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Tommy

Bach Chaconne Heifetz Stylistic Questions

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I would greatly appreciate other's thoughts on the stylistic treatment of three note and four note chords in the following Heifetz performance of the Chaconne (originally from the Heifetz in Performance video of olden times)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMQD4wba91A...player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6TuesVgvLc...feature=related

This performance is in my opinion the sine qua non of chaconne performances. The man unlocks hidden melodies and phrases that I have never heard anyone else bring out.

My question: Heifetz plays every chord as if it consists of two beats -- bottom note and then the top notes -- without any attempt to suggest that they are all in one beat. Does this add to the enjoyment of the performance or introduce unnecessary rhythm elements? I am not particularly concerned with what Bach would have wanted or whatever, just what is most enjoyable to listen to.

Tom

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I would greatly appreciate other's thoughts on the stylistic treatment of three note and four note chords in the following Heifetz performance of the Chaconne (originally from the Heifetz in Performance video of olden times)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMQD4wba91A...player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6TuesVgvLc...feature=related

This performance is in my opinion the sine qua non of chaconne performances. The man unlocks hidden melodies and phrases that I have never heard anyone else bring out.

My question: Heifetz plays every chord as if it consists of two beats -- bottom note and then the top notes -- without any attempt to suggest that they are all in one beat. Does this add to the enjoyment of the performance or introduce unnecessary rhythm elements? I am not particularly concerned with what Bach would have wanted or whatever, just what is most enjoyable to listen to.

Tom

This is a very logical approach to playing 3 and 4 note chords on the violin, viola, cello and bass as it allows the ear to hear clearly the root or lowest note of the chord upon which the harmony is built. He treats the two lower notes as an apogiutura to the upper two notes. This is especially effective where diminished and minor 7th chords are concerned as the complexity of the intervals becomes is perceived better by the ear. Unaccompanied music allows the player some rhythmic license to make the harmonic motion clear. The Bach Cello suites are also a good example of the use of a single instrument playing melody and harmony. I have known that video for over 35 years and it is also my favorite interpretation of this work.

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Thank you for bringing our attention to these videos. I had no idea they existed! I thought the anecdote that Heifetz refused to play the Chaccone because he had a memory slip once he was performing it was true! It looks like he was ok with playing it.

Your question or statement about how he plays the chords is very unclear to me. Obviously you like it but have some reason to doubt it, hence your posting. It is a great recording. All the purists will hate it. He goes up on the G string to create a consistent voicing, in his own mind, and it actually works. His way is very interesting, but I enjoy the "Morimur" recording of the Chaccone very much. It might be a stretch but it sounds good!

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I think most players I heard use a broken chord for the opening of Bach Chaconne. However you can find I. Stern interpretation on youtube and he plays the three notes together (maybe the bridge of his violin allows it, or maybe gut strings more supple that allows easier playing on three strings together). On the contraray Perlman insist quite a lot on the first two DF before crossing to FA.

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Wasnt this version edited by Auer? I remember Auer said on hes book that Joseph Joachim was the first one to make the chaconne popular, so that must had influenced Auer a lot (Joachim was Auer's teacher) and most likely Auer influenced Heifetz on this piece too... I just wish I could had heard Auer or Joachim play this piece. :)

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Check out how Milstein plays those chords.

And since you bring up "hidden melodies and phrases" it is my duty and pleasure to refer you to Morimur, the ECM album exploring the hidden aspects of the chaconne.

http://www.ecmrecords.com/Catalogue/New_Series/1700/1765.php

Oh, wait. Zefir68 already mentioned it.

Also, you can see what we thought on the forum in years past. Here's a reasonably recent thread:

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?...266278&st=0

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One thing I must quibble about the Heifetz recording is that it is utterly wrong to re-play the lower voices of the chord on the eighth note in the opening. There has been a lot of scholarship and many wasted trees wasted on debating whether one should repeat the first chord for the eighth note. There is absolutely no question that the bottom notes should not be repeated: Bach writes them in the major section, where they should be repeated, so if he wanted them, he had the skills and notation ability to indicate that they should be repeated.

I think there was a period where the manuscript was not available to performers like it is now in the Galamian International edition. I think even Heifetz, who is regarded by many to be the greatest violinist would have a 'd'oh' moment if he saw the manuscript. I will try to head off unreasonable responses to my opinions by saying that I prefer other violinists for many interpretations, but I respect Heifetz tremendously. He was a consummate musician, could play the piano parts to all the pieces (songs :) ) he was playing, took time off to recharge his batteries before touring and even though he was not a success as a teacher, he tried and in private moments acknowledged his limitations.

These videos in the original message are very valuable to violin playing, thank you.

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Funny but I long wondered why Heifetz was doing this because it was not written on the Chaconne scores I could see. But the answer is easy.: It sounds wonderful in Heifetz hands!

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Lemond and Zefir ~ Is there another place I could order the ECM recording other than from England? At lease the price in in £s (pounds).

Is there really an explanation of the why and wherefore of the sub melodies? This must be a fantastic recording.

Thank you!

Shirley

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I would greatly appreciate other's thoughts on the stylistic treatment of three note and four note chords in the following Heifetz performance of the Chaconne (originally from the Heifetz in Performance video of olden times)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMQD4wba91A...player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6TuesVgvLc...feature=related

This performance is in my opinion the sine qua non of chaconne performances. The man unlocks hidden melodies and phrases that I have never heard anyone else bring out.

My question: Heifetz plays every chord as if it consists of two beats -- bottom note and then the top notes -- without any attempt to suggest that they are all in one beat. Does this add to the enjoyment of the performance or introduce unnecessary rhythm elements? I am not particularly concerned with what Bach would have wanted or whatever, just what is most enjoyable to listen to.

Tom

The simple answer is that the 'theme' is in the bass and being a Chaconne this theme is in every variation and also runs like a golden thread throughout each movement of the Partita. The interpreter chooses how much emphasis to place on this ground bass.

There is another version of the Chaconne comparable to Heifetz - a wonderful reading by Adolf Busch, also available on YouTube.

The recording dates from the 1920's and was rescued from a skip apparently!

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Lemond and Zefir ~ Is there another place I could order the ECM recording other than from England? At lease the price in in £s (pounds).

Is there really an explanation of the why and wherefore of the sub melodies? This must be a fantastic recording.

Thank you!

Shirley

Well, you could pick up a copy from amazon.com used for $6.34 (or new for $17.98).

http://www.amazon.com/Morimur-Johann-Sebas...h/dp/B00005ND3J

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A side note to the topic of great Bach players: the greatest one I saw live was Stanley Ritchie. He was so unassuming, almost apologized for the beautiful Stainer that he had. I played for him the first four movements of the d minor Partita, then he picked up his violin, plucked the gut strings, all out of tune, then he proceeded to play perfectly in tune on those strings. Of course he chided me on being out of tune at some points, driving home the lesson that I was just being lazy and coddled and not using my ear. The next night, he played the Beethoven Violin Concerto, on the same violin, the same gut strings. Perfectly in tune. (Smithsonian Chamber Players) He is a great player.

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One thing I must quibble about the Heifetz recording is that it is utterly wrong to re-play the lower voices of the chord on the eighth note in the opening.

This is interesting.

A 20 minute parusal of videos on Youtube reveals that only Szeryng and Heifetz play it this way, others (Hahn, Milstein, Busch, Schneiderhan, Kuijken, Zehetmair, Mullova, Perlman, Menuhin, Rosand, Vengerov, Jansen, Chung, Fischer) replay only the top voice of the eighth note chord.

I guess I should re-think considering Szeryng the "Gold Standard".

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The original shows the bottom two notes as half notes but the violin can't sustain them as an organist could. Repeating the bottom two notes with the eighth note in lieu of the impossible sustain doesn't seem unreasonable. The Auer edited edition is written out as two chords, a dotted quarter plus the eighth. The Werner Icking edited edition shows the original half notes but indicates an edit in smaller type of repeating the bottom notes for the sustain.

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The original shows the bottom two notes as half notes but the violin can't sustain them as an organist could. Repeating the bottom two notes with the eighth note in lieu of the impossible sustain doesn't seem unreasonable. The Auer edited edition is written out as two chords, a dotted quarter plus the eighth. The Werner Icking edited edition shows the original half notes but indicates an edit in smaller type of repeating the bottom notes for the sustain.

Bach knew what he was doing far better than any later editors. In the Major section, he seemed perfectly capable of writing the bottom two notes again to be played for the eighth note, which he didn't do for the minor sections. The lack of such bass notes in the minor clearly is intentional. If he wanted them to be repeated, he would have indicated it, as he did in the Major section.

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Bach knew what he was doing far better than any later editors. In the Major section, he seemed perfectly capable of writing the bottom two notes again to be played for the eighth note, which he didn't do for the minor sections. The lack of such bass notes in the minor clearly is intentional. If he wanted them to be repeated, he would have indicated it, as he did in the Major section.

to fellow musician...

Oh, well, you play Bach your way. I'll play him his. (Wanda Landowska)

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Most composers I know enjoy hearing their music interpreted differently than they intended. Well, just so long as the interpretation is effective. I imagine that our even tempered tuning might throw him at first (in fact, I think that might piss him off more than any right hand or vibrato issues), but he was a smart guy. He'd adjust fast.

Then again, I freakin' love the way Bach sounds when W.L. plays him.

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Most composers I know enjoy hearing their music interpreted differently than they intended. Well, just so long as the interpretation is effective. I imagine that our even tempered tuning might throw him at first (in fact, I think that might piss him off more than any right hand or vibrato issues), but he was a smart guy. He'd adjust fast.

Then again, I freakin' love the way Bach sounds when W.L. plays him.

I love the way Wanda Landowska plays Bach--and the way Wilhem Kemf plays Bach, and the way Glenn Gould plays Bach (at 20 or 50). Heck, I even love the way Wendy Carlos plays Bach! (It is scary to think of what he might have done with a synthesizer!)

I saw Milstein play the partita when he was 81 and it was stunning! He seemed to do things that were impossible.

J.

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