Heifetz Master Classes

Article excerpt

Heifetz Master Classes. DVD. Directed by Alexander Hammid. West Long Branch, NJ: Kultur, 2011, 1962. D1550. $34.99.

Kultur International Films has recently re-released over three and a half hours of film featuring legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz teaching his famous master classes at the University of Southern California during the early 1960's. These rare films are a must-have for any violin student, teacher, or librarian. After only a few minutes of watching Heifetz Master Classes I was reminded why Jascha Heifetz is my all time favorite violinist. His dazzling virtuosity, clarity of attack, and shimmering tone is unmatched in my mind by any other player. But what is even more fascinating, is the way Heifetz the teacher repeatedly reinforces the idea that absolute technical command of instrument, (something for which he was renowned), paired with a thorough theoretical understanding of the musical work is the key to artistry and expression.

These student-teacher interactions are fascinating to watch. The lessons certainly show the more human side of Heifetz who was frequently criticized as overly serious and mechanical. Though he certainly does come across as severe at times, he is also affectionate, friendly and often the humorist. In fact, the film concludes with Heifetz himself performing an imitation of a bad student, an act which is met with riotous laughter.

The intimate relationship between technique and musical expression is reinforced throughout these lessons. …