The beginning of April 2014 saw the death of someone very dear to me: my teacher, Gershon Prenski. He passed away, after a long illness, just as this website was being set up. Gershon was one of a kind, as a musician, as a teacher and as a human being, and I wanted to honor his memory by dedicating this page to him.
I remember our first meeting, in 1985... I came to him, a 13-year-old boy, after having studied for four years already, thinking I was "The Next Best Thing". I played a few pieces (I remember a concerto by John Baston), trying to make the best impression possible. Apparently it was not too bad… and after he agreed to take me as a student, I asked him: "Do you know "La Folia" by Corelli?" – I was still (and still am) under the impression of Frans Brüggen's monumental recording, which I had heard for the first time not long before:
Gershon nodded. "Can I play it?" I asked. He looked at me kindly and cleverly with his blue eyes, and said: "yes, maybe… one day. Not now".
Very quickly I realized how much I had to learn… and how much I could learn from Gershon. Over the next five years, I came to him once a week for intensive sessions of an hour and a half (sometimes more). Without speaking much, he would drill me on my 16th notes, and guide me through my pieces, accompanying me on his old viola, and showing me, through his playing, how to listen, what to look for, and how to express best what I have found…
I was humbled, yes; but it was the humbleness one feels at the beginning of a wonderful journey - a journey into musical landscapes and peaks I never imagined before. Gershon was my guide on that journey, and almost every lesson I felt progress made, I felt the next step acheived...
And it felt great.
When I was 14, Gershon sent me to my first workshop: a whole week of masterclasses in Jerusalem. It blew my mind – in the best way imaginable. All this great music to play! All these wonderful musicians, coming to teach us and play for us! All these kids, coming to play music! I was in a musical heaven… I couldn't wait for the next workshop. And the next… and the one after that.
When I was 15, he introduced me to a group of amateur musicians, who met once a month to play chamber music; finally I had a "laboratory", where I could experiment with all this great music I was copying from Gershon's library – which I was raiding on a weekly basis. What an experience!
When I was 18 I joined the army, and since then I couldn't come to him as regularly as before. But I would still take lessons – before workshops, before auditions, before concerts - and sometimes just for fun; for no better reason than to gain his insight on the music I was playing. And as I became more experienced, our lessons took more and more the form of discussions, with me offering my own ideas as well as receiving his. Just as I was thinking that I had a piece of music "pegged"; I had worked out my interpretation… he would say, "hmmm… why don't you try to play it like this?", suggesting an alternative I haven't considered. I didn't always agree, but it was always insightful, interesting, different – and inspiring.
I knew Gershon for almost 30 years... and our meetings and lessons were always marked by his dedication, his inspiration, his wisdom (and his insight into the psyche of soul-searching youth...) his wit, his humour... his deep understanding of music and of people... Every now and again he would throw in one of his one-liner, deeply philosophical phrases at me, which would leave me in awe and amazement.
I remember one lesson, when we were working on a piece which was less-than-impressive... Gershon said, in his "innocently-sarcastic" way: "Nu, well… if this piece hadn't been written, there would have been no star missing from the sky". And now, after he's gone, the sky is definitely missing one of its brightest, most beautiful stars; a star that has shone into many people's hearts, and has filled them with music, inspiration, wisdom, light, and joy.
Gershon left a light in our hearts - all those who knew him, studied with him, played with him and shared his life; and this light shall reamin there, in our hearts, forever. I can only hope that as a teacher, I can spread some of this light among my own students.
Rest in peace, dear Gershon.
Forever in our hearts; forever in our minds;
I shall be your student forever.
The song Gershon wrote, "Yalda im Tzamot" – "A Girl with Braids":
(Noa [Achinoam Nini] / Gili Dor)
Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem:
(Dir. Ph. Herrewegghe)
Andante Tranquillo / Vivace (2nd movement) from Brahms's Violin Sonata #2:
(D. Barenboim / P. Zukerman)