The Big Two

TIME, Friday, Oct. 02, 1964

The Greeks had neither violins nor cellos, so it was not exactly as if Pan and Apollo had joined up on Olympus for a return engagement. But to many a Manhattan music lover, it seemed the next thing to it. It had been eight years since Violinist Jascha Heifetz, 63, retired from the concert stage, grumbling that "It requires the nerves of a bullfighter, the vitality of a woman who runs a nightclub, and the concentration of a Buddhist monk." It had been seven years since his fellow Russian, Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, 61, was last heard in Manhattan.

Carnegie Hall was packed, and as Heifetz stepped onto the stage with the light precision that is the Heifetz way of doing things, the audience rose in tribute. Piatigorsky followed, carrying his Stradivarius cello with a giant's jauntiness, as though he were about to put it under his chin instead of between his knees. It scarcely mattered that the pieces they chose to play for the first concert proved something of a disappointment. The Boccherini sonata seemed stiff, a duo by Martinu stilted. But in the Brahms C Major Trio, the famed Heifetz creamy tone and the Piatigorsky sonority were a sensuous delight. In the second of the three-concert series, they chose a program of Beethoven, Kodaly and Dvorak, and with the outstanding assistance of Pianist Jacob Lateiner they produced an evening of chamber music that was a won der of clarity, control and immense warmth. Not many modern instrumentalists, in fact, could play a program tinged with anything so remarkably like schmaltz—and so triumphantly carry it off.

Sleepless Night. The two old friends, both early prodigies, are widely different in their approach to music. Heifetz, blessed with the most superb natural dexterity that any violinist ever had, is almost negligently casual about his talent; at his first appearance as a soloist with a symphony at the age of eight, he fell asleep in a chair while waiting to go on. With success he acquired a taste for high life and a distaste for practice. It never seemed to make any difference in his playing. After one hectic binge, he went on to a performance in London's Queens Hall that forced George Bernard Shaw to admit Heifetz' playing had been so infuriatingly perfect that he had spent a sleepless night.

In contrast to this casual perfection, big Gregor Piatigorsky is a warm, voluble, gregarious man who wraps himself around "this wonderful, beautiful, aristocratic instrument"—and the world —with a lover's tenderness.

Both these Russian bowmen have be come dedicated Californians; Los Angeles, they feel, will become the future cultural center of the U.S. "New York has been too casual about its cultural responsibilities," says Heifetz. Both live in swimming-pooled, tennis-courted luxury: Heifetz in a modern, gadget-strewn hilltop house in Beverly Hills, Piatigorsky in a rambling white frame mansion in nearby Brentwood.

No Sweat. Heifetz lives alone; he has been twice divorced. He prefers small dinners with close friends to the glamour bashes, though his acquaintance among the stars has always been extensive, and when he zips around, he does his zipping in a grey Bentley. Piatigorsky's wife Jacqueline, a daughter of the late Baron Edouard de Rothschild, is a busy painter, sometime bassoon player, and alltime chess addict who ranks as one of the top ten women players in the U.S. Gregor counters with writing (he has written an autobiography), oceanography and herpetology ("Snakes are so misunderstood").

t least once a month, the two join each other for a musical evening with mutual friends. They have also played eleven concerts together in the last three years and have made nine recordings. But their chief joint activity is teaching at Southern California's Institute for Special Musical Studies.

Will there be many more joint performances like the current triad in Carnegie Hall? "Not many," says Jascha Heifetz. "My sweating days are over."