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Heifetz As I Knew Him Paperback – 1 Nov 2005
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As far as Agus goes, here is her current appraisal of Heifetz, from her Web site:
"that stellar musician and tutor, Jascha Heifetz, whose musical beliefs, teachings and art of collaboration I have been privileged to enjoy... "
Personally, I found this book fascinating because although Heifetz is not even in my top five favorite fiddlers, I have always liked listening to his recordings simply for the fact that his playing is so accurate. So, learning more about him was a 'must'. Those of us who know the violin repertoire and have heard it performed by others often "defer" or "refer" to Heifetz's recordings as benchmarks. True, he did not play everything well, and he openly admitted that he was not good at Bach and that he found it and Mozart very difficult. There were certain compositions that he never played in public or recorded - he had perfect technique but he openly admitted that he never felt it was so perfect that he could play anything, or play everything equally well. There were a lot of works for the violin that he never played, particularly 20th century works (Stravinsky, Bartok, Shostakovich, Barber, just to name several).
Agus' work takes us through the autumn of Heifetz's time on Earth. There were many ups and many downs, not all of which were discussed (his bitter relations with his second wife and other family, and his financial problems, were wisely not discussed.) What is clear, despite Heifetz's oft-odd behavior, is that he had things that kept him very active in old age, and things that satisfied him after he had retired from concertizing. He still played the violin every day, despite having a non-functioning right shoulder. He finished off work of his 130-something violin-piano transcriptions. He continued teaching his master class until just a few years before he died. He was not the greatest teacher and as practically all of his students have attested, he would not usually demonstrate on his his own violin unless a student was really not understanding what he was saying. Most of his students were already very advanced by the time they came to his class but he helped them become even better performers, and not just musically, which is why some people were dismissed after only a short time with him. Although never one to socialize much, he made a kind of family out of a very few trusted friends and students, and he loved to be the one to host a holiday party, and he rolled out the red carpet for these occasions.
As Heifetz, told the author, "Be sure you put all of this down in the book you are going to write after I am dead and gone." And, she did...she put everything and even more into it. Yes, some of it is quite harrowing (the chapter detailing the long car trip to Malibu - I won't give it away but it's nothing short of amazing), and a certain portion of it is rather depressing - particularly the section that discusses the final years of his teaching career at USC. By then, senior management at the university had changed, and they had other ideas about what they wanted in their music program. The early chapters, discussing the author's life and how she came into acquaintence with The Great Master are a good intro to what follows.
I recommend this book - but not to everyone, and even to those I recommend it to, I suggest that you either take it with a grain of salt and/or be prepared to read some things that might otherwise make you say to yourself "jeez, this is all so depressing!" I'd say this book has a very limited audience - I first read it when I was in college, not too many years after it was published. I will admit, I did not like it too much at first but as the years have gone by, I have come to enjoy and appreciate it more. The discussion of many pieces of music, for those who *really* know the violin repertoire, and Mr. Heifetz's contributions to it, is very informative and welcome. As I say, though, it's not for everyone.
It brought a tear to my eye when on his death bed heifetz said those 3 little words to Ayke that revealed how he really felt about her