One of the best, or simply the best Sibelius interpreter. . .

June 11, 2005 at 10:16 PM · She is Camilla Wicks ( b.1929 ). What a great American violinist. It's a new released CD ( music and arts ) featuring Wicks' playing of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Sibelius and Bloch's Nigum.

Like so many people that I regard Heifetz's rendition of the Sibelius the finest for quite a long time. Only after listening to this 1950 recording of Wicks that begin to change my thoughts. Heifetz could be too personal at it. Whatever he played, it usually becomes Heifetz's work rather than the composer's work.

The young Wicks here showed not only sheer virtuosity, but also great passion combined with heart-feeling musicality in a nice drive. As told by the booklet, Biddulph is going to release her complete version of the concerto. I'm waiting to have it.

Replies (28)

June 12, 2005 at 12:27 AM · "Whatever he played, it usually becomes Heifetz's work rather than the composer's work."

Can you prove that? Or is that simply your opinion?

June 12, 2005 at 11:01 AM · Albert,

Glad you've enjoyed Wicks's Music & Arts CD, spread the word! I can confirm that her studio version of the Sibelius (the finale you mention is a different, "live", performance) will be released shortly: I don't have a date but the record producer has asked me to get the programme notes to him in the next few weeks and all the restoration of the original recordings has been completed. (That disc will also include a number of fantastic short piece recordings). It is for many the ultimate Sibelius version, it's just that not enough people know it nowadays as it's never had a widespread CD release till now.

As for the Heifetz issue, I agree with Albert, and I speak as an ardent Heifetz admirer, including of his Sibelius. It's hard to prove something like that, but without suggesting that one should be slave to the score, he takes many liberties. One big illustration, his second movement is absolutely amazing on its own terms, and I love it, but it certainly isn't Adagio di molto. There is an expansiveness, a breadth to this music which somehow has to be blended with its heated passion. Heifetz's fire melts the ice, as it were; Wicks better than anyone else, I believe, shows that the heat and the ice can be balanced, which is maybe the greatest musical challenge of this piece, and that you can play this piece with both great individuality and adherence to Sibelius's indications.

Best, Nathaniel

June 12, 2005 at 05:45 PM · Nathaniel,

Nice to see your response. I knew the violinist ( Camilla Wicks ) from some historical readings and this is the first time I heard she played. It once again illustrated that female players can be as great as the male counterparts. Maud Powell, Erica Morini, Ginette Neveu and Guila Bustabo are those I familarized with. But Wicks is something so special, I would say. She definitely worth you to listen to.

I suddenly think of one name - Anja Ignatius. She is told to be the most original for playing the Sibelius, as quoted from the Feb STRAD of this year. I'm eager to get her recording too.

Nate R,

I'm not making any -ve view on Heifetz. It's any way his own characteristic of playing. If you need proof, listen to any of his recordings. One could easily feel that H is playing in a rather personal ( it's neither apprec or derogatory, just personal ) way. Comparing his solo Bach with Milstein. How many of you would agree that Heifetz is more faithful than Milstein ? You may say it's simply my own opinion. Yet I guess a number of people are bearing an objection view to you. The problem is how would you define the word faithfulness or fidelity to the composer's work ??

June 12, 2005 at 07:52 PM · i've heard Camilla Wicks's Beethoven, and i love it.pitty noone knows her... :(

June 13, 2005 at 12:36 AM · You're entitled to your opinion Albert however that's only what it is.

June 13, 2005 at 04:10 AM · In the case of Bach, I think even though Heifetz does slides and stuff, he still keeps the exact rhythms and Milstein doesn't and in Bach I think Milstein is more personal. He does more weird stuff that isn't exactly what's written. On any other work, I think Heifetz actually does a service to the composer with his playing. Just because you can tell it's Heifetz doesn't necessarily make it personal. He doesn't stray from what the composer intends most of the time.

June 13, 2005 at 05:50 AM · "Heifetz actually does a service to the composer with his playing" I would say yes. Every performer has his/her own integrity reflected in the playing. Yet, how many people will agree with your execution or your playing is simply another question.

For the Bach issue I don't think Milstein did a lot of weird things. I'm not going to argue over this anyway. It could be pointless as different people hold different views. To me, Heifetz is more excel in repertoire like sibelius, Vieuxtemps, wieniawski, saint-saens, bruch ( scottisy fantasy ) or other works in such nature. That's why people usually say "sibelius belongs to Heifetz". Would you say mozart belongs to Heifetz ?

June 13, 2005 at 02:25 PM · Albert I disagree with you about Heifetz not being faithful playing Bach. Even though he does slide, and play them quite fast, Bach virtually left no tempo markings, or dynamics in the score. So to say Milstein is more faithful to the score than Heifetz just doesn't make sense to me...

June 13, 2005 at 05:37 PM · Albert I think it is rather misinformed of you to criticize Heifetz the way you do and even question how honest or "personal" he was as a musician. He was a *great musician* no if ands or buts and it takes someone with a great understanding of music and violin playing to appreciate that quality in Heifetz which a lot of people don't unfortunately. You are entitled to your opinion about Bach, Mozart, and how Heifetz interpreted these works less "personal" however the fact is there is *no way* you know, I know, or for that matter for Heifetz to know how Bach or Mozart wanted these works to be played. You brought up Milstein, well even Milstein talked about how when he played the Glazunov concerto with Glazunov conducting, Milstein changed some things in the piece. Glazunov according to Milstein liked those additions and alterations he did. The typical criticism of musical dilettantes on Heifetz is how he was good at playing romantic showpieces but not good with the masterpieces. I don't agree with this view, I do think he played the Mozart concerti beautifully. Futhermore I thought this discussion was about the Sibelius concerto played by Camilla Wicks not another Heifetz bashing thread unless of course you want to turn it into just that.

June 13, 2005 at 06:26 PM · Nate R wrote:

>Albert I think it is rather misinformed of you to criticize Heifetz the way you do<

and,

>The typical criticism of musical dilettantes on Heifetz<

You know, enough of this damned name-calling! I am sick of it! If I never see another crititism of our fellow posters' opinions as based upon "ignorance," it will be too soon.

Criticism enjoys a fine scholarly reputation. It is not "bashing." If Heifetz were perfect we would not be living in an imperfect world as we are.

June 13, 2005 at 06:44 PM · I think the more I listen to Heifetz, the more I realize what a great musician he was. Whenever he plays, the rhythm is always there, so is a complete understanding of the score, and the interaction between piano and the violin (or violin and orchestra in the case of the concerto performances). All in all, Heifetz was meticolus in folowing the score, and when he did allow himself liberties with the music, they never interfered with the spirit of the music, or the intent of the composer.

In terms of Heifetz's Bach, I think that one can agree or disagree. I personally, prefer Milstein, but it is also a fact that Bach left a lot of freedom of interpretation to performers. Because we don't know how Bach would have liked these pieces to be played had he heard the modern violin, or in general, I think whether we talk of the Milstein, Grumioux, Szeryng, or Heifetz versions, it's all a matter of opinion and personal preference. It is true, that the style with which Heifetz played the classics is not in vogue today, but at the same time, it seems to me that what is in vogue today is an opinion, not the definitive statement, and in my opinion, just b/c today Heifetz's way of playing is out fashion, doesn't mean that it's wrong or less worthy then any other musician's (as again, we don't know what Mozart or Beethoven trully thought).

P.S.--I hope that this response will not be interpreted as a personal attack, nor do I imply that Heifetz was perfect. These are simply my opinions.

June 13, 2005 at 06:13 PM · Rick, I'm not saying that Heifetz is not faithful of playing bach. I just pose the question. As I personally think Milstein's Bach is generally more easy to understand than others. His use of intonation reveal more meanings.

Nate, I knew you must have something to say about Heifetz and you eventually launch your speech. All the facts you mentioned are well known for me as I had been a Heifetz fad not long ago. He is surely a musician of the highest order. His playing becomes the benchmark to measure other violinists ( I guess this is what you would like to say but forget to say, which is a truth anyway). What you've said is try to imply that I deny the topmost rank that Heifetz belongs to, which is not true indeed.

I would like to put the emphasis on what I already stated. A performer can play in any way he/she likes. Just don't expect all others to endorse with your execution. Secondly, every player is faithful to himself/herself and every body is personal on this aspect. Bargaining on this is pointless. Accusing me of giving misinformed criticism against Heifetz is not valid to you veteran guys. It might only turn some one new to Heifetz ( which is hard to find ) to think more cautiously about the violinist. For Glazunov concerto, you know, even Heifetz needs to refer to Milstein's approach of doing it. And you said Glazunov like Milstein's alterations of the work that again proves how great Milstein is.

"The typical criticism of musical dilettantes on Heifetz is how he was good at playing romantic showpieces but not good with the masterpieces." Please be clarified that I never mention the word "not good with" someting. What I mentioned is "more excel in" would you take a look above. They have very different meanings.

You seem to accept everything Heifetz did. Well, I simply can't. His Mozart concerti to me are a bit too fast, intense and harsh (especially his late recordings). I prefer Menuhin and Grumiaux for mozart.

"You are entitled to your opinion" I think the same goes to you too, Nate. We're free to discuss on this board. Doesn't it ?

Why I said Heifetz is rather personal on Sibelius is under the comparison with Wicks. For those who feel disagree with me please listen to Camilla Wicks before challenging me. She is capable of changing style so differently according to different works. Great players like Heifetz, Milstein, Oistrakh and Menuhin ( and so on . . . ) adjust their playing from work to work however the adjustment may not be so acute like Wicks. Her beethoven is sensuous and warm but the sibelius so wild and aggressive. Simply amazing.

June 13, 2005 at 09:51 PM · Maybe I've misunderstood completely Albert, but from what I can make of your comments you have come across to me and others as someone who's ripping into Heifetz with some pretty unsubstantiated evidence such as by saying he's not "personal" which you can't prove. You said his Bach is not as "faithful" as Milstein and can't prove that either. You even criticized others like Milstein, Oistrakh, and Menuhin for not having "acute" adjustment to the pieces they play cause they are too into themselves.

I have never heard that Heifetz based his interpretations on Milstein let alone in the Glazunov. I can't fathom why a Menuhin or Grumiaux recording would be better than a Heifetz. As good as they were Menuhin and Grumiaux's recordings are really not as in tune from a purely non subjective point of view compared to Jascha Heifetz's high standards. Why should someone new to listening to Heifetz in your words be "cautious"? It's comments like yours that ruin and taint possible new listeners to Jascha Heifetz's art.

June 13, 2005 at 11:38 PM · Jascha Heifetz is God. Nuff said...

Apart from that his Mozart is beautiful

June 14, 2005 at 12:24 AM · Yup well said, let us let this thread float down the list....

June 14, 2005 at 06:36 AM · I think it is pretty unwise to agrue over an issue like this. Perhaps you are too serious and sensitive like a solicitor keep guarding Heifetz from opinions other than yours. Keep using of those words like "substantiate", "evidence", "prove" may turn this into a hue and cry. You can agree or disagree my opinions as music is a subjective perception. I don't think I need to prove it as the proof is subject to one's own understanding.

I don't think keep the intonation in tune is everything for mozart. Instead, smooth phrasing and tasteful playing ( this is again personal ) in a classical approach are more meaningful to me. For Glazunov issue, please refer to Naxos historical recording of Heifetz. The booklet ( Tully Potter ) will tell you how Heifetz admire Milstein and try to borrow some of his expressive devices for playing it.

I dont think I have "ruin and taint possible new listeners to Jascha Heifetz's art". Please mind your words as this is likely to be considered a verbal attack to me.

I would end this up and stop responding to opinions not related to Camilla Wicks. Thanks Laurie.

June 15, 2005 at 03:31 AM · "Whatever he played, it usually becomes Heifetz's work rather than the composer's work."

"music is a subjective perception."

June 15, 2005 at 04:04 AM · I've seen Heifetz's image described as "sphinx-like." His image was an extremely powerful one, like that of Katherine Hepburn or Elvis Prestley. It's natural to think the way Albert is, that he would dominate the piece. I met Heifetz once, accidently, in an empty room. Details described here elsewhere. The image wasn't the reality. His presence was like a gentle grandfather. At least in that case.

June 15, 2005 at 03:38 AM · We must be allowed to criticize Heifetz, or any other artist, with all due respect to those artists and to posters here who revere him. Criticism involves both positive and negative appraisal along with personal taste. Education doesn't hurt, but is not a prerequisite. Without critical standards alongside of our subjective likes and dislikes, we have no basis to talk about or compare the mass spectrum that comprises all our great artists. Without critical distinction there is nothing left to talk about.

You can have a very finely-made Camembaert cheese, made lovingly and with high skill. But some will not like it. Are they ignorant fools who have no training in cheese? Possibly, but not necessarily. Maybe they just don't like the taste (is it too sweet or too sour for them?), but perhaps they love another cheese created by a master cheese maker. Are they wrong? Prove it.

I marvel at Heifetz' skill, technique, his preparation, his intonation, his artistry, his confidence. But I don't like his music in the end. It doesn't please me in the way that certain other players do. I won't say why, because it's strictly personal with my taste and many won't agree. Is that always ignorance? Is it always wrong? It can't be proven.

I should be able to come into a cheese group and say I don't like Darigold Cottage Cheese with chives because I like the curds smaller and less watery. Is that wrong? prove it.

The defense rests.

June 15, 2005 at 07:41 AM · That sounds like an interesting story Jim, where did you meet him?

June 15, 2005 at 08:44 AM · To make a long story short, he came to see a recital by my teacher, who was his student. It was a total surprise to me. At intermission he was wandering around the building a bit as was I. Huge building, sparcely attended recital. I was sort of so in shock in a way I guess, that I didn't go backstage afterward or to whatever else was afterward. Got called down for snubbing too. Imagine that. This was during the time I was losing serious interest in violin. In retrospect it would have been great to pick his brain just for knowledge's sake and I'm sure I could have. I just thought of him as a hot shot player rather than a legendary figure, and I was losing interest in playing.

I was sitting with my friend who was a piano student and he noticed him first. He said "Heifetz came to see," up his sleeve. He wasn't especially excited either. It was the 80s so we probably went somewhere afterward and smoked some weed. I can't remember :)

June 15, 2005 at 09:47 AM · Nice talk Scott. What a sensible interpretation of criticism. We may not expect those hardcore stubborn people to understand it however. He forget it's a discussion board and don't want others to convey any thing against his will.

I don't understand how can one say "someone is God" and "someone is perfect". This is non-sense.

June 15, 2005 at 01:55 PM · Albert,

My mother was drama and dance critic for many years on the morning Seattle paper, and my father used to write reviews for "Downbeat" (jazz magazine), so I guess I know a little about arts criticism.

June 16, 2005 at 08:42 PM · I followed the disscusion as it was going way too far from the calm and intellectual atmosphere that was required in this case: criticism.

I agree Heifetz is not the most ortodox performer, but in the same time I adore his recordings. Some arguments presented here are, musicologically, missunderstood.

The issue of H's personal perspective on classical and preclassical works is a fragile ground, and has brought in discussion comparations to Milstein, Menuhin, Grumiaux, Szeryng...What do they have that Heifetz doesn't? Some would say more respect for the score. But what is fidelity to a certain composer?

I personally thinck Heifetz was faithfull to each composer, but not to the style.

The issue begun with Bach's tempo. It is true Bach left no indications regarding tempo and dynamics in partitas. But a danses suite is based on character and tempo contrast between the movements and each one has, in consequence, it's own characteristics and tempo, meant to create a particular sensation and atmosphere. The tempos are not given by Bach, but by the musical form. Allemanda should deffinetely be slower then courante, with a solemn character, which asks for no agitation and a tension that is beyond the tempo, created by the harmonical and rythmical structures.The tempo phenomenon is ignored by Heifetz, who plays Allemanda with too much emotional participation that gives the allemanda a too "human" perspective. Couranta should have much more grace, because it is a french danse, and the opera ballet was cristalized in the french school, so this should say more about the particularities of the dance. The tempos are allmost similar for the two danses in Heifetz' recording.And the list can go on and be applied to many other violonists. You can hardly find someone that can please you with Bach-even Szeryng has some week points in Ciaccona. Still, Heifetz gives his performance of Bach a monumentalism that other violonists forget this is the esential condition required by Bach's music. A recording that would match perfection in musical thincking and technical achivement for Ciaccona would be Joseph Suck's, but his interpretation gives no emotion to me. Please remember that the music is an art, and despite the science behind it, when the human nature by personal perception is implied, it can't be turned into an exact science.

In what concerns Mozart, it is true that Grumiaux shows a bigger preocupation for phrase, Szeryng, Menuhin, for the softeness of the sound, in a word, to respect the wieness classicism, but Heifetz can not be acused of playing nonmolzartian. The warm and brilliance he puts in Mozart's music showes once again his capacity to feel every composer's soul and spirit, even if he doesen't respect the componistical epoch, because...he doesn't.

I would also like to point that the lack of dinamics indications in bach's texts are not to be understood as a complete libery gave to the performer, but he probably considered the dinamics to be too logic feeled no need to indicate them. Even if the intruments possibilities were not equal to the ones we've got in our times, it is impossib;le that he hadn't a dinamical conception in his head. But he just didn't find it's notation necesary.

As for Camilla Wiks, I like her for the ability to be personal but faithfull to the text in the same time. I find her performings very interesting.

June 16, 2005 at 11:52 PM · How about Ida Heandel's Sibelius recording? She told me once about meeting with Sibelius. It's amazing there is still person who really met Sibelius. It's beautiful how she plays.

June 16, 2005 at 11:59 PM · please, people. this post is NOT about jascha heifetz. it's about camilla wicks, who violinistically takes a back seat to no one.

June 17, 2005 at 03:21 AM · Teruyoshi, Sibelius died in 1957, so there are quite a few that have met him :)

June 17, 2005 at 08:53 PM · Has anyone heard of Bruno Zwicker? I quite like his Sibelius, thou it is a very...objective one...I also have some Mozart sonatas with him, but I personally don't consider them mozartian...

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