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Imagining a PERFECT violinist


Felix Perng
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I'm a bit bored now, so I'm going to write something silly.

IMHO, a perfect violinist should have:

(technically)

Sarah Chang's intonation, Oistrakh's bow control, Szeryng's

chordal playing, Heifetz's staccato, Kogan's ricochet (he

can do it on upbows!), Ricci's or Lakatos's left-hand pizz.,

Sarah Chang's harmonics,

(tonally)

Heifetz's vibrato, Shaham's sumptuous lower strings,

Midori's varied tone colors, Shaham's silky, glittering

E string, Midori's expansiveness and ductility,

(musically)

Heifetz's, Elman's, and Midori's creativity and audacity,

Midori's interpretative subtleties, Szigeti's intelligence

and profundity,

(outwardly)

Oistrakh's heartwarming stage presence, Sarah Chang's utter

confidence and poise,

(plus)

Szeryng's repertorial versatility, Sarah Chang's

consistency, and Shaham's stamina.

If there were such a player, it must be God himself!

(I'm sure nobody would agree with me in every aspect.

Rather than trying to ridicule me, why don't you, if

you're as bored as I am, create your own perfect player?)

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Hello Felix,

Do you like Kyung Wha Chung? She doesn't allow herself to be recorded often. Having heard her in person three times, the immediacy of her performance is spellbinding to me. It's as if she is creating each piece anew. I heard her first at her age 18 and then again two months ago.

Ann Brown

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Yes. Itzhak Perlman. I'm sorry - I thought that anyone who is knowledgable about music would know who he is. Had Polio as a child. Could not play run or play ball like the other kids. Instead, he worked like the devil to become a top-notch violinist. Has ALL of the mentioned qualities. And best of all - he is a superb human being.

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: Right on. Perlman is number one in my book.

: Followed by Midori, Sarah Chang, Josh Bell, and

: Gill Shaham.

: G Gregory

Yeh, Perlman's da man!! of course props go out to

Sarah chang and Gil Shaham. But for some reason, I've

always looked upon Joshua Bell as a snobby pretty boy.

But hey, that's me =P

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: : Right on. Perlman is number one in my book.

: : Followed by Midori, Sarah Chang, Josh Bell, and

: : Gill Shaham.

: : G Gregory

:

: Yeh, Perlman's da man!! of course props go out to

: Sarah chang and Gil Shaham. But for some reason, I've

: always looked upon Joshua Bell as a snobby pretty boy.

: But hey, that's me =P

Hi Sisqo

Let me set the record straight as far as Josh Bell's

personality go. I have met this young man on several

occasions, including a private conversation with him.

I cannot see how you can say what you did. He acts

as if he were just a "regular" kid. You might say

something like the "boy next door" type. Just listen

to the music.

By the way, what was Heifetz's personality like?

G Gregory

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: I think Heifetz's intonation is better than that of Sarah Chang's....and I like his harmonics better too. HE IS THE PERFECT PLAYER!! Wooo!

Come on, Paganini. You can't always say "you think" that something is the case. If we're talking about something like tone or musicality, which is mainly subjective, then no one can say you're wrong. But, when discussing something as objective as intonation, you need evidence to support your opinion.

More than one player have better intonation than Heifetz, and a lot have finer harmonics; Sarah Chang just happened to be, IMHO, the best among them. You know, it's EXTREMELY difficult to try to find fault with Sarah Chang's intonation. If you succeed in finding one tiny, fleeting note slightly out of place, you then realize--oh, that was only an 11-year-old girl.

You won't believe me, so I'll give you specific examples.

1.Compare recordings of Vieuxtemps's fifth concerto by Heifetz and Chang. Chang's performance is note-perfect; Heifetz's has many out-of-tune notes, especially in the brief third movement. Chang's bow control was also better.

2. Compare their recordings of Bazzini's Rondes des lutins (dance of the goblins). I have five recordings of this fiendish work: two by Heifetz (1917 and 1937), plus Menuhin, Perlman and Chang. After meticulously comparing them many times, I reach this conclusion:

My favourite is Menuhin's, for I'm thrilled by his ultra fire, speed, drive, and audacity, not to mention the crackling left-hand pizz. But his intonation is inferior to Chang's. Chang's intonation is just perfect, as are her double-harmonics.

Those familiar with this piece will know that there's a passage that is the ultimate test in one's precision of intonation: playing four f-sharps and four E's swiftly across all four strings (repeated many times). If anyone of those notes is not of the exact pitch, even the layperson can notice. Chang's intonation was simply flawless. Heifetz's 1917 recording is, among my collection, second best, but still with a handful of wayward notes. Perlman's the worst.

Chang's recording suffered in the end from inarticulate left-hand pizz., but she was only 15, and her fingers may grow stronger. Heifetz's 1917 pizz. was excellent, but his 1937 one dropped below average.

To sum up, Menuhin's recording with bravura flair is the most thrilling, and Chang's is the one with the greatest precision. Heifetz's 1917 recording falls somewhere between the above two. Heifetz's 1937 studio recording and Perlman's live recording are, in both technique and tone, the worst two of my collection.

3. Alright. Guys like con_ritmo will say that Sarah Chang's studio recordings are fake, because they've been edited. Let's go to her live recordings. Now these are concert recordings, with an applause at the end, so I don't think there were any edits.

So far EMI has only released two concert recordings of Chang, Lalo and Sibelius. I haven't heard Heifetz's Lalo, but I have his 1959 studio recording (I don't know if he made any edits) of the Sibelius. Compare the two, especially the third movement, and it should be crystal clear that the 15-year-old girl is, at least, the superior technician.

Sarah Chang has not yet recorded Glazunov's concerto. I have Heifetz's 1959 studio recording, and his harmonics in the third movement is the worst I've heard. Shaham, Zimmermann and Milstein all played much better.

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: Hello Felix,

: Do you like Kyung Wha Chung? She doesn't allow herself to be recorded often. Having heard her in person three times, the immediacy of her performance is spellbinding to me. It's as if she is creating each piece anew. I heard her first at her age 18 and then again two months ago.

: Ann Brown

Hi Ann,

I see Chung's recordings everywhere--at least ten CDs, I think, for Decca and EMI.

She is probably Gramophone's favourite violinist. They always compare new recordings with Chung's. Last time I saw a list of Gramophone's recommended recordings: If I remember correctly, Gramophone recommends Chung's recordings for the concertos of Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, and Bruch.

I've heard her Beethoven, three Saint-Saens pieces, Dvorak, and Bartok. I never liked anything she played.

Maybe she's heard better in live concerts, like Kreisler, Elman, and Thibaud. I've never watched her play, but a friend who has told me that she bends her knees and contorts her body; he said she's really violent--a quality I sometimes find in her CDs.

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:

: Hi Sisqo

: Let me set the record straight as far as Josh Bell's

: personality go. I have met this young man on several

: occasions, including a private conversation with him.

: I cannot see how you can say what you did. He acts

: as if he were just a "regular" kid. You might say

: something like the "boy next door" type. Just listen

: to the music.

: By the way, what was Heifetz's personality like?

: G Gregory

ALright. my bad my bad. True i was only making that assumption through different documentaries I've seen on him, etc. If you say that he's a cool kid coz u met him, alright, I belive ya =>

Heyo, btw, were u on some WBS chat before?? I'm just wondering, your name somehow REEAAAALLLLY rings a bell.

Take it easy

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I only have heard of ONE time when you defended Heifetz...and that was on Sheila's board. Remember the technology issue also. Recordings made on 78 rpm disks CANNOT be corrected as easily as today's "fake" recordings. Some of Sarah Chang's best recordings might have been sewn together by sound technicians.

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: :

: : Hi Sisqo

: : Let me set the record straight as far as Josh Bell's

: : personality go. I have met this young man on several

: : occasions, including a private conversation with him.

: : I cannot see how you can say what you did. He acts

: : as if he were just a "regular" kid. You might say

: : something like the "boy next door" type. Just listen

: : to the music.

: : By the way, what was Heifetz's personality like?

: : G Gregory

: ALright. my bad my bad. True i was only making that assumption through different documentaries I've seen on him, etc. If you say that he's a cool kid coz u met him, alright, I belive ya =>

: Heyo, btw, were u on some WBS chat before?? I'm just wondering, your name somehow REEAAAALLLLY rings a bell.

: Take it easy

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: 3. Alright. Guys like con_ritmo will say that Sarah Chang's studio recordings are fake, because they've been edited.

I absolutely agree!

:You can't always say "you think" that something is the case.

Ok.

:Let's go to her live recordings. Now these are concert recordings, with an applause at the end, so I don't think there were any edits.

"so I don't *think*" :)

Seriously though, you'd be surprised. Either way, Sarah Chang shows promise. I hope her concertizing does not jeapordize the necessary development still required in her playing.

My biggest criteria for a violinist is:

Complete physical relaxation. That's it.

Very few have attained this. Many professionals don't have this. Those with long careers have physical relaxation. And even then, some of these are just products of good muscle condition.

I know of very few with complete physical relaxation. It shows in how they play, how they look, and most importantly...how they sound.

Many of the greats did not have complete relaxation.

There could be others, but here are the ones I know of that attained this lofty goal:

Heifetz, Oistrakh, Szeryng. I'll add Kreisler to that.

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Now what about Milstein? I haven't seen him in concert because he retired when I was a munchkin (or even before, not sure), but I've seen videos, and he seems very relaxed, even in "Milstein: Master of Invention" when he gave his last concert at what, 80?

Daniel

: Complete physical relaxation. That's it.

: Very few have attained this. Many professionals don't have this. Those with long careers have physical relaxation. And even then, some of these are just products of good muscle condition.

: I know of very few with complete physical relaxation. It shows in how they play, how they look, and most importantly...how they sound.

: Many of the greats did not have complete relaxation.

: There could be others, but here are the ones I know of that attained this lofty goal:

: Heifetz, Oistrakh, Szeryng. I'll add Kreisler to that.

:

:

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I would add Bell to my list for robust energy or enthusiasm, except for that (IMO) he seems a little confined- he's not taken a huge advancement in making his playing as individualized as the masters did. I've heard recordings of his Kreisler and a couple other things- I think that he can take his playing personality one step further.

Daniel

:

: : James

: : He'd sure get my vote. He has all the noted qualities, and then some.

: : Louise

: Right on. Perlman is number one in my book.

: Followed by Midori, Sarah Chang, Josh Bell, and

: Gill Shaham.

: G Gregory

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: Complete physical relaxation. That's it.

: Very few have attained this. Many professionals don't have this. Those with long careers have physical relaxation. And even then, some of these are just products of good muscle condition.

: I know of very few with complete physical relaxation. It shows in how they play, how they look, and most importantly...how they sound.

: Many of the greats did not have complete relaxation.

: There could be others, but here are the ones I know of that attained this lofty goal:

: Heifetz, Oistrakh, Szeryng. I'll add Kreisler to that.

From what I have seen and heard, I think the following violinists are the most relaxed: Sarah Chang, Heifetz, Kogan, and Shaham. Shaham's the one who I feel most "enjoys" playing the instrument.

Oistrakh is not too strained either. But Szeryng, though he has no excess movements, looks tight in the neck or shoulder. He constantly frowns his face while playing. I think he would have been better off with a shoulder rest. But the important thing was that Szeryng didn't "sound" strained.

Midori's the violinist who really needs to relax more. If she continues to play in the way I saw her two years ago, I don't know how long she'll be able to sustain her career.

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: I was simply telling the truth, which is supported by ample evidence.

Hello, Felix,

I find your postings to be very rational and erudite. Thanks a lot!

After reading your previous posting, I took out the two Sibelius recordings you mentioned and compared them with score in hand. Indeed, Sarah Chang's technique, even in that live concert, was virtually perfect, and obviously much better than Heifetz's. Heifetz "muddled through" many arpeggios and swift passages, passing by or playing inaccurately several shorter notes. His double-stop passages were awful.

I didn't like Sarah Chang's harsh tone in this Sibelius recording, however. But Heifetz's was worse. Well, IMHO, I like the recordings of Oistrakh, Lin, and Midori better.

In the past I had only heard Heifetz's recording of Vieuxtemps Concerto No. 5. I liked his interpretation, but was a bit annoyed at his faulty intonation. Now I will go and buy Sarah Chang's recording!

Also, I have Heifetz's (1937) and Perlman's recordings of Bazzini's Rondes des lutins. I know that passage where the violinist flits across four strings, playing the same notes. As a violinist, I understand how terribly difficult it is to play it perfectly, so I never blamed Heifetz and Perlman for not playing all the notes in tune. But since you mentioned that Chang's intonation was flawless, I'll buy that too! I don't care whether she edited that passage or not; I'd much rather listen to a perfect recording than a true but faulty one!

One last thing: Sarah Chang held a concert here last year but I missed it. According to one of my friends who ear-witnessed it, she played with all the precision which characterizes her CDs. Surely I will never miss her concert when she comes next time!

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: :You can't always say "you think" that something is the case.

: Ok.

: :Let's go to her live recordings. Now these are concert recordings, with an applause at the end, so I don't think there were any edits.

: "so I don't *think*" :)

Con Ritmo, you have to view each phrase and expression within context. If you just picked out words from the middle of a sentence, even the Bible is often contradictory.

: My biggest criteria for a violinist is:

: Complete physical relaxation. That's it.

: Very few have attained this. Many professionals don't have this. Those with long careers have physical relaxation. And even then, some of these are just products of good muscle condition.

: I know of very few with complete physical relaxation. It shows in how they play, how they look, and most importantly...how they sound.

: Many of the greats did not have complete relaxation.

: There could be others, but here are the ones I know of that attained this lofty goal:

: Heifetz, Oistrakh, Szeryng. I'll add Kreisler to that.

By watching Sarah Chang's video, I agree with Robert that Sarah Chang plays with complete relaxation. So does Heifetz. As for Milstein, well, I've never watched him play and I don't like his recordings, but I admit that his concertizing career was the longest in history. So he must have played in an utterly relaxed manner. If Midori doesn't start relaxing a bit, I suspect that she wont be able to play as long as Milstein did.

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