This seemed to be the consensus at Emil’s violin recital Sunday at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where he played with pianist Michael Sheppard.
Emil has been a Violinist.com member since the early days of the website and a frequent contributor to the discussion board, so I was delighted to finally meet him in person. He talks just like he writes (erudite, with a dash of salt), and he plays like…well, this is what I overheard people saying:
“He’s as schmaltzy as Perlman!” and “That’s some good, old-timey violin playing, with a twist!” They loved it, in other words. They certainly didn’t feel this was some young hot-shot with all flash and no soul.
He really is everything I suspected from reading his posts: an intelligent player with outstanding chops, whose comfort with the violin and ease of expression delivers an enjoyable performance.
He played an ambitious program: Brahms, Sonata in D minor; Saint-Saens, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso; Paganini, Witches’ Dance (Le Streghe); Prokofiev, Violin Sonata Op. 94; Sarasate, Zigeunerweisen; and Ravel, Tzigane. And an encore!
I would have dropped dead after the first half of this, for sure. Not Emil, he was solid to the end.
For all that “schmaltzy” talk, I didn’t find, for example, that his Saint-Saens was exceedingly languid in the Introduction, as I’ve heard it. The Capriccioso was incredibly clean and, I felt it necessary to make note in my program, “REALLY fast!” His Paganini was fun and fiendish. The Prokofiev is one of my favorite pieces, I was glad to hear it played so well. Emil introduced Zigeunerweisen by saying that “Sarasate could not have meant a piece this over-the-top seriously!” then went right over the top. And Tzigane was downright raucous, inspiring a standing ovation in the crowd of about 70. For an encore, he found a great piece I’d never heard by Fritz Kreisler called “Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta,” which summoned a Viennese mood while also being harmonically more interesting than any other Kreisler pieces I know.
I met a cute couple at the recital, Judith and George Greenberg, who had been married for 63 years, having met in a New York music school as teenagers. She was a pianist and he a violinist, who said he’d played on a Strad for seven years. “Oh, the sound of that instrument in our living room!” rhapsodized Mrs. Greenberg, remembering her husband’s Strad days. They came back stage afterwards to meet Emil and see what kind of instrument he played on. He shrugged and laughed, “A no-name!” All were impressed by the sound he had produced from his no-name “wooden girlfriend,” as he called it.
Afterwards, Emil and fans went to dinner at L’Allegria, a restaurant I’d highly recommend. Emil spoke to the waiters in fluent Italian, to his friends in fluent Russian, to everyone else in English. He jovially encouraged much uninhibited eating, drinking of wine, sharing of stories in many languages and the general merriment of all.
I’d have to agree, the guy is an old soul!
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