Modern day Recitals:

March 1, 2005 at 06:04 AM · Long ago when I was a teenager all of the orchestra members in our orchestra went to lots of string and wind recitals. We didn't have to be coaxed!! The music teachers usually planned the first part of a recital and dedicated it to playing a serious sonata or concerto.

After intermission, part two was usually reserved for fun, acrobatic or comical type compositions such as: The Hot Canary, Flight of the Bumblebee, Fiddlin’ the Fiddle, Hejre Kati (Sit down Katy) , Hora Staccatto, Golywog’s Cakewalk, It Aint Necessarily So, the Hungarian & Slavonic & Rumanian Dances, Carnival of Venice, perpetual motion pieces, variations on innumerable operatic themes, and adaptations of popular movie themes.

Even the pros played these pieces and the newspaper critics reviewed only the first part of their recitals and only groaned about what followed. There was real fun to be expected towards the end of a recital and it was mixed with hisses, boos, groans, whistles and cheers from the audience.

How does this compare with current professional or student recitals?

Ted Kruzich

Replies (9)

March 2, 2005 at 02:14 AM · Hi Ted:

Times have changed... big time! Concertos are out of recitals (unless you are required in a school). Recital have a least two, if not three sonatas (all sonata recitals are becoming more and more common). And then some small pieces or collection of works, and a bravura finish (if the last piece is not a big sonata). The days of the old-fashioned recital "Heifetz style" like the one you described are, well, pretty much gone...

Cheers!

March 2, 2005 at 03:28 AM · Jasper Wood did a Heifetz tour a couple years ago, I got to hear one of the concerts, and it was set up how you've described, Ted.

March 2, 2005 at 05:16 AM · Interesting. I just purchased a (wonderful) DVD of Aaron Rosand playing a recital at Mills College, and in the liner notes, Mr. Rosand opines on this very issue. A brief excerpt:

"The program presented at Mills College on September 28, 2003, reflects a typical program given by the virtuoso violinists of the Golden Era. Programs were planned like a well-balanced dinner with a tasty appetizer, a main course, and desserts, of course. The greats of this era such as Kreisler, Heifetz, Milstein, & Szigeti gave recitals that deployed their particular talents in varied repetoire and not solely in major works. Programs were designed to showcase all facets of violin technique as well as to appeal to the audience.

Today's violin recitals are dominated by sonatas for violin and piano....[i]n the Golden Era, short pieces and transcriptions played an important role in the second half of recital programs. The individual artist could move the audience with his or her style, personality, and virtuousity..."

Needless to say, Mr. Rosand accomplished all of the above in his program that night.

March 2, 2005 at 03:41 AM · Greetings,

I think the pendulum has swung back towards the serious first half/mor erelaxed second, to some extent. i would credit Perlman with helping to keep things this way. It is hard for the more elitist violnists to argue for all Beethoven or Brahms sonata programs when one of the greatest violnists and musicians ever has consistently offered a varied and balanced diet to the public.

Also, I have heard him play concertos such as the Bruch with piano in Japan. I suspetc he comes here to polish his major works before the concert season begins though...

Cheers,

Buri

Personally I always play sonatas in the first half and then showpieces and something unusual in the second half- perhaps have a colleague play Bartok duos with me, or a piano trio- or just hea doff to the pub...

March 2, 2005 at 04:58 AM · Sean's Rosand quote: "Programs were planned like a well-balanced dinner with a tasty appetizer, a main course, and desserts, of course." says it very well.

I *always* program short pieces along with the Sonatas. (One all Sonata program I played in 1970 was, to the best of my recollection, the single exception!) My passion for playing short pieces is not so much linked to the "show-off" pieces, though I enjoy playing them. I'm most intrigued by the challenge of playing a short lyrical piece really movingly. "There are no small parts, only small players." applies to music as well as acting. Those who turn up their noses at a piece like Liebeslied, who call it trite, are often the ones who give a cheap and maudlin performance of it when they attempt it. To play Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair or Tschaikovsky Melodie with profound depth of feeling, and move people to tears, as Heifetz routinely did is, in some ways an ultimate test of musicianship! That requires, IMO, a really high level of artistry, exquisite taste and real musical integrity.

March 2, 2005 at 02:40 PM · Hi,

I agree with you all. The problem that I run across routinely is with pianists who simply won't do more than a limited number of small works because they are not featured prominently. I run across this attitude issue all the time. As a compromise, I usually end up with something like 2 sonatas in the first half. Then in the second half, I include something for solo violin, some group of pieces that have something to satisfy the pianist and then if I can, a bravura finish. I guess that it depends who you work with, but this issue seems to have determined a lot of the modern trend in programs.

Cheers!

P.S. Incidentally, and for fun, the idea of the all-sonata concert was actually developed by Ysaÿe and Raoul Pugno and was considered highly original at the time, and nobody did it afterwards...

March 2, 2005 at 07:28 PM · Hi everyone,

I totally agree with you all about making a recital interesting. I tend to program more in the old fashioned sense when I play a recital and don't think excluding concertos for a recital should be done. The second half I think should be high in fat and carbs. Too much serious repertoire can get very boring to listen to. Perlman actually played a Bruch concerto down at Texas A&M when he gave a recital there a couple years ago.

March 3, 2005 at 12:18 AM · Oliver, that was a wonderful point you made there about the powerful, lyrical pieces. Just things like Wieniawski's Romance (2nd movement of his 2nd Concerto) ... they're largely neglected nowadays, but when you hear Elman or Heifetz playing them, you're really moved to a new level of musical emotion. I only wish I had the chance to hear their artistry live. Ah well, the pains of being youthful!

June 24, 2005 at 03:49 PM · Hi,

I understood Mr. Kruzich's question in a totally different way. What I thought he meant is that they actually played music that was really quite modern and "cool" at the time. What would the equivalent of that be nowadays? Samba Variations on Destiny's Child new hit, for example? ;-) Seriously, if somebody knows of pieces that really rock it would be nice that we could play them in public and put them on the web for everyone at v.com!!

In my school it is really sad that most concerts are practically empty, if even musicians don't go to concerts how can we expect anybody else to go! For me, the conclusion (sort of) is that it just isn't relevant and fun enough for people to go to most of the concerts.

Do you agree with me? If so, what kind of programme do you think could really get people excited nowadays, I am sure there is a lot of stuff around I don't know of yet...

Cheers

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