In 2014, New York-based violinist Ray Iwazumi performed a concert playing a replica of Il Cannone, a famous violin used by Niccolo Paganini and originally created by Giuseppe Guarneri. He hopes to recapture the success of that show when playing a different replica this weekend in Tokyo.

The violin he’ll use is a copy of a 1733 del Gesu (a term used to refer to violins created by Guarneri), and both it and the Il Cannone replica were created by Tokyo-based violin maker Andreas Preuss. The original del Gesu was regularly used by famed violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler.

“When Preuss suggested presenting a concert using this exquisite replica of Kreisler’s violin, it was only natural to consider either programming a concert of Kreisler’s own works, or to relive the spirit of his concerts by borrowing an actual program Kreisler had played. We chose the latter,” Iwazumi tells The Japan Times via email.

“In addition to the musical cycle of connecting composer, performer and listener in music-making, playing a contemporary violin completes another vital cycle of artistic creation, artisanry and bringing an instrument to life,” Iwazumi says. “Preuss’ violins are always of a very high quality, and his replica of the ‘Kreisler 1733’ is no exception.”

Iwazumi studied at The Juilliard School in New York and at the Brussels Royal Conservatory of Music in Belgium, guided by his mentors Dorothy DeLay and Igor Oistrakh, respectively. This helped him develop a multifaceted career as a violinist, composer and teacher.

The upcoming recital is a re-enactment of a famous performance the violinist gave at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Dec. 5, 1920. Iwazumi will be accompanied by pianist Akira Eguchi.

“One important contextual element to keep in mind is that, compared to the kind of programs we can expect at a violin recital today, early-20th century programs are distinctly different in their repertory and ordering of pieces,” Iwazumi explains.

According to Iwazumi, programs at that time often featured concertos with piano accompaniment, and presenting a list of short pieces was common. Also, it was not always the case that a program would end with a bravura piece or a big violin-piano sonata.

“The reason is partly about trends in audience expectations, but it is also a reflection of historical musical aesthetics and fashion,” Iwazumi says.

Kreisler gave the Carnegie Hall recital “at the height of his magnificent performing career, and this particular program is, on top of these aforementioned issues, a little unusual for its time,” Iwazumi says. “Significant in this program is that, with the exception of a short and charming piece of his own featuring nonstop double-stops, Kreisler almost refrains from overt brilliance.

“He also chooses, perhaps presciently, to present works that have remained very relevant today, such as (Cesar) Franck’s Violin Sonata, solo Bach, and (Erich) Korngold’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing Suite.’ It must have been a daringly classy program then, and it remains very refined and classy today.”

Ray Iwazumi performs “Ai to Kanashimi no Kreisler” (“Kreisler’s Joy and Sorrow of Love”) with Akira Eguchi at JT Art Hall Affinis in Minato-ku, Tokyo, on Jan. 8 (2 p.m. start; tickets cost ¥4,500 or ¥6,000 and cost ¥2,500 for students). For more information, call 03-3978-6548 or visit www.rayiwazumi.com.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.


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