Violists get no Respect

But Research is Delightful

Last week while driving to work I heard an unfamiliar piece on radio station WETA1 announced as a Concerto in E major for two mandolins, viola, and orchestra by Mauro Giuliani. This caught my attention not only because of the unusual instrumentation but also because as a violist, I’m always interested in hearing solo works for the instrument, which has much less available repertoire than the violin.

I was annoyed, but not surprised, to hear the radio announcer identify the orchestra (I Solisti Veneti)2, the conductor (Claudio Scimone), and the two mandolinists (Ugo Orlandi and Dorina Frati), but say not a word about the violist. Typical, I thought. Violists get no respect, as evidenced by the existence of viola jokes.

When I got to my office, I went to WETA’s website and checked the online playlist. The violist’s name wasn’t there either (which might explain why the announcer didn’t say it). The playlist includes a link labeled “Buy the CD,” which takes you to Archiv Music, but they didn’t have it. Next I turned to google and made several discoveries. First I found a youtube of the same recording I’d heard in the car, which informed me that the violist was Jodi Levitz. She’d commented on the youtube post, saying “Thanks for posting! This was my 1st recording with Claudio, done when I was 22.”  I then found her website, where I learned that at the time of the recording she was the principal violist of I Solisti Veneti and later taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She now teaches at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. I was delighted to discover that she has posted several videos of her solo playing, some of which I listened to while working that morning. I’m now a fan!

As I continued my research, I found images of the CD label, which clearly listed Jodi Levitz on both the front and the back. So WETA really had no excuse to omit her. As I said, no respect. Not only that, I also discovered that the composer of the mandolin-viola concerto was not in fact Mauro Giuliani, whose name I was familiar with as a composer of works for the guitar.3 It wasn’t Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829) but Antonio Maria Giuliani (ca. 1739-1831), no relation as far as I can tell. Antonio Maria is fairly obscure; unlike Mauro, he has no Wikipedia entry, no imslp entry4, no entry in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. But he is clearly listed on the back of the CD label. Apparently somebody at WETA saw “Giuliani” and just assumed it was Mauro. Be more careful, WETA!

I’m still annoyed at WETA for dissing the violist, and I lost some respect for them because of their sloppiness. On the other hand, I loved listening to the concerto, and WETA’s omission and mistake did lead me to take delight in a fruitful research project that resulted in my discovery of a new artist and a new composer.