last night it just appeared like magic on the car radio: Heifetz playing the Hora Staccato with Bay when he was 18 or so. I have to confess this piece no longer excites me as much as it did as a kid. As for Heifetz, he was asked for it as an encore so often he developed a very slight antipathy towards it, christening it the `Horrible Staccato.`
Nonetheless, having listened to thousands of brilliant and dazzling versions over the years I have to say that the old recording I heard last night remains the non plus ultra for me. What shocked me anew was =how slow- (relatively speaking) the performance was compared to many others. Every note was a wonder of beauty in exact proportion to the next one. Notice also that because the technique is actually quite lyrical the more ryhtmically violent shorter chunks are shown up in dramatic contrast.
I suddenly realized that the much maligned Heifetz played this work better because he thought of it not in terms of demonstrating a supposedly difficult virtuoso bowing technique , but in expressing some truly beautiful music. That is why, in my opinion, the faster, more dazzling brilliant versions that followed him are essentially boring by comparison. the player, even the greatest, is still thinking in terms of technique and not beautiful musicianship.
I stand by my belief that for a specific genre of student Heifetz was a brilliant, subtle, inspired and highly underrated teacher. I think that for this reason he made his students work and work at this up and down bow staccato which at the end of the day is absolutely not necessary for a virtuoso career. In his own subtle way I think he was trying to teach through the analogy of the staccato that violin playing which is dazzling and not completely under control (CF GalamIan`s discussion of virtuosity in his book) is not great art. In the same way one does not have a staccato until one can play Hora Staccato stunningly beautifully -at any tempo- with every note even and polished, one cannot claim to play the Tchaikovsky concerto last movement , or the mendelssohn cadenza etc. unless one can do likewise.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.