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Dissident Views: what are yours?


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DavidK, what sort of piece are you talking about when you say "stupid encore"?

And NO, the Paganini Caprices are NOT etudes. They are wonderful pieces of MUSIC, and there are plenty of folks like me who love listening and performing them on stage.

I, for one, would LOVE to see Zukerman perform "stupid encores" and Paganini Caprices onstage.

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>>>.....Of all the players mentioned, I have always been most disappointed in Zuckerman. I must have about a dozen of his recordings. They are good, his tone is AMAZING! And his understanding of music (obviously, he's a successful conductor in his own right) is definitely top-notch. But I can't help but be struck by the fact that there's an emotional volcano down there somewhere that's not coming to the surface.....I get the impression he's holding back something motionally. This is a stupendous violinist waiting to happen, it MUST happen and be captured on recording!!!.....<<<

Sean, I don't have a dozen of his recordings; I've probably got about three. But you've just given the reasons I like him...his 'amazing'--your own word--tone and his understanding of the music. I don't mean his literal understanding of score markings in the HKV sense--I wouldn't know the difference. I mean his feeling. I don't think you need much more. Not every player is made to get up and prove 'musicianship' by playing technically demanding material at breakneck speed. I knew players like that in the guitar world. They had neurons that fired faster than anyone else's. I was IMPRESSED by them, but ultimately I was not very INTERESTED in them.

DR.S, I'm sorry to hear that Zukerman may have been a hulking specimen who roughed up people. I'm usually disappointed in what I discover about celebrated persons apart from their talent, anyway. frown.gif At best, I try not to let it interfere with my enjoyment of their art.


[This message has been edited by Mark_W (edited 03-03-2001).]

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Originally posted by Alistair:

Regarding Kreisler:

I like a bit of tasteful rubato, generally, and obviously it is essential to some music, but Kreisler's bizarre, inconsistent, and ever-present rubato makes me feel literally nauseous (i was just listening again to some of his recordings). It may well be that Kreisler's style plays perfectly into his own compositions (which i don't, personally, like no matter HOW they are played).

This I definitely disagree. Kreisler's rubatos are far subtler than somebody like Elman's (one of the violinist that you seem to like) or Toscha Seidel's. I can easily follow Kreisler's rubatos and tempo changes (as an experiment, I once played the piano parts with his recordings and found them relatively easy to follow, as opposed to Elman's, which were far more unpredictable). And here, I am not talking about Elman in his later years, but from prime (1910-40) years.

I don't understand what is this big fuss of yours about Kreisler's "ever-present, inconsistant and bizzare rubatos." Usage of this kind of personalized rubatos were integral part of the violinists of yesteryear. I cannot think of ANY violinists (yes, including more "straighter" violinists like Kubelik, Burmester, Marteau, Szigeti, Sammons, Zimbalist, Busch, Flesch and Kulenkampff) who did not indulge at one moment or other with deeply personalized rubatos.

Kreisler's recording of Mendelssohn is, to be sure, far from "straight", but there are plenty of others who played with as much rubatos or even "outdid" Kreisler in this department.



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It's not rubato, per se, that i have a problem with, just Kreisler's use of it. His use of rubato seems inconsistent, with no over-arching direction, rhyme, or reason. It sounds like it is rubato for it's own sake (i'm not saying it is, just that that is what it SOUNDS like), which i think is a bad concept. He sounds to me like somebody who isn't sure what they want to do with a phrase, so they just mess around a bit with each phrase, giving me the auditory impression of somebody perpetually hovering on the edge of the cliff of total musical breakdown. Well, that's the best way that i can describe it, at least, as it is very difficult to translate one's auditory impressions into words. I, for one, find Kreisler's playing to be very unpleasant.

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I completely disagree, Alistair.

So do a whole pantheon of violinists, as you'll read.

Indeed, I find Kreisler very predictable and charming. He has a pulse of his own, and his rubatos reflect the "inner feel" of the written music.

Occasionally, I'll play along with the Kreisler recordings - but as a violinist.

I find him very easy to follow because he ALWAYS maintains a pulse even though that pulse goes up and down depending on the mood of the music.

Kreisler's works are MASTERPIECES. One must understand the context of the time they were written in, and Kreisler was able to capture the flavor of his native Vienna in a way that nobody else could. Audiences worldwide seem to agree.

I've grown so accustomed to the Kreisler style that today's modern players sound "alien" to me.

To understand Kreisler, one must understand the context and times in which he lived and was raised.

Read Amy Biancoli's book on Kreisler, Alistair.

Regardless of how you feel about Kreisler, you should learn more about him if only to see where he's coming from.

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It's more interesting to think about the names Alistair left OFF the list.

He criticized one of my favorites (made a good point, although it doesn't change my opinion) but didn't mention 3 of my other favorites.

We don't all have to agree, but if this discussion makes us listen to music in a different way, I think we all are the better for it.

One last note... I'm happy that Alistair will never hear me play! laugh.giflaugh.gif

[This message has been edited by KimHaeGeum (edited 03-04-2001).]

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Originally posted by fritzdaviolinist:

Kennedy: Male version of s. sonnenberg except he has harsher tone, worse intonation, and SUCH disgusting attire (green sweatpants and red shoes w/ ragged shirt and half tied neck tie)

What does attire have to do with the music? Can you hear his green sweatpants and red shoes w/ ragged shirt and half tied neck tie on CD? Not to mention his 'interesting' hair style, dirty fingernails, and mismatched socks.

[This message has been edited by KimHaeGeum (edited 03-04-2001).]

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All right, HKV, I'll bite. IS there a Zukerman recording of "The Swan" played like a dirge?


Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

No, you DO need a lot more than just "feeling".

The "feeling" ought to match up with the piece and the composer's intentions.

One does not play Saint-Saens "The Swan" as if it were a funeral dirge.

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This is a very interesting discussion and very much to my liking. I, too, have some dissident views which I don't usually have an opportunity to express. Here's my two bob:

Heifetz: Generally don't listen to him but what I have heard leaves me stone cold. He plays everything too fast in my opinion. I once read on the fingerboard where someone said about his playing "he plays like a machine with the passion of a dead cat" - it sums up my feelings completely. The only recording of his that I can say that I actually like is his Schubert Ave Maria.

Menuhin: I like some of his early video-recordings but after the war he went completely off track as far as I'm concerned. I can't even stand to listen to most of his later recordings.

Oistrakh: I love Oistrakh because he is the type of violinist that I love, having a warm beautiful sound although his recordings of Brahms and Tchiak didn't grab me at all. But his recording of the Bach Double concerto with Igor is one of my favourites.

Perlman: The first violinist that I knew by name and to this day he is still my favourite. I am still amazed by the beauty of his playing everytime I listen to it. For me, the ultimate in violin playing (I'm not talking about the actual music itself) can be found on his Together album with Placido Domingo and his Klezmer album, In the Fiddler's House. Also, his Sarasate Carmen Fantasy and Paganini violin concerto have never and will never be equalled - let alone surpassed. Unfortunately though, as we all know, no one stays young forever.

Zukerman: I don't like him personally so as a result his playing doesn't appeal to me much. (Personality has a rather big part in whether I like someone or not, which in a very minor way contributes to the reason that I don't like Heifetz) I saw Zukerman in a masterclass last year and from my own experience of just watching his manner with the students and with me when I asked him for a photograph I don't think he is such a nice person (with all due respect to DavidK, you know him a lot better than I do). About his playing, I know for a fact that he can play virtuoso showpieces like Paganini and Wieniawski because I have seen him do it - in the context of a masterclass - but I prefer his being able to play them and NOT playing them to someone else playing them when they shouldn't be - like Nadja Salerno-Sonnenburg.

Nadja S-S would have to be one of the worst violinists I have ever heard. I find her extremely irritating as a person and as a violinist. She's one of those people who is constantly belittling everyone else in order to feed her own ego. Her violin playing is terrible as far as I'm concerned - she doesn't even have a clear tone. Along with Anne Sophie Mutter and Sarah Chang, she is one of the three violinists who I can't believe ever got famous. A-SM at least has good looks but what have the other two got?

Anne-Sophie Mutter: Over-rated in my opinion and terrible violinist. A description I read that was given to Leila Josefowitz intended as a compliment sums up my feelings towards her very well. "She plays like a pit-bull trying to rip someone's arm off." Obviously, I don't intend it as a compliment.

Sarah Chang: The thing I find most irritating about her is the way everyone seems to think she is 'technically perfect'. Apart from everything else, she is NOT technically perfect, I heard her perform the Tchaik and it was full of wrong notes and mistakes all the way through. There were times when she was pushing down with the bow so hard the sound cracked. And she DOESN'T always play with impeccable intonation as I have so often heard it said.

Maxim Vengerov: Of all the "young" and "modern" violinists, excluding Gil Shaham, Maxim is the one who impresses me the most. While he isn't strictly a violinist in the style that I like best (Perlman, Oistrakh, Shaham), there is nothing about him or his playing that offends me except for his outrageous performing manner.

There are a lot of other violinists that I don't like but I couldn't be bothered writing about. These include Midori, Joshua Bell and NIGEL Kennedy. My other favourite violinist is Gil Shaham. That in itself is a dissident view on this board.

Anyway, having said all of the above, I'm not saying that any of the afore-mentioned violinists can't play the violin - to say such a thing would be preposterous. Also, I am not suggesting that I could do it better than any of them, or indeed half as good, my critisms and observations are simply coming from me as a listener and a watcher.

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Shantinik, i will keep my eye out for those two.

KimHaeGeum, i know you were just joking, but remember that i scale my criticism to the level, prestige, and pay of the violinist i am listening to. Believe me, i did not sit around in the student orchestras that i have been in, thinking how everybody was terrible. I do think, however, that great things should be expected of violinists who build their carreer and reputation upon being "great".

Agatha, I understand your view of Heifetz, although not your view of Menuhin, but don't discount him just yet. I used to feel the exact same way that you feel, but then i found some recordings that turned my view around. I don't think any violinist in history could lay claim to a more beautiful rendition of the Tchaikovsky Concerto than some of Heifetz' recordings of it (although I have heard some recordings (Kogan, Oistrakh) which i consider to be about AS good). Of course, he plays many other pieces beautifully too. One interesting comparison, for me at least, is the recording i have of Heifetz playing Saint Saens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and a recording by Stern of the same work. Both of them play the piece absolutely beautifully, but very differently (Heifetz plays it much faster, as you can probably guess, among other differences). Each time i listen to one version, i think, "THIS one is the best", but then i listen to the other, and i think "no, THIS one is even better", and back and forth like that.

HKV, if i bought all the books and CDs you tell me to buy, i wouldn't be able to buy any food! Hehe, i'll keep my eye out for the Kreisler book, but right now I need a new violin and bow, AGGGHHHHHH!! Now if i could only find myself a nicely set up Stradivarious for about $300 (heck, I'd settle for a Vuillaume, or even a nice Roth), and a nice old Sartory in an antique shop for about $50, then I would be all set (i could even stretch up to $100 if the Sartory was in really good shape)! Well, there's always hope on Ebay wink.gif

Oh, yeah, anybody looking for good violinist recordings on the cheap:

1)go vinyl

2)Good Will (Goodwill?) you know, the STORE

[This message has been edited by Alistair (edited 03-05-2001).]

[This message has been edited by Alistair (edited 03-05-2001).]

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Or, Alistair, you could COPY those CDs (illegally, as people are going to jump on me for) and BORROW those books.

As I said before, I don't judge Heifetz any differently than I'd judge myself - or a beginner student.

I should find out more about the two mentioned Indian violinists. I know absolutely NOTHING about nonWestern violining.

Longhair, my advice for you when playing Mozart is to realize that it was written for period instruments.

Also study Mozart's life. You'll notice that his occupation, for the most part, was professional DJ.

Mozart was NOT a hoity-toity individual.

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Yes, I must admit that I haven't done my homework on Mozart like I should. Unfortunately, I must also admit that I just plain don't like opera or any kind of classical vocal music-- even if it's written by the only god that there is absolute evidence of- Bach *gasp*. I try to listen and focus on the music, but I can't get past the voices. Please don't attack me for this, I'm just trying to be honest! I much prefer singers like Howlin' Wolf over any "trained" singer that I've heard.

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Then get them in wind band arrangements, or check out the vocal score and imagine the singer of your own preference in each part. Mozart was a genius at sketching complex characters and dramatizing conflict. The techniques he developed to do this run through all of his music.

One other thought-- try to find writings of Leonard Ratner on Mozart. His notion of "Topics" in the classical vocabulary, while a little simplistic, may be a good window into the language.

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Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

Oh man, I can't stand modern opera either.

The electric shock warbling of modern operatic vibrato punishes my eardrums . . .

I'm curious to know if you prefer less modern opera singers, like Chaliapin(e), Caruso, or any of the ladies whose names temporarily escape me. I find them (and their vibrati) just as taxing, in a different way. The vocal production, especially, is so constricted as to make me quite tense.

Also, I think things may be improving. I hear an increasing amount of more sensible, controlled vibrato from high-level students - much more so than from their teachers. But I've never attended or heard a recording of any whole cast I could bear to hear for an evening.


P.S. HuangKaiVun - how do you prefer to be addressed in writing? As HKV or Huang - or something else?

[This message has been edited by altgeige (edited 03-05-2001).]

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Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

Like LongHair, I much prefer nonclassical singing over that of classically trained voices.


I'm with you both. Give me Doc Watson, or Louie Armstrong, or my three sisters, for that matter. There's a lot to be learned from people who learned to sing naturally, expressively, and well, within the bounds of the equipment they were born with.

Oh, incidentally, I finally got to hear some more Kubelik recordings; I see what you mean. He was a truly fine player, and much more subtle than a lot of people (Roth comes to mind) give him credit for. I had only heard a couple things that I had on 78 before, and they didn't impress me, but a larger selection improved my perception.

I've heard it said that his musicianship deteriorated as he aged; all the recordings I heard were quite early, so I can't say. Do you agree with that?


[This message has been edited by altgeige (edited 03-05-2001).]

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Hello again, folks! Wow, this thread has gotten pretty good, I am glad everybody

is putting in good responses and opinions.

I have noticed a trend here that is very

interesting, it seems to be self-defense.

People stick up for their heros, the music that they love, etc. I always loved the way

Pinky played, in fact I saw him on PBS when

I was 12, and was blown away. The first time

I met him, he was a complete jerk, no

doubt. I met him again, and had a wonderful

time with the guy, during one of the strangest concerts in my career ( I was

concertmaster of the New Orleans Symphony,

and we had a massive flood on the day Pinky

came to town).

Anyhoo, the point I started to make in my

first post is still the point I am trying

to make now: There are lots of great fiddlers

out there, and each is a matter of taste,

but it gets rather absurd to call one of these genuises a bad player. We must give

credit where credit is do; if you dont like

Heifetz' playing, that is an opinion. Is

Heifetz a great player? Yes, that is a fact.

I repeat, it's a FACT, he was a great player.

Is Pinky a great player? Yup. Perlman?

Oh man is he great. Do I like Perlmans

recording of Bartok 2? Dont know, never heard

it, but I can judge a great violinist by how

he/she controls the violin, not by the tempo

he/she chooses in the 2nd movmt. of a Concerto.

Huang asked me about stupid encores.

The "yankee doodle variations" of Vuiextemps

comes to mind. Huang also defended the

Paganini Caprices, after I called them

etudes. I personally dont care for them at

all, and I have played every single one.

Huang doesnt like modern opera, I love it.

These comments are opinions. A fact would

be that Paganini was a ground-breaking

composer for the violin, and he set a new

level for virtouso music, and inspired

hundreds of composers. That is a fact,

and very well documented. I personally

dont care for Paganini's music at all, but

I have the smarts to realize his skill.

So my final comment, my friends, is when

judging an artist of any sort, first

acknowlege the Artist's skills, or else

you will look like a jealous nit-picker.

I think the best analogy I can think of

for non-violinistic stuff is Bill Clinton.

Is he smart? Probably the smartest president

since Jefferson. Is he morally flawed? Yup.

Is he a thief, Liar, low-life? Depends on

your point of view. Is he good-looking?

Depends on your taste. But is he a brilliant

man? Yes he is, very brilliant. Whether

he used his brilliance in the best way is

doubtful, but to call the man stupid would

be wrong, no matter which side of the political spectrum you sit on. I have seen

Clinton rattle off details of foriegn

policy, in impromptu sessions without a

script, and my jaw has dropped over his

immense knowledge. If he went on Jeopardy,

he would be the biggest winner of all time.

That doesnt say anything about his

interpretations of things like Laws.

His view of law seems to be quite different

than mine; if a judge asked me to tell the

truth, I would tell the truth, as fact.

Bill might be a shmuck, but he is a virtouso

at what he does, and so are the fiddlers

mentioned in this post. Amen, David

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