Not to be missed: Ivry Gitlis, still playing in concert at 94

Recently uploaded to Youtube. No violin player or music lover will be unmoved.

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    • Not necessarily. Personally I am not that impressed by this latest Gitlis clip. But I won’t forget a 1991 piano recital I by then 98-year-old Mieczyslaw Horszowki. He was well past his peak, but his sound was distinctive and beautiful throughout the recital. The recital’s best moments were exquisite in many respects. This was the only time I could hear live a style I was familiar with from scratchy mono recordings. (BTW, my instrument is the piano.)

      • Thank you for mentioning Horszowski. I have harrd him several times in Lucerne an Paris. Technically, some of the concerts were better than the others but the musicianship was of the highest order. He was also the nly artist I have heard who played for Brahms.

    • Wonderful. Thank you for posting this. I hope that Milka, on reaching the age of 94 (an event that cannot be far off) is able to deliver comments with comparable fluency, style and panache.

      • First, I second the comment by Harold. I suggest we all just ignore Milka. I’ve had my fill of nigh on pathological bitchiness. Second, I don’t give a damn re Gitlis’ intonation problems, etc. The essence of his greatness is still there at 94, and if you concentrate on what might be called the musical sub-text found beneath the technical aspects, there is much to learn. The stunning recordings of most of the great concertos he made with Vox in the late 50s have been remastered and issued on CD. Petros mentions the Horszowski recital. Perhaps this refers to the tour of Japan he made on the verge of his cententary (!) and broadcast by Japanese TV. It’s on YT in multiple parts — it is long. Horszowski chose his repertoire so wisely and that is why, even if he was a touch unsteady, listening to this most serious and wise of musicians, a musician’s musician, is akin to a lesson by a great teacher. I’d say that broadcast is a ‘must watch’, for it also includes master classes and footage of him preparing for recitals, checking things on-stage, and it amused me and mightily impressed me that he was still pretty testy as he often was. If he lost something in technique at that extraordinary age, he sure as hell had lost nothing at all in mental power. Another so worth watching in this age of…well, I won’t name names — I don’t need to and I don’t want arguments over that point — is the BBC series of 88 year-old Rubinstein playing Grieg, the Saint-Saens No. 2, and Chopin No. 2. The last is a little weary, perhaps, but the other two a wonder. Bolt upright as ever and, like all great pianists, no extraneous movements. I don’t think those are on YT, for they are BBC TV broadcasts, but they are on DVD and worth every penny.

        • The Horszowski recital I had attended was in the Boston area. The program was slightly different from the contemporaneous events in Japan. The music making was of a similar level. For me, these are memories to cherish. The same should probably apply to those attending the event by Gitlis, even if on youtube we are better off with older clips of his.

          As for the age of [no names], I think that among classical musicians there is more undeserved stardom than there used to be, largely due to mass marketing. But we can still find profound musicians, over ninety, under thirty, and anything in between. Musicians in their middle decades may have the greatest difficulty claiming the spotlight.

      • Spare me the fluency ,style and panache , he is sadly, led out like a trained monkey
        who plays the violin to a certain degree of proficiency just good enough for an old
        folks home. He is subjected & displayed as a relic from the past where any critical
        judgement as to his present playing would be heartless .That he himself at 94 seems
        not able to leave the stage with grace and understanding speaks volumes .
        But it is a feel good time for all no matter the pretence.

        • Sure, it’s pathetic that people are kissing his ass, patronizing him, etc. especially musicians that want a career boost. But you see this everywhere, happening with various artists, not always old. Subjected and displayed? Sorry – what exactly is performing in the first place? Can you describe a situation where a legendary 93 year old violinist is not ‘subjected and displayed’ ? What — does he need to walk out by himself and not receive hugs and kisses from the pianist and others? Get over yourself and look beyond the superficial – which will always be present in one form or another.
          If you (attempt to) understand his message as a musician, as a human, as a violinist, then you can enjoy each time he performs Liebesleid at this age. This talk of “playing fit for an old folks home” is simply ignorance mascarading as wisdom. Any fool can point out that some proficient violinist can produce sound with less noises and more ‘accurate’ intonation. Congratulations, but you missed the point.
          If you’d rather listen to someone playing very clean and nice, there are plenty of options. No one ever claimed that this performance is standard in such a way. The magic is still there. One needs to look past the question of the instrument, and the physicality. He is breathing his life into that instrument, and it is perfect.

          • You cannot believe your own baloney without laughing.That he can give anyone a
            career boost is in the realm of fantasy. Music is not about messages …
            The “magic that is still there” comes from you not him .Put him behind a screen and
            he is some fiddler scratching away at the Kreisler , take away the screen and lo behold
            it is Gitlis !!!! and everything takes on a different meaning.And where does this meaning
            come from – you, not him -he still is scratching away with good intentions and you
            are supplying the romantic history .That he should be honored and respected for
            having a seemingly good life is a given . But to drag him out as an example of a 94
            year still functioning violinist is deplorable however you want to read into it .

        • Milka, You simply don’t understand his style or way of music making. So it sounds like just scratches to you…OK fine…I can’t help you. Your words are very shallow here. I add none of ‘my own magic’. I just know how to listen. I could of course pick Ivry out behind a screen every time without question. Age 50 or age 90. I also admire some later recordings of Menuhin. It’s a longer conversation. Anyway, I hope you come to understand his art some day – it’s a real trip.
          Daniel

  • This blog ought to go to real name-only commenting.

    I have never seen a violinist use a scroll support before although I have read of them bracing it against a wall when learning vibrato.

    That is an interesting old-age accommodation.

  • I have seen many artists who continued well past their primes. I think if someone wants to give a recital and people are willing to pay for tickets, it is all fine. I am less sympathetic about musicians who refuse to retire from their orchestral posts even though they are no longer able to do their job.

  • A childhood memory from some 40 years back when I was growing up in the Italian Riviera: my father and I used to go to orchestral concerts which were held in Imperia by the old Orchestra Sinfonica Comunale di Sanremo, and on one of these events I got my first live encounter with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Gitlis as soloist. I recall the audience reaction was enthusiastic enough to prompt soloist and conductor to encore the last movement. The video brought back that memory – just lovely……

  • According to his own bio and all other reliable sources, he is not 94 yet. He is still 93. Of course, it is remarkable that at such advanced age, he is still able to hold a violin and a bow in his hands, while moving his right arm in a rough approximation of rhythmical patterns and putting his left-hand fingers in the general vicinity of correct pitches. But it seems to me that for those who like myself used to be admirers of this charismatic man and fans of his once-formidable violinistic virtuosity, it is extremely sad to see this pathetic display. He was never a particularly interesting interpreter, so now that most of his outstanding technical skills are gone, there is really practically nothing left to enjoy.

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