You are here:   Civilisation >  Critique > Cornish master class in the art of the sublime
 
In the beginning, there was a violin class and a cello class. Végh's first pupils included Erich Höbarth, who later founded the Quatuor Mosaïques, and Gerhard Schulz, subsequently a member of the Alban Berg Quartet. (Both subsequently became violin professors at the seminars.) There was almost no money, of course. Volunteers were persuaded to keep house and cook; they included my wife,  now chairman of the board of trustees, on which I also sit. The materials for the kitchen often had to be scavenged from the surrounding land. The coastal path is strewn in spring with wild flowers — coconut-scented gorse, starry celandines, blackthorn, the pink of thrift and light-blue squill. But there were also herbs and leaves to be found for salads, as well as mussels on the rocks below the main house or further afield. Local markets, long since gone, provided inexpensive vegetables and fish. Professors, students and volunteers all ate together in a refectory adapted from an old squash court (as they still do) — an expression of idealistic common purpose and community which remains to the present day among the most striking features of a visit to the seminars.

Soon, a viola class and a piano in chamber music class were added. At an early stage, a Gulbenkian-funded study into musical education in Britain identified IMS Prussia Cove together with Aldeburgh and Dartington as the only residential courses making provision for the training of young instrumentalists at the highest international level. Instead of British students going abroad to complete their musical education, the flow was reversed, and musicians came from countries far and wide to make the cumbersome journey to West Cornwall in order to imbibe the spirit of IMS Prussia Cove. Early champions of the enterprise included Lord Menuhin, Nathan Milstein and Sir Michael Tippett.

Végh’s teaching style was both authoritarian and highly eccentric, the latter not least due to his defective but energetic English, which he employed simultaneously with many other languages of which his command was no greater. He was outspoken in his rejection of playing in the “American style” — the use of big sound and constant, suffocating vibrato that had no connection with the music; for him, phrasing and articulation had to be responsive and in proportion to what the music was expressing at that moment. When a student was on the way to grasping this point, Tomes recalls that Végh would utter an extended falsetto cry of “Quasi!” (pronounced “Kvasi”); if he was particularly pleased, he would beam and, swivelling inelegantly to face the class, would repeat “That is! That is!” in heavily-accented but rapturous tones.

View Full Article
Tags:
 
Share/Save
 
 
 
 

Post your comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.