Vladimir Spivakov: Homage to Jascha Heifetz

Our recollections do not get old with us and "... time, facing memory, loses its rights" - in these words of Joseph Brodsky there is revealed one of the keenest mysteries of our brain which, independently of us, identifies the milestones that define our maturity and our choices in life. For example, an encounter with the absolute perfection, be it the Pergamon Altar, Michelangelo's frescoes, female portraits by Leonardo da Vinci, the Reims Cathedral, a sculpture by Rodin or the play of light and shadows in the paintings of the Impressionists, after the first bewilderment purifies our mind and awakens the best that is inherent in every man. I was fortunate to grow up in Leningrad whose beautiful orderly avenues almost unconsciously instilled into me the sense of harmony. I remember my first encounter with the art of Jascha Heifetz, when still a boy in Leningrad, I heard, on the vinil plates, his playing the Mendelssohn Concerto, Rondo Capriccioso by Saint-Saëns and the "Gypsy Airs" by Sarasate, and I was overwhelmed with the same sense of harmony and grace, but on the move, which opened to me the unlimited depths of the violin sound. Later, when I was in Manila, I was given to listen to his recording of M. Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy", and, though by that time I was well aware of the power of the magical effects of the violin tones, the very first phrase brought me to tears. One of my teachers was Lubov Segal, a student of the renowned violin pedagogue Leopold Auer, who told me a lot about her teacher and his other pupils, including Jascha Heifetz who had stood out owing to his genuine talent and honed technical skills. Therefore, in a way, I could feel myself to be part of the great tradition of the Russian violin school, which probably made the organizers of my debut at Carnegie Hall state on the poster «justly compared to Jascha Heifetz». This advertising confused me enormously, but also sparked an inspired playing, so after my performance of Beethoven's Seventh Sonata the entire audience stood up in ovation. My relationship with Heifetz only got strengthened and was often referred to in the reviews of my concerts. Jascha Heifetz was born 115 years ago, and hence only a few alive today have heard him play in a concert hall. Fortunately, there have survived numerous audio and video recordings of his recitals, orchestral concerts, his playing in chamber ensembles with Arthur Rubinstein, Gregory Pyatigorsky, Emmanuel Feuermann, that allow us to understand why Heifetz's performances had always been something exceptional. The Colmar Festival program this year will reflect, as in a mosaic, the different facets of Jascha Heifetz's art, with his constant quest for perfection. We hope that this Festival will open another bright page in the life of Alsace. Art, like any other sphere of human activity, evolves and changes, but there remain immutable values, which include the highest achievements of musical creativity, when the spirit gets released from worldliness and the person may exclaim, "I am!", as Scriabin claimed in his "Poem of Ecstasy".

Vladimir Spivakov, June 2016