As Ivry Gitlis – one of the more prominent violinists of the 20th century, who will be returning as a distinguished guest to the International Master Course for violinists and string players at Keshet Eilon Music Center – shares his vast knowledge and understanding with young musicians, one quite naturally expects to hear a few words of wisdom about music and music education.
But this is not the case. Gitlis in his 90s, is ironic, witty and anything but didactic and banal.
During his long career, he performed around the globe with the world’s major orchestras under the best conductors of our times, playing both traditional and contemporary repertoire. Many important composers wrote music for him.
Born in Haifa in 1922, to a family of immigrants from Russia, he received his first violin at the age of 5. Three years later, he was already presented to master Bronislaw Huberman, who was so impressed by the boy’s immense talent that he immediately started fund-raising to allow him to study in France. In 1933, Gitlis, together with his mother, arrived in Paris. He studied with legendary musicians such as Carl Flesch, George Enescu and Jacques Thibaud, graduating from the Conservatoire de Paris and later World War II forced him to move to England.
When I asked him what was the most important thing he learned from Flesch, he ironically replied: “How do you know that I learned from him? Maybe this was he who learned from me?” “Everybody asks about Flesch and Enescu, while almost nobody has ever heard about husband and wife Pashkus.
They were great teachers and from them I learned how to analyze a musical piece more than from Flesch and Enescu put together.”
In regards to the questions of what should be done in order to develop a musically talented child he answered.
“This is a wrong question,” he replied.
“First – a child is a talent. Second, as you know, Albert Einstein was a physicist who also played violin. It only means that one of the facets of his talent appeared to be more developed than others.”
“It’s impossible to teach anybody, and especially a child.
If you throw a baby under four months into the water, the infant will swim. After four you will need to teach him swimming. I can tell you what not to do. Parents should never impose their ideas upon the child, or try to make them into something they failed to become.”
He spoke of how he feels about the way people play music nowadays and if he agrees that just 50-60 years ago classical music sounded differently.
“Many people play technically perfect, but their music making reminds me of Tour de France race. Now, Tour de France is a great event – I even played for them, but this has nothing to do with music. Playing is like speaking through music. Nowadays, soloists are like cars – once you could easily distinguish between Opel and Ford, now it is all the same. Can you imagine all men being the same, all women being the same?” In his advanced age he still plays magically and speaking to his younger colleagues, his charismatic personality emanates a love of life in all its richness and complexity. His encounters with his students go far beyond lessons or even master classes. While explaining something, he holds their hands, as if this is just another channel of nonverbal communication, he looks straight into their eyes, he sings and acts and jokes in several languages – and hypnotizes one and all.
His message to the young is to “have the courage to be yourselves, to take risks and not be copies of your recordings or of other’s.
Practice your instrument in order to free yourself from any psychotechnical constraint, to be able to create when you play. Listen to your inner ear, which is connected directly to your heart and spirit. The one that tells you what you feel is you! And the one you don’t feel isn’t you.”
This year, Keshet Eilon takes place between July 2 and August 7 at Eilon. The course hosts more than 50 students from 20 countries, who will hone their skills under renowned teachers and musicians. The program features individual lessons, master classes, evening concerts in the kibbutz’s excellent concert hall, the traditional gala concert in Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, as well as special activities – all open for the general public.
The kibbutz, as well as others in the area offer lodging and when the pleasures of nature are combined with cultural programs, it is a dream vacation.
For more details: www.keshetei.org.il. For reservations: (04) 985-8191/31