Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane” was written in 1924 for Hungarian
violinist Jelly d’Arányi (1893-1966), the grandniece of violinist
Joseph Joachim (1831-1907). Apparent from the rhapsodic
opening solo, it is homage to the Gypsy way of life. Later
entrances by the piano or orchestra confirm this, and a
remarkable drama unfolds during the approximate
10-minute duration of the piece.
Recently, I watched Maxim Vengerov encourage violinist
Pedro Meireles (1981 – ) to recognize the drama within
this piece. This session was captured on DVD by the
Masterclass Media Foundation. Vengerov began his
coaching by sharing a historical anecdote: After he
was impressed by her performance in concert, Ravel
worked with d’Arányi at a restaurant. Their meeting
inspired Ravel to write for the violin, and the result
was “Tzigane,” a Hungarian-infused, Gypsy rhapsody.
Ravel orchestrated this piece the same year; therefore,
there are two versions of it. In the intimate setting of
this masterclass, the “authentic” version was performed
with piano accompaniment. It was a welcome departure
from the practice of performing concertos with a “budget”
orchestra (i.e., only piano accompaniment), which I’ve
observed in the other installments of this DVD series.
Here, Vengerov actually demonstrated certain passages
on his own violin, in contrast with his coaching sessions
in the series that were devoted to the works of
Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten. During
those sessions, Vengerov didn’t play at all. His real
flair for verbal imagery got a lot of laughs from the small
audience assembled for this masterclass, which was
held at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Obviously, this 2008 DVD is particularly valuable to violin
students and teachers, and the picture and sound quality
are first rate. Once again, I came away from watching
this 46-minute DVD with greater knowledge and
appreciation for the “inner workings” of the featured
piece, and I am the richer for it. The fact that this was
achieved at the hands of a topnotch violinist like
Maxim Vengerov was an added bonus.