David Oistrakh was one of those legendary musicians whose art of playing continues to influence violinists today. Along with Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein and Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh is universally recognized not only as one of the few truly great violinists of the last century but as one of music's most striking personalities. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birthday, Medici Arts is releasing a wonderfully personal documentary on DVD. Born in September 1908, the Soviet Russian violinist made numerous recordings and copious compositions were dedicated to him, most notably two violin concertos by Dmitri Shostakovich and the popular one by Aram Khachaturian. In his lifetime he was a champion of contemporary Soviet music as well as being famous as a performer of classical concertos all over the world. As a result of the political situation of the time Oistrakh's career in Western Europe, America and Japan blossomed only relatively late, so that it was not until 1953 that he began to make regular appearances in the West, by which time he was already forty-five, although his legendary reputation had long since made him the subject of endless speculation throughout the Western musical world. His first proper international tour instantly confirmed the legend and from then until his death in Amsterdam in 1974 he pursued a varied career in the concert hall, as soloist and conductor, and as a teacher. This portrait by Bruno Monsaingeon shows the inspired violinist as musician and private person through extensive interviews with Oistrakh's long-time friends and fellow artists: Yehudi Menuhin showing what it takes to make a great violinist; Mstislav Rostropovitch talking of Oistrakh's stance on the Soviet regime; Gidon Kremer recalling Oistrakh as a teacher; Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who conducted all the major concertos for him; and Oistrakh's son, Igor, recalling the family man.
God's Fiddler: Jascha Heifetz -- Not since Paganini had there been such a magician on the violin.
The first modern violin virtuoso, about whom Itzhak Perlman says in the film, When I spoke with him, I thought, I can t believe it. I m talking with God . A musical wunderkind, he went on to set the standard in violin playing for nearly a century. This film portrays an artist for whom only perfection would do, so well known in popular culture that his name became shorthand for excellence for everyone from Jack Benny, to The Muppets, to Woody Allen.
Heifetz was a legendary but mysterious figure whose story embodies the dual nature of artistic genius: the paradox of how a mortal man lives with immortal gifts- gifts he must honor, but which extract a life long price. Is the man and the artist the same person? What is the price each pays? And who was the man behind the music?
Marsha Hunt is a maid on the staff, mother of an aspiring pianist (William Prince), their chat leading to another performance, by mezzo-soprano Rise Stevens, star of the Metropolitan Opera, with a selection from her celebrated interpretation of Bizet's 'Carmen,' in Carnegie Hall, 1947.
The narrative featuring Marsha Hunt nearly abandoned here, in favor of the performance by the French-born soprano Lily Pons, singing from one of her signature roles, from Delibes' 'Lakme,' in the 1947 tribute to the famous theater, Carnegie Hall.
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