Sunday, June 14, 2009

About the Great Pyro-Technicians - Is Some Perspective Lost?

A thought crossed my mind today, when I thought of two of the great musicians I revered in my childhood; namely, Jascha Heifetz and Vladimir Horowitz.
They were both in the same lofty position as two of the most thrilling performers known to history. Their staggering physical techniques led, as I remember as a young student at Eastman, to some around me, even a few on the faculty, to utter at least a mild disdain for the placing of their gigantic techniques first, and the music second.
At that point in my life, I had not yet accumulated enough empirical knowledge, and simply let that aspect of argumentation remain in my memory, as I had no weapons with which to question this particular issue.
Now, as I have garnered enough experience as a musician to perhaps add my fuel to the fire of controversy, I must state that the issue of musicianship germane to the likes of a Horowitz or a Heifetz prompts me to defend these two icons against the question of technique over musicianship.
For me, the plasticity of Heifetz in his Bach playing, especially in the unaccompanied violin masterpieces, has never been equaled. The warmth of his adherence to the text in whatever he performed was omnipresent.
In the playing of Horowitz, all one has to do is to listen to his Scarlatti, with the minimalism of the pedal, and the fact that he huddled with Kirkpatrick, one of the great harpsichordists, before he released any Scarlatti recording.
He remarked that he never really liked playing Brahms; however, the call to his own artistic integrity overwhelmed that opinion, as proven in the historic recording with his father-in-law, Toscanini, in the Brahms "B" flat Concerto; one of the epic recordings in the 20th century.
And so, from my view, perhaps one should always consider what any great artist really asks; namely, "now that I know the notes, what do or should I do with them?"



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