Monday, February 20, 2012

Among Great Artists, Other Fascinating Gifts...

In mulling over a number of great musicians, it came to me that some of these extraordinary people have other extraordinary gifts; for example:
Jascha Heifetz, considered by many to be the greatest of the 20th century violinists, was also a brilliant pianist. I have a rather rare piece of video showing him at his piano, performing really quite marvelously. By the way, he was also known generally among his colleagues as a practically unbeatable ping-pong player!
Zubin Mehta, one of our eminent conductors, is one of the world's great string bass players, as was the legendary conductor Serge Koussevitsky.
Arturo Toscanini, as powerful a conductor as there was, considered a giant among the eminent conductors, accompanied the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin, playing at the piano the orchestral reduction for piano, of the Beethoven Violin Concerto at a rehearsal between rehearsals with the NBC Orchestra, during the Second World War.
Mozart was not only the unparalleled composer we know him to be, and of course he was known as a wonderful pianist as well; additionally, one should be reminded that he evidently played the violin well enough as a child for his father Leopold, who was an eminent violin pedagogue, to state on more than one occasion that his son could well have become one of Europe's leading violinists, had it been his choice to do so.
Larry Adler, who stood alone in the 20th century as the supreme player of the classical harmonica, astounded those who saw him accompany himself on the piano quite wonderfully as he played the harmonica on a contrivance strapped around his neck - as a little boy, I was taken to a Larry Adler recital by my father, and it will never be forgotten.
I also possess a short video of the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli sitting at a piano and absolutely overwhelming me with his jazz playing, with a withering example of stride piano in the left hand - veritably beyond belief.
How about:
Mel Torme? He at one time was the drummer in Tommy Dorsey's fabled band.
Frank Sinatra? Have you seen his paintings?
Or Tony Bennett's?
Even Dwight D. Eisenhower's? His still life work is really quite beautiful.
There are other notables who have relatively hidden gifts of palpable brilliance. Thought that I might share a number of them with you for your reading pleasure, and, hopefully, to gently surprise you.

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