Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Violinist and Bach - Where, When and How Does the Term "Great" Fit In?...

Do  pick up a copy of a double CD, produced by Amethyst Records; then, wrestle with me about one of the truly ubiquitous  terms extant in the arts; namely GREAT.
During the past century-plus of recordings of the music for solo violin, countless listeners have been exposed to a plethora of performers giving them their views of these matchless pieces by the Baroque giant.
From Heifetz, Kreisler,  Milstein,  etc., the power of communication of a language without words has enhanced the nature of human experience by way of  a little instrument suspended  by a thumb and the  four fingers which conduct the listener along that magical path.
The performer in this particular incarnation of these pieces is an associate professor  at the Grieg Academy of the University of Bergen. His name is Ricardo Odriozola. The  music: Sonatas and Partitas by Bach.
Before listening to his performances, do read the little booklet, written by Odriozola, that is included.  For me, his main tactic in writing about the playing of this music, both in the view of the ultra-known aspects of these pieces and his intellectual and spiritual view  of same may well aid you in  particularizing the core meaning  of his recording you are about to hear.
What struck me was his statement on page two:
"Also, may I cast aside all modesty and say that I believe that my views on this music are as valid as anyone elses."
Which, for me, brought into lurid focus the word 'great.'
How many times, in my experience, have I heard a performance that made the atmosphere eddy and writhe in a manner that tells me "this is a great performance" - by an individual either not known, or, perhaps, lesser known?
Does 'great'  apply only to those artists we customarily refer to as great?
In a conversation I once had with the distinguished pianist Ansdnes (be assured that the following observation was made by me only after we had gotten to know one another!), I, with a smile, offered
"the only difference between you and me is that you can 'be up there' all of the time, and I can  'be up there' only occasionally " . Andsnes laughed, as I recall. I immediately pointed out that 'genius' helps.
But  as I listened to this recording by Odriozola, the statement I projected to Andsnes came roaring back to me.
I can distinctly  recall that countless times, during my performing years, there were seconds, or perhaps minutes during which I intrinsically felt that I was eliciting as much meaning to the notes I had just played as any one I have ever heard play those same notes.
The  greater number of the statements of Odriozola in this particular view of these works by Bach are etched by and infused with every bit of the power and thrust of linguistic  meaning by the composer as any I have ever heard - the name Odriozola disappears and the  music, nothing else, hangs in front of me in the same manner of  empirical reality attached to my lifelong connection with this music.
The very same reaction I have when these same pieces are played by Heifetz, Kreisler, Milstein and the rest.
From my perch, Odriozola needs to be heard. He belongs to the coterie established by the history of the recorded performances of these transcendent jewels.



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