in.’ This early break led to further opportunities including quartet playing with violinist Oscar Shumsky. Vardi’s solo career perhaps reached its pinnacle with his Carnegie Hall recital, Primrose being the only other violist to have given a solo recital there. Later he became successful as a conductor and teacher and also composed, including several film scores. His string ensemble, Virtuosi, USA, was known for performing his own sometimes outlandish




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