Post by Herman
Ninety-two years old, Walter Levin died, long time first violinist of the LaSalle Quartet.
The LaSalle Quartet, of course, was renowned for their Beethoven, and Second Viennese School playing.
From the Eighties onwards Walter Levin was one of the world's pre-eminent teachers in the string quartet world. It's hard to think of a violinist currently playing in chamber music who has not had contact with Levin.
And with Levin, the LaSalle Quartet is officially extinct.
Well by coincidence I've been listening to a talk by him which was broadcast by France Culture. He says something really interesting (It was hard to hear some of it because there's a translation in French over it)
"Tradition is a word that is often used and often misunderstood. Its etymological origins have something to with traditore, something to do with betrayal, who gives away secrets, state secrets. And that is a nasty tradition.
Tradition can be the opposite of what one thinks of as being positive, it can be something negative, which permits one not to have to think about what is the meaning and the significance of what a piece of music is today. No piece of music stays the same, as time goes on and other music gets composed, that puts it into a different frame of reference. Every contemporary new piece that is written today changes the entire relationship to the old music. And every piece of music needs to be re-evaluated.
There is no other tradition than the serious analysis and the serious evaluation of what the elements are that made a composer write a certain piece and what is the relevance of these elements today.
That means it changes all the time. Tradition is anything, but not keeping something the same, tradition is that which changes all the time, but takes that change seriously in relation to that which was written, but not as something that is rigid, and has to do with a museum piece, the worst thing that we can do is make our music a museum in which things have a fixed value, and that's the way you do them, and that for ever will remain unchanged. That would be totally uninteresting, we won't need any more performers, which would take away our right to ... in terms of the relevance that this has today, and in the changing knowledge that we have about music through new music.
That is a tradition that re-evaluates the old in the light of the new, and I think that is often forgotten when people talk about tradition, that it means knowing wheat is being done in music today, that the musician must participate in the development of contemporary music, the avant garde of the avant garde, he must be very well familiar with what's going on, even for playing old music . . ."
The announcer to the programme stressed his respects for urtexts, and she likened his ideas about text and interpretation to Jewish ideas (Talmud I guess.)
I've also been listening to LaSalle op 132 (a live one), which I think is really interesting.