Thursday, January 28, 2016

Great Performers and their Extended Gifts...

Recently I decided to view the Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto, performed by Horowitz, with Zubin Mehta conducting. At one point during this performance I asked myself if my readers were aware of another aspect of the great conductor; namely, that Mehta was not only the eminent conductor the musical world has known about for years, but also a world class performer on the double bass. Then my memory brought back a recording of Schubert done by no less than Itzhak Perlman, Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline Du Pre and Mehta himself , all in the same room at the same time.
Which led to my musing about other famous performers, such as:
Serge Koussevitsky, the founder of Tanglewood and the long time conductor of the Boston Symphony. He, as well, was a virtuoso on the double bass. I remember hearing him, as a youth, in a recording of one of his own compositions for unaccompanied string bass. My piano teacher at that time informed me that Koussevitsky was, arguably, the world's leading performer on that instrument.
How about Jascha Heifetz? On many occasions, he put his Stradivari down and played piano. There are examples of his piano playing; some rather sensational, available. Oddly, a popular tune for solo violin appeared, titled "When You Make Love,", composed by one Jim Hoyt.   If you do not recognize the name Jim Hoyt, you are not alone - Jim Hoyt was a pen name for Jascha Heifetz.
Mel Torme, one of the leading pop singers of his time, known as the "Velvet Fog" because of the silken textures of his vocals, can be seen in a photograph, playing drums with Benny Goodman. I believe that one of Torme's earlier experiences was playing drums in Tommy Dorsey's orchestra.
Nat Cole is remembered by many for his wonderful vocals, but do be reminded that in the earlier days, he was the originator of the King Cole Trio, and there are many recordings that bear witness to the reality that Cole was one of the leading jazz pianists of his time.
Stephane Grappelli  is generally considered the  leading jazz violinist of his time, with many legendary  recordings , both audio and video, available to us. A marvelously constructed classical technique is utilized to project his unparalleled improvisations , the result being the most singular voice in the art of  pop violin performance. But do go on and discover the sensational jazz pianist Grappelli was. There are recordings of his piano playing available which certify the overwhelming gifts this man was owner of.
Just a short list of added powers given a handful of artists...

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