I was deeply saddened by the news that the great violinist, Aaron Rosand, died last Tuesday (July 9th). The last time I spoke to Aaron was on his birthday, March 15th, when he turned 92. On more than one occasion, he told me that he could still outplay all of his Curtis students. So, I asked him whether he could still do it. His laconic reply, “…Most of them.”
I first worked with Aaron in 1965 when he played the Bruch G minor Concerto with the American Ballet Theatre. At 38, Aaron was very handsome and played the violin like a god. Hearing him from barely 10 feet away was a revelation. In 1968, he returned to the American Ballet Theatre to play the very crucial violin solos in Swan Lake. One of those solos included a big cello solo with a violin obligato. So, I had the opportunity to play one-on-one with him. Aaron said that he really liked my playing and wanted to recommend me to his friend, Elliot Magaziner, to be the cellist in the Reston Trio. This introduction opened up a chamber music career for me that probably never would have happened without that experience.
Over the years, I played for him on a number of occasions, and he was never less than brutally honest about the fact that I needed to improve my detache and vibrate on my first finger. Additionally, he gave me a lot of great advice. He said to practice in front a mirror a certain amount every day to make sure that my form was good and to record much of my practicing, but only listen to 5 minutes of it every day. Those 5 minutes would surely reveal everything I needed to work on. He told me that you need to be 200% prepared in order to play 100% on the stage. That was great advice for me, because my nerves often reduced my capacity to well under 100% of what I could do under the best of circumstances. He told me about the time he snuck into Carnegie Hall three hours before a Heifetz recital. He observed Heifetz walk on stage and practice a small phrase over and over until he was satisfied. Then Heifetz walked off stage. When he walked back on to play his recital, every phrase sounded like the one he had practiced. This was particularly useful to me as a principal cellist. I would often take one bar of a solo that was coming up and work it until I was totally comfortable and sure enough, the whole solo usually sounded pretty much the same at the moment of truth.
I attended recitals Aaron did in Carnegie Hall of entirely virtuoso violin music. His command of the violin wizardry required was truly breathtaking. More importantly, the wonderful sound and soulfulness he brought to the melodies always touched my heart in a way I have rarely heard since. Watching his extraordinary career which he made, without the help of Sol Hurok and Arthur Judson, helped me and my wife June create our own management and take our destiny into our own hands.
Aaron Rosand performing the Malaguena from Sarasate’s Spanish Dances:
Most gratifying to me was the opportunity I had to recommend him to International Music Company as their principal violin editor. The list of his editions is:
For violin and piano:
- 3654 WAGNER, arr. WILHELMJ: Album Leaf (Romanza)
- 3684 MOZART: Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Major, K. 207
- 3584 GLAZUNOV: Meditation in D major, Opus 32
- 3625 SZYMANOWSKI: Notturno and Tarantella, Op. 28, Nos. 1 and 2
- 3590 BRUCH: Romance in A minor, Opus 42
- 3714 ELGAR: Salut d’amour, Opus 12
- 3650 DONIZETTI: Sonata (1819)
- 3685 RESPIGHI: Sonata in B minor
- 3700 BRAHMS: Sonatensatz, Opus Post., Scherzo
- 3620 SARASATE: Spanish Dances, Opus 26, Nos. 7 and 8
- 3689 SAINT-SAËNS: The Swan
- 3755 PAGANINI: Three airs varies on the Fourth String
- 3760 SATIE: Three Pieces: Choses vues a droite et a gauche (sans lunettes)
For two violins and piano:
- 3701 SARASATE: Navarra: Danza Espagnole, Opus 33
I attached the letter he wrote to me in response to Bill Ryden’s (editorial director of International Music) inquiry about whether he would be interested in doing violin concerto practice tools, like those in my edition of the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations. His warmth and generosity radiates from the page (see below).