“Auer was a great virtuoso player. He held a unique place in the Imperial Ballet. You know in many of the celebrated ballets, Tschaikovsky’s for instance, there occur beautiful and difficult solos for the violin. They call for an artist of the first rank, and Auer was accustomed to play them in Petrograd. In Russia it was considered a decided honor to be called upon to play one of those ballet solos; but in London it was looked on as something quite incidental. I remember when Diaghilev presented Tschaikovsky’s Lac des Cygnes in London, the Grand-Duke Andrew Vladimirev (who had heard me play), an amiable young boy, and a patron of the arts, requested me—and at that time the request of a Romanov was still equivalent to a command—to play the violin solos which accompany the love scenes. It was not exactly easy, since I had to play and watch dancers and conductor at the same time. Yet it was a novelty for London, however; everybody was pleased and the Grand-Duke presented me with a handsome diamond pin as an acknowledgment.
“You ask me what I understand by ‘Violin Mastery’? Well, it seems to me that the artist who can present anything he plays as a distinct picture, in every detail, framing the composer’s idea in the perfect beauty of his plastic rendering, with absolute truth of color and proportion—he is the artist who deserves to be called a master!
“Of course, the instrument the artist uses is an important factor in making it possible for him to do his best. My violin? It is an authentic Strad—dated 1722. I bought it of Willy Burmester in London. You see he did not care much for it. The German style of playing is not calculated to bring out the tone beauty, the quality of the old Italian fiddles. I think Burmester had forced the tone, and it took me some time to make it mellow and truly responsive again, but now....” Mr. Elman beamed. It was evident he was satisfied with his instrument. “As to strings,” he continued, “I never use wire strings—they have no color, no quality!
WHAT TO STUDY AND HOW
“For the advanced student there is a wealth of study material. No one ever wrote more beautiful violin music than Haendel, so rich in invention, in harmonic fullness. In Beethoven there are more ideas than tone—but such ideas! Schubert—all genuine, spontaneous! Bach is so gigantic that the violin often seems inadequate to express him. That is one reason why I do not play more Bach in public.
“The study of a sonata or concerto should entirely absorb the attention of the student to such a degree that, as he is able to play it, it has become a part of him. He should be able to play it as though it were an improvisation—of course without doing violence to the composer’s idea. If he masters the composition in the way it should be mastered it becomes a portion of himself. Before I even take up my violin I study a piece thoroughly