“Heifetz and Piatigorsky” is historic film footage of these two 20th-Century
giants of their respective instruments. Shot in black and white, these
profiles appear to have been filmed in the 1950’s, and were released on
DVD in 2005.
The 50-minute segment on violinist Jascha Heifetz begins with a profile of
the man at home. He is show doing such domestic activities as playing
ping-pong, tennis and even changing a tire! We then enter his studio
where “serious” preparation for his upcoming performances takes place.
Generally regarded at that time as the world’s greatest living violinist,
Heifetz was fascinating to watch while performing exercises and drills, to
get his “chops” in peak condition.
Heifetz is then seen with his longtime accompanist, Emanuel Bay, giving
an “impromptu” performance of short concert favorites for the students
at Pomona College. Of course, Heifetz’s bow arm and left-hand technique
were impeccable, with camera work to match. I was grateful for this rare
opportunity to watch him play. He held his instrument high and wore an
imperious expression, seemingly devoid of emotion.
The 25-minute portion of the DVD devoted to cellist Gregor Piatigorsky
was also humorous and whimsical, reflecting the films and television shows
of this era. It was my first exposure to valuable film footage of this great
cellist. Of particular interest was his famous use of “down bow spiccato”
technique, that is, playing several notes spiccato, all in one down bow
stroke. His final piece was his arrangement of “Introduction, Theme
and Variations” by Franz Schubert, which effectively showcased his
The one caveat with this DVD is that during the last half of the Heifetz
segment and part of the Piatigorsky segment, distracting background
sounds were audible. I believe that it was interference from a radio
station. I can only assume that the producers of this DVD were aware
of the interference and determined that it couldn’t be eliminated without
damaging the footage. Unfortunately, it was most annoying. In addition,
the length of this DVD is 75 minutes, instead of the 88-minute running time
listed on the DVD cover. Nevertheless, when you can get footage of
such great performers as Heifetz and Piatigorsky, you take it!