Friday, July 8, 2011

The music of the heart

Today I heard about a death that made me emotional. The violinist Josef Suk died. He was 81. There he is up above! I never knew what he looked like.

Suk -- you say it "souk" -- had significance to me. I wrote about it once before. He was descended from Dvorak and the composer Josef Suk but I did not care beans about that. What I cared about was that he played the version of Mozart's Adagio in E for Violin that I fell in love with when I was 14.

The reason I remember I was 14 -- I had just turned 14 -- was that it was 1976 and the classical station was playing music for the Bicentennial, music written in 1776. This glorious Adagio in E came on and I was taping it with my primitive cassette recorder. I know, nerd! I was a hoot when I was 14. I was leading this double life. None of my schoolfriends knew anything about my Mozart obsession. Well, they knew I was obsessed but they knew nothing about it.

Josef Suk played the daylights out of this piece and I will always remember hearing it for the first time. There is this one part of it so passionate and grown-up and I remember listening to it and thinking I would faint.

After that I learned the lesson in music everyone learns, that not all recordings are equal. I got somebody's recording from the record store, I forget whose, but it did not measure up.

So periodically even as I got into my 20s I would dig out that old cassette and listen to my old Suk recording.

To my delight I found it on YouTube. Well, I found one recording by Josef Suk. It is not quite the one I had, because I remember the cadenza of the one I had, and it is not this one. But it is as good.

I knew what I liked when I was 14, you know? The things I loved then, I love now. And it is funny because when you are a kid you see the world in primary colors. You LOVE this. You HATE that. Often there is no middle ground.

Back then I never knew what Suk looked like and it is strange to see him now, this square looking Czech guy with big glasses. But man, can he play.

Listening to Suk play this piece now, I can put into words what I loved about it, and still do. I like the passion he puts into it. I like how he sails and soars through it. The part I love, and I wrote about this before but I must write about it again, it starts at about 2:51. It repeats later. I am not a violinist but it seems to me what you have to do at this point is just sing your heart out. Don't hold back. I have heard other violinists who pull back and that is not the right thing to do. Suk does not. He sings out the music, and he does that consistently through the whole piece. This is a quality by the way that I love in Leonard Pennario's playing. He doesn't play stupid games with you.

It is great on a hot night like this to listen to this beautiful and passionate Adagio accompanied by a big glass of chilled white wine, as God and Mozart surely intended.

Rest in peace, Josef Suk, you wonderful musician who showed me the beauty of this wonderful piece.

No comments:

Post a Comment