Repertoires of success

Edited: September 1, 2018, 6:17 PM · Hi everyone:

Just read this article on Eugene Fodor, kinda interesting to read that some think his career didn't really last because he did not have the "repertoires of success", which concertos and sonatas would you include in these ? (Beethoven and Brahms of course)

https://www.nytimes.com/1989/08/06/arts/from-tchaikovsky-to-heroin-a-brilliant-violinist-s-decline.html

Replies (11)

September 1, 2018, 8:48 PM · The other big concertos like Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Dvorak etc
September 1, 2018, 8:50 PM · And also sonatas such as Franck, Brahms 1-3, Strauss, Debussy, Ravel
September 2, 2018, 8:35 AM · Fodor had the repertoire -- i.e. he knew the works. He just had his preferences. The drugs were ultimately his downfall.

He performed multiple times with my community orchestra back in the late 90s / early 2000s. When I heard him, he was still very good, if clearly not amongst the ranks of the very top soloists. He would play Paganini for his encores, and that was brilliant; it was clearly his affinity.

Frankly, I'd have been happy to attend a recital in which Fodor played nothing but showpieces, but that hasn't been the modern fashion in a while. To please critics, most high-profile professional recitals are now sonata-heavy.

It's worth noting, though, that the norm is that major competition winners fade off stage, without becoming household names. Fodor became a household name, but then went on to an ordinary soloist career.

September 2, 2018, 10:47 AM · I heard Fodor sometime in the late 70s with the Cleveland Orchestra, I believe at Severance Hall. The article says he only played outdoors with them at Blossom, but I distinctly remember being inside at Severance.
I do remember his rendition of Paganini's Nel Cor.

I'm not sure that drugs led to his downfall. It sounds more like they came after his career started to sputter.
He had a who's-who of teachers, so he likely had good career advice. Perhaps he was too headstrong to follow it, or maybe he just didn't have the interpretational intellect or patience to really consider how he played the major serious works.

I can think of at least one major soloist that is still successful that I've played with many times. It seems to me that he/she learned the big works at a very young age and then put no more thought into them.
Maybe in a similar fashion his capacity for artistic reflection was just limited? How many of us really are interpretational geniuses anyway? Not me.

September 2, 2018, 4:04 PM · Eugene Fodor soloed with the Colorado Philharmonic (summer training orchestra now called the National Repertory Orchestra) when I was in it in the early 80's. At the time, the CPO was based in Evergreen, Colorado, which was essentially Fodor's home town. I remember very little about the performance except that Fodor clearly seemed to think he was above playing with a student orchestra. I don't know whether the drugs caused his professional slide or the slide encouraged the drugs, but it's also possible that his professional struggles were at least as much a function of deficits in his interpersonal skills as deficits in his repertoire.
September 2, 2018, 4:58 PM · Thanks for all your replies so far guys. Besides hearing what you might have seen or heard conductors and managers frequently ask as repertoires these days, it's also informative, to hear what you think makes a great artist and an enduring successful career as a musician/soloist.

Besides having the technical and interpretational skills, knowing how to deal with the demanding public and those behind the scene people that "make or break" one's career is also vital, although not often really talked about. Please do share your personal stories or from others that you have heard :)

September 2, 2018, 6:37 PM · On thought, when a given artist has recorded works in relative youth (say in their 20s or 30s), I often prefer those older recordings to the later recordings. Perhaps I just like youthful exuberance?

For instance, I much prefer the young Milstein and Perlman to their later recorded selves. I much prefer the Gil Shaham recordings from his 20s to the way he plays those works live today. Etc.

Edited: September 2, 2018, 10:46 PM · EF would have just been a nameless second prize winner if it were not for the Cold War.
Edited: September 3, 2018, 4:07 AM · The Times article pretty much analyzes what went wrong with Fodor. Repertoire was only a part of it, but you have to keep in mind that this was a different era.

In some ways the 'big' repertoire has gotten even smaller, but these days in a funny way there is room for more soloists and their rep. preferences. In Fodor's time and place (seventies USA) it was Stern and Perlman if you wanted to be a violin star, which is what Fodor wanted to be. It was the era of the big conductors (Karajan, Bernstein) and soloists. Now there are no such names.

His management was bad, in supporting him in the illusion that he could be catapulted (via Johnny Carson of all things) to superstardom.

Edited: September 3, 2018, 8:28 PM · His story makes me so sad. :-( He was the hot young violinist when I was a geeky kid, and we all adored him. I had his albums and met him when he played with the local orchestra, thanks to my teacher who was in the orchestra. He was very sweet to us. It's a real shame.
September 3, 2018, 10:18 PM · None of this psychoanalysis when Bill Evans wrecked his life with drugs. He played and hung with guys who were shooting heroin and snorting cocaine, and he ended up doing it too, until his liver and the rest of his internal organs were totally shot. Nobody wondering about his "repertoire" and such. Phew.

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