Heifetz's Barriolage in the Bruch Concerto

Edited: September 30, 2018, 7:22 PM · In my recent post I have been told over and over again not to imitate Heifetz and everything associated with that. However, I wish to know how he does his Bruch Concerto barriolage, which sounds different. Does he put more pressure on the bow and give it lesser action playing them more like double stop chords? I am just genuinely curious about what he does to produce his unique effect in the passage.

Replies (33)

Edited: September 30, 2018, 2:56 PM · I'm assuming you're talking about the page before the cadenza? Heifetz told my teacher Erick Friedman to do it as chords with a full symphony orchestra because it is so heavily orchestrated there and difficult to hear as written.
September 30, 2018, 3:47 PM · You don't have to play completely opposite to Heifetz just to prove a point...
If you like his sound and want to make that sort of sound, go for it. Make it your own.
Edited: September 30, 2018, 7:23 PM · Nate- Thank you for your response. Yes, it is indeed that passage. Are the bowings for the notes (collectively played and broken) the same? Also, the first movement happens to be my region and state audition piece and since you stated that the section was done in chords because of the heavy orchestration, I'm wondering in which way you would suggest the section to be played in for an audition (for factors other than choice and preference).

Cotton- Thank you for your encouragement of me to go for individuality of tone. I made my post description carefully so I wouldn't get slammed for seeming to want to imitate Heifetz.

Edited: September 30, 2018, 8:02 PM · Hi Erik, no problem! I’m looking at my old part from college. Mr. Friedman had me go into double stops 2 measures or so before the fortissimo. You don’t have to play the whole section in chords. You can use the same exact bowing as printed. For the last measure of that section, before the trill, Mr. Heifetz went back into triplets; 3 notes to the bow and negated the tie over. For the trill he did it in 4 bows (one beat to the bow).

I don’t personally think you would be penalized if you did the section partly in double stops as long as you maintain good pitch, rhythmic pulse and show the dynamics. Good luck with your audition!

September 30, 2018, 8:14 PM · This is an orchestra audition? I'd be inclined to play it as written. Regional/state judges are... not necessarily the best.
Edited: September 30, 2018, 8:41 PM · Thank you so much for your helpful and detailed responses Nate. I'm sure what you have told me will help me a lot.
September 30, 2018, 8:41 PM · Lydia- Yeah, you're right. Those judges determine points strictly based on basic categories and do not care about complexities in playing. thanks for reminding me.
September 30, 2018, 11:54 PM · Erik, just go with the Heifetz bowings and you’ll be fine. ;)
October 1, 2018, 9:47 PM · Alright, I’ll do it. Seems more fun than the original!
October 1, 2018, 11:42 PM · "...difficult to hear as written."

If that were actually true, then the vast majority of concert artists would do the same as Heifetz, Oistrakh or Zukerman. The opposite seems to be the case.

Changing the score, particularly notes and rhythm, for convenience sake is an antiquated notion, and shouldn't be recommended for students.

Learn how to play the passage rhythmically, clearly and with projection. Even if you can't quite do all of that, you'll learn much more bow technique by trying than you would by cheating. Once you get your 10 or 20 contracts per year to perform a piece you can do whatever you want and let posterity judge your artistic decisions.

Playing that passage stopped robs the final cadence of it's climax at best, and sounds brutish at worst. The restrained, gradual build up is ruined by a premature release of energy. If the orchestra is too loud, just tell the conductor to keep the volume down until the cadence. The scoring is not that dense there.

Edited: October 2, 2018, 3:31 AM · Hey Jeewon Kim,

Erik’s initial question was ‘how’ Mr. Heifetz played this barriolage. Having had the great privilege and fortune of studying this piece and many others with the late Erick Friedman, I gave him a thoughtful and firsthand account of why Mr. Heifetz chose to play the passage in this manner and *how* he did it *without* changing the rhythm or notes (please read what I wrote above before commenting).

I don’t believe Erik's intention was for you to bloviate on how inauthentic or ‘antiquated’ Jascha Heifetz’s Bruch is (which it isn’t). 'Changing the score.... for convenience sake'? Are you kidding me? How many violinists omit the fingered octave trills (which Heifetz does) in the last movement to make it easier? It's as if you have never heard his recording. His interpretation of this piece, in case you don’t know it, IS one of the greatest recordings in musical history! Furthermore, his teacher, Leopold Auer, studied the concerto with the man it was premiered by and dedicated to.

As far as making changes to a piece, I think it is quite all right when necessary if it makes a piece better. With the Tchaikovsky Concerto, for instance, many feel the Auer cuts make the work a lot less repetitive in the last movement. I’ve still yet to hear a recording of one of the 'authentic' editors to the Henle or Barenreiter editions play any piece...

October 2, 2018, 5:16 AM · It's one thing to explain how it was done, quite another to encourage someone else's student to do something, which is far from conventional, on an audition.

Edited: October 2, 2018, 8:00 AM · Hello Nate, which version of Heifetz are you referring to?

I guess he has done quite a few recordings of that concerto, I'd love if you could tell me where can I listen to that one.

Thank you

October 2, 2018, 10:46 AM · On the one hand, it's really great to hear from Nate how someone like Heifetz would tackle the problem at hand -- and make it work. I wish we had more threads like that. And Nate's account is going to be correct because he studied with Friedman, very likely Heifetz's best student (well, Fodor was pretty awesome too). Great players "cheat" all the time. Violin playing is a puzzle, and there's more than one solution to its many problems. I've turned pages for many a fine accompanist who had no qualms about simplifying the score or doing other clever tricks which made it work better and sound better with the soloist. Of course more so with reductions than with sonatas, because many reductions, frankly, are B.S. But I also agree with Jeewon that if you're auditioning, e.g., with piano accompaniment, then strict adherence to the score seems prudent.
Edited: October 2, 2018, 2:44 PM · Hi Tim, I was referring to Heifetz’s later recording with the New Symphony of London, which I understand was a all-star pickup group consisting of top London principal players from the LSO, LPO, RPO etc. assembled by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Heifetz also recorded it with the London Symphony Orchestra 10-15 years earlier.

I just reviewed Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman’s recordings/performances of the Bruch with the LSO and IPO, and they also do double stops starting at the fortissimo in the same section. So this is not an idea exclusive to Heifetz. I guess that means Mr. Perlman and Mr. Zukerman join the distinguished list of people in the ‘far from conventional’ interpretations category?

I agree Paul. Fodor was an amazing talent. As you said, there are many gray areas in music, it’s not so black and white. Often composers have multiple drafts of the same piece, before releasing their final product. The Sibelius Violin Concerto is a good example of this. I read Max Bruch consulted with Joseph Joachim while writing this concerto for him. He sent something like 10 drafts to Joachim for his opinion and Mr. Joachim would return the scores with some revisions before he premiered it.

October 2, 2018, 2:17 PM · Really Nate, bloviate?

Jeewon's post is measured and solid advice, and he wasn't slagging any of your idols.

Edited: October 3, 2018, 7:29 AM · It's interesting that Perlman changes to arpeggiation in a later live performance with Tokyo. (Also interesting that Friedman does play the octave trill in the finale--you don't *have* to follow everything your teacher did for the sake of it. Anyone have Friedman's Bruch/Lalo live recording?)

Re. "distinguished list": some here may not think so, but I consider virtually all concert violinists to be distinguished musicians.

How a few measures are played does not equal an interpretation of a movement, much less a whole work. I've made no comment on interpretation apart from this passage.

I never suggested the idea was exclusive to Heifetz (I already mentioned Zukerman and Oistrakh.) I said it was far from conventional. By "convention" I mean something that is generally accepted. That means, for Heifetz' solution to the alleged problem of projection in that arpeggiated passage to become convention, it must be adopted by most teachers and performers. From what I can tell the vast majority of soloists have not adopted the use of double stops to help with projection in those measures (e.g. Sammons, Menuhin, Milstein, Kogan, Francescatti, Stern, Ferras, Rabin, Accardo, Chung, Lin, Mutter, Zimmerman, Goto, Shaham, Repin, Vengerov, Meyers, Ehnes, Suwanai, Bell, Hahn, Jansen, Fischer, Chen, and Dicterow, who surely has seen every rendition under the sun during his tenure and understands intimately the problems of balance, and still chooses to arpeggiate.) The latest generation of artists all seem to arpeggiate that passage. You can add to the list of double stoppers Shlomo Mintz and Sarah Chang, but still, the choice to use double stops is very far from convention, then and especially now.

Whether you like it or not, the general trend has been, and continues to be, fidelity to the score in both pedagogy and performance, notwithstanding all the purported cheating going on (I consider dropping a double trill a cheat; changing a passage from triples to duples is changing the rhythm and the score, something which Auer certainly had no qualms about, which renders his pedigree moot in this context) and so to casually suggest to a student, especially someone else's, to go ahead and make such changes is irresponsible.

Edited: October 3, 2018, 7:28 AM · I made this post because I was curious about the ways the passage could be played. I learned and performed this piece over half a year ago before it was announced as an audition piece. Thus, I was not asking for a way to learn it and my post was solely made because I was interested in the different effects that could be achieved in this passage. This double stop bowing is only a desired effect. I personally think that the Heifetz bowing is more powerful. Others can have disagreements about the artistic style of the Heifetz bowing, but they cannot say that it is cheating, for its designated purpose is for musicality and not for the ease of playing. Again, I was only wondering about how this effect was achieved, and never intended to learn it for the sake of the auditions.
Edited: October 3, 2018, 7:28 AM · I myself personally find Nate's advice very helpful.

A general trend is a general trend, and it doesn't mean that everyone has to follow that trend. Everyone's taste is unique and I think we should cultivate our individuality instead of conforming to a "general trend."

October 3, 2018, 8:42 AM · Erik, perhaps you'll be among the first in your generation to reverse the trend. It certainly has to swing the other way at some point. There seems to be a cycle of roughly 50 to 100 years between some form of classicism and romanticism, the classical having to do with form and order, the universal over the individual, and romanticism celebrating the individual and expressions of individuality and identity; there are probably all sorts of parallels between late 19C nationalism and today's rise in populism, for example (history tells us how that trend played out.) Musical trends seem to trail behind other arenas (socio-political, literature, visual arts) by several decades. I hope someone more knowledgeable can tell us more.

I'm not using the word "trend" in a "oh glittery boots are so in right now" kind of way. The trends I refer to are more like movements in history, over a larger time scale. Right now, the artistic trend sides with finding the meaning of the score (or text) rather than with individual taste. There certainly seems to be a disconnect with popular culture there, in this age of social media, and so perhaps your generation will march in the opposite direction.

I agree with you, as I've already said you shouldn't conform for the sake of it. But if you are a serious student of music, you must study at a level beyond mere personal preferences. Ultimately, you make your own artistic choices, and they may well turn out the same, but they should be considered choices.

50 to 100 years ago, the individual artist-hero was central to the performing arts. On billboards you saw the names of those soloists dominate the ad, over and above the name of the composer. Today, at least in the minds of musicians, the composer is central to the performance, and the artist the mere vessel to deliver it. You hear a lot about the loss of individuality in today's soloists on this site, and that has at least something do with it.

But given today's artistic climate, the opinions of those who judge you, if I were a student now, I would try to stay true to the intentions of the composer. You can blaze your own trail later from your own position of influence.

October 3, 2018, 12:16 PM · ‘But given today's artistic climate, the opinions of those who judge you, if I were a student now, I would try to stay true to the intentions of the composer.’

How do you know what Bruch’s intentions were? Did you talk to him on the phone? I’m ‘irresponsible’ because I suggested a common performance practice used by Heifetz, Perlman, and Zukerman. Oh okay. Gotcha! You must be a load of fun to study with - students I’m sure can’t wait to come to lessons with you!

Edited: October 3, 2018, 1:00 PM · I'm really glad that the word "bloviate" has appeared in this thread because I haven't used that word in a while and I really like it. It has a certain onomatopoetic quality. I probably like the word "bloviate" almost as much as I like bloviating!

Now I'll tell you what I think should happen. Nate should teach his students the way he thinks best according to the traditions in which he was tutored and according to his own sense of modern standards of pedagogy and performance. And Jeewon should do just the same with his students. As for Erik, well, he decided to be a student of both (and more) by making his post here, so he can consider all that he has read and choose his way forward accordingly. In this way, diversity in violin playing can be carried forward into the next generation.

With that, I am going to make myself a caramel cappuccino.

Edited: October 3, 2018, 4:05 PM · Nate, now you're just being silly. Bruch is dead. But he did leave a lot of his intentions for his music behind, encoded in his notation. For the present passage under discussion he told me not to play double stops by writing broken chords.

6 (don't forget Oistrakh, Mintz and Chang!) or 8 (including Robinson and Friedman) or 7 (since Perlman seems to have switched to Bruch's notation) opinions does not constitute a performance practice. You'd need a little more source material backing you (are there any letters between Joachim and Bruch, for example?) and you'd have to at the very least be willing to start with the primary text. 8. That's not even mainstream.

October 3, 2018, 4:01 PM · Can I just mention how much I miss good old-fashioned forum drama? Brightens my day.
Edited: October 3, 2018, 4:25 PM · Erik Williams, I'm thoroughly enjoying it too. Earlier I had a cappuccino, and now I'm home getting ready for my supper and I'm having a shandy, all the while enjoying a slow-motion ping-pong match of extremely erudite bloviating!

I'd have to say, the fact that half a dozen or more performers -- including a few true greats -- played it the way Nate says signifies to me that it's not an anomalous interpretation. Perhaps not mainstream either, but I wouldn't call it screwball. I'll ask our local pros what they think.

October 3, 2018, 6:45 PM · Indeed it is quite an argument. I just wish we respect what is good in each others' views even if we don't agree to some aspects. Thank you Nate and Jeewon for your views on this topic. No need to be offensive to each other. I believe that there is both space for playing in different ways (as long as it isn't outrageous) and playing what the composer wished for.
Edited: October 3, 2018, 7:12 PM · Yo you all, Bruch just texted me and he said, after noticing all the chaos and anger he has unleashed by that part of his concerto, that he's working on an updated version. The violin solo score for the mentioned passage here is now full silenced. Now a saxo will take over the violin and solo along the orchestra during this passage. Thank you.

By the way, can anybody point me the exact time of a video where I can hear the passage? May be of the 2 versions so I can compare?
Yeah, I'm still wondering what passage you're all talking about.

Edited: October 3, 2018, 7:40 PM · Haha. First Movement of the Concerto, Heifetz and the New Symphony of London with Malcom Sargent conducting. I'm pretty sure there are more recordings out there where he does this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWy8iibtd98 passage starts at 4:36 and ends 4:54
Edited: October 3, 2018, 9:37 PM · Haha Thanks for bringing humour to this discussion Tim. :) As I noted above, I didn’t enter this discussion with the intent to have a debate over authenticity.

I’ll just say in closing, in my opinion, either way is fine - it’s all about *how* the passage is played at the end of the day. I do think the solo violin as Erik mentioned above has more power and presence with the chords. That’s Mr. Heifetz, Zukerman, and Perlman’s opinion too. So I’m not pushing some half baked antiquated idea.

It’s pointless to invalidate one group of great players in the name of ‘authenticity.’ Unless you’ve spoken directly to the composer, there’s no way of being absolutely sure what is ‘authentic.’ Playing music is a partnership between the artist and composer. Without violinists, the Bruch Concerto is just ink.

October 4, 2018, 1:40 AM · Nate, sometimes I wonder at your grasp of the English language.

Authentic means original, accurate. So by definition, changing the original produces an inauthentic representation, quite apart from any notions of being historically informed.

I get the feeling you see my critique to be somehow insulting to "great players" (and you take that very personally for some reason) but I'm not critiquing their playing, their greatness, or even their choice to play a few measures inauthentically. Seems to me you're just parroting someone else's argument against HIP. I'm not debating authenticity, because there is no debate. I didn't even use the word you've brought up 5 times.

What I *am* saying is that the historical conditions which enabled them to make such revisions have passed, hence such choices are antiquated (outdated.) That in no way invalidates past performances, or performers, given their historical context, but it may invalidate someone's performance today. Note I am not saying it *will*, just that I wouldn't risk it. I never said Heifetz' Bruch is inauthentic or antiquated, just his revising, and the compulsion to do so for whatever reason. As I've said, the revision is inauthentic by definition, and antiquated because it's no longer generally accepted.

Based on observation of some performances we can see that Chang is the youngest to play those measures inauthentically, 1 in her generation, and there seem to be none younger. From this we can infer that the attitude has completely changed among the latest generation of violinists, and possibly among teachers a generation younger than DeLay, leaning in favour of authenticity. Not conclusive to be sure, but suggestive.

It is true a performance is a partnership. But compositions are not just ink without performers. They're not even silent. Any musician can pore over them and, each according to experience and education, hear the harmonic language codified in squiggles, lines and dots, and feel the motion in the tempo and rhythms and phrase structure. You look at the instrumentation and you can hear timbres. You can infer whether to terrace or phrase through, release or sustain, or infer a gradual or sudden dynamic change where there is no indication, or determine the kind of attack on an accent, by knowing who composed it and when. Etc.

I respect Erik's reason for wanting to play the double stops for musical reasons. He just likes how the passage sounds more powerful the way Heifetz plays it. A true romantic at heart. It's honest.

Heifetz' reason (in your original explanation) is "...because it is so heavily orchestrated there and difficult to hear as written."

I think the score, and all those performers who stick to it, would disagree with the reasoning behind your quote of Friedman quoting Heifetz (a secondhand account of a firsthand account.) Besides he stops the chords at the softest part of the final crescendo and starts to arpeggiate at the loudest part. It's illogical, regardless of who proposed it.

I agree, there is more presence with stopped chords. The question remains, is that what Bruch intended? I am critiquing how people answer or react to that question in *this* day and age.


Sorry Erik if I continue to make you uncomfortable with my arguing. I will rest my case. On the one hand, I do think the question is important. On the other, it's a bit too tempting when the goading is easy;)

Edited: October 4, 2018, 4:58 AM · ‘Jeewon Kim
October 4, 2018, 1:40 AM · Nate, sometimes I wonder at your grasp of the English language.’

You ‘wonder at’ my ‘grasp of the English language’ eh?

I do know what the word ‘authentic’ means but thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to offer the refresher course. Rest assured, you don’t have to ‘wonder at’ my grasp of the word ‘authentic’ anymore.

I know this might cause you to throw another hissy fit, but your opinion (and that’s what it is) on authenticity is purely speculative and subjective unless you personally met Bach, Beethoven, Bruch, Mozart etc.

I see you know how to take a screenshot of 2 measures of the score from Imslp.org and repost it. Very innovative! If you’ve actually played this concerto with an orchestra a few times, you’d know this is one of those seemingly innocent spots where balance issues occur. I think I have a very good idea about what my late teacher told me.

Anyway off to go do my ‘irresponsible’, ‘outdated’, 'illogical', and ‘antiquated’ bowings with those evil inauthentic double-stops!

Edited: October 4, 2018, 6:44 AM · When a composer does not write double stops somewhere, you don't need to know them personally in order to be sure whether or not they actually intended double stops there. They did not, I think that is plain and simple, after all the composer knows how to write double stops. Another matter is whether the composer would very much mind if an interpreter did change the passage to double stops. I agree that you can only know that by asking them. I think these two notions: original intention of composer (which is often rather clear, certainly in this case we are discussing), versus composer's attitude towards slight rewritings (which could still be explained as interpration), are being confused in this discussion. A composer may like someone's interpretation or he may not. Then there is the third issue, whether *the public* likes someone's interpretation. At that point we are indeed more talking about cultural trends etc, as well as about individual taste. So I suppose Jeewon and Nate are both right but the discussion is not very interesting and I don't like the aggressive tone.
October 4, 2018, 11:41 AM · jean, I apologize for my part in setting the tone in this thread. You're always civil and diplomatic, a force for balance on this site, and I appreciate that. I suppose I'm too easily goaded by what I perceive to be a willful ignorance and bad arguing and fall into my own kind of tunnel vision. I'd be a terrible politician, speaking of which, the current, general degeneration of civil discourse into wholesale disinformation doesn't help my state of mind much.

The pedantic back and forth exchanges on this relatively insignificant passage may be annoying, but I do think there is an important set of questions at the heart of the disagreement regarding interpretation.

You have clearly identified 3 areas of consideration. But there is a fourth arena of discourse, perhaps too closed off from the general public, and indeed, perhaps of no interest to the general public, as you've implied, in academia, which I think has changed the attitudes and practices of current influential teachers and performers over the last 50 or 60 years. There may have been a time when there was a strong divide between artists and scholars, but I don't think that is the case now.

The idea of fidelity to the score was already starting to be established in the 19th C, and became a main concern in the 20th. I think it must've started with Beethoven's demands on his performers, and later his looming legacy, but here's an informative article, largely critical of the ideal of authenticity, which outlines some of our discussion frustratingly well.

Here's a sentence which stands out for me:

Most mainstream performers espouse the “composer’s intention” ideal as strongly as most historical performers do (though the degree to which either truly aspires to the ideal has been questioned by John Butt).

That's been my experience with teachers, coaches and conductors over the years, old school and new, mainstream and HIP-friendly. I lean towards practical solutions myself, but that ideal of the importance of the score is deeply embedded, even though it often clashes with my pragmatism. And my original concern for this discussion was driven by that same pragmatism: don't rock the boat when you're auditioning for a job, whether as a student or professionally, and the rest by my obsession for clarity.

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