Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students

A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
Speaking in Strings
January 10
Did You Guess?
Angela Lansbury, who played Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast as well as Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, played Ruth.
Can You Guess?
You read about the 1981 revival of Pirates of Penzance below.  I have pictured a video of the stage version, but in 1983 a video was produced that replaced Patricia Routledge (playing Ruth) with a well-known actress. Can You Guess who played Ruth in the 1983 video?  Pardon me while I take the teapotts off the fire.

Go to the Bottom of the Page for the Answer.
What Else
1710 - First performance of G. F. Handel's music in London. The orchestral selections from his opera Rodrigo.

1886 - Premiere of Anton Bruckner's Te Deum in Vienna.

1911 - Birth of English violinist and teacher Sidney Griller.  Founder of the Griller Quartet.

1931 - Premiere of Charles Ives' Three Places in New England.

1947 - The musical "Finianís Rainbow" opened in New York City and ran for 725 performances. The music was written by Burton Lane and the lyrics were written by E.Y. Harburg.

1949 - Vinyl records were introduced by RCA (45 rpm) and Columbia (33 1/3 rpm).

1956 - Elvis Presley recorded his first songs as an RCA Victor artist in Nashville. Elvis recorded Heartbreak Hotel, I Was the One, Iím Counting On You, I Got a Woman and Money Honey.

1981 - The Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Pirates of Penzance opened at Broadway's Uris Theatre, starring Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith.

1998 - Premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis's String Quartet No. 2 by the Lark Quartet performing. Won 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg was born in Rome January 10, 1961.  It seems she was destined to become at least an amateur musician. 

She said, "My mom kind of forced the issue when I was 4. I come from a very musical Italian family. When friends came over, after dinner we all went into a room and made music. Everybody played something except me. My mom, who played the piano, went out and bought me a violin, with a bow and rosin, for $40. She bought a violin because her best friend taught the violin. That's how I started lessons in Rome."
It Ain't Necessarily So
1961 -  
When she was 8 she left Rome and moved to the United States.  She lived in Cherry Hill, NJ, just outside Philadelphia, so that she could go to the Curtis Institute of Music.  She later studied with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School of Music.

When Nadja was just 12 she took part in a talent competition that won her the chance to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra. She played Mendelssohnís Concerto in E Minor for violin and piano.

In 1981 Nadja won the Walter W. Naumburg International Violin Competition.

As Nadja's reputation grew her reputation was that of a tremendously talented young lady, but very high-spirited.  She did not dress as conservatively as many would have preferred.  Her performances were highly emotional.  Some even found her performances "over-emotional or over-inflected or even distorted." (music critic Martin Bernheimer)

And it is just that passion and fire that divides the music world on the subject of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.  She developed a reputation as "The Bad Girl of the Violin."  But at the same time her fan base grew.

In 1983, Nadja was recognized with an Avery Fisher Career Grant.  (In 1999 she was awarded the Avery Fischer Prize).

Nadja has performed with many of the world's great orchestras, and she has been very active in the recording industry. 

But even as she has succeeded in creating a devoted following, Nadja has had her difficulties.  In 1994 she accidentally cut off the tip of the little finger of her right hand in a kitchen accident.  She has suffered from depression. 

But Nadja loves the violin, and loves to play.  "There will never be any force greater than playing. And playing has saved me so many times."
Pirates of Penzance
Nadja plays Tchaikovsky
Besides her children's book, Nadja: On My Way, which is unfortunately out of print, Nadja is also the subject of the video biography Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg: Speaking in Strings.  A very good video, it deals with the highs as well as the lows of her life and career (and as such is probably not the best choice for young children).
Recent collaborations with Mark O'Connor and the Assad brothers have been very well received.  And Nadja has gone on to create a new recording company, NSS Music.

I love visiting Nadja's web site every now and then.  While it is not updated as frequently as I would like, her Question and Answer section in which she responds to visitors' questions is a wonderful read.  For example, Nadja plays a violin made by Peter Guarnerius of Venice made in 1721.  She says, "It's old and used and wooden. I'm saving up for a new one."

A personal note.  I have never had the opportunity to meet Nadja, though I would love to do so.  I have attended several of her performances, and have never walked away disappointed.  Her performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Austin Symphony Orchestra may have been the best concert I ever attended, and I still remember the excitement I felt even though it was almost ten years ago.  Given the opportunity, I'd go to one of Nadja's concerts in a heartbeat! 
Nadja Live
Click Picture to Search for Nadja
Salerno-Sonnenberg Music on Amazon
Mark Twain Fiddle Shirt
We Talk About Violins and We Talk About Fiddles.  What's the Difference?