Book Review

August 13, 2006 at 11:53 PM · Just finished a wonderful book that I had trouble putting down. Henri Temianka's "Facing the Music" will make you laugh endlessly, cringe at the way musicians are treated, and have empathy as concert artists prepare and play. Do quartet members argue among themselves over the music? Does a bear..... well, never mind.

A chapter on management companies curled my toes. Now I know why my concert violinist friend made his students study contract law.

What happens when Temianka's Russian "Manager," actually a secret police agent, loses him for a day? What happens when the "agent" is replaced by a 250 pound female "manager" who insists on sleeping in the same train compartment as Henri? Or his accompanist accidentally gets locked in the bathroom during intermission and can't get out?

Would you believe a quartet of Paganini's Strads sold for $250.000. That's for all four, to the Paganini Quartet. Heifetz and Stearn arguing over who gets to play second violin. Hint, they each WANTED to play second.

This life story of a concert artist, quartet leader, and conductor is well worth finding the book someplace.

Replies (16)

August 14, 2006 at 12:25 AM · Ray: I read the book years ago. I then loaned it to someone (I forgot who), and never got it back. A shame. As I remember, it was a wonderful book. Funny and inspiring, and all (I think) true. Nice choice.


PS. If you liked that one, look for Oscar Levant's book, A Smattering of Ignorance. A great read, and very funny.

August 14, 2006 at 12:23 AM · Ray - great info, thanks. I'm always looking for books on this subject to read. Just nabbed a used copy from Amazon for 99 cents. Looking forward to reading it.

August 14, 2006 at 01:00 AM · You'll enjoy it. There's a lot I didn't mention.

Good deal on the price.


August 14, 2006 at 01:10 AM · Sounds good! I will have to check it out!

I must also again highly recommend Jóska Szigeti's wonderful "reminiscences and reflections", rather charmingly entitled "With Strings Attached." Jóska tells us his impressions of all the countries he visited and all the great people he met, stories of concert flops and triumphs, his opinions on everything from violin technique to world affairs, and amusing stories from his prodigy days in Budapest--my personal favorite is the one where he describes being about twelve years old and spotting a bright red May Day poster tacked up somewhere near the Conservatory, full of dramatic imagery about "the clanging chains of slavery" and the "awakening of the oppressed". He doesn't really know what it means, but as he stands there pondering it, he decides that it goes rather well with the opening of the Vieuxtemps D minor. :) Everybody MUST read that book. It quite literally changed me as a violinist.

August 14, 2006 at 05:28 PM · I've written before about my J. Cuthbert Hadden book "Modern Musicians", a book written in 1913.

Featured here are not just an exceedingly rare interview of Jan Kubelik ("Handel's Largo is as simple as regards the notes, but is deep, big, and universal, and taxes the resources of the greatest violinists"), but chapters on composers (Strauss, Debussy, Bantock), pianists (Saur, Siloti, Paderewski), singers (Melba, Caruso, Tetrazzini), cellists (Casals, Becker, Gerardy), and conductors (Nikisch, Mengelberg, Mlynarski). That's just a partial list, as the book is 267 pages long and is PACKED.

Most amusing to us violinists is a picture of a 22 year old Mischa Elman with HAIR.

August 14, 2006 at 06:08 PM · Mischa had hair once?!

There's a picture in Szigeti's book of a rather handsome 19- or 20-year-old Joska (he wasn't bad-looking before he lost all his hair!) and a very scary-looking Jeno Hubay, who had a strange mustache. :)

August 14, 2006 at 07:27 PM · Thank you, Maura, I have Szigeti's back up violin and didn't know he had that book published. I'll look for it.

August 15, 2006 at 12:02 AM · Holy mackerel. You have Joska's violin?! Goddamnit, I'm jealous....

August 15, 2006 at 02:47 AM · Yes. It's an Alfred Vidoudez that I got from Pierre Vidoudez after Maestro Szigeti passed away and the violin went back to Pierre. Pierre called me from Geneva one morning at 3 A.M. and said can you come to Geneva today. Wife thought he meant Geneva, Wisconsin and said sure. LOL.

Grabbed a plane at 7 A.M. and Pierre gave me a more than fair price on it. It plays beautifully.

August 15, 2006 at 02:59 AM · Ray, I first read the book as a teenager, before I auditioned for Henri Temianka back in 1980 (?). In person he had as sharp a sense of humor as he exhibited in his autobiography. (Love the Benny Goodman story.) I did get to play in a piano quartet coached by him, and to be honest I don't remember much of the experience, except that he was very tough but fair. He also told our cellist that the endpin holder (?) she was using was also used by Piatagorsky during his visits. Recently, I found a used copy of the book on amazon with his autograph on the inside! All the best, Johnny

August 15, 2006 at 04:04 AM · Wow that sounds like a good book. Any suggestions on where to get it cheap?

September 14, 2006 at 04:39 PM · Ray - I'm LOVING this book. Don't want it to end.

September 14, 2006 at 04:43 PM · And Richard, if you're still looking, try here

September 14, 2006 at 07:08 PM · Thanks Terez, I was still looking for the book (I checked local libraries, no copies). And my english teacher said I could use it as a book report too!

October 31, 2006 at 06:31 AM · Yes - "Facing The Music" is a wonderful, delightful book. I heard he wrote a sequel, but I've never come across it. Along very similar lines I highly recommend pianist, Garry Graffman's book, "I Really Should Be Practicing". More recently published and most enjoyable is Arnold Steinhardt's memoir, "Indivisable By Four"

October 31, 2006 at 08:04 PM · Speaking of Arnold Steinhardt, he has a brand new book out called "Violin Dreams", ISBN 0-618-36892-2.

I read it last week, and it is just great. The book comes with a CD too, with two different performances of the D minor Partita.

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