Rondo by Mozart

March 10, 2008 at 04:27 AM · There two versions of Rondo (from Serenade No. 7 "Haffner", K. 250) by Mozart on youtube. They are by Heifetz and Szeryng

Which do you prefer?



Replies (57)

March 10, 2008 at 12:37 PM · szeryng's to my ears is more enjoyable to listen to, but if i drank 5 cups of coffee, or aim to achieve similar effect, szeryng's will be way too slow.

March 10, 2008 at 02:38 PM · Szeryng

March 10, 2008 at 09:50 PM · bump

March 11, 2008 at 12:05 AM · Szeryng--elegant, musical, ravishing tone and double stops which are exquisitely in tune

March 11, 2008 at 12:31 AM · Actually, I believe this is the least in tune I've heard Szeryng play in a piece...

March 11, 2008 at 10:58 AM · Same feeling here. Could it be because of the immediate camparison with Heifetz?

March 22, 2008 at 05:20 PM · If you notice, in this recording Szeryng is stone drunk. You can see that his gaze is fogged and he is a little wobbly. And yes, i agree that this is the least in tune i have ever heard szeryng play. But if you pay close attention you will see that he misses only small notes. All the dangerous shiftings are done perfectly.

March 22, 2008 at 06:15 PM · Oliviu Dorian Constantinescu wrote: "If you notice, in this recording Szeryng is stone drunk."

I think that it is wrong, and disrespectful to Mr. Szeryng's memory, for you to post this statement. There is no evidence whatsoever for this on the video. You heard gossip and you are reading it into what you see on the video, thereby further perpetuating the gossip.

To respond to the original question, my preference is for the Heifetz performance. For me, it is more expressive, more imaginative and sounds less earth-bound in its phrasing and flexibility of beat. I also enjoy the wonderful focus of pitch in Mr. Heifetz's vibrato.

March 22, 2008 at 06:12 PM · I agree that Szeryng wasn't entirely in tune on this piece, but I heard that before hearing the Heifetz. I think Heifetz's performance was superior, but that is not to disparage Szeryng; Heifetz was arguably the greatest violinist of the 20th century.

March 22, 2008 at 07:20 PM · I did not notice that his gaze was "fogged" or that his stance was a little "wobbly".I did not notice he was "stone drunk".

I was enthralled with his presentation !

March 22, 2008 at 07:37 PM · come on people. the guy was an alcoholic, if he was ever drunk, it was in this video. he also did coke.

but thats not important. i love his tempo. this isn't heifetz' piece...

szeryng just has this amazing Viennese sound...

March 22, 2008 at 11:36 PM · so,what is the truth ?

are the responses above accurate ?

i,and the world of v-com,would ask for the truth--in this matter.

i suppose it does'nt matter,but it does matter,really.

for now,i will consider these responses as the truth.

March 22, 2008 at 11:48 PM · i guess that is the disadvantage of being dead since he cannot defend himself or sue:)

if someone on drugs and alcohol can maintain rhythm like that, it is worth the trips!

can people elaborate on the precise meaning of not in tune here?

is it a left hand issue, bowing issue or coordination between the 2?

March 23, 2008 at 09:53 AM · Quote:

"I think that it is wrong, and disrespectful to Mr. Szeryng's memory, for you to post this statement".

I respect Szeryng for his violin playing. But it's dishonest not to aknowledge that he was a great fan of alcohol. It is a fact observed by countless people who were around him.

My violin teacher witnessed first hand the drunkeness of szeryng at the enescu festival in bucharest in the 60's. He was 30 minutes late at the concert and they found him totaly wasted in his hotel room at Athenee Palace. They dragged him out from under the chair, took him on stage, put the violin in his hands and guess what: he gave a record perfect performance!

I am not disrespectful. I am pointing out the obvious. Also Szeryng is my violin god. Was he great? Yes. Was he a drunk? again: YES.

March 23, 2008 at 10:02 AM · Please excuse me for going off topic here, but i had to straighten up the problem here with being considered disrespectful for speaking the truth.

Back on topic now: Heifetz and Szeryng are two opposites. You cant really compare them in order to establish the superiority of one over the other. Heifetz is more flamboyant, full of "spice", as are all of his recordings. Szeryng is academic, more ethereal and adresses himself to the more intelectual side of the listener. I enjoy both recordings in an equal manner.

March 23, 2008 at 10:53 AM · +1 Heifetz. H's speed combined with that personality stamp of his makes even this piece interesting. S has nice small turns of phrase but overall it isn't as interesting to me.

March 23, 2008 at 12:26 PM · oliviu, at least in the US or other countries that i have been to, excluding romania, it is kinda important not to judge a book by its cover.

you may feel like defending your reiterated stand in response to my post, don't bother.

March 23, 2008 at 07:15 PM · Don't bother?

Dear Al Ku, everybody knows what was under szeryng's book cover. Again I am stating a fact, a blindigly obvious fact that is known to everybody. It's not just my stubborn opinion. It is really that simple.

Another trivia...At the enescu festival, my violin teacher Ion Parvulescu went backstage and saw Szeryng (who spoke perfect romanian too) stumbling before the great teacher Ionel Geanta (who was my teacher's teacher). Szeryng recognised Geanta, and happily exclaimed "Ionele, Ionele!" (meaning "Johny, Johny"), lost his balance due to you know what and fell into the arms of Mr. Geanta.

What is the great problem with accepting that szeryng was an alcoholic? It was a part of him just like his great skills at playing the violin.

March 23, 2008 at 08:06 PM · I don't think it's disrespectful to Szeryng to say it. Whatever he did was his choice, and his business only. So whether it's true or not, it means nothing to us.

But it is disrespectful to yourself to gossip, even if you can prove the gossip's true :)

March 23, 2008 at 08:16 PM · Point 1, about the topic:

I have listened to Heifetz and he's not in very good shape either. It is known that he had second thoughts about the entire Paris recital and he confessed that he later regreted the making of the film. It is no surprise coming from a perfectionist like heifetz. Still, the musicality and charm exibited in the recording are unsurpassed. My heart likes heifetz, my head likes szeryng.

Point 2, about Szeryng's alcoholism, hopefuly the last post.

Actualy, I do have a problem with my image that might cause self esteem issues, but to say that I am disrespecting myself for telling the truth? Helloooo...Unproven statements are gossip; proven facts are not. Wake up! It may enrage you, but the truth dosen't go away if we act like an outraged senior lady: He was a violin genius with a ton of votka on board. That dosent make him less of a genius.

PS: I formaly and unsincerely appologies for my harsh attitude towards the irritated.

PPS: I most sincerely appologise in the most undisimulate manner for ranting away from the basic topic. Maybe I will make a thread called : What do you think about hard drinking violinists?

March 23, 2008 at 09:28 PM · "Unproven statements are gossip; proven facts are not. Wake up!"

Lol. You wake up, kid. If you call everyone and tell them so and so's husband is leaving her, it's gossip, whether it's true or not. It's your purpose, not whether it's true or false.

March 23, 2008 at 11:03 PM · talk to the hand

March 24, 2008 at 04:31 AM · Al, to answer your question about not being in tune, this is in part subjective. It seems to me that at Szeryng's considerably slower tempo than Heifetz's it is possible to hear a discrepancy in some of the unison/octave scale passages between the violin and piano in that Szeryng is playing some of his thirds (that is, the third of an implied chord like the B natural in a G major chord) high and some half steps very close that would not exactly match the piano's equal tempered tuning. This is however not necessarily considered out of tune- in fact- some feel it is the proper way to approach the tuning melodically. Heifetz's tempo is faster, but there too, I detect a discrepancy with the piano in those unison/octave scale passages they share together, but I would not call this out of tune either. I believe it is a choice an artist makes and depends on how they are hearing the notes melodically or harmonically. It is certainly not a question of technique since both Szeryng and Heifetz were unquestionably fantastic violinists. In the comparison of the two Rondos, Heifetz's is certainly more virtuosic- beyond the faster tempo and more sparkling sautille, he does some octave shifts up on one string and plays a group of notes in down bow staccato near the tip- all of which is done elegantly with style even if not the way we might typically think of playing Mozart nowadays. Szeryng's sautille though slower and almost bordering on spiccato is in a way harder to do because the slower springiness of the bow must be very carefully judged to sound immaculate and clean and rythmically even- a quicker speed makes the continuity of the sautille easier in the bow, more automatic in a way, even though the coordination with the fingers requires a quicker reflex and response.

Regardless, these are both very different performaces. To be honest, I find myself more in awe of the Heifetz performance but the Szeryng is no less musical and is played with very well considered phrasing and gradation of dynamics and an opulent tone.

When one is dealing with great artists it really becomes a matter of choice and preference (which may change depending on the day and one's mood). I find it more interesting to consider what makes them different and what is interesting about both performances since there is much to enjoy, savor, and learn from great artists such as these.

March 24, 2008 at 08:26 AM · A minority vote: I prefer Heifetz's performance. Szeryng's playing sounds cold and mechanical to me, and Heifetz sounds like Heifetz.

March 24, 2008 at 11:04 AM · What's so terrible about being drunk?

March 24, 2008 at 01:36 PM · Dear Edward Ferris,

everything is wrong with being a drunk.

Drunkeness destroys your reflexes,you syncronisation between the left and right hands, forces you to play in slow tempi, slows down your vibrato and generaly you have to be a little slugish in everything. In his youth szeryng was bristling with energy, was playing much faster and moved around alot more in comparison to his later years. To see what alcohol did to szeryng in terms of playing ability, you can check out his paris recital in the 60s to see him in top shape (alcohol-free) and then look at this rondo here and at the kreisler recitativo and scherzo. That's what's wrong with being drunk.

March 24, 2008 at 05:34 PM · It just wouldn't be like me not to say Heifetz, so, there you go. Heifetz. No surprises for anyone who's been following my musical sentiments. But, they're both great performances. Thank goodness both of them got over whatever perfectionist, pressure-ridden difficulties they may have experienced in order to give us some great music. And, thank heaven it was recorded. LIVE. Live music is invaluable and such a gift.

I hadn't heard the Szeryng version before. It was lovely. As far as Szeryng's intonation--it happens mainly when he goes into second position (pesky second position). Take another look and see if I'm correct there . . . his major problem tends to be syncronization of the left and right hand at times, but I'll take it right along with the glorious music he's giving me.

March 24, 2008 at 01:44 PM · I like a good skinful myself, saves me from taking myself too seriously.

March 24, 2008 at 02:20 PM · kimberlee, i share the same sentiment about S's rendition. i must say that in live performance, those little glitches always seem to pop up here and there. i guess the better players damage- control better?

ron, thank you for another informative post,,,yet again. as i listen to more playing from all sources, i think my listening ability improves, particularly with slower, solo playing without accompaniment. i still struggle with the proper interplay between violin/piano, however. i think it will take much more "educated" listening on my part to learn to appreciate the finer points that you have mentioned.

while we are at it, i have another question kinda off topic if the topic is on intoxication:). when my kid "tunes" her violin upon my request (she is probably the most absent-minded kid i know:), she does not need the tuning fork. she simply plays the A and then tunes it against her concept of the "correct" A in her head and then she tunes each of the other 3 strings, one by one, instead of playing 2 together. is this habit,,,ok, or shall i introduce alcohol earlier?

March 24, 2008 at 03:43 PM · She's developed some version of perfect pitch (which, oh please don't take me to task on this or turn this into a marathon off-topic thread, is really, pitch memory--like you remember what certain colors look like or remembering your letters etc.) If she sounds in tune when she plays, there's no problem. Obviously she'll want to check herself with the piano before she plays with a piano--pianos have a nasty habit of regularly being out of tune. Of course, people with perfect pitch don't necessarily hear the pitches at exactly the same frequency either. Btw--if you want to have nice LONG discussion/lesson about this, just ask your piano tuner about "perfect pitch" the next time he comes around.

The following is a well-intentioned warning about being an educated listener: Seems like it can ruin music you might have otherwise enjoyed, and sometimes it deafens you to the aspects of music that make it enjoyable. If you don't watch yourself, you can spend all your time worrying about the trees and forgetting to see the forest. Then again, it certainly helps you appreciate the artist and squeeze the MOST enjoyment possible out of a great performance.

March 24, 2008 at 03:29 PM · Is anybody else currently having trouble fighting the urge to practice this piece?

March 24, 2008 at 03:47 PM · thanks kimberlee! yup, i think i know what you are talking about in regard to dissecting music instead of simply enjoying it.

i forgot what triggered it, but the family was talking about food in restaurants and how we would have reacted if we see what really goes on in the kitchen,,,but i digress and no intention to ruin your appetite for lunch:)

ps, has anyone of you really thought it is kinda "appropriate" to play the rondo at H's speed? i know Mozart was quite spontaneous for the lack of a better description, and that performers should have their own take, but that speed,,,i dunno,,,too fast to be pleasurable to my thick eardrums:) i call it agitatingly brilliant:)

March 24, 2008 at 06:29 PM · Megan, that was a fantastic comment. So true! The best performances inspire us to go try it ourselves!

March 24, 2008 at 05:21 PM · I agre with Kimberlee- there is a danger in "paralysis by analysis" and there are many wonderful things to appreciate in both Szeryng and Heifetz's performances. With regard to being an educated listener, I think one should always feel comfortable with appreciating and enjoying the music with whatever background you have. As long as you can keep that spirit as you gain skills, knowledge to discern more there is no problem for all of us are in this boat together. As part of becoming better musicians we become better listeners. It is important to understand one's technique and how one is producing the sound one is making and the choices involved but there is much to be said for not neglecting the right-brain and using imagery and other associations to create beautiful music. I find that works best with younger people and if technique and imagination are brought together in a balanced way everyone wins- it is also more enjoyable to learn and teach in this way and I believe studies have been done that show that people retain information and apply it better if the way they learned it involved the creative imagination.

March 24, 2008 at 10:04 PM · Beautifully stated, Ron. It seems when I read your posts, I can't help but be educated :). Therefore, if I must be educated, I hope I can be the kind of educated listener who learns.

March 24, 2008 at 05:59 PM · ditto, thanks!

March 24, 2008 at 08:03 PM · I think the reason why, as someone mentioned before, that szeryng seems to perform a lot of those dangerous shifts well is due to his "safer" way of playing. For instance, in the opening bars and throughout the piece, he plays the play the ascending then descending passages on the string, as to minimize any coordination problems that would occur. Heifetz does not do this.

I usually prefer Szeryng, but for this piece I much prefer Heifetz. Szeryng's performance seems quite bland in comparison.

March 24, 2008 at 10:11 PM · Al - your question about speed is a good one.

The metronome was not invented until Beethoven's time. So, I think you pretty much had to do what felt right. There are preferences here but no right answers (to the extent there are any anyway).

March 25, 2008 at 03:23 AM · I prefer the Szeryng much more... the version by Heifetz is too fast for my liking and doesn't really capture the same playful spirit that Szeryng seems to accomplish so well. Both are fascinating to listen to, though-- wonderful playing!

March 25, 2008 at 04:13 AM · Heifetz, more exciting, I guess.

March 25, 2008 at 06:21 PM · Has anyone heard kreisler's version? It is my favorite. Szeryng takes the same tempo as he does.

April 6, 2008 at 10:44 AM · Szeryng, but then I don't like music taken so fast that it sounds like clockwork. No one could beat Heifetz for sheer technique.

You can hardly blame any Pole who was effectively exiled first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets for liking a good swig of vodka or Scotch now and then. Quick, bring me a bottle or three. I think he lived in Mexico after World War 2 - no doubt he got a bit homesick now and then.

Who are the two pianists?

April 6, 2008 at 04:12 PM · Of these two, I prefer Szeryng's version. It sounds like Mozart, while Heifetz sounds like Heifetz. On the other hand: Szeryng: 8'14"; Heifetz: 5'22". Heifetz won!

And, yes, I'm going to practice the piece again, if I can find it. It must have been over thirty years ago.

Looking at them both again, I find it interesting to compare their bowing styles. If my eyes don't deceive me, Szeryng uses less pronation than Heifetz, and his wrist is less involved in playing the fast notes than Heifetz's.

April 6, 2008 at 06:42 PM · " Of these two, I prefer Szeryng's version. It sounds like Mozart, while Heifetz sounds like Heifetz."

Isn't that subjective? I think Szeryng has his own distinct style as well which is very recognizable. Heifetz was also a great interpreter of Mozart.

April 7, 2008 at 02:02 AM · Grreetings,

Oliver, Szeryng became I think an Honory(?) Mexican and chose to live and work there because of the generosity with which they treated Polish refugees from the war. He said it was one of the things that most prfoundly affetce dhim in his life,



April 7, 2008 at 06:16 PM · Your question prompted me to clarify what I meant. It is this: the Szeryng performance fits in with much of the Mozart playing of his contemporaries, and the Heifetz one is in a virtuoso tradition, of which Mr. Heifetz himself is the principal, and perhaps only, exponent.

The truth of that statement could be argued (tempi, fingerings, for example), and an agreement could conceivably be reached. So it is not subjective. It could have been better put into words, though.

But then, aren't you reassured by the timings? Those are objective!



April 9, 2008 at 08:04 PM · I don't like either of them particularly, but IMO Szerying deserves more credit for playing it too slowly than Heifetz for playing it too fast. Having said that it's supposed to be Kreisler(?) rather than Mozart so maybe the quick tempo is more appropriate to the Viennese style.

Can't see where the "drunk" claim comes from - I suppose you'll be saying next you can distinctly see the varnish flaking off when he breathes out? - ??!!

May 1, 2008 at 04:58 PM · In a book of compositions and arrangements by Kreisler I recently bought, I found a version of this Rondo, and that is presumably what both Mr Szeryng and Mr Heifetz were playing.

Which makes it an essentially late-Romantic piece, and turns my earlier posts into pretentious nonsense. I do apologize.

(But I still like Szeryng's version marginally better, and that's subjective)

May 2, 2008 at 01:51 AM · I like Heifetz's version much better. Every note is clear and precise.

It is, just a bit too fast, but that was his way. Remarkable playing for a man in the final stage of his career.

May 2, 2008 at 02:23 AM · Honestly, Heifetz sounds like the demon violinist in this piece. Yes, he plays all the notes precisely and the intonation is perfect, but the speed is totally unnecessary! Some advice to the people playing this piece, do not listen to the Heifetz version too much. You will try to play it as fast as him but you don't need to. He plays it too fast. Playing it slightly slower is more correct and MUCH EASIER.

May 2, 2008 at 02:27 AM · Liz Drabkin wrote, regarding Heifetz's performance: "Playing it slightly slower is more correct."

If only Heifetz had lived to read your correction, what a wonderful performance he would have given.

May 2, 2008 at 03:20 AM · I like neither.

August 11, 2008 at 08:31 AM · Emily, you've said what I've been wanting to say. Both of these performances are great in themselves, but neither are really to my taste. Once discussion turns to violinists like Heifetz and Szeryng, it is a matter of personal taste.

August 12, 2008 at 05:54 AM · The tempo marking on this Kreisler version of the Mozart Rondo is "allegretto." Also, the printed music makes a clear distinction between spiccato passages and "others."

With that in mind, I think the Heifetz version total ignores the intended tempo, but is closer to the intended crispness. Also, Heifetz used a good range of dynamics. The Szeryng version is closer to the indicated tempo but a little too attached in the spiccatos - (he could have been fighting a troublesome acoustic with too much bow).

So, I think an interpretation somewhere between the two would satisfy me more.

For those who want to play it the music is available (on line, I think, and from CD-sheet music, for sure - or you can buy it - likely from Sheet Music Plus). It is a fun study piece for spiccato, not really difficult, but a challenge to do right - and a good test piece for a new bow.

Anyhow, that's how it seems to me.


August 12, 2008 at 06:07 PM · When I play the Heifetz version, my virus checker gives a warning!

It didn't before.

Take care.

Edit: I did a virus scan of my computer. After that, the message no longer appears. The fault must have been with my computer, and not with the video.

August 13, 2008 at 05:27 AM · Or perhaps he had the flu when recording that piece.

August 14, 2008 at 10:29 AM · oliviu, some violinists NEED alcohol to play well and coordinated and have a good vibrato. i personally know 2 that have rather large recording contacts. many great composers were drunks and we probably owe a lot of great music to alcohol! theres nothing wrong with it. everyone needs something to fuel or capacitate their art. thats not to say you should go drink. I'm just saying "to each their own". furthermore, anyone that says it's disrespectful - this is absurd. it's a lifestyle. It's like saying its disrespectful to talk about tchaikovsky's "homosexuality". Just because something might be shunned by society (as homosexuality was in tchaikovsky's time and place) that does not mean it's disrespectful to talk about it! I love the way szeryng played. always...even when he's stone drunk. he always had this weight and connection with the instrument. no one compares in that sense.

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