Playing: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo HWV 72, serenata by George Frideric Handel
BBC Radio 3

The Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts

Presenter, Essential Classics

Jascha Heifetz




Jascha Heifetz - just the name is enough to evoke the fondest memories, but more than that I have an instant recall of the sort of tonal perfection, pure yet burningly expressive, that no other violinist even approaches. No wonder that the day after the 19-year-old Heifetz’s London debut, George Bernard Shaw wrote him a now legendary letter. “If you provoke a jealous God by playing with such super­human perfection,” Shaw warned, “you will die young. I earnestly advise you to play something badly every night before going to bed, instead of saying your prayers. No mortal should presume to play so faultlessly.” And mention the Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts, inaugurated in the 1960s in collaboration with the great Russian-American cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and the subject of this week's 'Artist of the Week' slot on Essential Classics, and my sense of anticipation becomes positively palpable. Take Brahms's Op.111 String Quintet, which in the hands of Heifetz and friends takes off like a rocket while holding fast to your heart strings. Yes the pressure hurts, but you're glad that it does. Or Dvorák's Piano Quintet with violist Joseph de Pasquale, the musical equivalent of  a dance festival on a hot summer's day: such energy, and such intensity. Beethoven's Piano Trio Op. 70 No. 2 burns equally bright, the finale in particular so joyful that you feel that the players - and Heifetz in particular - are about to jump out of their skins. Brahms's Double Concerto is a true meting of musical soul mates, as warm a blend of string tones as you're ever likely to hear and just in case you think that this team is only up for applying the pressure, there's the fragile beauty of their Bach Inventions, just three of them, but still unforgettable. This will be a vintage week of Essential Classics and make no mistake, great music, great playing and a chance to sample a style of performance that's lost to us forever. I look forward to your reactions.


·          Rob Cowan

·          Essential Classics

·          BBC Radio 3


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