Virtuosos Becoming a Dime a Dozen???

August 15, 2011 at 02:16 PM ·

Are violinists also becoming "a dime a dozen" virtuosos?

Here's the NY Times article: http://nyti.ms/nku6n4

Replies

August 15, 2011 at 05:02 PM ·

I think it is wonderful.

Last month I had the good fortune to hear and watch three of the great pianists mentioned in that NYT article: Argerich, Kissin, and Wang as they performed (some in multiple concerts) in Switzerland at the Verbier Festival. I had the perfect seat, in my living room La-Z Boy with my computer (linked to http://www.medici.tv/#!/live/ ) hooked to my TV screen and my hifi amplifier/speakers. And if I liked anything especially well, I could watch it again, and again - for the next 2 months. Actually, I can use my setup to make mp3s and CDs of the concert performances.

Violinists I got to watch included Bell, Repin, Capuçon, even 89 year old Ivry Gitlis - great shows!

In fact, I liked it all so much that I joined medici.tv for the next year - for about the cost of parking for 7 concerts in SF. (Last year I learned to not try that again - at least not for the Herbst Theater concerts held at the same time as a Davies Hall symphony concert.)

I know there is nothing like the sound at a live ("acoustic") concert - but really, only in the right seats. From the kind of seats I can get the music often doesn't sound that great - except at home!

Look into http://www.medici.tv/#!/live/ you can get a lot of what they offer free. The next big thing coming up at medici.tv is the Annecy Classic Festival from France - for 8 days starting August 24.

Andy

August 15, 2011 at 05:45 PM ·

 I wonder if there really are more technically proficient players, or if they are simply more visible/audible because of technical advances and a greater access to the public?

I knew several amazing violinists growing up, two who were easily the equal of a Chloe for instance, but they had no access to a musical career, so went on to other things.  In one case, a short life, too, probably because the artistic drive got stifled by an uncompromising reality.

Better teaching, more available instruments, and more outlets? 

August 21, 2011 at 07:06 AM ·

We have enough technically perfect players but not enough musically competent artists. Yes, they can play anything, but can they make a meaning out of it? Some can, most can't.

August 21, 2011 at 09:43 AM ·

Dr. Lange makes a valid observation and I point to Youtube really catapulting exposure via media. Oliviu's statement has some validity. String players who can pull off technique like reading a recipe book but lack the ability of artistic expression. However when we begin to get into aesthetics we have to bare in mind people who do have an awareness of what they are doing and it comes down to personal interpretation based off expressing personal opinion. If they want thick vibrato playing a Baroque piece they're going to do it even if it's an anachronism or not.

We also have to take into consideration that in the 20th century student population grew and more and more students in public & private schools pursued music. So with a growing number of musicians comes an increase in the number of top performers. The same can be said about those who chose to go into pedagogue taking what they know to the increasing student body numbers. So an increase of top notch teachers also contributes to the number.

August 23, 2011 at 12:39 PM ·

Many modern players have a virtuosity that I would describe as binary--finger down or finger up and very fast. But many other qualities of virtuosity are quite lacking. So yes n binary digiticians are a dime a dozen but real virtuosity is rarer and rarer.

 

August 23, 2011 at 12:54 PM ·

Perhaps virtuosity will cease to dominate the listening market.

Admissions committee at Juliard: "Oh, yea, sure you can play all Paganini pieces yada yada, - but can you play 'Schindler's list' and make me cry?".

I say YEAH.  Lets put the focus back where it used to be and where it is for virtually every other instrument (except of course the piano) ....

ee

August 23, 2011 at 01:33 PM ·

 "But don’t let his probing musicianship distract you. He is another of those younger technicians who have figured out everything about piano playing."

Ummm....that sounds a bit backwards, doesn't it?

August 27, 2011 at 06:02 AM ·

It seems to me that finding a truly musical violinist who is also technically gifted is just about as rare as finding a humble and gracious violinist. They are there and I've personally known a few of them, but unfortunately our instrument is not always known for having players with the kindest hearts. I've seen truckloads of demonic little brats who can play the pants off the virtuoso repertoire technically, but they can't understand the musical difference between the Mendelssohn concerto and "She'll be coming 'round the mountain".

 

August 27, 2011 at 08:04 AM ·

www.youtube.com/watch

looking for this man?

August 27, 2011 at 08:18 AM ·

Not really. Very good technically but lacking in that extra dimension Heifetz, Menuhin, Oistrakh, Kreisler, Milstein and one or two others had.

August 27, 2011 at 09:26 AM ·

You mean the black and white dimension? ;) Listen to Kavakos playing Beethoven with the Berlin Philharmonic in the digitalconcert hall. I don't know any better performance, it is so clear! Technically and musically.

Consider the fact, that the old ones played with gut stringed orchestras and had much more flexibility. Most todays Orchestras are simply too loud with a soloist, so he/she must fight tonally wich isn't a good ground for a subtle interpretation.

I listened to nearly all of Kavakos Concertos and Recordings out there in the Internet, one Recital with Piano (great Enrico pace) and one times Sibelius Concerto (with a too loud new York Symphony Orchestra accompany) I saw live. He is just great, open your ears.

Of course Oistrakh, Milstein etc. are totally different. But once I heard someone say, who listened to milstein live, that you would be surprised about his thin sound. Of course there is more inner quality. But you cannot play on gut strings anymore when 90% of the strings in orchestra are Dominant or Evah Pirazzi. Of course there is a dimension getting lost. But listening to Kavakos, Kremer and perhaps sometimes Frank Peter Zimmermann aswell, I can hear, that there is something you can make out of it.

I am lucky not to be as stubborn as some people, who always COMPARE to the old ones (especially Heifetz), because I can enjoy some of the great Violinists still living.

Of course something has changed in interpretations and performance, but our society has changed and the violinists just have to make a living playing in mega events in front of a public wich wants sensation, fast fingers and expressive faces. First it is for the money, then you change as an interpreter becoming a slave of the public, thats what I think.

Most of the good musicians are anyway not fighting in the frontline of virtuosos. They care for new compositions and chamber music, and not for the one millionth Sarasate played on verbier festival...

August 27, 2011 at 09:29 AM ·

Michael: LOL!

August 27, 2011 at 10:25 AM ·

 why do we constantly compare?  what do we get out of doing that?  

if we are so good at comparing and sorting out people's deficiencies, how have we applied that knowledge to our own playing?

different artists present differently due to many different circumstances.  different genetics, different familial influence, different learning environment, different luck factor and politics.  even different taste buds of the audience!

besides, rarely do we honestly and sincerely regard our contemporaries as superior even if that is the case, out of jealousy and insecurity.  we have no interest to see others do better than we do.  the feverish idolization of the past generations is one way to denigrate our current competitors.  if i cannot play like heifeitz, neither can you and neither should you.

easy does it folks. 

dime a dozen now? fantastic!

August 27, 2011 at 10:26 AM ·

Consider the fact, that the old ones played with gut stringed orchestras and had much more flexibility. Most todays Orchestras are simply too loud with a soloist, so he/she must fight tonally wich isn't a good ground for a subtle interpretation.

This is NOT true. Any orchestra should be able to play pp without a problem.

I listened to nearly all of Kavakos Concertos and Recordings out there in the Internet, one Recital with Piano (great Enrico pace) and one times Sibelius Concerto (with a too loud new York Symphony Orchestra accompany) I saw live. He is just great, open your ears.

It's nothing to do with open ears! You may like him and that's fine. Accept that others might not, and as far as I'm concerned the jury is out. I was thinking of going to hear him in London playing Beethoven sonatas with Emanuel Ax (who I do like) but now I'm definitely not sure. He is technically clean and flashy in my opinion, but with the Lalo, that's about it. I couldn't find anything much more at all.

Of course Oistrakh, Milstein etc. are totally different. But once I heard someone say, who listened to milstein live, that you would be surprised about his thin sound. Of course there is more inner quality. But you cannot play on gut strings anymore when 90% of the strings in orchestra are Dominant or Evah Pirazzi. Of course there is a dimension getting lost. But listening to Kavakos, Kremer and perhaps sometimes Frank Peter Zimmermann aswell, I can hear, that there is something you can make out of it.

Well I heard Milstein live in the Festival Hall in London (and Heifetz) and Milstein was 82, and he certainly did not have a thin sound. What rubbish!

I am lucky not to be as stubborn as some people, who always COMPARE to the old ones (especially Heifetz), because I can enjoy some of the great Violinists still living.  Good for you. Do you want us to give you an A star?

Of course something has changed in interpretations and performance, but our society has changed and the violinists just have to make a living playing in mega events in front of a public wich wants sensation, fast fingers and expressive faces. First it is for the money, then you change as an interpreter becoming a slave of the public, thats what I think. 

That paragraph does not make much sense to me. What are you saying? Is it a language problem? I do not get your drift.

Most of the good musicians are anyway not fighting in the frontline of virtuosos. They care for new compositions and chamber music, and not for the one millionth Sarasate played on verbier festival...

That I agree is probably true.

August 27, 2011 at 10:33 AM ·

I would have to say that today, there are more technically proficient pianists than violinists.  Back 50-60 years ago, you had people like Heifetz, Milstein, Seidel, and Stern playing at the highest possible virtuoso level imaginable with a deep musical understanding.  I haven't really heard those men matched by any of today's violinists as a whole (both technically and musically).

 

Nate Robinson

I do agree with you Nate. That's how I see it too.

 

August 27, 2011 at 12:09 PM ·

 Big Kavakos fan here, just saying.  TO me, he has far greater technique than any of the old violinists had, and he is also the only violinist who speaks to me with every piece he plays.  I love equally his approach to Brahms, Shostakovich, Bach, Ravel, etc.

And the Lalo is not a great piece to listen for incredible artistry and musicality, ESPECIALLY the last movement.  The technique is 75% of that piece, much like the Tchaikovsky.  All my opinion, anyway.

August 27, 2011 at 12:35 PM ·

Brian Hong: I feel you! The Lalo was just what I was just listening to at the moment I wrote. He can play very differently and can adept to a certain style. Plus his intellectual approach makes him play in a well thought out manner if necessary (obviously not in Lalo).

@P.C.: Go on and check other stuff from Kavakos before judging from one Movement Lalo with a very bad orchestra and conductor. Go to that concert and listen to his sound. have fun.

In the passage wich you didn't get. I just wanted to state that it is silly to compare todays violinists with  the old ones. Today we have Internet, mp3, global music business etc. so to say a globalisation in music and culture. Back in the days when Milstein & co. started playing, they were influenced mainly by local orchestras and some travelling virtuosos... Or a venyl here and there. But they came from a so much different background culturally, technically and musically, that they developed a total different style than todays violinists. If you are a name today, you have to prove it to the whole world constantly and that means playing as less wrong notes possible. Kreisler has some major blackouts even on some recordings, wich would blow a todays violinist out of business.

Times have changed, some can challenge most cannot. For me its people like Kavakos, who stay constantly on top of his game while avoiding too much promotion.

I must admit, that to my ear, there is no one compareable to that consistency and technical ability, combined with musical integrety. And I know I am sounding like a total fanboy, and thats what I am, but for a reason.

Check out his early Sibelius f.e.: www.youtube.com/watch

regarding accompanying orchestras: they should be able to play pp but they mostly don't but its also because their stpd conductors are not able to balance right.

Milstein played Eudoxas for a fact. i am sure his sound was not "thin" but it was not the strongest also. I don't know if you heard him in recital or with orchestra!? Recital is no problem with gut strings, but vs. a modern orchestra you need a really caring conductor to keep the string sections under the soloist...

August 27, 2011 at 12:45 PM ·

@P.C. I "translated" the wrong passage: I wanted to say, that many violinists have to serve the big music companies making sensational recordings wich should be top sellers and they slip in the direction of U-music, triyng to make E-music more public. The classical music business forces a soloviolinist to be a stereotype "star", not an individual artist. They get exploited when young and forced into a wrong direction (fast fingers, 100th Zigeunerweisen). Its a hard decision to decide between quick money and quick fame and longterm work on your artistry with the possibility of failure.

Was that clear? I have a language problem indeed. Thats because I wasted 6 english teachers in school. I was most the time outside the classroom :D

August 27, 2011 at 01:18 PM ·

Al wrote: "But you cannot play on gut strings anymore when 90% of the strings in orchestra are Dominant or Evah Pirazzi."

Why do I keep reading this?  I've just put on (pure) gut strings (A,D) - the same ones Heifetz used - and on my violin they are louder than Pirazzis.... (and sweeter etc etc)...  Is it because a certain brand of gut is quiet?

August 27, 2011 at 06:39 PM ·

"Peter Charles: I think it takes a high level, professionally trained ear sometimes to appreciate the differences between the way Heifetz, Milstein, or Seidel played compared with some modern day players like Gil Shaham or Sarah Chang. Many won’t hear the stark differences when comparing Heifetz or Milstein with some modern players who play with less technical facility/precision and musical understanding. I know it’s frustrating, but that’s the sad reality.   It would be like asking Phillip Glass or John Adams to write a piece as beautiful as the Beethoven 9th or Mozart 39th.  Not happening!"

Hi Nate. Yes I agree with that, but we will now probably be called elitists or something similar, because we can hear the difference!!

August 27, 2011 at 06:51 PM ·

 john, i have no problem reading comparison stuff if it is done with no agenda or personal qualms,,,if it is done for an academic reason or educational point.  often, however, it is written in a way to put down anyone after heifetz (or before).  it is cute to some degree under some circumstances, but it is not factually true and impossible to prove that the current artists are inferior categorically.  

take some lines off this thread for instance, to paraphrase a bit:

"current artists do not have deep understanding of music as the prior".  who is the judge and who judges the judge?  it is to me rather inconceivable...

"current artists do not produce certain sound on the violin as the prior".  this one can be tricky as well since even among the prior generation there was a phenom as the heifetz disease.  in other words, since the heifetz disease afflicts everyone-across generations-how can people draw the line between current vs prior when it comes to performance inferiority?  aren't we giving the musical blowhards of the yesteryear a free ride?

"since h used gut strings, we should, too"  that is one giant step forward in the violin world,  except we are not doing the other 99 things that h did.  tell you what? at least you learn to tune the violin by the pegs with obsession! :)

i say, heifetz should be the only one that ever touches the violin.  everyone else is just wasting time and making noises.  how about that?

john, your dermatology analogy is ok,  except the 2  zealous people who are seriously debating it may not have much understanding of skin diseases at all..a difference being helpful and being truly able to help.

 

 

August 27, 2011 at 07:14 PM ·

 I'm just going to answer the original question with one word: "No."

I dislike the phrase: "A dime a dozen" used in this context, the implication being that virtuoso artists are a cheap commodity. I'm sure that with 7 billion humans now on the planet, there are now more virtuosi than there were at the turn of the 20th century, when there were less than 2 billion. It's a simple function of statistics, among many other things.

But I don't think it cheapens them, and I don't think that an artist of the highest caliber somehow is worth less now simply because there are more of them. There are more of all of us.

I think we should hold our virtuoso artists in high regard and give them consideration. I'm getting tired of this strange inability to respect young, live artists and to worship dead ones.

August 27, 2011 at 07:30 PM ·

Well of course there are living and even living young performers who are outstanding artists. I am thinking of pianists and possibly singers. (Jonathan Biss comes to mind as well as Evgeny Sudbin as examples of the younger generation pianists).

There does seem to be less great youngish conductors around, and this is the case with fiddle players too. Many very good ones, but none with quite that extra dimension. There are of course some very good chamber musicians around who rarely take part in the concerto/recital arena, but who perform wonderfully as quartet players.

In London currently at our Proms we have heard some pretty dire string playing from at least two well known soloists and possibly more that I have missed. On the other hand some wonderful piano playing by Andreas Schiff and Maria Joao Pires, and I'm told also by Emanual Ax.

So what i am saying is that maybe there is a difference here, with less outstanding string playing.

August 27, 2011 at 11:54 PM ·

Nate, there have always been pieces written for the violin (and other instruments) that weren't of the highest quality.  How fond are you of the other Mendelssohn violin concerto, the one in d?  How about Saint-Saens' second cello concerto?  How many of Mozart's symphonies are regularly performed?

Time separates the pieces with lasting appeal from the flashes in the pan.  Jennifer Higdon's next violin concerto may be the one they'll be calling a warhorse in 2150, or a later audience may appreciate the first one in a way today's don't.  Composers' reputations wax and wane.  Mendelssohn himself unearthed Bach"s St. Matthew's Passion 80 years after Bach's death- it hadn't been played in decades, but has been considered a masterpiece ever since.

We have all seen too many of what Michael terms "demonic little brats."  The whole child prodigy phenomenon is another subject.  Most of them will flame out, some will actually develop some maturity, others will enjoy long careers in multi-level marketing schemes. 

Remember though, even Florence Foster Jenkins filled Carnegie.

August 28, 2011 at 08:35 AM ·

Dear folks, it is sooo silly to compare!

@Nate, I can tell you some recordings of people playing faster and more difficult pieces, but I wont because you will say "but heifetz plays it more accurate and the others have some technical flaws..." or something like that. This perpetuo mobile isnt quite difficult and heifetz is not at top speed... BUT its very accurat and he plays with a good sound regarding the speed. Can we look at it like that i can discuss with you about violinists etc. But its really sooo silly to say "this is the best". Have you listened to the Sibelius of Kavakos or his 5th paganini caprice, or his "god save the king/queen" (unfortunately some bad sound quality on the youtube stuff). There is some outstanding stuff being produced nowadays from outstanding performers. I personally listened to all the old recordings I can get from Milstein, Heifetz, Szeryng, Oistrakh, Menuhin, Rabin, Francescatti, Kogan, Enescu, Ferras, some of Szigeti and so on. Because I love them and I learn from them. BUT I will never hear them live and thats why I went to check out todays violinists coming to my town. I heard Kremer, Baiba Skride, Zimmermann (on several concerts), Kavakos, some russian and baltic girls and lots of participators of competitions. And to be honest I would not buy a recording from many of the later ones, with exception of Kremer and Kavakos, but I like to see them perform live.

At this point we have to start to discuss about recording techniques, wich has developed a LOT since heifetz etc. How can you even judge about the actual violin sound in a hall if you only heard heifetz on recordings? You probably know from Mr. Monsaingeon, that Heifetz had the microfone quite close to his violin... and so did milstein...

Regarding Zimmermann, I heard him once playing Scymanovski violin concerto and it was amazing... but his sound with orchestra was not that big at all. Hearing him in recital was much better balanced. (again with great enrico pace ;)

Of course i know that gut strings have a very roomfilling sound. I played on wound gut a long time and I am still in love with gut. I believe, that it depends strongly on the violin you are playing if you can project with gut or not. So I take my statement back for a certain degree. But I know that Zimmermann isn't a example for a "big" tone, and your arguing with heifetz' and milsteins recordings is also inappropriate because they had some very strange sound engeneers.

And just for you to note. I love the old ones and I know for their qualities. I don't know why you want to see me as an ignorant, just because I tell you, that there are still some great players out there, wich can on a technical level compare to the old players. Musically we can compare in detail too, after you listened to some mentioned recordings. But I don't follow your "best recording" Heifetz=reference stuff, that is so silly to me reading it in the comments of every youtube video of classical music too.

Here some recordings of Kavakos you maybe want to listen to:

Brahms Sonata D-minor: www.youtube.com/watch

Sibelius VC again: www.youtube.com/watch

Paganini 5. Caprice: www.youtube.com/watch

Brahms: www.youtube.com/watch

Hope you can enjoy it despite the fact he is still alive ;) :D

August 28, 2011 at 09:04 AM ·

Excellent post Simon.

I'm listening/watching the Brahms right now.  Its outstanding.  I know its a bit off topic but two observations on his playing - first, he uses a 'russian school' bow hand with the flexed wrist and, more interesting, he uses vibrato very discriminatingly - he does NOT do continuous vibrato.  This gives him a tone range and note precision that we don't hear very often (and can only be pulled off by someone with outstanding intonation).  On both of these he is very Heifetz like ;).

He has excellent musicallity - tempo and expression - but when I just listen without looking at the video what I miss is power.  He is precise, sweet - beautiful even - but I feel he is a bit too precious, a bit too controlled.  I want more raw passion in my violinist superstar!!  But that is, of course, personal taste..

Outstanding, excellent, wonderful.  But superlative?  Not quite....

August 28, 2011 at 10:12 AM ·

Simon

I listened to the Brahms D minor sonata (no time for anything else now) and I thought it very good. Much better than the Lalo.

I don't think we are saying that these players are sub standard, but maybe the jury is out and I'm still looking for an extra dimension that maybe these players will provide eventually. But there is I think a subtle difference so far, but the journey is not over.

I will certainly hope to hear Kavakos in London soon in recital with Emanual Ax doing Beethoven sonatas.

August 28, 2011 at 10:39 AM ·

 not long ago, i put up a thread on v.com a sound clip for people to guess which player it is, to address this particular issue:  without prior knowledge who the player is and its associated aura, how much can you tell just by the sound?  i left it very open ended (thus open minded) for members of this closed minded musical society, haha.

for those of you that have participated, i think you will agree that it was not an easy task on many levels.  some of you, apparently impressed by the tone and playing, could not resist thinking about the giants of the past.  i am not sure it was a let down or a pleasant surprise when finally it was revealed the player was alive and some of you-- perhaps most of you-- have never heard of him,,,

you find what you are looking for, whether it is there or not; or you fail to see--or hear-- if you are not mindful, or too mindful,,,

how impressionable we can be!

 

August 28, 2011 at 11:10 AM ·

My own personal view - most of the recorded performances i hear from contemporary soloists seem to be perfectly played but leave me cold. Same goes for a lot of orchestral performances but in that case i blame multi-miking. We get fantastic detail and no sense or performance with no hall ambience. A lot of my favourite recorded orchestral stuff still comes from the early days of stereo around 1960 when all they had was a simple stereo pair and what you heard was what the conductor balanced, not somebody manipulating sliders in the control room. I recently upgraded my speakers - and the differences are even more marked!

August 28, 2011 at 11:49 AM ·

 Interesting discussion.  I find it curious that I am seemingly the only violinist in the world who doesn't love Heifetz's playing.  It's great, musically and technically so, however it has never moved me.  And, musically, in my opinion, his use of the bow results in many choppy phrases and uneven sound.

August 28, 2011 at 01:17 PM ·

 @Brian Hong:

"Interesting discussion.  I find it curious that I am seemingly the only violinist in the world who doesn't love Heifetz's playing."

Nope, you are not alone.

 

August 28, 2011 at 01:20 PM ·

 @Laurie

Due to intellectual disability, I can only say, "Right on, Laurie!"  :-)

OK, I could say this much: Every player has something different to bring to the table. Thank god for most of them.

 

August 28, 2011 at 02:54 PM ·

@ Brian.  No, you are not alone.  (Turns out I'm not alone either!)

August 28, 2011 at 07:37 PM ·

@ Brian: same here... ;) good taste as it seems. Oh ship, did I just say that!?!?

August 28, 2011 at 08:08 PM ·

@Elise: Thank you for your appreciation! Regarding Kavakos' expressiveness: The Brahms Sonata recording is interesting because he seems very under control there. I know him much more expressive. Sometimes he goes wild and that is like a storm, because he is quite big and strong. Maybe you listen to his 3rd Sibelius first Brahms movement, or some Ysaye recording. It is furious! Thats why I love him, on one Hand he is a virtuoso with fire on the other hand he can be very controlled, like in the Beethoven concerto with Berlin Philharmonic. And the best thing is, he has always a reason, why he plays like that or like that, it is interesting and inspiring how much he can vary his playing!

I think the sound engeneers are a major problem for music, not only for classical stuff. They manipulate too much very often. of course our recording techniques are great, but what the early recordings catched better was the mood and the feeling. I don't know why, maybe because they were more physical, not just bits and bytes.

I hope you all have an LP device!? Much closer to live sound!

Btw. what do you think about Hilary Hahn? I like her playing because she is very close to the text. I love how she plays Sibelus (with 15 years). But I have never listen to her live unfortunately, last concert in my city was sold out very quick.

 

If someone has free hour, here is the best use for it! I promise!: Kavakos Brahms VC with Zubin Mehta www.youtube.com/watch

3rd movement (the second unfortunately not availible): www.youtube.com/watch

I am curious what you say! enjoy!

August 28, 2011 at 09:21 PM ·

Though I have followed this thread all along I do see it as oscillating. Not necessarily a bad thing, I think my strings do it all the time.

A popular joke at The University of Texas here in Austin a few years back, though in a much less politically correct version was.
 
What’s the difference between a modern piano major and a sewing machine?
The piano major is much more even, the sewing machine, more musical.
 
This was from a piano major, but like I said the original is not very nice.
 
I came to violin recently from the baroque flute and immediately fell in love with the playing of Tianwa Yang. I do find the musicians of the past to be wonderful, but I do find some of the younger musicians quite expressive, but then again I am an amateur and new to this world.
 
Tianwa Yang
Sarasate- La chasse, Op. 44
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GevsTofe_0o
 
Adagio (KV 261) by Mozart
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBmgrCfEYNE
 
And I’m fairly sure this is her and if I can every get the tone she gets between 1:54 and 2:21 I would be in heaven.
Pablo Sarasate "Airs espagnols"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMes1LEa9ZE
 
But to be totally open the video I put on my iPhone to discuss bowing with my teacher last Thursday was  Heifetz:
Jascha Heifetz plays Hora Staccato
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mag2mc5Vva0
 
I guess I should take a music appreciation class. I became totally disorientated last New Years when I read Taruskin’s Text and Act.
 
TTFN
Pat T

August 28, 2011 at 09:35 PM ·

Elise,

 

Wouldn't it be more fantastic if someone could play the Paganini caprices and make you cry?

August 28, 2011 at 10:05 PM ·

@Marty:

Nice thought, but no.  I would not wish to cry to Paganini caprices.  However, it would be wonderful if a caprice would make me suddenly decide to dye my hair blue; go to Rome for the weekend without any baggage; eat steamed lobster with butter and vintage montrachet; sign up for skin diving in pogo pogo; climb on the roof and play my violin... 

I think you get the  picture ;)

ee

August 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM ·

OK, everyone. Take a deep breath and relax. In the world of violin aesthetics, everyone is an expert and everyone has an opinion. And the more training, experience, education, and talent that one has, the firmer the opinion seems to be.

It seems to me that from an historical point of view, the training, musical experience, and especially the limited exposure that the young and developing Heifetz's and Milsteins and Paganinis of the world had were entirely different from the virtuosos in today's world, who have instant exposure at any time of the day or night to every great violinist and every point of view available since the dawn of recordings over a hundred years ago.

Maybe the issue (as has been mentioned many times) is that when you have as limited access (as did the young Heifetz) to the huge variety of performance that are out there, you are bound to develop a unique and more individualized approach.

To me, it's not that the virtuosos of today lack feeling or musicality (the great ones, anyway), but they they tend to sound more like one another than the group that was out there 50 years ago. My question is, really, has "acceptable" musical interpretation become universalized and monopolized by a single aesthetic? 

And, by the way, I heard Nathan Milstein perhaps 5 or 6 times, ranging from the 1950's to his last Chicago recital when he was 80. To me, his tone always sounded more full and rich and big in person than it ever sounded to me in his recordings.

August 28, 2011 at 11:57 PM ·

Beautifully put.

August 29, 2011 at 05:32 AM ·

FWIW, dead opera singers are also better than live ones, according to those who know (or "know").

August 29, 2011 at 06:37 AM ·

wait a mo - of course dead musicians are better than live ones.  There have been many, many more of them.  Lets say there are a limited number of superlative potential musicians at any time (I can't say how many since it changes).  The number that end up on any particular instrument and genre (in our case, violin and classical) will depend in part not only on their tallents but also how attractive that genre is at that time.  At the time of Heifetz and crew playing the violin was regarded as a musical acme - thats not so now.  Who knows, the potential superlative musicians may be learning guitar - or even using their skills for other career goals than music at all.

We have a plethora of outstanding violinists today.  If none are the reincarnation of Heifetz (or whoever you favor), well, thats because he was one in a century and we just have to wait both for the person AND the myriad of circumstances....

August 29, 2011 at 07:29 AM ·

Sander Marcus

You have put it very well about the outside influences being less in the days of Heifetz, Milsten et al.

I'm pleased that you also think Milstein had a pretty big sound.

Listening to quartets from the 1950-1980's aslo seems to me to be a different experience to those formed since about 1980. Has anyone else noticed this?

August 29, 2011 at 10:13 AM ·

 elise, that is a very thoughtful post, having taken into consideration of the circumstances and relative popularity of classical music across generations. 

as i have earlier pointed out, heifeitz's peers were not as astounding as he was, therefore, to compare his generation with the current is simply invalid.  heifeitz was not their representative but a giant all alone.  perhaps there were 5-10 others with so called unique voices and booming sounds, so what?  how can this dozen accurately symbolize the prior generation when most here have not heard most violinists of that era?

sandy's post is as usual wise but when i read this line "My question is, really, has "acceptable" musical interpretation become universalized and monopolized by a single aesthetic?" i have a different question.

does acceptable musical interpretation remain universalized and monopolized by the heifeitz aesthetic?

granted, many readers here have grown up as toddlers perhaps listening to heifeitz et al.  deep impressions have been made in those formative years, for very good reasons.  however, i wonder if this attachment, a very precious human element, will in some ways prevent people from hearing things out of the box so to speak...

similarly, great modern day violin makers face similar dilemmas: no matter how great their accomplishments, it seems that it is almost a futile effort in the context of strad fever of questionable rationality.  at least with violin making, blinded testings have shown otherwise.  

the poor violinists of the current generation,,,you are on your own, scaling the heifeitz peak:)   as the supposed logic goes, just when you show some promise, you are herded into the top music schools and they make you sound all alike.    so hahn sounds like perlman sounds like vadim?   really?

 

 

August 29, 2011 at 10:39 AM ·

 john, you are the first one here to bring up the thought--if i can call that such- that the internet is superior to learning from living musicians.  

come on now,,,stop being strange for a change, dude.

August 29, 2011 at 11:04 AM ·

First of all I think one should admit that there is a degree of romanticism and nostalgia involved in the endless worship of Heifetz and company.  Yes of course Heifetz was great.  But we loved them partly because they were untouchable -- they lived in a cloistered world. Nowadays we often get to meet our contemporary violin-playing stars and we can see them any time on YouTube.  Did Heifetz ever play in a subway station?

Another factor that is worth considering is the age and experience of some of the young stars. Ray Chen, for example, may have already bested his legendary mentor, Aaron Rosand, from a purely technical standpoint.  But it will be years before Chen develops Rosand's best assets -- his truly uncommon warmth and sensitive musicality.  Listen to the two perform the Franck Sonata and you'll see what I mean.  Kavakos is in his forties now, and I think we should expect that he is just now becoming a fully ripened violinist.  You can quibble about his prior recordings, but I'm personally anticipating some very great stuff from him in the next 10-15 years.  Hopefully he will not waste any more energy on flashy but otherwise artistically barren show pieces like the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole.

August 29, 2011 at 12:25 PM ·

Could you have imagined Heifetz being accompanied by Beardy Man?

www.youtube.com/watch

I love examples like this of playing "outside the box." :)

August 29, 2011 at 12:32 PM ·

I never understood why everyone praised Heifetz and not Milstein or Szeryng. Considering the fact that they elevated Bach to a new dimension. I think part of the reason for Heifetz' fame was his being an early child prodigy, while other careers started later and he kept his fame through his constant training of good technique, his reliability so to say.

Regarding the taste question: Someone mentioned that the more qualified one is the more sought out is his opinion and therefore sometimes one sided.

I think that is true and it is good to know what you want and what you are looking for in music. But there are also some objective facts beside intonation and rhythm. For example Dynamics are very often misread or ignored by very good musician. Expecially in romantic music is not too much freedom in this aspect, because the marks are quite clear and without any doubt.

This quality of playing very close to the text while playing with good tone etc. is what I look for in todays players. Of course that can only apply to the works i already know.

For me, the Internet is not really a surrogate to a concert. Going to a concert gives me much more. But it helps to widen your knowledge and sometimes you can listen even closer when you are alone and concentrated.

I think what most modern violin players need is to lay back. Most of them sound rushed and driven by an inner voice, wich tells them they have to be the fastest, loudest, most expressive. but for me the music comes in the moment when the player forgets himself and lets the music speak. This has nothing to do with losing control but with putting aside the ego to serve the music regardless of the consequences.

Many todays musicians play gonzo music to make money. Some play serious music in a gonzo manner. Its because they play for their ego, fame and money, not for the composer or the statement behind the music. Many are doing this because they want (or need) the fast money, some because they underestimate the public. Never underestimate the public, because they understand what you believe they can. If you play good concerts, good listeners will come and so on....

have a nice day!

 

August 29, 2011 at 01:12 PM ·

'I never understood why everyone praised Heifetz and not Milstein or Szeryng.'

I do, but there are for sure players that never got the respect they deserved. Krasner is a good example. He premiered both the Berg and the Schoenberg concerto, The Schoenberg concerto in particular was considered almost impossible to play uptempo and accurate at the time.

The same can be said about the greatest contemporary violinists today.

Kronos quartet has got some attention but the greatest contemporary players in general are sadly ignored.

August 29, 2011 at 04:11 PM ·

Hi, John: Thanks for your comments. No, I'm not downgrading the experience of the Heifetz, et. al. generation. And certainly I didn't have the Internet in mind. Heifetz has always been one of my favorites.

I'm just saying that that before the recording industry became what it is today (I'd say, maybe, over the last 60 years or so), no one had the sheer exposure to the world's wealth of artists, except by the (compared to today) rare recording and even rarer opportunity to hear different violinists in person. Travel certainly wasn't as common and world-wide as it is today.

It's no wonder that specific countries or regions had their own "school" of violin playing that was nurtured and perfected within it's own borders and that wasn't influenced by what was going on in other countries. Today, even the average music lover and amateur violinist (like me) probably has a greater exposure to different styles of violin playing than Heifetz could ever have had in his youth.

If (and it's a big "if") I'm right and this world-wide exposure has created a universal style of playing, then perhaps we're erroneously considering today's general sameness in technique and interpretation as reflecting a lack of musical feeling and emotion in today's players. In other words, we're interpreting similar styles as somehow indicating a lack of emotional expressiveness. After all, if someone has a uniquely individual vibrato or manner of phrasing (a'la Heifetz, or Menuhin or Kreisler or Grumiaux) that's different from anyone else and that makes them instantly recognizable, are we equating that with "feeling"? ....I wonder.

Cheers,
Sandy

August 29, 2011 at 04:31 PM ·

Nate Robinson said, "...artists on the violin now are giving full sonata recitals with a music stand in front of them. This is pretty boring for the audience if you ask me."

About the music stand -- I've not witnessed this, but I have to agree that seems a little weak.

As for Sonatas, I guess that depends on the sonatas and how they are played.  Here I am thinking of Anne-Sophie Mutter's "Berlin Recital" album in which she performs not one but three complete sonatas -- Debussy, Franck, and Mozart, along with just a few other piece/encores.  I would love to see such a recital.  The selections are well balanced and Mutter's playing is beautiful beyond verbal description.  It's not easy to breathe fresh life into something like the Franck, which has been recorded to death, but Mutter has done so.  Those of you who are interested in vibrato -- download the MP3 of the 3rd movement of the Franck and hold the score in your lap -- Mutter will give you a priceless lesson in the use of vibrato for $0.99.

August 29, 2011 at 04:37 PM ·

@ali

"similarly, great modern day violin makers face similar dilemmas: no matter how great their accomplishments, it seems that it is almost a futile effort in the context of strad fever of questionable rationality.  at least with violin making, blinded testings have shown otherwise. "

I do think this is true. Many modern and earlier makers (19C - early 20C) have made and are making instruments that easily compete with the best Strads and Del Jesus. That's my impression anyway.

But I say again, this may (or may not) not be the case with players.

August 29, 2011 at 04:44 PM ·

"Kavakos is in his forties now, and I think we should expect that he is just now becoming a fully ripened violinist.  You can quibble about his prior recordings, but I'm personally anticipating some very great stuff from him in the next 10-15 years.  Hopefully he will not waste any more energy on flashy but otherwise artistically barren show pieces like the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole."

That is where we have a definite difference. Kavakos played the Lalo, but Heifitz transformed it into something far better than a flashy and artistically barren  show piece. He made it into a great piece of music, something many others (no names) cannot do. He is able to make seemingly lightweight music into something fantastic. That transcends mere technique.

August 29, 2011 at 05:14 PM ·

Yeah I heard somewhere that Heifetz played a Kreutzer Etude (No. 8, E major) as a recital encore.  You have to be pretty special to pull that off.

August 29, 2011 at 08:23 PM ·

P.C. Have you heard the whole Lalo? Its outstanding from Kavakos, but definetely not from the orchestra. I doubt that even Heifetz could make much more out of it with this kind off accompaniment! 

I recommend you Brahms VC for that reason: mehta conducting and good orchestra. I repeat myself I know... thats why I am out of this discussion.

August 29, 2011 at 10:39 PM ·

Simon: it was the Brahms VC, not sonata, that I listened to - missed replying to you above.

August 30, 2011 at 06:20 AM ·

The problem is that some (cough *MOST* cough) of today's virtuosos can't find a balance between personal impulse (inspiration and emotion) and coherency in their musical discourse (that means correctly interpreting the piece from the perspective of  musical forms and harmonic analysis).

Some of them don't even know what they are doing and just go with the flow, trusting their musical careers on an instinctual drive that simply cannot be trusted all the time. If you stop them right then and there and ask them "Why did you slur it like that? Why did you make that pause? What does that tempo acceleration mean?", they will likely be confused and lost for words.

We have too many players and not enough musicians.

August 30, 2011 at 10:15 AM ·

I'm beginning to wonder if we can't see the woods for the trees.  Lets revers it.  What if Kyung-Wha Chung played this at the time of Heifetz:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igwBXXtI028&feature=related

Would we now be waxing about how women violinists just were not up to snuff any more?

BTW I've been reviewing this Brahms sonata and while Oistrakhs is without doubt impecable, this one sits easier on my mental palette.  Who can question her musicallity and individual style?

BTW you could say the same about Hahn and also (individual style) Mutter.

August 30, 2011 at 10:35 AM ·

 haha, i think the point is that people will then argue that the individuality is not individual enough and the musicality not musical enough, when comparing with...

i think with classical music an important component is a discriminating taste, but there is no saying that it cannot evolve into silliness when taking it to the extreme.

perhaps there is a way to use h's greatness more constructively.

buckle your seat belt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9NUmOlCZPA

ps.  i saw earlier john defending the author of that article with the use of the phrase,,,dime a dozen.  even kids in china who barely know any english will know it is a derogatory phrase

 

 

August 30, 2011 at 10:54 AM ·

Elise

"I'm beginning to wonder if we can't see the woods for the trees.  Lets revers it.  What if Kyung-Wha Chung played this at the time of Heifetz:"

Pity about the metalic sound due to the bad recording.

She is, if I'm correct, almost in, or only just past that particular time (born 1948) - so she can't be quite considered the younger generation or quite the Heifetz/Milstein era either.

I have always admired her and I consider her to be quite individual. In due deference to her though I couldn't quite equate her with the great players we have discussed, although I think she is damned close. Not quite another Ida Haendel, but nearly, and she exhibits a musicality that is reminiscent of that era.

But then, you must take into account that I apparently have closed ears...

August 30, 2011 at 11:26 AM ·

 peter, i don't think you have closed ears, but conditioned ears.  i do cringe when thinking about the life events that have conditioned your ears, haha.

as with our earlier dialogue, with instruments they still can be played side by side if one cares to compare.

with players, that is not possible.

leaving the giants like h out of the picture for a moment, i would like to think the upper tier players of the modern era are better trained and therefore more competent performers than those oldies made obscure by h:) 

therefore, take this, on the average, the modern day player is superior even when we have H and a few others pulling up the mean for the by gone era.:)

H belongs to every generation and every violinist.  anyone disagreeing with that, imo, needs some serious attitude adjustment:)

IF with all the teaching and recording available to the modern day students that they still struggle, a simple solution is to find something else to do.  really.

because finding something else to do is more productive than bashing current day talented ones who want to have a go for it.

August 30, 2011 at 12:04 PM ·

Peter wrote: "I'm beginning to wonder if we can't see the woods for the trees. Lets revers it. What if Kyung-Wha Chung played this at the time of Heifetz:"

Pity about the metalic sound due to the bad recording.

She is, if I'm correct, almost in, or only just past that particular time (born 1948) - so she can't be quite considered the younger generation or quite the Heifetz/Milstein era either.

WOW!  That means I'm 'Heifetz-transitional' (if I can coin a term) because I was born not long after her!!  Bow down and worship one of the golden era.  Or at least the gold-plated era that followed...  You just made my day....

August 30, 2011 at 12:34 PM ·

Elise

If you don't mind me saying so, you are hardly out of your nappies!! (Diapers to you lot!!)

I heard Heifetz live when I was 14 and all that lot, Menuhin, Milstein, Elman and many others. (Even performed with Menuhin when he played the Elgar concerto).

Ali, I don't think my ears are conditioned. I've heard Ehenes live twice and also on recordings (the violin DVD/CD)  and I think he is outstanding and in the same league, but at the same time different. I'm desperately trying trying to bump off members of the audience for a forthcoming Wigmore Hall recital here in London where Kavakos and Ax  are playing Beethoven sonatas, as all the ****** tickets have gone eight weeks before the event!!

I'm hoping to hear Ehnes again next year, and I love the playing of certain quartet leaders, some older ones but plenty of younger ones like Edward Dusinbere for example. (Tacaks)

Whilst we have to accept that a certain era has past, we must also pay homage to the players of yesterday for their outstanding musicianship and individuality, which goes way beyond technique. I consider Ida Haendel (who I've met) to be in that same league, and she is still going strong at about 82. She is outspoken just like Milstein and Heifetz, and some might say arrogant, but when they reach that level of performance they can be anything as far as I'm concerned.

August 30, 2011 at 12:46 PM ·

I may be going a bit mad, or completely bonkers, so do tell me if I am, but I feel that with players like Heifetz and Milstein for example, that their fingers come out of the fingerboard and are not attached to their arms at all, and the vibrato and left hand nuances are kind of "more than human."  And that doesn't even make any comment about their masterful bowing, which also appears to me to be somehow part of the string.

OK, maybe I'm losing it, but that's how I see it. Send for the pills and the straightjacket ...

August 30, 2011 at 03:48 PM ·

 If you stop them right then and there and ask them "Why did you slur it like that? Why did you make that pause? What does that tempo acceleration mean?", they will likely be confused and lost for words.

No, that's an easy one: their teachers told them to do it that way (really applies to us all, though, doesn't it?). And I'm not sure one needs to be able to articulate the reasoning behind every musical nuance.

Classical music is already the most rational and analyzed of musics and we are mostly over-trained and overly critical. I think in many circumstances it's perfectly ok to just shrug and say "I don't know. That's just how I play it."

August 30, 2011 at 04:56 PM ·

"Classical music is already the most rational and analyzed of musics and we are mostly over-trained and overly critical. I think in many circumstances it's perfectly ok to just shrug and say "I don't know. That's just how I play it."

Scott, I would agree with every word.

Nate, I have to agree too that although I like Chung as a fiddler I like even more those players that sound like singers. The ones that leap up the fingerboard sometimes and don't take the easy way out accross the strings. They live more dangerously. And the bowing, and the vibrato, and the portamento, all make it sound much more like a singer.

We should all be singers.

August 30, 2011 at 10:15 PM ·

 Do teachers generally teach portamento [?]

I see few teachers teaching portamento. During my doctoral studies, I met a masters student who proudly proclaimed "I never slide." It's like a chef proudly saying "I never use salt in my soup."

Well, your soup sucks.

 

Now I must disagree with one statement which comes up again and again, not only on this site, but in master classes and other musical forums:

"We must emulate singers."

When I finally write my book about all the phrases we simply pass on without thinking or take for granted, that will be one of them.

We are not singers. True, we vibrate, and thankfully most people don't vibrate like most singers or we'd get booed from the stage. Could you imaging a violinist sounding like Jesse Norman?

Our bows do not emulate singing, and we are able to attack in a most decidedly un-song-like manner. If you want to sing, sing. Otherwise, play the fiddle.

Bring it on.

August 31, 2011 at 09:05 AM ·

In Nathan Milsteins Book there is a statement about Leopold Auer that he liked the impressionistic playing of Miron Poljakin more than Heifetz' big gesture. Same could apply to Seidel & Heifetz, maybe you or someone twisted that around.

September 2, 2011 at 03:55 AM ·

I don't believe in thinking that any group of musicians is becoming "a dime a dozen". Each person is unique, with a unique set of musical influences, life experiences, and physical traits. It stands to reason that with more people in the world than ever before and more people studying the violin than ever before there are bound to be more players out there and with so much cross influence and sharing of ideas- this site is a good example- it may be harder to categorize and label people and perhaps it's wise not to do that anyway. If you listen closely enough to any number of players and you ask the performer how he or she studies, analyzes, approaches any given piece of music, you are going to find a treasure trove of useful ideas and thoughtful insights. It might be convenient to think that music is a universal language and that there is a certain way to approach communicating in that language but it is the totality of the contributions of each musician that contributes to that and today, it is harder to keep track of what everyone out there is doing because no one person speaks for a generation in the way Mozart or Haydn summed up the high Classic style, for example. Rather than aspire to be the next Heifetz or Perlman or whomever, I feel it is more important to listen to and learn from as many great players as you admire and to not limit yourself to only musical or violinistic influences. A person's musical depth of expression and understanding of music can be developed and enhanced by studying other arts and by experiencing other kinds of activity and human endeavor. What really stifles creativity and originality is a too single-minded focus on technique with the false assumption that that is what counts the most when it is always a means to an end. Those beautifully turned phrases with their delightful portamenti , or elegant diminuendi, though they may require some knowledge of technique, have, as their origin an extra-musical source and are not the province of only a particular school or way of thinking. It would benefit musicians to look at each day's experiences as a chance to deepen their appreciation of  and meaning in music and not assume that only the great players of a given tradition of the past hold the secrets to mastery of the art of the violin. This does not at all eliminate the tremendous value and contributions of those great players representing great traditions of the past. They, along with every other thoughtful, sincere player of the present are part of an ever -expanding realm of human activity and creativity. This is something to rejoice in rather than fear. Great music has been made in the past and continues to be made now. Each one of us, if we explore our own potential more fully, is part of that process.

September 2, 2011 at 07:23 AM ·

@ Ronald: I like what you write a lot!

September 2, 2011 at 09:36 AM ·

Sorry to get here so late in the thread. Just scanning many but not all of the posts, I find so much that is interesting, so much that I would agree with here, disagree with there, etc. If I had more time and the thread were not so close to the end, I'd go into a lot of detail. But I'll just express the following thought, and hope that even that hasn't been expressed many times:

Some people pointedly ask "where are the Kreislers and Heifetz's today?" Well, how many Kreislers and Heifetz's have there been - ever?

September 2, 2011 at 05:12 PM ·

Virtuosos a dime a dozen? No really great players anymore? I don't buy any of it. I believe it is no more than a wrong perception, brought about by the fact that recordings are cheap and everywhere (Youtube, for instance). When people had to walk for a day, in order to hear Joseph Joachim play in Vienna, they could not afford to claim it had not been worth while. When the only thing one has to do is to click on a link, it is much easier to be critical. We have become spoiled.

September 2, 2011 at 08:26 PM ·

It seems to me that the original topic is unfair:  the reason none of the virtuosos are giants yet is simply because they are too young.  Thus, Perlman is the Star du Jour and one or more of the current crop of wannabees will eventually fill his shoes for the next generation.

Actually, the statement is rather silly - but it did make for an excellent discussion topic... I just hope we didn't in the process insule our next Heifetz.......

September 3, 2011 at 01:14 PM ·

Post #100!

Topic closed.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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