Friday, January 21, 2011

Publicity - Huberman's Epilogue

Bronislaw Huberman had many ideas which were somewhat ahead of their time and which took root after he died.  Beginning in 1920, he spoke often in favor of a United Europe – today’s European Union.  It was known as Pan Europeanism in those days but it didn’t actually get its legal start until March of 1957 – ten years after Huberman had left the scene.  Its ultimate goal was to prevent future wars between European nations.  He was also so outspoken regarding the banning of Jewish musicians in Germany that in 1935, the Nazi government named him “the greatest enemy of the Nazi regime among world musicians.”  He proclaimed that Rhythm was the most important factor in musical expression.  His idea of violin mastery was the presentation of Truth - via performing - rather than Beauty.  Perhaps he felt – as the saying goes – that beauty was only skin deep.  Huberman said that art and publicity were inseparable, and necessary to overcome the “law of inertia that rules over the masses.”  In fact, he felt that artists were obliged to provide publicity.  On one of his Russian tours, he contrived to have the newspapers publish rumors that he was going to divorce his wife and marry a Russian aristocrat.  He later explained to his wife that it was a harmless publicity stunt.  She was not amused but the news generated lots of talk and curiosity.  Huberman almost never played to other than sold out houses.  He made people anxious to attend his concerts.  In 1943, he played to an audience of 10,000 in Lewisohn Stadium in New York.  (The Royal Albert Hall, site of the annual Proms concerts, sits 5,550.)  He later said:”The development of artistic taste is another benefit of contact with the public.  The artist learns what influences the masses, what is better for the elite, and what touches everybody's heart.  Art does not belong to the artist only. True art must benefit everybody, otherwise it is not art.  I have to say that I have developed the highest respect for what is called ‘the popular voice.’  Yet the public is a wonder, full of pure instinct, open heart, and the ability to marvel.  At the same time, it is lacking conscience and logic, but these are the qualities that the artist must have to be able to learn from his public.”  I don’t tire of saying that the audience is the final arbiter.  It can make bad judgments in the short term but in the long run, it is always right.  Maybe Huberman was saying the same thing.  In this day of internet promotion, his words cannot be taken too lightly.  He knew well the need to create something other than just the music, just as Paganini did more than 200 years ago.  Of course, Huberman was a brilliant violinist who practiced tirelessly.  Still, that alone is not enough.  There is nothing like drama – tragedy, courage, and triumph - to get the imagination soaring. 

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