Legendary Ukrainian violinist and teacher Abram Shtern passed away last week at the age of 96. Shtern was concertmaster and professor in Kiev before emigrating to the United States in 1990 and settling in Los Angeles. He represented one of the last direct links to the tradition of Leopold Auer, the teacher of Heifetz, Milstein and others.
For much of his career, Shtern stayed out of the spotlight, but he was deeply respected within the violin world. Isaac Stern said:
[quote]Oh, how he played! This man never leaves behind what the music means and such enthusiasm – he not only loves music but also he lives FOR music! He is an incredible master-musician.[/quote]
Here is a 1971 recording of Abram Shtern playing the solo from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake:
These informal clips give a sense of Shtern’s rich, singing tone and extraordinary technique. Notice his masterful, seamless bow control. This video, from Shtern’s 75th birthday, highlights his roots in Klezmer fiddling. Here is a profile featuring more background on Abram Shtern’s life.
Recently, I found a few interesting links relating to Josef Gingold, the legendary violinist and teacher who died in 1995. If you’re not familiar with Gingold’s legacy, this short video offers insights into his life, distinguished career and great humanity.
Having studied with the nineteenth century Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaye, Gingold was one of the last links to an elegant earlier style of violin playing. Here is an excerpt from his 1976 recording Josef Gingold Plays Fritz Kreisler, featuring Kreisler’s Aucassin et Nicolette. It showcases his golden tone and the warmth of his playing:
[quote]No matter what you do, always con amore, always with love. You never play dutifully, you play beautifully.[/quote]
Gingold has many interesting things to say in this interview, conducted in the last years of his life by Kim Markl. He talks about the importance of constantly learning and changing throughout life. Despite his age, he exudes a love of the violin and a joy of discovery that suggests an amazing youthful vitality. He discusses the way styles of violin playing have changed over time, demonstrating in the style of Ysaye. He believes that the most fundamental aspect of good tone production is good intonation, which allows rich overtones to ring. When asked about teaching, Gingold stresses the importance of a student’s first teacher in establishing the correct foundation. He says that a good teacher must have patience and must recognize that each student is unique.
It’s also fascinating to hear Gingold’s thoughts on violinists of the past. In this episode of Music for the FingerboardGingold takes us through recordings of significant violinists of the past including Joachim, Sarasate, Auer, Kreisler, Huberman, Ysaye and Heifetz. Students of Gingold, such as Joshua Bell say that listening to recordings and studying the way legendary violinists played was an important part of their lessons with Gingold. Indeed, it’s important for all violinists to know the playing of the great violinists of the past. (Here are Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 of Music for the Fingerboard).
Here is a recording of Josef Gingold playing Henryk Wieniawski’s Capriccio Valse. Wieniawski was a Polish violinist and composer who lived from 1835-1880: