In an earlier post on Barbier’s Fêtes galantes, I noted that virtuoso violinist Ginette Neveu (11 August 1919 – 28 October 1949) was a victim of the Air France Lockheed Constellation crash of 28 October 1949, in the Azores. The crash also claimed the life of 68 year-old illustrator and designer Bernard Boutet de Monvel, of the Monvel dynasty, as well as that of 33 year-old world champion boxer Marcel Cerdan, Édith Piaf‘s lover. Also killed on the island of São Miguel was classical pianist Jean Neveu, Ginette’s brother and accompanist. The Neveu family must have been devastated.
Ginette: a child prodigy
Ginette Neveu was 7 when she started giving public performances. By that age, she had mastered Mendelssohn’s E minor Concerto (Op. 64). In 1935, shortly after she turned 16, Ginette’s teacher entered her in the Wieniawsky Competition in Warsaw and she won over David Oistrakh (30 September 1908 – 24 October 1974) who was then 27 and an acclaimed violinist. It is difficult to say that Mr. Oistrakh lost to Ginette Neveu. There were 180 contestants and he came second. But more importantly Ginette was a child prodigy, so it is as though she belonged to a different category.
It does not happen very often, only a few times in a century, and sometimes in a millennium, but, occasionally, an exceptionally gifted individual is born who cannot be surpassed in his or her category and in his days. Only Beethoven could compose the Ninth Symphony and no one has equalled Mozart’s Requiem, K (Köchel) 626.
Not that we are about to run out of talents. Over the years, there have been hundreds of great composers, artists, performers, comedians, scientists, writers, architects, athletes, inventors, and very good human beings. Yet certain individuals are unlikely to be surpassed. Steve Jobs was one such individual, and so was Ginette Neveu.
It seems, however, that the greater the talent, the more fragile and vulnerable the writer, the composer, the performer, the artist, the scientist and my “good” human being… Fate took Ginette Neveu away from us at a very early age and, on 11 August 2014, we lost Robin Williams. In his category and in his days, I don’t think Mr. Williams could be surpassed, no more than Charlie Chaplin, in his category and in his days. Moreover, Robin Williams was a good human being. He will be missed.
My kindest regards to all of you.
P. S. I am trying to configure my webpage. I have been posting articles for three years and have yet to learn how to insert a picture in my sidebar. In other words, I am not a very gifted individual.
- Barbier’s Fêtes galantes (13 August 2014)
Ginette Neveu plays Ravel’s Tzigane