Friday, March 17, 2006

Hot hot Violin

Yesterday, I went to the Open Rehearsal at the Philharmonic and saw rockstar violinist, Ingolf Turban. After only a few bars, I was ready to write him fan mail. I did think that parts of the notoriously difficult Paganini violin concerto #1 sounded a bit rough, but having never heard it played before, I also couldn't tell if that was how it was supposed to sound. Was it supposed to bounce around like that? or was he just not quite on the string? Througout this crazy piece, Turban was oh-so-sexy, partly because he looked like he was having a great time. His rockstar persona was only helped by the rehearsal outfit: black jeans and a turtleneck. Whoo-baby! All this at 11am; I think the evening performances will be more energetic.
I wondered throughout "man, is it supposed to sound like that?" I was astounded by the whole thing and immediately went out and bought some CDs of Salvatore Accardo playing Paganini. Still, this may not have been enough; I wish I could hear Turban play it again, because even thought I didn't know whether I liked it, exactly, I wanted to figure out exactly what he was doing. I was a bit relieved when I discovered that Goethe shared my confused experience upon the first hearing of a Paganini concerto. He said.
"I heard something simply meteoric and was unable to understand it."

There were parts when the violin really did sing, When Turban played those high notes on the g-string, it almost sounded like a viola. At other times, while he was doing tricky harmonic doublestops, his violin sounded like a flute. At times during Turban's cadenza, I thought he sounded like three violinists all playing at the same time. And in many lyrical passages, he just sounded like a great violinist. On my way out of the concert hall I heard one nay-sayer comment, "All those guitar solos from the 70s that were so hard to play but that I never liked? I think it all originated here," gesturing toward the stage. I have to disagree. Virtuosic guitar solos? just ridiculous and pretentious in the middle of a rock n'roll song. Crazy virtuouso violin playing in the concerto format? totally appropriate, and in fact, more rock n' roll than the guitar solo interrupting some pop music. This music bends your mind in the concerto context. It doesn't sound like difficulty for difficulty's sake and it breaks into an occaisionally pretentious kind of music with a crazy life-affirming joy. The combination of wacky displays of impossible playing and weird sound fills the rather polite concerto form with a surprising eros. In Paganini's case, the music is wild enough that you might, like Goethe, use him to define the "demonic" itself: a "mysterious power that all may feel and no philosophy can explain." Turban, with his winks, grins, and deep knee bends, brought that delicious deviltry right to the fore.
For your own wild classical music experience, don't forget "Wall to Wall Stravinsky" at Symphony Space this weekend.

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