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Lydia Leong

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Posts posted by Lydia Leong

  1. This caprice is difficult because:

    (1) It contains some nasty stretches (including some tenths), and the chordal nature means that every note has to be in tune (and consistent). This affects the timing of finger placement. The passages in thirds aren't entirely trivial to get in tune, either.

    (2) The saltando across the strings needs to be absolutely even, crisp, and clear. This is more difficult than it first appears, because the tempo is modest enough that the bounce cannot be totally uncontrolled.

    I'm not convinced that this is the most difficult of the Caprices, but I suspect that is likely to vary by one's specific technical strengths and weaknesses.

    I am entirely puzzled by your statements about the middle finger and hand position. In any event, tension is Bad, and the hand and wrist remain relaxed. Where there are large stretches, the usual tactics for reaching fingered octaves, tenths, unisons, etc. apply.

    The fingers are indeed normally held down for the duration of the chord, though. People with small hands (including myself) find it necessary to release notes (either partially or completely) on some of the wider ones.

    Do not play Paganini without a warmup first. And REST FREQUENTLY if the stretches are a strain on your hands.

    Relaxation in BOTH HANDS is crucial to making this sound.

  2. I would categorize the Sibelius as significantly more difficult than both the Mendelssohn and Bruch No. 1, in terms of technical demands.

    My impression, just from sight-reading through the Beethoven, is that the notes are straightforward enough -- it's scales, arpeggios, and similar sorts of passages that you've devoted years to getting your fingers to execute automatically. The problem is that it IS scales, arpeggios, etc., and therefore difficult to make convincing as music.

  3. I bought the same Bobelock as Andy, for the same reasons -- storage space. I use the one large compartment for a shoulder-rest and strings, one of the compartments for polish cloth and other cleaning accessories, and the remaining compartment for rosin, mutes, pencils, and a couple pads of sticky notes.

    I rather like the Musafia that places the violin slantwise across the case; the overall case is lightweight and there's a ton of storage space. It's also godawful expensive. But I haven't found a dealer who sells it here. So I'm happy enough with my Bobelock.

  4. As a side-note reply to Flyboy:

    Chicago's best youth orchestra has an audition to get in (after which you're permanently part of the orchestra 'til you graduate from high school), and then a seating audition every semester.

    At least until about ten years ago, to get in, you do two prepared works, plus sight-reading something cold, and then you get another sight-reading passage that you can spend a minute marking up before you try to play it (and they might give you two chances, allowing you to mark the music in-between). Presumably this gives them an idea of how quickly you might learn something just by playing through it in a rehearsal -- and whether or not you can keep the rhythm even though you might not be getting all the notes.

    Seating auditions are then based on prepared orchestral parts; they take excerpts from the longer work, but you're not told what they'll be. (This encourages the kids to learn the entire work, usually a symphony, before the first rehearsal of the semester.)

  5. I would suspect that for folk fiddling, you don't need all the subtlety that you need for, say, a concerto. Nor do you need the kind of power and projection that you'd need for that kind of circumstance. For classical music, you want as broad and refined a palette of tone colors as possible.

    I would guess that for under $2000, there's basically no differentiation between "decent for fiddle music" and "decent for classical music"; unless you get really lucky, you are unlikely to get that really broad tonal palette, power, and projection in an inexpensive violin.

    Though, as I think about it, there's an additional point: Most folk fiddlers don't need to play in the upper positions, whereas classical players do. Thus, an instrument which sounds great in the lower positions but not in the upper ones will do just fine in folk fiddling, but is unsuitable for classical.

    jake, you're not going to get a Gagliano for $2000. smile.gif That aside: Neither of the two that I've played were bright-sounding instruments; indeed, one of them was very dark and sweet... an absolutely beautiful sound, though not to my tastes. (And bits of the Brahms concerto sounded just terrific on it.)

  6. Lymond,

    I grew up in Chicago, but a glance at the websites of the best of the local youth orchestras here in the Bay Area show the same kind of repertoire standards. If you look at the top youth orchestras, which I believe includes Chicago, New York, Boston, and San Francisco (no surprise they're in cities with world-reknowned symphonies), the standard of playing is very high, and the majority of players go on to conservatory study.

    Cadenza for the Bruch? What cadenza? The last few lines of the first movement is somewhat cadenza-like (I suppose one could get away with calling it a very short, written-out cadenza), but it's not anywhere near long enough for most auditions.

  7. I hadn't seen Mark's post before I posted my reply.

    In that case... I'm curious what else you tried, other than a Tadioli, when you bought your Matsuda, Doublestop, and why you picked it.

    I have heard friends use Matsudas to do concertos with orchestra, and don't recall any projection problems, by the way, so I'm perfectly willing to believe your instrument carries well -- I'm just wondering if the Tadioli does as well, though it might not be obvious under the ear.

  8. quote:

    Originally posted by Doublestop:

    Ms. Leong, Matsuda instruments are "pushed" by Bein and Fushi because Matsuda lives in Barrington, which is a suburb of Chicago where B&F is based.

    Can you elaborate on why you did not like the Matsuda instrument? I found it to have a big, powerful and resonant sound although not particularly sweet. I tested a Matsuda along with a Tadioli; the Tadioli sounded anemic by comparison.

    There are a ton of other makers in the Chicago area, and B&F does not heavily promote their instruments. In fact, B&F's home page claims that Matsuda (and Michael Darnton) are "closely affiliated" makers, implying some kind of special status.

    When I was at B&F many years ago, looking for a violin, they insisted that I try some Matsudas before anything else. I was a teenager; my parents got pushed into taking one home for a week's trial, despite the fact that I didn't like any of them.

    I'm not saying that they're not good violins; they sound/play fine for an instrument in their price range. But I didn't think any of them was exceptional, in terms of either sound or playing qualitites. Nor was the tone to my tastes. There wasn't really anything that I found *objectionable*, though -- merely, "yeah, this is okay, but it's nothing that really grabs me."

    There are tons of very good instruments in that price range. Compare as many as you cam -- dozens, if possible, and by different makers.

    Also, I wouldn't count sound under the ear too heavily, in terms of power -- I've heard plenty of instruments with tons of power under the ear, but no real carrying power.

  9. The Accolay is a student concerto -- not difficult.

    The Bruch No. 1 is probably the easiest of the commonly-played Romantic concertos; it seems to be, quite frequently, the first "real" concerto people play, other than the Mozart No. 3. My advice, though: Listen to CDs but DON'T imitate them (though of course you'll occasionally hear something that you hadn't thought of, think, "hey, I like that", and incorporate it into your own interpretation); imitation stifles your own creative voice. I would judge the Saint-Saens I&RC to be slightly more difficult than the Bruch No. 1.

    In high school, students seeking to show off technical pyrotechnics seem to gravitate towards Paganini No. 1. (Or at least this was true in the area I grew up in.)

  10. All works have both technical and interpretive difficulties. In order to really play something well, you have to be able to handle both. However, frequently, students end up working on pieces that suit their technical capabilities, but which they do not yet have the interpretive flair to play to a high standard. A work that is not phenomenally difficult from a technical standpoint can be considered to be more difficult than the notes themselves would indicate, if the violin line is particularly exposed, as is true with the later Mozart concertos -- any slight imperfection is glaringly obvious.

    That said, experience suggests that, to get into a top youth (high school age) orchestra in a major city in the US, the minimum repertoire standard is the concert-hall concerto repertoire. The Mozart No. 3 is about as easy as you are likely to get away with, and you will probably encounter many students playing Mendelssohn, Bruch No. 1, Paganini No. 1, Sibelius, Glazunov, etc. or shorter works by Sarasate, Wieniawski, etc. (I'm not talking about just people who will end up in the front chairs, either -- I'm talking about ALL the violinists playing at this minimum standard.)

    I believe that many such youth orchestras make the repertoire standard explicit; it's worthwhile to check out what yours requires/suggests.

    It is certainly not a requirement to play the most technically demanding thing that you know, as long as you meet the minimum repertoire standard. (Indeed, beyond a certain point, progression through repertoire becomes decidedly non-sequential, and students often just play whatever it is they're currently working on, which might be less technically challenging than previous works they've done.)

  11. The points about reputation have been oft-repeated.

    However, makers themselves are typically setting their own prices, since there are many more of their instruments being made and sold directly to players, than there are instruments being sold by players to other people.

    Thus, do the instruments of a maker end up being worth at least a minimum of what he prices them at, assuming that he can find takers at this price? Presumably he finds some level of compromise between maximizing the value of his work, and keeping his instruments at a price level where they'll move, preventing him from starving.

    By the way, Michael -- do you think that Cao's work, and Gliga's, are comparable in quality? I know a number of Bay Area Fingerboard folk have played one or more of Cao's violins and been impressed by their tone, anyway, including myself. (I'm talking about his personal work, not the student instruments.)

    [This message has been edited by Lydia Leong (edited 11-06-2000).]

  12. And there are classical music performances that really benefit from viewing rather than just hearing -- and which tend to be filmed in a more competent manner. Opera and ballet, for instance.

    I was about to say that many people can't readily afford tickets to the best symphony, opera, or ballet in town, in order to hear top-notch live music... and then I thought about what people pay for digital cable or DirecTV these days, and realized it's just a matter of priorities.

  13. My teacher often asks if a particular bit that's gone wrong had worked when I was practicing at home. I see this as both an acknowledgement that some students do indeed play worse in front of their teacher than they do when practicing on their own, as well as an acknowledgement of the variability that occurs when playing something that one does not yet thoroughly know.

    Do you find that you're nervous when you play for your teacher?

  14. I echo Andy's advice: Slow down.

    If you cannot play a piece perfectly when you play it slowly, it won't be better when you speed it up -- it'll just be harder to hear the mistakes. (With the slight exception of bowing techniques that are very difficult to execute slowly.)

    The correct time to learn a piece slowly is when you first learn it. This way, you don't practice in bad habits.

    If you have already learned bad habits, then you have to "relearn" the piece, slowly, just as if you were learning it from scratch. This can be torturous.

    You need to be careful that your practice time doesn't turn into mindless repetition of a routine. It doesn't sound like you're really making as efficient use of time as you could be.

    Don't worry about running through all of your scales. Work on ONE scale, and get it right. This doesn't mean that you just play the same straight scale over and over again, of course -- try it with different bowings, start on different notes ("modes"), play it in various combinations of double-stops, skip notes (Simon Fischer describes a technique for tuning perfect octaves, then leading notes, then the rest of the notes, in his "Basics", which I find very useful), and so forth.

    Or, more generally: It is better to improve one single thing, even if it's tiny, in the course of a practice session, than it is to run through a ton of things but not make any of them better than they were earlier. ("Better" means that tomorrow, when you try the same thing, it will start out at a higher level than it was at today.)

  15. Matsuda's instruments are pushed pretty heavily by Bein and Fushi -- I believe he's a resident maker there. (Or at least this was true the last time I looked at instruments by him.)

    I played several of his instruments, about fifteen years ago, while looking for a violin for myself, and again about ten years ago, while helping my little sister look for a violin. I did not like any of the instruments as much as other modern violins I tried in that price range (about $12K-15K, if I recall correctly).

    However, a number of youth symphony colleagues of mine instruments of his and were happy with them. (Note that these are definitely not student-class instruments, though, nor are they priced that way.)

  16. It depends on what you're playing, too.

    It sounds like 2 cellos might make more sense than 4 cellos, but perhaps the work needs more bass "oomph", or the theatre you're in eats sounds in the lower registers.

    The rest of the numbers don't sound unusual.

  17. Since saraph lives in a major city (according to the profile), there should be plenty of other more suitable community orchestras.

    I want to point out that beyond purely musical concerns, for busy adults, a community orchestra is one of their few opportunities to meet a lot of other people with similar interests -- it's as much a social experience as a musical one. Though I have no objection to playing or socializing with those who are not my own age (either younger or older), it's often easier to socialize with folks who are roughly one's own age.

    I agree stronlyg with HKV on this one: Do what's good for YOU. Clearly, you didn't enjoy the experience, so why go back?

  18. Call the conductor and say politely, "Thank you, but this isn't what I was looking for."

    Typically, community orchestras expect that potential new members will "try out" a group for a few rehearsals before making a commitment to it -- and it also gives the conductor an opportunity to make sure that the player is decent and well-behaved (punctual to rehearsals, etc.)

    You might ask around to find out what community orchestras in your area have younger players. smile.gif

  19. If you are willing to resign yourself to complete tedium, you might consider Flesch's "Urstudien" ("Basic Studies"). Flesch claims that these form a comprehensive way to work the necessary muscles, in just 30 minutes (15 minutes for each hand), for players with limited time to practice. Many of these exercises are also silent -- so you won't disturb the rest of the household.

  20. I do love Hilary Hahn's solo Bach album, but I believe that both of Milstein's recordings are superior to it. Still, if you want a modern digital recording, I'd recommend it highly.

    I have both the 1960s and 1970s Karajan Beethoven symphony sets. I would recommend the one from the 60s. However, I think that unless you really want these as a set, you are probably better off buying a best-in-category.

    For an inexpensive full set of symphonies by an arbitrary composer, I have to recommend Jochum's Bruckner symphony set, which is glorious, or Solti's Mahler cycle.

  21. I haven't tried a Guarnerius copy, but I've tried Scott Cao's most recent violin, a Strad copy. It was a wonderful instrument -- I played it practically fresh off the bench, two weeks after he'd completed it. Excellent tone quality, good projection, quick response. (It sold shortly thereafter. A very good deal for the money, I think.)

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