Mischa, Jascha, Toscha, Sascha…

A few chatty, Youtubey musical things from times past, ideal for a quiet wet morning and best sampled with porridge (recommendation: Rude Health’s Organic Fruity Date variety). Those without a sweet tooth, a passion for golden-age violin playing and a fondness for a little light-hearted Gershwin should look away now. Anyone else, come right in…it’s warm in here.

First of all, today is the anniversary of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s death, aged 60, in 1957. Brendan Carroll has uploaded a touching tribute for the occasion: a recording of the composer playing the Epilog from his Marchenbilder (written when he was 12, btw) with a montage of rare photos, which you can view on Youtube here.

Now, pop musicians are often more involved with classical music than you might think. One such is Tanita Tikaram, who’s a big enthusiast and a keen pianist. I’ve always liked her songs and her dark, direct voice. Over at her blog, she’s just asked our ace-violinist friend Philippe Graffin to take her “TT Test” – an e-interview, to which Philippe has responded with some lovely answers and a special plug for Toscha Seidel, that hot-toned undersung violin hero of the Heifetz era. Heifetz and Seidel were both students of Leopold Auer, but later it was Jascha who made the big time while Toscha ended up leading orchestras in Hollywood. This was not necessarily fair on the part of fate.

Here’s a chance to compare the playing of Kreisler, Heifetz and Seidel – same instrument, vividly contrasted personalities. Again, a montage of rare photos matches the music, including some amazing ones of the youthful Heifetz. More Korngold, too, from Seidel with the composer at the piano… I find it very difficult to choose a favourite from these three recordings, but Seidel does have a special place in my fiddle-addicted heart. Which of them most floats your boat?

Gershwin and his brother Ira had some fun with the golden-age fiddlers Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, Toscha Seidel and Sascha Jacobsen (the last of whom is largely forgotten compared to the others, but was concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the 1950s). “Mischa, Jascha, Toscha, Sascha, we’re four fiddlers three…” It’s not a well-known song, but if you’re into this historical violin stuff, it’s simply priceless. Here it is. Happy Sunday!

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Greater—not wiser

John Mullan elucidates the genius of Charles Dickens
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