Hyman Bress

Bress, Hyman. Violinist, b Cape Town, South Africa, 30 Jun 1931, naturalized Canadian 1952, d Montreal 30 Oct 1995. He took his first lessons with his father, making his debut with the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra at nine and performing extensively in South Africa afterwards.

Bress, Hyman

Bress, Hyman. Violinist, b Cape Town, South Africa, 30 Jun 1931, naturalized Canadian 1952, d Montreal 30 Oct 1995. He took his first lessons with his father, making his debut with the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra at nine and performing extensively in South Africa afterwards. At the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia he studied 1946-51 with Ivan Galamian. In 1951 he moved to Montreal, where he appeared in recital and on CBC radio. Chamber music performances with Otto and Walter Joachim led to the founding of the Montreal String Quartet, in which he played first violin 1955-63. He was concertmaster of the MSO for a single season (1958-9).

Bress premiered, among other Canadian works, Otto Joachim's Concertante No. 1 (the second part in Montreal in 1957, and the complete work in Paris in 1958), Kelsey Jones'Introduction and Fugue (1959), Violet Archer'sConcerto (1960) on the CBC's 'Little Symphonies', and Udo Kasemets'Concerto (13 Apr 1967) with the CBC Festival Orchestra. He gave recitals in the world's major cities and appeared with leading Canadian and US orchestras, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic. In 1973 he made a tour of the Far East. He revived and in some instances recorded unusual or seldom played works like the Joseph Joachim and Bloch concertos. He broadcast in Canada largely for the CBC. Bress recorded his own Fantasy (1961-2, Presser) for violin, piano, and electronic tape, and performed the work in New York and elsewhere while the score was being projected page by page on a screen behind the performers.

He divided his time between Europe and North America, eventually moving to Europe, but spent his final years in Montreal, although no longer as a performing violinist. Mental illness prevented Bress from pursuing his career from about the mid-1980s.

Of his playing the London Times wrote in March 1961: 'Bress's phrasing was always significantly and expressively shaped, and to the exacting 20th-century works he brought a wide range of tone colour and dynamics. His tone - mellow and rich in its lower register and silky up at the top - in Mozart's Adagio, for instance, was beautiful in its cantabile line.'

Writings

'The role of electronic music in relationship to the violin,' Musical Events, Apr 1962


Further Reading

  • Kaptainis, Arthur. 'Violinist walked thin line between art, madness,' Gazette, 12 Nov 1995