Ivry Gitlis is not only regarded as a legendary virtuoso, but he is an intellectual as well. Anyone who has ever sat in on one of his Master classes will testify to that. As a violinist, Gitlis is much like gourmet food; you either love it or hate it. Not everyone likes gourmet food. Some prefer junk food. The former is not necessarily better tasting than the latter; just a lot more sophisticated and unique.
I've heard the Tchaikovsky concerto performed by at least 100 violinists. After a while most of those interpretations tend to blur together and sound stagnant and commonplace, especially with contemporary violinists, which is why I rarely attend live concerts to hear violin concertos anymore. Technically speaking, today's violinists, on the whole, are better than ever. Yet, musically, they are far lacking in individuality. Like a McDonald's hamburger, no matter where you go they all taste the same. This is why I prefer to watch violinists of a previous generation, especially if I'm purchasing the performance on DVD; something I intend to watch again and again. This is one of those DVDs I'm talking about.
Most memorable are those in the league with Heifetz, Oistrakh, Ricci, Milstein, Grumiaux, Kogan, Rabin, Ferras, Szeryng, Kreisler, Stern, and Ivry Gitlis. The reason I mention so many is because each and every one of these artists are legendary. By the grace of God, Gitlis is still alive and well and is able to share his musicianship and wisdom on various outlets such as . Of course, there are other legendary violinists worthy of mentioning, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.
Eduard Hanslick wrote a scathing review of this concerto when he heard it performed, saying that "The violin is no longer played but is yanked about, torn asunder, and beaten black & blue." Then he condemned it by saying that "The concerto stinks in the ear."
The problem with this concerto is that it's been so popular that it's become a old war horse. Too many of today's violinists fail to play it with individuality, or else they ham it up and overplay it. The way Heifetz played it was absolutely flawless. Gitlis plays the concerto similar to Ricci, with a powerful bow & unique phrasings. Some of his passages tend to border on the grotesque, which is perfect for this very aggressive work.
I only regret not having seen this performance in person. I read a review allegedly by the conductor's former wife castigating Ivry Gitlis' playing. I ignore such reviews because they are conceived with bias. Whenever anyone uses such broad terms as "lacks musical phrasing" or "plays like a fiddler" take it for granted that that person doesn't know what he/she is talking about. They are NOT being objective. An example of being objective would include such faults as bad intonation, spacatto in the place of staccato, and lackadaisical phrasing. But before anyone attempts to criticize the musician, it is best if they would FIRST read the score so they know what they're talking about! I've read where dilettantes have bashed Heifetz, who was perhaps the greatest violinist of all time. I would love to give these pseudo-musicologists a blind taste test to see if they could actually tell one violinist from another.
I've known conductors and soloists alike who badmouth one-another for various reasons, but rarely are such reasons legitimate. I don't even know who the conductor is on this DVD. He doesn't seem to be important. This is not that difficult of a concerto to conduct. But it is a difficult concerto to play uniquely without overdoing or underdoing it.
I made a copy of this DVD because I play it so much that I'm afraid of wearing it out. A better commendation cannot be given, and I recommend it highly.