Vengerov: Rambo of the violin?

April 1, 2004 at 02:11 AM · Watching several videos on a Vengerov fan site (hosted by Georgina),

http://www.maximvengerov.org/menuvideo.php

I was somewhat disturbed by the aggressiveness of some of Maxim´s interpretations. In particular, the G string phrase of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole (1st movement)

http://www.maximvengerov.org/pagevideo.php?id=84

was quite painful, as was the beginning of his Tzigane.

http://www.maximvengerov.org/pagevideo.php?id=80

Is this unfair?

Then, at the bottom of the same page, there is a master class with Philipp Schoettle, who is playing Ysaye's Sonata N°3.

http://www.maximvengerov.org/pagevideo.php?id=118

Maxim tells him to play a crescendo as if it were a punch. He suggests to him that he imagine he is in a boxing match and, a la Rocky, deliver a "blow" with this upstroke. Poor Philipp tries, but it is not macho enough for Maxim. Philipp goes on, producing more scratch than anything else. Is this what music is supposed to be?

Looking at the videos, which span his life from childhood on, one sees that the facial expressions some posters here have made fun of were basically the same since he was a kid. Apparently, nobody told him to repress that, and I would agree. Personally, I couldn't care less about a player's facial expressions, although I understand those who dislike them for being unnecessary and distracting.

However, the videos also show that Maxim has been building his physique, possibly even body building. This may reflect on his playing style, and it reminds me somewhat of what Jose Carreras did, changing his tone production to be able to sing louder and louder.

I would like to know if others here agree/disagree. I like Maxim's Shostakovich and the intensity of his "squelched" tone very much, but I wanted to share these misgivings. It would be a pity if he ended up as the Rambo of the violin.

tristan

Replies (14)

April 1, 2004 at 03:17 AM · I think the harshness of the Lalo and Tzigane are just part of how Maxim interprets his music. Either that, or, he has just gotten quite carried away with music (as people of his caliber tend to be... and his facial expressions show it) and did not realize he was "scratching".

I like Maxim's interpretation of the Ysaye sonata No. 3... I think his interpretation of a boxing match is very fitting. There should be a crescendo there... too bad Phillip (Spelling) scratched so much :(

April 1, 2004 at 04:04 AM · the lalo i can deal with, i think the tzigane is a little much, you can get that quantity of tone without killing your violin. It should be pointed out that in a hall it might have sounded much different in the audience. Then again it might not have.

April 1, 2004 at 04:06 AM · and just out of curiosity, why is he playing for tigers?

April 1, 2004 at 07:08 AM · LOL thats what i was wondering. maybe it's a UNICEF thing.

April 1, 2004 at 09:24 AM · I heard him live last year in a programme of solo stuff... I like some of his interpretations a lot and there's no doubt that he's a very fine violinist, but as I said to one of my friends afterwards, the way he played reminded me of someone chopping wood. It was all agressive; I love agressive playing, but not only is it more effective in balance with other stuff, it's less boring. His playing of Ysaye 6 was absolutely astonishing in that gig and, quality-wise, fathoms above everything else he played.

April 1, 2004 at 11:05 AM · Ugh...bit much for me...think I'll stick to Young Menuhin and Heifetz...

April 1, 2004 at 06:49 PM · yes cora, i think his ysaye is pretty awesome as well.

April 1, 2004 at 07:12 PM · Blah! That clip of the Ysaye was stomach-churning. Usually, for me, when you are in a master class, you at least have the piece to performance level and get critiqued--that master classee was less than savory. And Vengerov's own version of the piece is also under par to me. He goes for show, making huge moves with his crescendos and the likes. However, especially when you hear his latest recording of the Sonata, he forgoes the importance of the "little" notes for the chance to shock. I think "Rambo of the violin" is the perfect statement because, like a boxer, he goes for the big picture, the big shots. However, where he fails is in interpreting the small things, from notes to rests--they are all in the score for a reason! Not only was the pupil mutilating (sorry if I sound harsh, but I love that piece) the main theme, but he just plays through the rest with only a cursory vision for the piece. You always have to notice what the person who is hosting the master class points out, and although I didn't see the complete class, what Vengerov pointed out(versus what he didn't) speaks to how he plays.

April 3, 2004 at 04:01 AM · In direct opposition to the aggressive Vengerov version of the Lalo Symphonie Espagnol listen to a truly elegant and musically incisive and mystical performance of this piece in the old long play Columbia Records version with Zino Francescatti. This performance is probably the very best that Francescatti has ever recorded.

Ted

April 4, 2004 at 09:41 AM · Greetings,

too right Ted! I have nver likedFrancescatti's playing as a purely personal reaction to his vibrato IE my failing rather than his.

But the recording you mention is just so beautiful and elegant it is awesome. he never did anythign better and if he had to stand on the merits of that one recording he would always be mentioned as one of the top half dozen violnists of all time. (he seems oddly forgotten at times...Perhaps it is becaus ehe was such an un assuming and modest characer. I loved his comment about just wanting to work in his garden that he made on the Devil video)

Cheers,

Buri

April 4, 2004 at 09:41 AM · Greetings,

too right Ted! I have nver likedFrancescatti's playing as a purely personal reaction to his vibrato IE my failing rather than his.

But the recording you mention is just so beautiful and elegant it is awesome. he never did anythign better and if he had to stand on the merits of that one recording he would always be mentioned as one of the top half dozen violnists of all time. (he seems oddly forgotten at times...Perhaps it is becaus ehe was such an un assuming and modest characer. I loved his comment about just wanting to work in his garden that he made on the Devil video)

Cheers,

Buri

April 4, 2004 at 08:21 PM · Buri:

i must say i agree with you about his vibrato. my old teacher said it reminded her of a bleating goat. I dont know if i'd go that far, but i see her point. No disprespect to francescatti he does have some wonderful recordings.

April 4, 2004 at 11:56 PM · Greetings,

Owen, I suspect Francescatti probbaly sounded better live but it is too late to chck now. Sob...

Interestingly, Grumiaux was the opposite.

Cheers,

Buri

April 5, 2004 at 01:10 AM · When I was in my youth many long years ago, I went to hear Zino Francescatti at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. He played the Saint-Saens

B minor concerto and played a truly remarkable rendition.

The second movement harmonics sounded clear as a bell even in the far off gallery where I was sitting.

He also played 3 encores(in the 60s this was quite common). The clapping still went on and he finally came back out on stage with his hat and coat on holding his violin case and waived us goodby. We waved back.

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