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Ivry Gitlis – the incandescent violin

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The great violinist Ivry Gitlis (1922-2020) died at the age of 98, on Christmas Eve, in Paris, where he had lived since the 1960s. He was one of LEFFEST’s guests in 2015 and spent several days with us. He participated in a public conversation with violinist and director Bruno Monsaingeon and pianist Itamar Golan, at the Monumental cinema. He also took part in a soiree dedicated to the poet Arseni Tarkovski, at TNDMII, with pianists Piotr Anderszewski, Itamar Golan and Natsuko Inoué. Additionally, he was present at the reading of poems by Arseni Tarkovski by his grandson Andrei A. Tarkovski, Itamar Golan and Luís Caetano.

In this soirée (which included the screening of the film "Arseny Tarkovsky - Eternal Presence", by Viatcheslay Amirkhanian, presented by Sharunas Bartas), Gitlis performed, with Itamar Golan at the piano, “Sicilliene”, by Theresia von Paradis, and “Schön Romarin”, composed by one of the “most beloved violinists ever”, Fritz Kreisler. We could also say this about Gitlis, who was not only one of the most virtuous violinists of the 20th century, but also one of the most loved. He was at LEFEST with several of his friends, including those already mentioned, and pianist Martha Argerich, of whom he said: “Martha is pure magic. Playing with her is like playing with life. Without her, the piano would not exist.” Last year, his many friends paid tribute to him at the Cité de la Musique, in Paris, with the show “Ivry Gitlis & Friends”.

In addition to having played with the best orchestras worldwide; having been one of the great performers of the works of Alban Berg, Bartok, Sibelius, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaïkovski, Bach, Paganini, and Kreisler, among many others; and having collaborated with contemporary composers, Gitlis was a "free performer" who also loved jazz (he played with Stéphane Grapelli), rock (he played with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton), and gypsy music. A charismatic conversationalist, he also appeared on television, where he talked about music. He took an enormous pleasure in these exchanges, in name of the importance of “transmitting to the public a great heritage of beauty”. He was also an actor in several films, including "L'histoire d'Adèle H", by François Truffaut.

Until the end, he kept intact a huge curiosity, a great generosity, and the same desire to play that lasted his whole life (he had his first violin at the age of 5, and since 1964 a famous Stradivarius Sancy 1713, which he always brought with him and with which he played when he was with us in Lisbon).
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