The Controversial Gidon Kremer

by Matthew Raley

At a post-concert party in the early 1990s, Saul and Aron Bitran, the violinists of Cuarteto Latinoamericano, were debating the merits of virtuoso soloists. Gidon Kremer’s name came up, and there was a pregnant pause. One of the brothers, I don’t remember which, said quietly, “I think he does things just to be different.”

The other shook his head in dismay. “Oh, I don’t agree. His readings have real merit.”

That’s the way it is with Kremer. He leaves houses divided.

In this performance of the Giga from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in d minor, he varies the tempo in ways that I don’t understand. But Kremer’s playing is brilliant, full of unexpected colors, clean articulations, and rhythmic interest.

He even divides me.

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