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Posts posted by DR. S

  1. Please forgive me if this is a naive-sounding question, but does anyone else hear a definite bass line (the last note of the preceding bar + first note of the bar) in this piece? If I could play this (which I can't, yet) I would want to bring those two notes out somehow, not just the first note of every bar.

    Definitely Joe.   This is something Bach did regularly with his solo music.   The great thing abut Bach's music is it is so resilient and so compelling that you can perform it successfully and meaningfully using any number of styles.  It works no matter what.  Play it the way that it speaks to you.   If others don't like it and your livelihood does not depend on ticket sales or recording sales, then just play it for yourself.   Starting off understanding what is the current concept of how Bach heard his music is useful, but not holy.

  2. I have played this suite many times (on viola).   I always use separate bows in the arpeggiated sections (as in the beginning) and slurred patterns in the scale work passages.  Since I have played them for so long and have a definite sound for it in my ear, I find this recording rather dry an unmoving, but I'm sure many would feel my rendition is too romantic, I received both raves and a 'well, too each their own' reactions to my performances in auditions.  I have a very different feel for how the chord progressions move it along, make it breathe and ebb/flow. In my regular practice schedule, when I practiced regularly, a Bach Suite was part of my daily routine, cycling through them about once a year. They are food for the soul.

  3. My two cents on your original question.  It is possible.  If you really can practice as much as you say, have talent, and a good instructor, I'd even say you have a good chance.  I know two people who started in their late teens (not so far removed from 24) who reached high levels of skill.  One is a locally well known concertmaster/concert soloist on the East Coast.  The other was a fine pianist going in, but learned cello to the level of playing the Bach Suites quite well in around 2 years (but don't expect to even start on the violin suites/partitas in less than 4-5 years if you do really well or to play them well in less than 7-8.  

  4. price is only a very general indicator of quality and while it would make sense that an expensive instrument is expensive because of how well the instruments from that maker plays, it is not always that case that every instrument from that make is good.  I've played on a100K plus old Italian that couldn't hold it own against a decent modern intermediate and I have found instruments from obscure makers that have little monetary value, but play as well as almost anything you can find at any price.  The more patience and effort you put into looking, the better instrument you will find for the money.  Or you can make it easier and stick to your very reputable makers, play a lot of their instruments, pay the price and pick the one that suits you best.   It must be easy to play and have a sound that is pleasant under your ear, but always listen to it being played by someone else, because what you hear playing it is often quite different that how it projects.   If possible get it down to 3 or four and then arrange to have them all played in a hall, pick the one you fall in love with at that time. 

    A bow, there are so many options.  Here you can and should consider carbon fiber as well as wood - do look at both.  I have played on some really excellent CF bows and it seems that the quality is more consistent.  Some say the sound is not as good, but from what I understand about how a bow is supposed to  work, including resonance characteristics, a CF bow could very well be better.   That being said, I do not own a CF bow, simply because I am satisfied with what I purchased before good CF bows were ever on the market.  I would like to upgrade to a really good CF bow on my violin some day.  Arcus intrigues me, but I believe the price is way too high. 

  5. A Doctor friend and former student of mine, who learned (and is still working diligently on it) to play as an adult came up with this test.  He is a practical man who also possesses ingenuity and a very diverse skill set, so I put a lot of stock in his analysis, (plus his knowledge of body mechanics.)


    "Try to hold a small bottle in your left hand, i.e. like a bottle of Ban Roll-On - like you would hold a coke bottle (but obviously not that big - something the size of a toilet paper tube).  Just hold the bottle up and down.  Then, by moving and rotating the arm and the wrist, try to put the bottom of the bottle up to your left eye, about 1/2 inch away.  Close your right eye and look at the bottom of the bottle with your left eye.  Move the bottle away from your eye, only looking at the bottom of the bottle, about 16 inches or so at a 45 degree angle as seen from the front.  If you can do this, then you can play the violin.  If not, then  you have some dystrophy or such tight ligaments and tendons and muscles that you will never play the violin."

  6. Think of a ballet dancer or gymnast.   They can't just bend like they do right out of the gate, you may need to work into it.   Sounds to me like you are extremely limited in forearm rotation as I have not run across a student with your issues - or at least to the extreme that you are describing.  You should be able to rotate the hand held out in front of you, using forearm rotation, very close to 360 degrees - about 110 degrees clockwise and 250 degrees counter clockwise (for the left hand from a palm down position.)   The playing position should feel very natural if set up properly.  I have my students drop their left arm and completely relax, then bend at the elbow, rotate the hand almost 180 degrees without bending at the wrist (which it should do rather effortlessly) while raising the arm from the shoulder joint to meet the instrument.  The exact angles and positions are specific to the dimensions of your body.    Many students feel just a little strained at first, (on viola I turn the hand a few degrees more than on violin) but it seems you hit that limit way earlier than most.   Have you had an injury in the past to your forearm, or elbow,do you have problems turning a faucet or screwing a lid on or off?    Hold your hand out in front of you, palm down you should be able to comfortable rotate the hand to palm up; which is about the amount of rotation you need.   If you can't do that, then slowly work - in this position - to achieve this flexibility.   DO NOT FORCE, just gently stretch and hold, then just push a little more and be patient.  You may have to back off of actually trying to play until this is resolved.  You need to be comfortable in position.  If this doesn't work, then consider cello, which requires no hand rotation. 

  7. I believe that Moennig had a personal connection with the Glasel Family - both being from Markneukirchen.   Theo was a relative but not part of the Glasels that created the line of factory made student instruments.  I found him listed as being best known as a master repair luthier.    When they sent my Youth Orchestra Conductor, who was a family friend, the trial instruments, they sent the Glasel with a Hornsteiner.   He gave me the Hornsteiner first, which I liked, then he smiled very slyly and said, "now try this one"  It took about 15 seconds to realize what I had.  I never bothered even looking at the Hornsteiner again.  And then when I was getting ready to go off to Conservatory, figured it was time to find a 'professional' grade instrument, and it was in this process, culminating with the multi viola trial I mentioned above that I realized just how fine an instrument it really was.  

  8. What about donating it to UNT or Rice (or any other music school you might have allegiance to)?

    I'd rather chose who gets it, not just a school instrument.  Of course, a Carlos Diaz and most others won't want it because it is not an old Italian, doesn't have that old Italian silky feel.  On the other hand the Guarneri Cannon is not so easy to play, requires more work than say the Soil Strad, but it also has greater reward.

  9. I think our generation of violists cherish a sound that is distinct as possible from the violin and cello, especially violin. I think other generations wanted more of a match. If any of that makes any sense.

    Most violas I pick up give me the sensation of having cotton in my ears.   It's hard to find one that sounds open, but still has that rich masculine voice distinct from a violin, leaning more towards a cello, but with a richness cello does not have in the violas mid-register and a C- String that speaks (which is the hardest quality to find). 

  10. I have put the instrument to the test.   While I was at Congress of Strings in 1979, a group of my friends gathered about 8-9 quality violas and had an extraordinary violist (now a member of the NYP) play them on stage in a large concert hall (University of Washington).  We all went up to the balcony and listened.  I will admit up front that none of the instruments were old Italians and most were modern, but many from highly reputable makers.   The result even surprised me.  My instrument was hands down, by leaps and bounds, better than all the others, by unanimous consent. It was rich, balanced, and filled the large hall with sound.  In that same hall we played the Vaughn WIlliams' Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and I played the viola solos.  After the concert I got asked by dozens of people about my instrument.  Conductors have frequently commented on it's sound.  Robertson's and Sons who did a set up for me raved about the instrument,  A luthier that I had do some work on the instrument for me was also very impressed, saying that the has worked on many of the great old violas including Primroses strad (now owned by Carlos Diaz) and that mine was superior in sound and projection, and after hearing Diaz play the Bartok, I would have to agree that my instrument would have probably projected better.  I'm not saying that my instrument is easier to play than these great old instruments, but that it has a wonderful and big sound, but I do like the slender neck he put on it - not that fat heavy neck you find on most violas. 


    The instrument is a Theo Glasel, (deceased) Markneukircken Germany, 1965, 16 5/8 inches.  It was part of a batch of instruments made for William Moennig and Sons to sell in their Philadelphia shop, which is where i got it in the mid 70s for $1500.  The most I have seen a Theo Glasel go for is $8K, most closer to $4K.  The only flaw on the instrument is a very brittle spirit varnish that chips off way too easily.  In fact it is the viola shown in my profile photo.


    I won the lottery when this instrument showed up at my door.  I have long thought that since it will never have great monetary value, but is such a fine instrument, I would like to find a wonderful professional violist to give it to, who would put it to good use, with the condition that the instrument would perpetually be passed on to a worthy violist as a gift when they retire or find another instrument they prefer.

  11. Excellent rendition!  I'd put my modern (1965) viola in his hands and it would not lose anything, I have played it side by side to a Gaspar.  Mine had a larger richer sound that projected better, but the Gaspar was sooo easy to play - give mine 400 years to age perhaps?   However, my instrument, I have decided is a freak one-off instrument from this maker as the value of his instruments would be much greater if they all were like mine. 

  12. If on the the really really off chance that it is real,and considering where it came from, there is high probability that it was stolen.  If it starts to look genuine, need to get some photos out in the violin dealer community to see if it can be identified as a stolen instrument.  There may be a sizeable reward for it's return.  You'd like to think the police checked it out, but don't count on it. 

  13. Doc,


    Your mention of Schradieck the other day is what inspired me to think about and ask the question.   :)


    I'm not familiar with Uhl.  What's the story with him? 

    Uhl is personal favorite, because it really helped me with one of my weaknesses - sight reading.  The particular expercises I am referring to (I don't know how many other exercise books Uhl publsihed) are kind of a musically nonsensicle series of notes, but I kind of like them.  I find it a good mental challenge to play through them.   However, if you practive them too much, that aspect is lost, so in retrospect, it was probably a poor choice. 

  14. The chinrest does protect the top of your instrument from wear and reduces the vibrational absorption of your skin against the sound producing top and offers better control and a stronger hold.  While I can see how someone would like the feel of the vibrations into their jaw bone from the instrument, that does have a damping effect on the instrument.  Perhaps your old chinrest was not the proper fit for you?   The chinrest was not always part of an instrument set-up, but it is certainly become a standard part of the instrument for a reason. 

  15. Same repertoire as Connie, but I'd add Schradiek and Uhl.  Maybe replace Keutzer with Mazas just because I like them better (assuming I am taking my viola and not my violin).  Of course, if I knew the ship was going to wreck, I wouldn't go - or would I?   I loved Johnny Castaway . . .

  16. ????  I am all in favor of enjoying all kinds of music, but this particular forum is centered on stringed instruments and mostly the classical use of them, with generous exceptions for some of the more 'standard' folk idioms of fiddling, blue-grass and Celtic music.  There a loads of places to go discuss the popular music, but very few to find a population excited about classical.  The discussion of pop on this forum is fine, but do NOT go around referring to classical as stifling or complain about the discussions here.  If it is not to your liking go find another forum to haunt.  (Real easy, hit the x at the top right hand corner.) 


    If you want to bring in more popular idioms in which string instruments are used in addition and in concert with the traditional dscussions, GREAT, but you might do well to keep your snobbery off the thread and respect those of us who actually do not find classical music stifling at all but uplifting and expanding.  Too bad for those who don't get it, but sometimes the best things in life are those you have to work a little bit at to understand.


    just read more of the posts and I see that you probably did not mean it the way it came off, Mumbleypeg.  You certainly are welcome here, and your off topic meanderings may add color to the forum   - but that first post kind got my dander up as they say,


    All is good.


  17. Agreed Will.  I use 2nd position all the time, more than most people probably, but would avoid it here, because it is risky,  I generally use it when, within a passage, there is a good place to slide up or down a half step, or there is plenty of time to find the position before the start of the passage.  Practice your Shradieck regularly, and this passage should not pose such a problem in 1st position;-).

  18. One of my students - a few years ago, when I was still teaching, showed up with a Coda Bow - I have no idea what model, but she spent about $350.  It was better than any of my named hand-made shop violin bows (all Pernambuco).    I know of another professional player who uses them, but they keep breaking at the tip, but so far Coda has replaced them for free, other than that he really likes them.  I am intriqued by the ARCUS bow, but way too expensive.  

    The bow is one item that, at least theroetically, should be able to be made superior with man made materials to a wooden bow.  Also since Pernambuco is an endangered wood (like ebony) it would be good to find an alternative and Carbon Fiber is a good one.   (Composite fingerboads actually work quite well too)

  19. One would think cello, by looking at the positions, but my observations/experience say violin can be played longer.  Cello seems to breed more back and tendonitis problems.  However, there are some new methods out there teaching cellists to play with much less stress.  Yo-Yo Ma benefited from this many years go after he had potentially career ending back surgery around 1980, but he was a very physical player in his youth - contorted and swayed, horrible on the body.  Of course my observations are mostly of amateur types, often without the best training/technique.   At the professional level, it may be very different as some of the previosu posts have stated.

  20. I would play it in first.  The 2nd position option seems better, but most people have trouble finding 2nd position and this has to happen very fast.  My teacher always insisted we use the easiest to remember fingering for orchestral and chamber music - we could be as fancy as we wanted on solo repertoire but not on ensemble music.   He insisted we all learn the Marriage of Figaro audition passage entirely in first position - dead cold (viola part).   Of course he only had two orchestra jobs in his entire life - Principal of Cleveland and then the NYP (as a condition of the Cleveland Conductor taking over the NYP Podium, his principal violist came with him) - so maybe he didn't know what he was talking about ;-).