'Twinkle' Sparks Fireworks As Fiddler Guts Violin Method, by Liz Baker.Today National Public Radio aired a spot called
Well, certainly, Mark O'Connor has been doing his best to gut the Suzuki method and those who use any bit of it in their teaching or try to defend Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998).
One of the lines in the story struck me: "Anyway, the facts are almost beside the point."
Indeed, the method never needed anything but its successful students to prove itself.
But since NPR saw fit to air O'Connor's shaky allegations, I'd like to go over a few of the facts that the piece brought up:
1. Suzuki indisputably took lessons from Karl Klinger:
The NPR piece addressed that Suzuki took privately from Klingler, not as a student at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Suzuki never claimed he was a student at Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Here's a little more:
"Shinichi Suzuki had violin lessons with the prominent German violinist Karl Klingler in Berlin in the 1920’s. Klingler’s daughter, Marianne Klingler, was a strong supporter of Suzuki’s teaching principles and became the first chairperson of the European Suzuki Association. Ms. Klingler confirmed many times that Suzuki had indeed studied with her father." From the International Suzuki Association.
Also, from cellist Amy Barston: "I have a tape of Alice Schoenfeld saying Klingler talked often about Suzuki studying with him (Klingler) privately for 8 years, And how Suzuki was his only private pupil. (Schoenfeld) studied with Klingler in the 1920's and 30's."
2. Suzuki had a friendship with Albert Einstein.
NPR brought up O'Connor's claim that Suzuki faked a relationship with Einstein but didn't address its veracity.
Suzuki describes having a relationship with Albert Einstein; you can read that in "Nurtured by Love," p. 76-78. They were friends in Berlin who sometimes wound up at dinner parties together, both there and when they were in America. Suzuki's book does not actually devote a lot of space to this relationship, and what he does write is extremely deferential. Mentioning Einstein seems less about name-dropping than it was about describing qualities he admired in Einstein. He describes an incident, when both men were at a dinner party in America. Suzuki was asked to play by the host, and he played some Bruch for the guests. A woman there asked, how could the music still sound so German, played by a Japanese man? Suzuki writes in the book:
"After a brief interval Dr. Einstein, young enough to be her son, said quietly, 'People are all the same, madame.' I was tremendously moved."
I'd call that man my friend, too.
Besides that, there is also physical evidence of this friendship: Norman Lebrecht published on his blog and Amy Barston published on her Facebook page Einstein's self-portrait drawing, made for and given to Suzuki. Here it is (thank you to Amy Barston):
The autograph says, “Herr Shinichi Suzuki in freundlichsten Erinnerung” which translated is, “Mr Shinichi Suzuki in friendliest recollection” – Albert Einstein November 1926.
3. Pablo Casals came to a Suzuki concert and praised the performance.
The NPR piece brought up O'Connor's accusation that Suzuki faked an endorsement from cellist Pablo Casals but did not address its veracity.
In his book, "Nurtured by Love," Suzuki describes Casals, at age 75, coming to a concert of Suzuki kids, being moved by it and offering hearty congratulations (p. 101-102). The following video shows Casals at a Suzuki concert (see 5:33):
4. Mark O'Connor just got re-married and so he's dropping this attack on Suzuki.
NPR brings up O'Connor's new marriage. All best wishes to him. It would be great if he's moving on.
It's worth noting that O'Connor's attacks on Suzuki coincided with the apparent dissolution of his relationship to Sadie deWall, mother of his four-year-old daughter. Sadie's mother is Pam (deWall) Wiley, who taught the Suzuki method for 40 years before helping O'Connor conceive the first books in his method and also going on the road as the teacher trainer for the O'Connor Method.
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For more about this:
Just in: Suzuki Empire Strikes Back at Fraud Allegations: Norman Lebrecht pretty much takes down all of O'Connor's arguments, point-by-point, then commenters offer even more concrete evidence.
Mark O'Connor Harms the Violin Community: This article by me describes Mark's destructive tactics.
Room for All: Shar Weighs In on Mark O’Connor’s Anti-Suzuki Statements: Shar CEO Charles Avsharian writes in support of the Suzuki method as well as O'Connor's method, which Shar publishes. He expresses disappointment over O'Connor's attacks on the character of Shinichi Suzuki.Tweet
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