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Christopher Jacoby

Favorite Bach- The Varnish Rub

September 4, 2008 at 8:29 PM

Henryk Szeryng! As I understand it, this man was something close to Hitler on a personal level (but then again, Hitler may have been a touch sweeter). Charles Woolf told me he once had a student who introduced herself to Szeryng after a concert, and although she would not repeat what it was he said to her, she turned red and shook slightly at even a mention of his name. Whee!
Evil aside, I have rediscovered his recorded solo Bach, and find it (perhaps) better than Milstein's. I'll have to exclude that final Nate recording. The Chacconne on the final recording is epic. Szeryng crunches and soars through my favorite pieces, and leaves me thinking about those hidden moving lines in new ways. Highly recommended.

I am finishing the outlines on a Viotti model Strad at home right now, and ruminating on the varnish, and the complex care given to it in literature and discussion. The varnish in cathedrals and on furniture from the same era shows the same characteristics, and its widely held that an oil varnish would have been bought from the local apothecary, and fiddled with to taste.
That's the rub of reverse engineering: analyzation leads to ridiculously complex methods. These makers were buying varnish, throwing a little pigment or earth in, and painting the violins. 1000 instruments came out of Strad's shop in his lifetime. There is no way he was cooking rosinates for a month at a time, and applying gypsum and horse urine and the like at careful intervals.
The look is paramount. But the method should be repeatable, and functional.
I love this work, as terrifyingly hard as it is. My brain is stirred up every time I sit down to something I can't grasp yet.

From Bethany Morris
Posted on September 5, 2008 at 12:18 AM
Lutherie fascinates me, even though I only know the basics to how a violin is made. (I think the word you were looking for was "analysis," rather than "analyzation.")

I'll have to check out Szeryng's Bach. I've long been a disciple of Milstein and Perlman.

From Emmanuel Borowsky
Posted on September 5, 2008 at 6:38 PM
I recently found Szeryng's bach recordings myself as well after searching fruitlessly for a recording I liked. His Bach is absolutely divine. Honestly I never really liked Milstein's despite what others said. Szeryng just blows everyone out of the water.

Good luck with the violin. If it was standard but slightly altered varnish they used then why does it look the way it does? oh well..

From carlos majlis
Posted on September 5, 2008 at 10:01 PM
I'm with you. Szering (first recording) is
my all time favorite. He made heard all
the inner voices, never rush, his tempi are always calm and he played as he was
building a house, slowly,carefully and with a complete understanding of the meaning of the work. And yes, he was a
neurotic alcoholic and a nasty fellow

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