Saturday, March 11, 2006

Author Compromised By Fiddle Passion

I can't believe I did this. But today I went against all my principles and bought The Daily Telegraph. It's a newspaper that I feel takes a political stance light years away from anything I find vaguely acceptable. But today was different, because - dreadful admission - I fell for the special offer.

How could I not? It was a 'free' DVD of INTERMEZZO. This movie, dating from somewhere in the 1940s, was Ingrid Bergman's first English-language film and it stars Leslie Howard as a famous Swedish violinist who falls in love with his daughter's piano teacher (Bergman). The first time I saw it was on TV one afternoon during the half-term holidays. I was about 16. My mother came home from work five minutes after it finished and gazed aghast at my red eyes and the heap of tissues on the floor. I had to explain that I'd just seen this movie where.......

But the ultimate pull of INTERMEZZO, for me, is the last word in slidey violins: a sound-track featuring Toscha Seidel. Seidel was a classmate of Heifetz's, studying with Auer: while Heifetz was described as the angel, Seidel was the devil. Guess which one has the hot sound, the burning tone, the passion that sings out that bit too far? Heifetz, beside Seidel, sounds cool as the proverbial cucumber.

Toscha had some measure of success, but was constantly overshadowed by Jascha's - though a song by George and Ira Gershwin about a bunch of leading violinists went 'Mischa, Jascha, Toscha, Sascha, we're four fiddlers three!' Seidel ended up in Hollywood, like so many amazing European musicians; and he recorded Korngold's suite from 'Much Ado About Nothing' with the composer at the piano (available on Biddulph Records). If you love Korngold for his emotional generosity and overblown, sensual heart, you will love Seidel too; and if you love slidey violins, you will find none slidier. Naturally, with my fiddle fetish, I can't resist him for a moment.

So, dear friends and editors forgive me, I compromised my reputation by buying the Telegraph. Rest assured, however, that I did not read it.