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Lydia Leong

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Everything posted by Lydia Leong

  1. quote: Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:
  2. Mmm hmm. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a violist...
  3. Except, Theresa, when I read your post, well-written and poetic as it is, I cannot imagine Karen Carpenter's voice (I do not believe I have heard it before), nor does it help me readily recall the sound of Sutherland's. The typical new violin has a sound quality that I call "raw". There is a certain grainy harshness to it, and a sense of tightness -- as if the sound were not resonating entirely freely.
  4. Mendelssohn for me, too -- in my case, Perlman's earlier recording. It was my music to sulk to when I was a teenager. Real inspiration for playing, though, came from a three-tape RCA set of Heifetz playing the major violin concertos. I listened to those over and over again. Didn't discover that 'til I was fourteen, though. The inspiration to collect classical music recordings also came at that age, with Solti/CSO's recording of the Mahler 1.
  5. It's purity of style and tone -- a certain smoothness of sound and refinement of taste. Milstein, Grumiaux, and Hilary Hahn are all "clean" players.
  6. Evan, a top-notch brand-new violin (around $15K) is substantially cheaper than a top-notch brand-new grand piano. In fact, don't top-notch new concert grand pianos now cost almost six digits?
  7. Sorry, Theresa. It's like trying to describe the quality of a voice... impossible to do in concrete terms.
  8. With Kreisler, it's best to check the recording date. In the post-accident recordings, with his defective hearing, there are definite problems.
  9. Mutter does seem to have distinguished herself as a champion and talented interpreter of modern music. Perhaps it's exactly her "overheated" style that makes her excellent in this repertoire -- it's necessary in order to get the musical message across, out of what is often a bewilderingly chaotic sound image.
  10. Yankee Fiddler, The best of my violin teachers strongly emphasized that the interpretation of a piece should be well-thought-out beforehand, and that the performer needs to have an iron control over his own emotional state, so he can call forth the emotions that the music demands at the appropriate times, and in the desired quantities. I used to get thoroughly chewed out for how my teenaged mood-swings affected the way I played. He complained he could tell how my week had gone by listening to me for five minutes. (And he appeared to be frighteningly accurate at doing so, too. I have never encountered anyone who read me so well in a *conversation*, let alone off a couple of bars of a concerto!) He strongly discouraged practicing when not in a state of emotional calm, saying that it led to a loss of control, and to a distortion of the music to serve the player's needs. That said, I don't have that degree of emotional control. I will play for comfort on occasion, and I think my mood certainly leaks into what and how I play.
  11. I'm not (or at least, I try not to be). Nor am I fan of that sound. Milstein the "pure", as HKV puts it, is my favorite violinist.
  12. Kreisler had plenty of "fingers", too. You can hear it in the clarity of his fast passage-work (sometimes emphasized by very solid thuds of his fingers against the fingerboard).
  13. I didn't say that contemporary instruments didn't sound good. But they have a certain "new instrument" quality to them. The degree to which this is true varies, but I have yet to play any brand-new instrument that did not have at least a little of that quality. (I played Scott Cao's latest handmade Strad copy a few weeks ago. A gorgeous violin, with almost no "new violin" sound, two weeks off the bench... very nice.) Conversely, there seem to be instruments that don't entirely lose that tone quality, even over time. (I played a superb-sounding 1930s Italian some weeks ago that sounded brand-new.)
  14. There was a great huge lengthy thread a few months back, when someone discovered *gasp* Heifetz playing one note in a concerto, that was, on close listening, slightly out of tune. Nobody ever claimed Heifetz was infallible. It's just that he is, thus far, the most technically perfect violinist to have lived. (Ah, the potential strange errors one can make, if one makes the mistake of reading Internet bulletin board debates uncritically!)
  15. I find it interesting that Vengerov himself regrets his lack of control -- he mentions it in a recent interview (Strad? Strings? don't recall), adding that playing baroque music with a baroque set-up has recently helped him to gain more control than he had. I've been listening to Zakhar Bron's own recording of the Beethoven concerto and Romances recently. I don't find it a particularly remarkable rendition in any way, but it's competently played. Bron does not seem to have the same kind of almost *violent* approach to the instrument that Vengerov, Repin, and Markov all seem to share (and possibly the other Bron students as well, I haven't heard them). Vengerov and Markov can both be seen on video, and their aggressive approach is obvious -- it's an enormous expenditure of unnecessary energy, too. For a brief period in my childhood, I was taught by a Romanian woman who had been Russian-trained. She had a technique that was almost as aggressive. (The Leningrad conservatory pupils I encountered on a youth orchestra exchange, though, did not have that kind of forceful approach, so clearly it's not characteristic of all Soviet-taught players.) I would guess that it comes from a highly intense practice regime that must emphasize technical gymnastics and enormous endurance... and probably playing on terrible instruments that have to be really forced into producing a tone, and which are unresponsive enough that the lack of control doesn't result in any "unintended extra" noises.
  16. Many friendly local violin shops will let players try out strings before buying -- they keep trial sets on hand for this purpose. This might be your best bet, since though there are "general" qualities for strings, they won't all sound the same on every instrument. If you have an instrument that's already very bright, putting bright strings on it might make it too bright. Alternatively, it might pleasantly bring out the brilliance of the instrument. And you might find that the A from one set is too bright, say, while the D and G sound fine. (This is the idea behind the Infelds -- being able to balance bright and dark without ending up with unbalanced string tensions due to a bunch of different brands.)
  17. Someone mentioned Corey Cerovsek on a violin mailing list. I hadn't heard his name before, so I got curious and poked around a little. http://wfiu.indiana.edu/cerovsek.ram is an hour-long RealAudio interview, evidently from a radio show. It's worth listening to, as it features not only Cerovsek's playing, but also recordings made by Gingold, and the pianist Enrica Cavallo Gulli (Franco Gulli's wife). I can't say I was especially impressed (his technique does not sound entirely secure to me, which affects the "flow" of the music and the degree of control he seems to have over it), but he's got an interesting "boy genius" background, finishing doctoral coursework in both music and mathematics by the age of 18. Anyone know anything more?
  18. If your violin is too loud, Obligatos are probably the last thing you want. How about Eudoxas? If you live in a climate that's very stable, or you don't mind a bit of tuning every day, you should be okay using gut.
  19. This is not a debate about modern vs. non-modern instruments (re: the "wood must have been different back then") comment. Indeed, I think modern instruments are very much included in this category of "fine instruments" we're discussing. I'm sure Michael Darnton would describe his instruments as such. (There are living makers whose instruments command into the $30K+ range, such as Carl Becker Jr., too.) We definitely know that the supply of high-quality pernambucco for bows is diminishing; this is a fact, brought about by the destruction of the rainforests. Nonetheless, there are plenty of terrific modern bows being made, including excellent composite ones. (The widespread use of composites seems to indicate that players *are* willing to try something new, if it saves them money and still gives them the playing qualities they want. Ditto everyone using all the newfangled synthetic strings rather than the traditional gut.) I don't think your kid's experience is unique, A.Brown. But that doesn't mean that the higher quality of expensive fiddles *in general* is a figment of the imagination. By the way, one of the things that nobody has brought up is the fact that instruments that are brand-new or close to it, tend to have a slightly "raw" sound to them, which lasts a few years. If you don't like that sound, this definitely restricts your options.
  20. quote: Originally posted by A. Brown: Playing devil's advocate with this idea of the mystique of an esoteric value of expensive violins, I assume you are talking about a player's "feel" in relation to sound rather than to physical dimensions of the equipment. Certainly a degree of care in the making and set-up provides an easier-to-play instrument. Here I grant you than an experienced player knows much better what he or she wants in a set-up than would a student or an amateur. Perhaps this is one of those things that simply can't be explained, but has to be experienced. Go to a good violin shop. Play a bunch of instruments over a wide price range -- half a dozen in each price band, say. You can hear and feel the difference (unless your skill on the instrument is limited, ditto for the sensitivity of your hearing). Don't ask what the instruments cost, don't look at the labels, and don't inspect them visually, until you're done evaluating them. You won't like all of the instruments, even the most expensive ones. You will probably think that some of the less expensive ones sound better to you than more expensive ones. If you take a friend, you'll probably find that you like different instruments. Some instruments that you might enjoy playing, won't suit your friend's style of playing -- and vice versa. You are talking about complex acoustical systems that produce, with varying degrees of physical excitation, certain patterns of frequencies. We perceive certain of those patterns of frequencies as being more pleasant to the ear than others. Depending on our physical approach to the instrument, the movements needed to entice the particular frequency-patterns we want might or might not coincide well with the optimal way to do so on this instrument. All you're doing with set-up is fooling with the fine details -- it's like salting your dinner "to taste". A different instrument is a wholly different "meal", though.
  21. quote: Originally posted by A. Brown: Nobody has yet designed an experiment that accurately and scientifically sorts violin sounds by price or age. This is because price and sound aren't in equal relationship, as has been stated many times before in this thread and others. Ditto for age. (I'd bet that you can scientifically show that wood of different ages has different sonic properties, though; basic materials science would apply.) I have faith that someday somebody will design scientific tools that are able to measure a violin on a variety of parameters, though, like evenness of response, degree of responsiveness, and tone color. Certainly good progress has already been made in this direction.
  22. I would be more convinced by the argument that someone who has gone through an education curriculum being able to teach better, if I saw any evidence whatsoever that doing this creates better teachers. Textbooks, curriculums, etc. in the USA, at least, seem to be getting progressively more and more ill-thought-out over the years, thanks to education "theory". As far as I can tell, it's an active attempt to cripple the minds of the next generation. Well-intentioned, perhaps, but that doesn't make it good. Nor does dedicated and hardworking necessarily indicate competence, sadly. My mother, who holds master's degrees in both mathetmatics and chemistry, is, thanks to her lack of an education degree, not qualified to teach in school. So, instead, she tutors privately. She is consistently appalled by how poorly high school teachers know the subject matter they are teaching -- not really surprising, given the minimal advanced work they've done in the subject, I suppose. Actually, of all the educators of children out there, music education majors are probably among the best-trained. They DO have significant depth in the area that they're going to teach, unlike, say, your average high school science teacher.
  23. Actually, I think Theresa's point is not unreasonable, nor does it contradict other things that've been said in this thread. Nobody's arguing that there aren't relatively inexpensive instruments that hold their own splendidly against far more expensive instruments; we can all envy the players who have managed to come up with those finds. Being willing to pay more money increases the chances that you'll like something that you can afford. (Your Curtis friend bought an instrument worth $80K, after all. Presumably if there'd been something less expensive that she loved just as much, she'd have gotten that instead. Her earlier $12K instrument was at least partially serendipity. An argument can be made that ANY really good match of a player to an instrument is at least partially serendipity.) Having looked at some 70+ violins recently before settling on the one I finally bought, I can assure you that if I could have found an inexpensive fiddle that I loved, I would not have hesitated to buy it. But I didn't, and I would guess that this is the experience of most of the players out there. (And yes, I did my footwork, thank you very much, though I stopped short of visiting any shop not within driving distance. And I played instruments "blindly", including ones significantly below and above my "expected" price range.) Lots of people will tell you about looking for weeks or months or years for the right instrument to come along. They're not joking. I don't think Michael was at all suggesting that you have to spend $30K+ on an instrument to play professionally. But between him and the other dealers, it's been asserted that $15K+ is typical -- the rule, rather than the exception. That doesn't seem at all alarmist to me, especially since the good-quality modern instruments are found at the bottom of that range. (There was a very amusing post some months ago about how the best way to increase the value of an instrument that you made is to die!) Anyway, Theresa, I agree with you -- trust your ears, not the price tag. Play enough instruments, though, and you discover that a certain price will *tend to* result in sound quality that meets a certain standard. There are certainly poor-sounding expensive instruments out there, though. (I played one that was in perfect condition, at a local shop. I thought the sound was pretty blah. The dealer agreed -- it's in perfect condition because no player has wanted to play it, but its status as a "good example" makes it excellent collector-fodder.)
  24. A.Brown, you're looking at this from the perspective of the listener and not the player. For the player, the instrument is a tool. The better the instrument (which includes being a "match" for the player), the easier and more enjoyable it is for the player to produce music on it. I have a perfectly serviceable ordinary screwdriver. I use it to put furniture together, on occasion. I also have a good electric screwdriver, that I use much more often. It allows me to put things together in a fraction of the time, with much less stress on my muscles. The end product is still pretty much the same -- the screw's been screwed in. But the one done with the electric's probably a tad tighter, and it certainly saved me a lot of effort. (And because I'm something of a geek of an engineer, I find that the efficiency and neatness of an electric screwdriver brings me some degree of personal pleasure, as well.) The better a player you are, the better the instrumental tools you can take advantage of, too. One can make an argument that artists create as much for themselves as for their potential audience. Certainly amateurs are primarily in it for the personal pleasure derived. Even if the audience can't hear it, see it, etc. -- YOU know it's there. And I don't think that's delusional, either -- I'd bet someone with the appropriate scientific equipment could show that the difference is there, even if it is beyond the perceptiveness threshholds of the average person.
  25. And yet HKV chose to buy an instrument with a Gagliano label for $20,000 (I believe he ended up paying less, but that was the initial price). As has been said on the board many times before, there are undoubtedly really good deals out there, if you can find them. It's that "if you can find them" that's the problem. Not only do you have to find that rare "good deal", you have to find one that matches YOUR tastes. A $1,000 instrument that sounds like a top-notch Guarnerius and has a powerful dark tone that requires some "digging" to make sound, doesn't help the player whose tastes run to soprano instruments that respond without effort. (But there is a "man behind the curtain" thread of some length, from a few weeks back.) I have no difficulty believing that the vast majority of people, confronted with a variety of instruments in a huge price range, and a competent player, will not perceive a huge difference. More discerning listeners will, though. And there's a factor of personal pleasure involved, too -- it's more fun to play instruments that suit your conception of sound and respond well to your personal playing idiosyncracies. Have you ever seriously shopped for a violin? It's far from being an easy process. Perhaps part of it has to do with the individual's sensitivity to overtones, especially the higher partials?
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