Thomas Brandis, Former 1st Concertmaster of Berlin Philharmonic

Beethoven Mass in D (Missa Solemnis) – Watch on YouTube

Between the years 1962-1983 and under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, Thomas Brandis was 1st concertmaster for the BerlinPhilharmonic. In noting Brandis’s death on the orchestra’s website, board member Knut Weber said: “Thomas Brandis’s extraordinary musicality has been documented in many recordings, from Mozart’s Haffner Serenade to Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra. His playing gives a condensed account of the qualities of the Karajan era: a rich, singing tone and an unerring sense of musical dramaturgy.”

In 1976 Brandis founded the Brandis Quartet, an ensemble that lasted for 25 years. He taught at Berlin University of Arts, the University of Music Lübeck and at the Royal Academy of Music, to name a few.

“The concertmaster must prepare bowings for everyone, and then they all shout at you, ‘This down bow is terrible.’ Orchestras are not easy…” –Thomas Brandis

Thomas Brandis,  1935-March 30, 2017

Schubert String Quartet No. 10 in E-Flat Major on Spotify

Svend Asmussen, “The Fiddling Viking”

“Hallelujah! I’m A Bum”–Watch on YouTube

He may have played second fiddle to his contemporary Stéphane Grappelli. But it wasn’t because Svend Asmussen was a lesser talent. He played with jazz  greats, too,  like Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

Critics admired Asmussen for his classical proficiency as well as his jazz chops. In a review cited in an obituary in The Washington Post, critic Will Friedlander called his performance of a baroque chamber work by Telemann “completely straight and breathtakingly moving.” He was also admired for his performance on a Duke Ellington’s Jazz Violin Session, recorded in Paris in 1963. The session featured Asmussen playing dueling violins with Grappelli and Ellington-regular Ray Nance.

Danish-born Asmussen was often compared to countryman Victor Borge for his whimsical stage presence. Music and humor obviously agreed with Asmussen (February 28, 1916-February 7, 2017): he lived to be 100.

“Take The A Train” with Stéphane Grappelli and Ray Nance–On Spotify

W.D. Amaradeva, The Maestro of Sri Lankan Music

“Sannaliyane”–Watch on YouTube

Deshamanya Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Albert Perera, more commonly known as Amaradeva, was a Sri Lankan musician, singer and composer. Through experimentation with traditional forms of music, he helped develop the sarala gee genre, a modern blend of North Indian ragas and Sinhala folk music.

As a child, Amaradeva was trained on the violin, but as he studied traditional forms, he incorporated sitars, tablas and other indigenous instruments into his music. He even invented an instrument, the mando-harp, which he often played in performances.

Amaradeva (December 5, 1927-November 3, 2016) composed music for ballets, films, theater, radio and television and toured worldwide. He was a revered national figure (a week of national mourning was declared at his passing), and many international awards, titles and honorary degrees were bestowed upon him.

“Aradana” on Spotify