Last Words
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116 There are now many recordings of these works—far more than when I was a student —and I am not about to recommend one over another. The choice of a favorite recording is a matter of personal taste, and as I said in my introduction, it’s impossible to identify anyone’s interpretation as “right.” What has changed since my student days is that at that time there were comparatively few reigning virtuosi and only a few few record companies. That was the 1950s, just when the LP was introduced and recording was becoming a far more sophisticated procedure. It was not long before companies began producing recordings of high quality, and when the so-called Early Music movement was launched in Europe in the late 1960s, its pioneers were quick to take advantage of the opportunity. This was the beginning of a revolution during which our ears were assailed by new sounds made on old instruments, sparking a predictable controversy among music lovers. I recall a sarcastic comment by a biased New York Times music critic: “This, too, shall pass!” The poor man has been forced to eat his words, for, whether he liked it or not, the revolution has been successful beyond any prediction, and we have long since become accustomed to hearing familiar repertoire performed on the instruments for which it was composed. Besides the modern virtuosi, there are a number of fine performers on historical instruments who have recorded the Sonatas and Partitas, and it is now possible, therefore, to compare radically different approaches to their interpretation. As I have already observed, it was not my intention in writing this book to proselytize , to seek to convert anyone to the use of a Baroque instrument or even to persuade readers of the validity of my conception, but simply to share my experience as a teacher and performer in hopes that what I have offered may be helpful in making the pieces more accessible. Obviously, I have strong opinions about certain aspects of pedagogy and interpretation, and if I have at times erred on the side of hypercriticism, it is, after all, in the grand tradition of eighteenth-century invective, as anyone who has read Leopold Mozart or Francesco Geminiani will recognize. What’s wonderful about music now is the variety of interpretative approach, and there’s something for everybody to enjoy according to personal taste or predilection. Of course, the Sonatas and Partitas are but a small fraction of the amount of music that makes up today’s “standard repertoire,” and the demands on students’ time are Last Words 117 Last Words such that perhaps only one or two of the pieces will be learned during the formative period. However, their real importance in any violinist’s development extends far beyond mere technical craft. There is so much to be gleaned from their careful study that can be applied to other repertoire—truths that can be applied to all music— thereby supporting one’s growth as a musician. For me, Bach’s music is a source of endless fascination and wonder. I hope that the suggestions I have made in this volume may complement or reinforce your own understanding and appreciation of his extraordinary achievement, or lead you along previously unexplored paths. I wish you joy and fulfillment in your own voyage of discovery. ...