Masterclass: Rodney Friend on Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso

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Spanish dance and Heifetz are two of Rodney Friend’s biggest influences in this popular showpiece

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I have loved this piece since I was 11 or 12 years old; years later, I actually performed it with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. As a child I played my record of Heifetz, Barbirolli and the London Philharmonic Orchestra performing it ( so often that I wore the disc out. I’d never heard anything like it before and it lived with me: it had such wonderful melodies, and Heifetz’s sound had such great perfume, sparkle and dance. He played it fantastically fast, with amazing rhythm and space. There is something in the architecture of the way Isaac Stern plays it that is also magical (, but Heifetz set a standard that hadn’t been reached before and hasn’t been since. He almost ruined it for everybody else, because he was so good!

My intention was never to copy Heifetz, but I think that most violinists have been influenced by him. This can be a problem: certainly when I was 15 years old, I used to play this piece very fast. Many young players forget that they are not Heifetz, and they play at his speed without having his ability to create beautiful colours and textures as they do so.

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