Absolutely on violin music, 2

During the second break in the lectures at Hasselt University (with this series I have of course the audience there in mind), Neville Schaefer and I played the first two movements of the sonata in D major, opus 9 no. 3, composed by Jean-Marie Leclair. There are many interesting performances on youtube. I became aware of the sonata by the performance of Henryk Szeryng. This because I actually own a DVD where Henryk Szeryng is playing this with Tasso Janopoulo on the piano, who is much older here than in the performance of Rameau’s tambourin with Thibaud in part 1 of this series of blogs:

My mood always “lifts” listening to this performance, which also contains the last movements of this sonata. It seems that Carl Flesch, who was Szeryng’s teacher, let him do all Sevcik’s exercises, just as a test. Sevcik’s exercises are deadly dull exercises on detailed aspects of violin playing. I practise(d) them myself (but certainly not all of them!). Whether the story about Flesch and Szeryng is true or not, Szeryng had an impeccable technique and always played amazingly well in tune. More generally the pupils of (Otakar) Sevcik mostly have a very solid technique, so there must be something in this practice of isolating the technical aspects in small exercises.

However… There is a famous DVD “The art of violin” (on the cover it says: “A film written and directed by Bruno Monsaingeon”). On this DVD Itzhak Perlman is making some derogatory remarks on Szeryng: “He is a chameleon. He plays like everybody”. If he heard Szeryng play on the radio, he had to ask his wife: “Who is playing here?” and then would realise that because he did not recognise the violinist, is had to be Szeryng. In other words: Szeryng’s playing lacked character (according to Itzhak Perlman). Fortunately there is Hilary Hahn after this, flatly contradicting Itzhak Perlman on this matter. Remarkably, remarks similar to Itzhak Perlman’s remarks about Szeryng were made (long ago) about Jan Kubelik, Sevcik’s “star student”. I would like to say a lot more about these things (and the preferences implicit in Bruno Monsaingeon’s video), but I’ll restrain myself.

Another famous performances of the Leclair sonata is by David Oistrakh and Vladimir Yampolsky:

An interesting baroque type performance with harpsichord is by Simon Standage (unfortunately the name of the harpsichordist is not given, as so often on youtube). The sonata opus 9, no. 3, starts at about 16:15.

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