Written by Stephen Brivati
Published: December 26, 2013 at 12:42 AM [UTC]
I live near Nagoya City which is, depending on whether you count Tokyo as a city, Japan`s third or fourth largest. Thus it has a very good cultural base although Tokyo and Osaka are where the really big musical events take place.
In Nagoya there is a small (about 150 seats) but very fine mini concert hall built by a man who went from being a poor orphan during the war to one of the richest men in Japan thanks to his wife`s recipe for curry. Last year I attended a delightful concert there by a twentyish South American violinist who was almost a world class soloist. This is not intended to be derogatory, it is simply that given the best players in the world today are so good they can do absolutely anything this young man had a slightly limited vibrato and thus a slightly smaller tonal palette. He was the kind of player who usually ends up right at the front of a world class orchestra which is rarefied territory anyway.
As I listened to him I really felt that if he took a time out and went and had coaching from a great player, somewhat like when Arnold Steinhardt spent the Summer with Joseph Szigeti at the beginning of his career, then he could move his playing up several levels. I noticed on the program he has already recorded the Paginini 24 caprices with a fairly decent label and I thought this rather a shame in some ways. Obviously given his technique it must be a good recording but I cannot see how it is representative of his best given the above caveat. Just not quite a mature artist yet, and I doubt if he will be asked to record the caprices again so I just wondered if he could have waited and given priority to growth rather than marketing. It`s quite possible he had no say in the matter of course...
The reason I revisit this experience is that one of the small group of wealthy people who supported this concert and contributed to the splendid dinner party afterwards and the best possible hospitality etc. was telling me how disappointed they all were. The player in question is coming back to Japan but only going to play in Tokyo and Osaka. That may not be such a big deal and there may be x number of reasons for this but the size of audience has apparently been mentioned. Given the expense of travel and logistics in Japan I can understand that the net fee from such a gig might be extremely small but that didn`t seem to bother Shlomo Mintz who played in the same venue last year.
It made me think of four things: Stern, Oistrakh, Hahn and DeLay. Stern build up his listener base by playing at small venues for relatively small fees, Oistrakh travelled on a sled in sub zero conditions to play to handfuls of babushkas (probably half a love of music and half to stop his family being sent to a Gulag) and even in the present we can see Hahn on YouTube playing in small but appreciative venues and giving her absolute best. In the book on DeLay I noticed with great interest how determined she was for her students to reach out to the community
Like I said, I probably don`t know the whole story, but there is a fairly large number of people who have happy memories of a nice young man doing a great concert and enriching their lives who would like to have that experience again. This is one of the responsibilities of being a musician in my book and I have to confess a fascination with both of the above issues:
When are young artists pushed ahead too fast and lose out developmentally, and what is the responsibility of an artist towards the little people that support them so generously?
There are some good questions presented in this blog. I am a novice violin player in skill, but have done much listening and research regarding amazing, world-renowned violinists.
The same questions here could even possibly be applied to other areas of study where if there is fame/money involved, a student might pursue the wrong avenue because of this or that reason simply because it's tempting. I imagine if you make it into that percentile of playing ability, one could easily lose track of what is the best option as a skilled player. I guess it really must boil down to the influence the player might have and their overall reason for wanting to be a world class violinist.
I think that most violinists who make it that far and play because they enjoy it and try to grasp the intricate instrument as much as possible. Maybe they play because they were so involved by a later age, it would be nonsense to take on another career? The players you listed above, however, I think share a different type of passion. The type of passion they possess mixed with the want to share their ability with the world allows them to use their opportunities differently. Not only do they share their skill through playing their very best, but they equally use their position to constantly learn and take opportunities to better themselves.
Unfortunately some just settle. Most just settle. And that separates them from the best. Others just lose sight which is disappointing because I think their fans can see their ability better than they can. It's a tough world out there.
He had his faults, but most people have some good about them too, so here was something worthwhile in him: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/07/17/greene.sinatra.patsys/
A good friend might kindly tell this young violinist of these things before it is too late.
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