Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yehudi chala sukhama, Paganini sannidhi seva sukhama

I have read about the Western classical violin maestros: Yehudi Menuhin, Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh and others. Today I was absolutely thrilled when I found their videos on YouTube.

Yehudi Menuhin playing Paganini's Perpetual Motion. It simply takes your breath away.

More Menuhin delights.

Jascha Heifetz playing the Paganini Caprice No. 24.

More Heifetz videos.

I always thought of the violin virtuosi as thin folks with long and lean fingers. With Menuhin and Heifetz, I was proved right. However, when I found David Oistrakh, I realised chubby multi-chinned people could be maestros too.

More videos of the Ranatunga of the violin world.

Other maestros:
* * * *

A couple of days back, I came across the show Italian: The Language That Sings on NPR, which said:
Even when it isn't sung, the Italian language sounds like music...
This programme reminded me immediately of the position of Telugu in Carnatic music. Telugu is also considered a musical language and has been hailed as "the Italian of the East." The poet Subramanya Bharathi famously called it sundara teluGgu.

The musicality of the two languages has been attributed to:
... the fact that most words end in a vowel. Not only does this make it a very suitable language for opera, it also means that once you are familiar with its rhythms, it is a comparatively easy language to pronounce. [Link]
On coming to Bangalore, I observed that Kannada words end in vowels too. Sample:
nArAyaNA ninNna nAmada smaraNeya sArAmRtavenNna nAligege barali [mp3]
Doesn't that sound as sweet? Does it not bleed when pricked?

Probably, their vowel-ending does not fully explain their status as musical languages. On Italian, the NPR programme explains:
So many of these musical forms—sonata, cantata, aria—started in Italy," Hoffman says.

"Plus, Italian musicians were in positions of prestige all over Europe, so it became the lingua franca."

Possibly similar reasons exist for Telugu too?


Anonymous said...

Great videos!

But I have a question (mostly in a lighter vein) to ask you abt the Yehudi Menuhin piece.

What do you think abt the fact that any violinist (with 1 year experience) could have played that just need to speed up the audio later :)

I think you will also understand the bigger issue I am alluding to, here.

Also I have some movie recommendations for you concerning the violin:

"Un coeur en hiver" : French - does not directly involve the violin -- but one of the best films I have ever seen, and features great violin musical performances.

"Red violin": A good film directly concerning the violin.

"Ranatunga of the violin world" --:)

-- Vijay

Srikanth said...


I think I get what you mean. :-)

The selections I have made are probably not fair to Menuhin and Heifetz. I tend to have a soft corner for skill/technique, since it appeals to the violin-student in me. Compositions of Paganini tend to have virtuosic elements that enable a violinist to show off his skills. In simple terms: digital acrobatics. (Note the pizzicato passages in the Heifetz video.)

I think you may find pieces with more "soul" in the other videos. Menuhin, Heifetz (and other maestros mentioned here) are known for their soulful interpretations. In fact, after one Menuhin recital, Einstein is said to have told him, "Now I know that there is a God in Heaven."

Thanks for your movie recommendations!

Anonymous said...

You are right srikanth, I am not trying to stereotype the great menuhin here.

We also know that you have a soft corner for skill as I have for "soulful" music -- btw, I like the fact that you chose to put the soul within quotations :)

On a very related note, this brings us to the philosophical question of what constitutes a musical performance. There is no doubt that anybody would have been stunned if he/she were in that live performance of menuhin playing that piece. At the same time, it is so easy to 'produce' that piece from a mediocre violinist.

-- Vijay

రాకేశ్వర రావు said...

Both Kannada and Telugu are Open Syllable (Ajanta = ending in vowel) languages.
To listen to any other language after listening to these is like a pain. :)
Except some other OS languages like Japanese, Italian, Hawaiian, and to some extent Malayalam, Spanish etc.

Srikanth said...

రాకేశ్వర రావు garu,
Thanks for the list of open syllable languages! I am a bit surprised Malayalam is in it. I had thought Malayalam, like Tamil, had a fair proportion of consonant-ending words.

ader45 said...

try malay violin you will be amazed too

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