The Grail plays a different role in all the myths in which it appears, but in most versions, the hero must prove himself worthy to be in its presence.
This is never more true than in New York, where Zukerman has a big target painted on his back, and he knows it full well. The Grail last night was the Brahms Violin Concerto, one which Zukerman has sought maybe hundreds of times.
He brought his 62 year old self, white haired now but vigorous, and his 258 year old Guarnerius del Gesu violin. For shotgun buddies: the NY Philharmonic with their fabulous young gun conductor Alan Gilbert.
It was clear from the start that Zukerman would take no prisoners in his quest. He gave a clinic on how to fill up a hall with sound and passion, using the old Galamian “strike the match” bow technique to obtain at some moments the grittiest most compelling aggravation of sound that I have heard since Janis Joplin and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”.
—and in the whole second movement employing all the same techniques to create such ravishing beauty that I was simply shattered, washed away.
The Grail was there, within all our grasp.
I couldn’t find a version of the Brahms on youtube, but Zukerman’s early recording of Tschaikovsky has all the passion as does the “Try” recording from the same time by Janis Joplin: