Posts tagged: classical music

Jascha Heifetz: Violin brilliance

By , June 9, 2010 3:18 pm

There have been many great classical violinists in the past, but few have achieved the fame of Jascha Heifetz. His use of rapid vibrato and emotionally charged fast tempos, together with exquisite control over his instrument helped to make his music distinctive, exciting, and brilliant.

A child prodigy, he began making phonograph recordings in Russia when he was only 9 years old. These early recordings are quite rare. On October 27, 1917, at the age of 16 he made his NYC debut in Carnegie Hall.  Shortly thereafter he began recording for the Victor Talking Machine Company and later RCA Victor. The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries has created four audio albums consisting of 32 of these Victor recordings produced between 1917 and 1922. This vintage collection of music originally recorded on 78 rpm discs was digitized and compiled by The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries. These albums are not available for sale or reproduction but can be heard in their entirety on the JSA website.

Heifetz was often a controversial figure. He was attacked in Israel in 1953 because he insisted on including the works of Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner in his repertoire despite the strong sentiment at the time that they were Nazis. On the other hand, he was a strong critic of the Soviet Union and was considered to be a defector by other Russian musicians.

Click on any label to hear that song.

Making beautiful music together: Alma Gluck & Efrem Zimbalist

By , April 16, 2010 2:53 pm
Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Who is your favorite star couple? From Debbie Reynolds & Eddie Fisher to Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, love among celebrities is exciting.  We always want to know more. That’s the way it is today… it is also the way it was a hundred years ago.

In 1911 two Jewish superstars of classical music met and fell in love. They were young, they were talented, and they made beautiful music together.

The Zimbalist-Gluck romance provided lots of material for the gossips of their day. While the idea of such a wonderful pairing of talents was thrilling, there were those who pointed out that Gluck was six years older, as well as a divorcee with a daughter. Scandalous!

Before and during the early years of her marriage to the violin virtuoso, Efrem Zimbalist, famed operatic soprano Alma Gluck enjoyed a highly successful recording career. Her release of Carry Me Back to Old Virginny for the Victor Talking Machine Co. was the first celebrity classical recording to sell over one million copies.

After their marriage Victor/Victrola capitalized on a sure bet: recording the newlyweds together. You can hear two of the most popular of these recordings by clicking on the record labels below.

In his biography of Efrem Zimbalist (Efrem Zimbalist: A Life, 2004), Roy Malan  describes the process of making a recording in the days prior to the electric microphone. “The technique was very basic: a large metal horn was suspended from the ceiling; connected from its small end was a flexible pipe that pssed through a thick curtain to the etching machine in an adjourning room. Singers were instructed to face away from the horn on particularly high notes. Violinists had to position themselves with the sound holes facing directly into the horn’s mouth….The possibility of knocking against the metal rim had constantly to be guarded against (p.117).”

When they recorded together “the singer and violinist each had separate pick-up horns; Efrem later joked that his was much smaller than Alma’s: ‘They didn’t want me to play too loudly and spoil everything!’ (p. 135)”

Among their most financially successful recordings was the Zionist hymn, Hatikva, produced in 1919, and Old Folks at Home by Stephen Foster, produced in 1915.

While rehearsing for this latter recording, Zimbalist discovered that the obbligato was inadequate. He came upon the idea of playing Dvorak’s Humoresque at a slightly slower tempo instead. It was recorded this way and the recording became one of their most popular.

Hear the music.

The JSA has collected 20 song recordings featuring the combined talents of Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist.

To hear all 20 song recordings,

click here.


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