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Everything posted by lwl

  1. lwl

    Which Barber?

    I would second Toscha's recommendation of Kaufman, except that the recording is out of print and rare. It's also probably not for every taste -- it definitely reflects an earlier, much more overtly romantic esthetic. For a modern recording, I would add my voice to those who are recommending Elmar Oliveira. He balances romanticism with a robust approach that doesn't over-sentimentalize the music, and he gets a very sympathetic accompaniment from Slatkin. The coupling is with Howard Hanson's Second Symphony, a gorgeous and very tonal, romantic modern work. (You might be startled to hear how much John William's theme from "E.T." borrows from it, too.) Gil Shaham's recording is also extremely good; he brings his characteristic sweetness to the first two movements, and plenty of virtuosity to the finale, which he takes at an impressive clip. The coupling of the Korngold violin concerto and "Much Ado About Nothing" suite is also excellent. To really hear someone burn up the violin on the last movement, try Hilary Hahn; her recording is awesome in clarity at a wickedly fast tempo. I'm less enamored of her opening movements, which are tasteful and stylistic appropriate but not quite as romantic as I prefer to hear in this concerto. (A comparison with Milstein is apt, though -- he didn't record this concerto, but if he had, I imagine his interpretation would have been along similar lines.) The coupling is unique -- the Edgar Meyer concerto. Isaac Stern's recording is something of a classic; I think it's superceded by more recent ones, but it is still worth hearing. There's a certain sense of strength in his interpretation, but it comes at the expense of a carefree quality that I think works well in this concerto. Joshua Bell's recording is pleasant but nothing spectacular. Ditto for Itzhak Perlman -- I find his recording rather bland. Avoid Ruggiero Ricci in this music, as he brings a certain muscled harshness to the music that just seems inappropriate.
  2. Many chamber works take repeated hearings to really appreciate, although there are certainly works that are instantly accessible, like the Dvorak "American" Quartet. However, I think it might be a result of marketing. With the exception of a handful of groups like the Guarneri Quartet, chamber groups are neither as well-known or as sought-after. Pure marketing can make an awful lot of difference -- witness the success of "bond".
  3. Try Kreutzer #25 in fingered octaves.
  4. I want to point something else out, too, since this is a competition: I don't think I've ever heard of anyone playing the Elgar in a competition at the youth level. Even the first movement is gigantically long, and when preparing a single movement for a competition, length is a significant factor. If you're preparing more music than other students, you will have to split your practice time over that many more minutes of music. Also, the Elgar is a very difficult work to make cohere musically. And if this is a competition for a performance with orchestra, the conductor may be very reluctant to tackle it; it won't be familiar to many members of the orchestra, probably, plus it is thickly orchestrated, which makes the task of projection unusually difficult for the soloist. In other words, before you're ready to prepare this concerto, not only must you be technically capable of getting out the notes, but you need to be able to produce a large soloistic tone, maintain preparation and performance stamina at a high level, and demonstrate considerable interpretive maturity. If you want more of a challenge than you're getting right now, I'd suggest you talk to your teacher about more difficult material; even if you might be advised that you're not really ready for Bruch/Mendelssohn/etc., it's possible that you could start on bits and pieces. (I wouldn't start with the second movement of the Mendelssohn, though, which is much harder than it looks. If you have the hankering to tackle a major concerto, you might consider the second movement of the Tchaikovsky, which is beautiful played on its own, and is vastly easier than the rest of the concerto.)
  5. Sounds like the later Heifetz recording (with Munch) to me. (This is based on just listening to a minute of the last movement. Didn't want to deal with the whole thing.) Listen to the bite of the bow, and the lean vibrancy of the tone, and add to that the fast tempo, and the older Heifetz is a good bet. I don't actually have the later recording to compare directly, but I can tell you it's definitely not the young Heifetz, whose recording I do have, though there are definite interpretive similarities (but that recording has a smoother, elegant, more lyrical interpretation). Can anyone confirm?
  6. I found Dont op. 35 very beneficial, personally. It's an excellent work-out for the left hand. Gavinies is also very useful, in developing right-hand control, especially for wrist flexibility and really smooth string crossings. But I actually think that the best way to develop certain types of techniques is to play repertoire. This is particularly true of slow works, where you're not just trying to develop technique, but you're trying to develop technique that suits your own personal interpretive style. There are no etudes that teach expressive slides, for instance; it's something you have to develop an ear for, and a sense of timing about, learning how to incorporate a range of different-sounding expressive shifts into your technique. I think one of the best things that I've ever done for myself as a player is to spend a couple of months studying nothing other than little lollipop encores. It might take almost no time to learn the notes, but the difference in the results demonstrates the big difference between yourself and a really great violinist. (For a good illustration, listen to Sarah Chang play Kreisler, and then listen to Kreisler play Kreisler. I'll bet you Sarah Chang has Kreisler licked solid when it comes to Paganini, but Kreisler's by far the better violinist and overall better technician in the range of command of the instrument.) That's when you get to really concentrate on expression -- figuring out what you want, and then learning what it takes to get exactly that on the violin.
  7. lwl


    I think some players have a certain spontaneity and directness to their playing that reaches right into your heart. Fritz Kreisler is the classic example of this. I read in a book once that people said that they felt when they heard him in concert, he was playing just for them. I never understood how this could be until I heard a recording of Kreisler -- and even through all these decades of time, and the poor sonics of the recording, I still felt like he was right there, playing just for me.
  8. I'm bemused to see that I can be gone from the board for months -- indeed, for the better part of a year -- and come back and find that not much has changed. Anyway, the serious reply: Paganini Caprices -- and any other specific class of violin music you might care to name, whether it's solo Bach, virtuoso Wieniawski or Sarasate or Ernst, or Mozart sonatas -- do not contain a comprehensive range of violin technique, even if you exclude techniques that are specific to the 20th century (like the techniques needed for microtonal compositions). Paganini Caprices, for instance, contain a pretty large range of virtuosic technique. But there's an enormous range of techniques that they don't contain. Technique is all about precision control. The Caprices and other etude-like works tend to exercise a handful of schticks in an extensive and impressive manner, but there's an enormous amount of additional fine-grained controlled that one also has to learn. In particular, consider the techniques needed to play slow, lyrical works. There's a broad range of bowing techniques and fine-grained control of the left-hand (especially with regard to vibrato) that traditional etudes generally do not address. There are a lot of coloristic effects that a violinist can produce, that require tremendous amounts of delicate control over the instrument. Far more people can effortlessly rip off a virtuosic work than can really paint a brilliant and varied tonal picture. Each stylistic period also has its own gestures, which are reflected most strongly in the range of bow technique needed for each. Just for starters, think about what a note with a dot over it means, given the period the work was written in, and the style of the work itself. There are "Mozart" bow strokes as opposed to "Bach" bow strokes, for instance. And that doesn't even begin to get into the techniques that are more commonly seen in orchestral playing, like how to get a good tremolo sound at various dynamic levels, without stressing out your muscles. (No, it's not just about moving your bow back and forth as quickly as you can.) A player who can flawlessly execute Paganini Caprices is well on his way to technical mastery of the violin, but that mastery is by no means completed just by that feat of accomplishment.
  9. I knew her as a kid, from the time she was about four years old and first started playing the violin. She's a Vamos product, though these days she's studying at Curtis. If I recall correctly, iupviolin, she played the Paganini No. 1 with the Chicago Symphony when she was a teenager (as a finalist in the CSO's youth competition), so it wouldn't have been her first time. Still, she doesn't concertize as much as bigger-name soloists, so I imagine she ends up more nervous.
  10. I stopped reading and posting when the board changed formats, a number of months ago. (It had nothing to do with HKV or anyone else.) I'm much less active on BAVS than I used to be, as well. Too many things to do in my life, and not enough time to do them in. Practice time's been woefully short, and thus if I have spare music time, I'd rather spend it on the instrument itself. (I saw this post because a BAVS member was kind enough to email me the URL telling me about it.) My email address is in my profile, for anyone who wants to contact me privately. I'll be back when/if I have spare time again.
  11. Where did you find this CD? I have, for the last few months, been buying everything recorded by Campoli that I can get my hands on. I love his playing.
  12. By and large, I would disagree with Andy on this one. Though as a *general* matter, this piece isn't terribly difficult -- call it a bit above the level of the Bruch G minor concerto -- it also employs a range of virtuosic tricks that may be new and/or difficult for the student. Presumably if one wants to introduce these techniques in the context of a piece, this is a fairly reasonable work to do that in. There are two passages of up-bow staccato, one long extended run (which really does require precision control of the stroke) and one which is fairly brief and not as fast. There is a thrown arpeggio containing two quick string crossings. There's an extensive amount of left-hand pizzicato. There's a fast passage of artificial harmonics. There is a large amount of chromatic glissando. And while you can get away with simple fingerings, the more "effective" gypsy gestures require some big shifts and good control over slides. As for the specific student in question: There's a lot of variance in how far students get in six years of playing. What's he playing now? I would guess that, given that you're posting this question here, SaintSaens, that you doubt that he's ready for it...
  13. I got my Violinos as a free trial set. I didn't like them at all; on my violin, they had a very smooth, pleasant sound without any complexity. By contrast, Obligatos are superb on my violin. They are not as complex as Olivs, nor as powerful as Evah Pirazzis, but the power is still very good and the complexity the best thing I've found next to real gut. It's all very instrument-dependent, evidently. Note that despite being advertised as a "student string", Violinos are even more expensive than Tonicas. Weird marketing decision on Pirastro's part.
  14. No, that's not at all correct, staylor. You have very little margin for error on a violin, in terms of the amount of distance your fingers can move and still hit the desired pitch dead-on -- and remember that for real artistry, you're not just trying to hit something which is recognizably the pitch, but fine-tune that pitch so that it works harmonically with the surrounding notes, and/or is "bent" for a musical effect (such as an extra-low note deliberately meant to give something a "sadder" feel). It takes real practice and discipline to consistently hit the exact same spot on the fingerboard, and even then, it's possible to slip up here and there (even Heifetz might hit one out-of-tune note in a performance). Precision is learned; it does not fall from the sky magically. What I always hear when I hear HKV is a player of superb facility but very little discipline.
  15. Interestingly, of course, neither the pure Russian nor pure Franco-Belgian grips prevailed into the latter part of the 20th century, and into the modern day. Instead, the Galamian grip dominates, from, as far as I can tell, kids taking up the instrument today, to players in both amateur and professional orchestras. If anything, the Franco-Belgian grip theoretically grants *more* control and flexibility, in exchange for less power, by the way. Changing bow grips may be a result of changing physiology; today's players are taller and stronger and, I think, often more lightly built. I've gone through a number of different bow grips in my life, and I've settled on the Russian as being the most comfortable for me, but I do think that the pronation of the hand results in a little less flexibility. (You can be relaxed and flexible, yes, but your range of movement is somewhat restricted by the grip.)
  16. I find the Galamian variations on #2 to be excellent patterns for practicing almost *any* passage of sixteenth notes. Doing bowing and rhythm variations on a fast passage helps to assure that all the notes are even and clearly audible and that there's good coordination of bow and fingers.
  17. Arguably the Van Cliburn "amateurs" aren't really amateurs at all, but trained professionals who have not yet made it "big" or who are pursuing non-solo careers, such as teaching musicology at a university, etc. I seem to recall reading that the last winner of the amateur Van Cliburn seemed to be mostly biding his time in other jobs while waiting for his career to really take off -- he was a pianist of that caliber. I don't believe there are any violin competitions designed for amateurs.
  18. quote: Originally posted by fiddlecollector: I tried an Italian instrument retailing at £40,000 and i thought it was terrible and to be honest so did the dealer,but he said theres no way he would reduce the price. I played a $60K instrument once that I thought was awful, and the dealer agreed. The violin had been unplayed its entire life -- it had always been passed from collector to collector, presumably to sit in a vault. It was in pristine condition. It was sitting on consignment, waiting for the next collector to come along, since there are certainly people who will pay for authenticity-plus-condition without tone.
  19. Haven't seen the article yet. I will note, however, that when I was a teenager in the Chicago Youth Symphony, which rehearses in the same building as B&F, a number of the string players tended to frequent the shop during rehearsal breaks. The staff was pretty consistently friendly and helpful -- far more than they needed to be for a bunch of teenagers who weren't going to be buying anything immediately (though granted we were past customers or potential future customers). Also, in general, it seems to be difficult to get an appraisal for an instrument by a contemporary, still-living maker -- there seems to be some desire on the part of the dealers to let the makers set the market value of their instruments, perhaps?
  20. In all the youth symphonies I played in, as a section leader I was expected to do bowings for the section, coordinating with the other principals if need be. (I think the first time I was asked to do this, I was ten years old or so...)
  21. Friedman Plays Kreisler is out on VHS, at the very least. Saw it at Tower Records the other day.
  22. Also check out the BAVS list, for adult beginner violinists. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bavs
  23. quote: Originally posted by Collin-Mezin17: I'm a senior in highschool this year, and have applied to a variety of schools. Among them are Eastman, CIM, University of Denver, Wheaton, Lawrence Conservatory, and Hope College. I've heard that although the entire program at liberal arts/Christian schools may not be as strong as at a conservatory. Wheaton, technically, has a conservatory -- you'll get some of the community feeling from that, as a result. I studied with Lee Joiner, who heads up strings there (and teaches most of the violin performance majors) -- an excellent teacher. (Studied with Dorothy DeLay and Sylvia Rosenberg.)
  24. I'm finding the combination of a Larsen A string with Obligato D (silver) and G to be excellent on my violin. Unlike the Larsen D and G, the A seems to be quite resilient -- mine has lasted five months on my instrument and still sounds good, and usually I chew through strings at a high rate.
  25. A not-insignificant number of community orchestras have age limits, to prevent the orchestra's seats from being taken up by teenagers, thereby cutting off less-skilled but no-less-enthused adult amateurs from the opportunity to play. Others impose age limits for the sake of providing a more mature environment. Ask before you audition. If there's an age limit, it'll probably be 16 or 18.
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