Years ago in a beautiful chateau near the French border town of Strasbourg, I heard one of its residents, Israeli Joshua Epstein, give a concert of all of the 24 Paganini Caprices. Playing one of these violin pieces is difficult, but he played them all on a very high level.
I used to play chamber music with Epstein, the master violinist, and can attest to his formidable musicianship and confidence. His strong intellect dominates and a naturalness also shines through as though he was born with the violin as an extension of his body. One can feel his authority immediately.
Recently I heard him play a beautiful Beethoven concerto and his sound in the slow movement was a throwback to the golden years of great violin playing.
Born in 1940 Epstein was awarded many high-ranking prizes as a young man. His Bartok Solo Sonata from the Deutche Grammophon recording dating from the 1970s is one of the rare recordings highly coveted by collectors of violin music the world over.
Germany has been very fortunate to have him as a violin professor at the Hochschule für Musik in Saarbrücken, Germany.
All good musicians need to be serious because music is an art form which demands attention to detail. It is not forgiving and haphazard. It is highly structured.
In a world where poseurs abound, Epstein stands apart. While around other gifted musicians, rather than immerse himself in conversation about musical theories, he turns to immediately making music.
Not a theoretical artist, his art is about blood and guts and lots of intelligence. Oh, and I should mention a huge dose of talent. His art is a reminder to concentrate on the music at hand with no time for nonsensical stage antics. The music is the ultimate goal.
Yet the public, despite needing to be educated, wants to be entertained. As such it is a delight to have the model of Joshua Epstein, an intense fellow with humor and mischievousness at his root.
Last I heard, in addition to his post in Saarbrücken, Germany, Epstein was guest, teaching in Turkey at a beautiful spot. I think it is time to pack my bags and head over to Izmir for some chamber music.
Eric Shumsky is an American concert violist, chamber musician, and conductor.