May 2010

Crass Ambition?

May 14, 2010 22:31

My thanks to Laurie Niles for suggesting that I post this entry.   I must preface with the fact that I was, despite Laurie's encouragement, somewhat wary of posting what could be taken as either incendiary or angry:   my intention in writing - and posting - this entry, is simply to ask the question.   Nevertheless, I am humbled and honored to have received the request and can only hope that the question posed here is one that has been asked and contemplated by all of us who have taken the task of playing this great instrument called the violin. -   Sam

Hello, all - it's been a little while, yes, but it's also been quite the busy month, with many concerts and other things. As it is May and I'm currently living in a college town, I'm feeling both the energies of slowing down as well as that that says keep moving forward. Of course, that can be confusing in itself...
...but today I write because I have, in recent months, found myself deeply disturbed by the reports of some behavior being exhibited toward two of my dear friends who happen to be colleagues.  Needless to say, the names of my friends and the offending parties as well as the orchestras in which these acts are taking place will not be used here; however, what has been happening now for two years can only and sadly be classified as good old-fashioned backstabbing - of the worst kind.

Of course, I understand the need to be the best that one can be - but I also understand and am truly grateful to have had teachers that frowned - at best - at the callousness and destructive behavior that we as violinists sometimes inflict upon each other, behavior that is totally rooted in deep but denied insecurity.

In her book Love's Sorrow, Love's Joy, author Amy Biancolli chronicles the deep friendship that existed between Eugène Ysäye and Fritz Kreisler. The great Belgian - along with other "luminaries" including none other than Carl Flesch - sensed the significance of Kreisler's debut, later dubbing the young Kreisler the Weiniawski of the time and stating with great assurance that the young Austrian had a brilliant future before him. As Kreisler made his mark during the early twentieth century, he received invitations from Jacques Thibaud to participate in informal chamber music gatherings taking place at Thibaud's home. With the other guests including Georges Enesco, Pablo Casals, Alfred Cortot, Harold Bauer, Eugene Ysäye and Raoul Pugno, it was clear at that time that Kreisler had reached a place among the ranks of the world's top string players.

While we all know that Kreisler is the dedicatee of Ysäye 's Sonata in E Minor, Op. 27, No. 4 and Ysäye the dedicatee of both Kreisler's Recitativo and Scherzo and Caprice Viennoise, it is vitally important for us to know that these men forged a friendship while Ysaye was at the highest point of his career - one that continued well past Kreisler's rise to the top. Such was their friendship, recalled Joseph Gingold, that after a series of concerts in Brussels that Kreisler "immediately went to see the master, and they embraced, and Ysäye said 'Where is the gendarme?' And Kreisler said, 'She's downstairs. She'll be up in a moment.' "

Biancolli writes that Ysäye 's reference to Kreisler's wife "as 'the gendarme' (or "constable") reveals no small familiarity with Kreisler's personal life and illustrates as well the relaxed nature of their friendship....Two such Old World gentlemen could enjoy each other without allowing anything so crass as ambition (or a cranky wife) to stand in the way."
And going further into the life of Fritz Kreisler:   after he reached the "superstar" status, he is said to have become Jascha Heifetz' number-one spokesperson in New York after the latter's triumphant and spellbinding debut!

Having spoken with my friends, I am again proud to know them as human beings:   while one has taken the high road and recently arranged a meeting with her offending party, the other has focused her efforts on producing her concert series and preparing for the filming of a documentary on her life.   It is truly wonderful to see two people rise above human nature to take the "high road":   not only are they at peace with themselves, each of them is at peace with her world regardless of the external circumstances, with the focus firmly planted on the self.
Going back to Ysäye, Heifetz, and Kreisler, though:  if THESE guys, three men that we now revere, could be so relaxed with each other, WHY do some of us who have not reached those levels treat others with such gross disrespect?
Perhaps we should pay equal attention to these great men as they were in the world - GREAT MEN - as opposed to simply swooning over their recordings.
Anxious for your thoughts,

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