When a performer unleashes that perfect recording of a well-known work, do they effectively "own" that work? I would love to play the Beethoven violin sonatas, but really now...just a brief listen to Kresler/Rupp ...or even better, Kreisler/Rachmaninoff, and I throw in the towel. It's not that they are too difficult to learn--it would be a welcome addition to my repertoire with a little effort. It's just that I will always hear Kreisler in my head, and my best efforts are laughable in comparison, trailing way behind in tone, interpretation and technique. For the same reason, after hearing Heifetz recording of Saint Saens Sonata #1 (stereo with Brooks Smith LS2978), I would never attempt that work either.
There are exceptions such as Bach, which is open to so many good interpretations, there is always room for your individual statement, and contemporaries such as Bartok where the complexity of his violin compositions have many possibilities.
The virtuoso repertoire is generally open to all performers as so very few of us can play well enough to perform these live in a serious venue. Hey, if you can do match Milstein playing Paganini Caprice # 5 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyN4L7Zsyos all the more power to you.
A while back, I chose to specialize in baroque and early music on a period instrument, in part because I felt the tone and playing style was a different animal completely from a modern violin. This way, I could perform music as late as the Classical era without trying to compete with the world's greatest recordings-- an impossible task.
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