- Posted January 31, 2014 by
Paying my tribute to the 113-year-old violinist Heifetz ── Remembering the true genius
Writer: Yuexiu Hong
Translator: Shan Ju Lin
“When talk about violin, it’s difficult not to think about Heifetz; he is almost the synonymous of the violin.” This is what the music lover posted on the Facebook.
I had very little knowledge about the famous Heifetz, and had only heard about him from some of the reports. Until I came to know Hefetz’s most favourite student Sherry Kloss in 2009, and through publishing the Chinese version of Kloss's book, I started to learn about Heifetz well.
Sherry Kloss’ Mission Towards To Heifetz
As an assistant teacher of Heifetz’s master class, Kloss has worked with Heifetz for more than 11 years. She is one of the few people had been closed to Heifetz’s private life. Heifetz has left his precious Calo Tononi violin and François Tourte bow to Kloss as gift in his will. Since then, Heifetz’s musical heritage continued through Kloss’ life. In every performance and lecturing, Kloss always eager to handed down Heifetz’s spirit treasures to those who were touched.
When close to the 2nd of February every year, Kloss always talked about her beloved teacher to me. She was hoping to hold some events to remember Heifetz in Asia. It was with the same spirit, that Kloss has chosen to publish her Chinese book – “Jascha Heifetz Through My Eyes” in Taiwan. She was hoping to promote Heifetz’s spirit to whole Asia. As the successor of Violin Master Heifetz, Kloss has the mission to honour her teacher - that is to inherit and share with the young generation Heifetz’s violin teaching philosophes, strategies and the sincere musical interpretation, as well as the quality of dignity and humanity that a musician should have.
A Low Key Violinist
Whoever loves the violin should know that Heifetz didn’t like to talk about himself in public. Whenever he took an interview, it was always very brief. Therefore, no one really understood what Heifetz was like as a person. Someone described Heifetz as a “cold master”, as if he never showed his smile and facial expressions when performing. He would also always ignore the cheers from the crowd and stay calm when he finished his performance. Kloss mentioned that Heifetz thought the facial emotions would disturb the audience’s concentration on the music.
Although Heifetz‘s playing skills were very dazzling and passionate, they didn’t make people think his music was too hypocritical, because he was loyal to music. Also as his fans seem to only hear Heifetz’s emotions from the music, it makes many people think Heifetz was a very serious and stern man. But it was just an illusion on the surface. In fact, to his students, he was a very caring teacher; he was passionate to give his support to students' learning and living.
Other than his music, Heifetz was very interested in sports, literature and arts. The leisure sport he most often played was table tennis. Kloss vividly describes her first experience of Heifetz drove her, she was thinking: “was teacher a car racer in his previous life?” Kloss still has a lingering fear even if she was only just thinking about it. However, it is not always the case. Sometimes, the speed could be compared to a leisurely walk.
Pry Heifetz From A Little Story
Sherry Kloss has visited Taiwan several years ago, she talked about how she sees Heifetz at a Stanford University Alumni Association event. She recalled when in lessons, Heifetz always asked “who is ready?” when he thought everything was ready. Kloss mentioned this to show how Heifetz pointed students to music, its style, charm and message. He was rarely doing unthoughtful or things that couldn’t work on students. Therefore, he only needed to listen to a few notes that students played before he immediately knew whether the student was ready or not.
There is a little story vividly describing Heifetz’s personality. Once in the classroom after everybody said good morning to each other, Heifetz suddenly turned his head to a student, and talked to him with a stern tone saying: “I was never interested in gossip in the hallway; I also don’t want people who do so to be in my class.” The boy’s face turned red and stayed there nervously for a long time.
“If I have a day without practice, I know myself; two days without practice, a critic would know; three days without practicing, everyone will know." This is a well-known Heifetz saying. The reason that Heifetz could became a master was not just because his talents and effort, but also because his music tone was like a painter’s colour mixing tray. There was no exaggerated interpretation of facial expressions; all could easily capture the audience’s heart. Since Heifetz sounds have reached a very superb realm, such incredible arts expression could only be described as magic. There was no one who could imitate it. This has kept Heifetz till now as a musical legend.
Never Be Forgotten Violinist
As far as we know, Heifetz has a long influence in the music world, even though he has already passed away for more than 26 years. His CDs are still contentiously collected by fans. It doesn’t matter how old the recording was, his performance always has the modern tone. As the godfather of violin in the US, Issac Stern said: “Heifetz has deep influence in the 20 Century of violin music.” Famous violinist Itzhak Perlman says Heifetz is “the God of Violin Music.”
The most talked about story in 1917 was that Heifetz held the national premiere at Carnegie Hall in New York when he was 16 years old. His brilliant playing skill and calm stage demeanour shocked the whole audience. The difficult notes were played so easily by Heifetz, the precise intonation and dynamic tone change amazed the whole audience. Heifetz has since rapidly conquered the international music scene.
Heifetz spent his last stage of life in teaching. Kloss as a student of Heitz for five years, and six years as assistant of Heifetz’s master class. He mentioned that Heifetz used his own role model, and requested the students he selected to reach his strict standards. He used his complete effort in education, asked students to maintain hardship practicing and establish clear individual style. Heifetz never hesitated to demonstrate to students that he valued every students’ uniqueness, sharing his experiences and, explaining the use of intonations, opposite performing styles, phrasing and how to interpret music improvisation etc. with students.
Kloss has accepted NTDTV’s invitation to be the judge of the 2008 Global Chinese Violin Competition, she was honoured as “the global most excellent violinist”, as she possessed well known “singing like” performing style. Kloss is concentrating on her violin teaching career, also to promote her beloved teacher Heifetz’s spiritual philosophy. Kloss had done a violin master class in Taiwan. I have observed Kloss’s teaching strategies on fingering and scale. I could sense that she is not just as passionate about teaching, but also has high expectations on intonation. Students easily trust her teaching. Kloss is making sure she could deliver Heifetz’s specialised message in every lesson she conducted. She is also doing her best to share Heifetz’s musical heritage. The “Preserving the legacy of Jascha Heifetz” forum Kloss is hosted every year, and will be reach the 21st anniversary in 2014 (www.klossclassics.com).
In welcoming Heifetz’s 113 birthday, it is worth paying a tribute on that although Heifetz was born as a genius, he also put a lot of effort in and was strict on himself not to fall into the stereotype status. In his late age, he put his complete effort into educating students, hoping to inherit an orthodox spirit. This is the cultural treasure that Heifetz left to the future generations. By publishing Kloss’ “Jascha Heifetz Through My Eyes” Chinese version, I had the chance to know Kloss, and to share her respect on her beloved teacher Heifetz, derived from the warm depths of her heart. I’ve also shared her knowledge on Heifetz’s exquisite classical music. This precious musical gem has shown the sound of music, which was not grandstanding. It also embedded a restrained hidden dazzling and shining ambience.
Sherry Kloss has recommenced the following documentary on her website: