Nothing less than amazing
teva_man | United States | 01/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was the first classical music video I ever saw, back around 1989.
It was a long time before it got released on DVD, but I'm glad it finally did. This DVD (and the VHS tape that preceded it) is actually three short films that were produced by Rudolph Polk and Bernard Luber in the early 1950s. The great violinist Louis Kaufman, interestingly, saw these around the time they were made, and commented in his memoir, "the films were 50 years ahead of their time." They were in fact part of a series of films - Andres Segovia, Artur Rubinstein, Jan Peerce, and (I think) Marian Anderson were also filmed at different times. Because of the time they were done (circa 1952), the commentary - done by a voiceover artist - is extremely dated and corny. Polk and Luber came up with some different storylines involving the musicians to make them seem a bit more authentic. There were actually supposed to be more films made with Heifetz; he signed with Polk to do something like 4 of these pictures for $10,000. Polk eventually went bankrupt and Heifetz sued him for the 2 remaining films that never got made. Royalties were promised to the others including Peerce, et al., but they never got any. I don't know if these were ever shown on TV. The property sat in storage for 25 years, until Kultur released them in 1977 right around the time VHS came into being. Now they're on DVD and...here we sit.
The first program is a candid glimpse into Heifetz's life - showing his Beverly Hills studio and house (the studio that he designed, built by Lloyd Wright is gone now but the main house is still there) and also his Malibu beach house with the tennis courts (which I think has long since been torn down and rebuilt). We see him warming up on scales in thirds, and the opening passages of the Beethoven concerto. A minute or so of practicing with his long-term pianist, Emanuel Bay, is also included. These segments segue into part of a recital, at some location (President Eisenhower was in the audience). The program includes Bach Preludio in E major, Wieniawski Scherzo-Tarantelle, "The Girl With the Flaxen Hair" by Debussy, and Paganini Caprice #24 (with Bay playing the rather klunky piano part by Leopold Auer.) The second film is an obviously-staged "Q and A" session at Pomona College in southern California, which "turns into a recital." Heifetz and Bay play some program numbers that, in essence, always sort of "belonged" to Heifetz (Prokofiev March from "Love for Three Oranges", Wieniawski Polonaise #1, Brahms Hungarian Dance #7, etc.)
The third film is Piatigorsky. Here, the set-up is that he arrives at the airport, after agreeing to participate in a talk show. But his cello is "damaged." A fawning, gushy talk show host named Stella Transit (played by an unknown actress) takes him to the studio of famed luthier Koodlach (who worked on Heifetz's and Piatigorsky's instruments for years, incidentally.) After Koodlach gives him the good news that the cello is fine, he plays a Bach Bouree. At the TV studio, we see him in rehearsal with pianist Ralph Berkowitz (who for years was on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music.) The numbers include Prokofiev's "Masks", Rubinstein's "Romance", the slow movement from a Chopin sonata, Schubert's "Theme and Variations for cello", and one or two others.
I'd recommend this DVD to any classical musician. The playing is first rate, which goes without saying. I'd also recommend the other Polk-Luber films, which are by now probably out on DVD, especially the "Rubinstein in Performance" DVD, which also includes the famed (but short-lived) Rubinstein-Heifetz-Piatigorsky trio playing in Rubinstein's home."
A must for Heifetz fans
R. Taylor | 10/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must say that I was very happy with the sound on this item. It was very clear. If you can't get enough of watching Heifetz play, this is the selection for you. I thought the slow motion view of his hands was interesting.
Though it was obviously filmed for publicity and was downright corny in spots; it was entertaining anyway.
I was very happy to see the segment on Piatigorsky. I have never seen him play. It was wonderful to hear him."
The Heydays of the Russian Musicians
BLee | HK | 10/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
For the full repertoire, audience can refer to the editorial review. What the review hasn't said is, both Heifetz and Piatigorsky, on different occasions, spoke to the audience in English breifely. They even did a little bit of acting to make their appearances to the audience before the televsion more naturally: for Heifetz as though he was being chanced into, and for Piatigorsky that there was a failed attempt to interview him...
For the violin music overs, for sure they would treasure (i) the uncovering of Heifetz's attitude towards his perfectionism, which helped to change the standard of music performance so much; (ii) the close-up of Heifetz's fingering in slow motion; (iii) there are some clips that were not seen or not seen in full before.
For the cellists lovers, especially those who have seen enough of Rostropovich and Yoyo Ma, they might as well try Piatigorsky for a change. It is categorically more aristocratic than the other Russians after the baptism of communism. Piatigorsly used to partner with Horowitz and Miltein after the three took flee from Russia after the revolution. Piatigorsky was soon enlisted by Furtwangler as the principal cellist of Berlin Philharmonic whichhe left to become a soloist."