“Sevcik, though an admirable teacher, personally is of a reserved and reflective type, quite different from Auer, who is open and expansive. I might recall a little instance which shows Sevcik’s cautious nature, the care he takes not to commit himself too unreservedly. When I took leave of him—it was after I had graduated and won my prize—I naturally (like all his pupils) asked him for his photo. Several other pupils of his were in the room at the time. He took up his pen (I was looking over his shoulder), commenced to write Meinem best.... And then he stopped, glanced at the other pupils in the room, and wrote over the best ... he had already written, the word liebsten. But though I would, of course, have preferred the first inscription, had Sevcik completed it, I can still console myself that the other, even though I value it, was an afterthought. But it was a characteristic thing for him to do!
THE VIOLIN AS A MEANS OF EXPRESSION
“What is my idea of the violin as a medium of expression? It seems to me that it is that of any other valid artistic medium. It is not so much a question of the violin as of the violinist. A great interpreter reveals his inner-most soul through his instrument, whatever it may be. Most people think the violin is more expressive than any other instrument, but this is open to question. It may be that most people respond more readily to the appeal made by the violin. But genuine expression, expressive playing, depends on the message the player has to deliver far more than on the instrument he uses as a means. I have been as much moved by some piano playing I have heard as by the violin playing of some of the greatest violinists.
“And variety, nuance in expressive playing, is largely a matter of the player’s mental attitude. Bach’s Chaconne or Sicilienne calls for a certain humility on the part of the artist. When I play Bach I do it reverentially; a definite spiritual quality in my tone and expression is the result. And to select a composer who in many ways is Bach’s exact opposite, Wieniawski, a certain audacious brilliancy cannot help but make itself felt tonally, if this music is to be played in character. The mental and spiritual attitude directly influences its own mechanical transmission. No one artist should criticize another for differences in interpretation, in expression, so long as they are justified by larger concepts of art. Individuality is one of the artist’s most precious possessions, and there are always a number of different angles from which the interpretation of an art work may be approached.
“Violin mastery? There have been only three violinists within my own recollection, whom I would call masters of the violin. These are Kubelik (when at his best), Franz von Vecsey, Hubay’s pupil, whom I heard abroad, and Heifetz, with his cameo-like perfection of technic. These I would call masters of the violin, as an instrument, since they have mastered every intricacy of the instrument. But I could name several others who are greater musicians, and whose playing and interpretation, to say nothing of tone, I prefer.