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Lydia Leong

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Posts posted by Lydia Leong

  1. crystal,

    Setting aside any definition of "better", if you play two violins, no matter what the price difference is between them, and you don't hear any difference in the tone they produce, it's your ears that are at fault. Even the worst factory violins sound distinct from one another. Ditto the way they play. (And of course this is all influenced by set-up, strings, the bow, etc. plus the player's technical approach.)

    People routinely spend $30,000 on their cars, even though basic car functionality can be had for much less. In light of this, a professional player spending $30K should not seem strange, especially since, unlike cars, instruments typically hold/increase their value, as opposed to plunging in value like a rock the moment it leaves the dealer's. Presumably the reason more amateurs don't make a violin a luxury-expense like a car is that financing is readily available for expensive cars.

  2. Ah, I see HKV is back to Yoda-ish pronouncements.

    Though I agree with you that most audiences would rather hear the Beethoven concerto than the Grosse Fugue, the latter is still a magnificent masterpiece -- much like many other things that an audience wouldn't want to hear as much as a Great Warhorse.

    Chamber music is all about the other players you're with. (The music is often more interesting to play than to listen to, in my opinion, which contributes to audience preferences.) I realize that HKV feels like playing with other people stifles his style. However, I believe the back-and-forth and debate that's part of a good serious chamber music session is inherently part of the end product -- and part of the fun.

    I would suspect that having a degree in chamber music would increase one's professional opportunities, in terms of beefing up credentials to get coaching jobs and so forth. I would also think that, like any other piece of music, this does benefit from the chance to talk to experienced performers, receive coaching, and so forth -- all very much a valuable part of an educational program. (Not to mention having the ability to work with student partners who are committed to this sort of thing and for whom this is part of their time commitments.)

    The last statement, about how acquiring good technique will discourage you from playing chamber music, is such pure bullsh-t that I'll assume it's there merely to be provacative.

  3. quote:

    Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

    Actually, you'll appreciate chamber music a lot better if you have a good technique.

    Whether or not your PARTNERS can/will keep up with you is an entirely different issue.

    Never been a problem for me. Tolerance is necessary in any kind of group activity. Indeed, I find someone who is struggling with the notes VASTLY less frustrating than the know-it-all who can't cooperate with the rest of the group. If you are lucky, you will always encounter both players better and worse than yourself.

    As for the score vs. what people have heard on CDs: It's all part of the interpretation arguments that take place in a serious session. The error is in assuming that there is One Right Way (including, "follow exactly what's in the score").

  4. Shar has a pretty good selection of music -- just try entering the composer and title into their search engine.

    You can also try calling Patelson's in New York -- I don't believe they have a website, but they have a gigantic selection and if you know what you want, they can tell you what editions are available.

  5. Slurred notes that have dashes under the notes are portato -- one bow, tiny space between the notes (not a full stop of the bow, just enough to let the note taper to nothing). You often hear this in Baroque music.

    Slurred notes that have dots under them are played all in one bow, with a clean separation between the notes. Depending on the tempo, they might be taken off the string (especially if up-bow, "flying staccato").

  6. Galamian describes the figure-8 motion in his book. It's basically his approach to doing more-or-less inaudible bow changes. However, it causes a slight taper in the sound at the frog and the tip.

    The trick to an inaudible bow change is to cushion the motion with the fingers of your right hand; it takes practice and careful muscular control, because you also need to avoid things like an abrupt change in arm weight upon the strings.

    Simon Fischer describes an interesting exercise for this in his book "Basics". I've found the exercise to be completely unhelpful, but that might just be me. smile.gif

    (I am not sure what mippi is talking about.)

  7. Hmm. There are, and have been, plenty of tall violinists with big tones... and plenty of short violinists with big tones.

    As for big hands: Itzhak Perlman. Big hands confer both advantages and disadvantages, as you can see by watching Perlman dance those huge fingers of his around the fingerboard.

  8. Auer does not recommend a particular bowhold in his book (he instead handwaves, saying he's seen everyone do it differently), but I was speaking of much more than just bowhold (especially since the "Russian" hold is normally associated with Auer, since his students used it even if Auer himself didn't). Galamian, for instance, talks in his book about how the position of the violin and placement of the left hand differs based on its size, and indeed, in various other places, explains how physique affects what likely will and won't work for a student.

    However, I don't think you can judge the willingness of a teacher to be flexible based on their training. Nor do I think that everything good for you, violinistically, is necessarily going to instantly feel natural, especially if it requires the build-up of some specific musculature in support.

    As I think about it further: The growing body of a child may be suited to different approaches at different times, too.

    My advice continues to be: Have your daughter learn from a teacher that she likes and respects. Don't worry about the teacher's technical approach. Look around: Who has students who play well, and that both students and parents speak well of?

    (If you were picking out a teacher for a very advanced student, or a prodigy, someone who would teach the child the concert-hall repertoire and whose artistic tradition the child will end up following, I would say a match in artistic temperament would be important as well. But we're talking about a beginner.)

  9. Mmmm. If you look at pedagogical writings, the two people who seriously endeavour to adapt a technical style for the individual player's physique are Galamian and Kato Havas.

    Auer does not seem at all inclined to do this -- but since teaching technique was the responsibility of his assistants, this was also by and large not his problem to deal with. (Plus, by the time students got to Auer, they were already rather advanced in their studies.)

    If anything, the Russian school is MORE authoritarian and LESS flexible about the individual student's needs, though obviously individual teachers will vary in their degree of dogmatism.

    I would disagree violently with the assertion that Hilary Hahn plays with any tension in her technique; if anything, her technique appears to be one of effortless control. I have not seen Rosand play, but I would also be surprised to hear of any tension in his technique. (HKV can confirm this, probably. HKV?)

    Ironically: My parents switched me away from a teacher who taught a Russian-style technique because they believed a Galamian-style technique was "better", based on what they had read and seen. They turned out to be wrong *in my specific case*; Russian-style technique works better for me (and I made the switch very easily, much later on, keeping the elements of the Galamian style that felt comfortable to me). However, it was the right move for my younger sister, who finds Galamian-style technique to be more natural. Making these kinds of decisions early on seems misguided. (Also, I suspect that the teacher who has to cope with an amateur violinist -- or even just a strong-willed parent -- with his own strong opinions of the way things "should" be done is in for a difficult time in any event.)

  10. Well, that's, uh, different. smile.gif

    One wonders what he has to say about Mischa Elman, David Oistrakh, and Isaac Stern, who were definitely not thin even in their youth. Or Vasa Prihoda and Itzhak Perlman, who got that way later in life. On the female side -- yes, there are no overweight female soloists that I can think of, though maybe this a marketing thing -- Juilliard teachers Dorothy DeLay and Margaret Pardee are the butt of many a good-natured joke for their weight.

    I weigh about what you do, and I was chubby from about middle childhood onwards. I have never encountered a problem because of my weight. (The size of my hands continues to be an ongoing frustration, though. I suppose the conclusion is, "If Sarasate and/or Elman avoided playing it, so should you.")

    Now, I can imagine that a woman with large breasts, or a man with a large potbelly, might make slight adjustments in the bow-arm to avoid hitting one's body, but this would be a pretty small adjustment. The violin is held far enough to the left that unless your breasts are the size of watermelons, I can't see why they would possibly interfere with your left-hand positioning.

    (I have to say: Writing about breast sizes comes in practically right on top of the list of Things I Never Expected To Discuss On The Fingerboard.)

    Have a good laugh at this guy's expense, and move on.

  11. I still don't get why the Auer method of training in particular.

    Auer's training methods presumes that the student practices three or four hours a day -- which, as he says, because of the necessity of taking frequent rests, really means they need five or six hours at their disposal. It was intended to produce, specifically, soloists.

    Auer's method books are interesting, but rapidly go from extremely tedious beginning material (probably fine for a determined adult, but likely hellishly boring for a child), to a very high level of difficulty.

    If you're referring to just the Old Russian school of playing, there are a gazillion violinists on the planet who play that way, and who teach the instrument. It should be very straightforward to find such people. (Plenty of them teach beginners, some even in the context of a Suzuki program.)

    Absolutely no one uses a "pure" Old Russian technique, of course -- even Auer himself did not (Auer's own bow grip was not the Russian one, by the way -- it's something of a mystery who exactly taught it, and the flared elbow, to his students); to do so would be dogmatic and foolish, as everyone adjusts for what works for them. If you consider, say, Elman, Heifetz, Seidel, and Milstein, you'll note distinct differences in their physical approach to the instrument.

    I would also really hesitate to proclaim the superiority of any one training method or school of thought. After seeing two of Jascha Brodsky's students play recently (Hilary Hahn and Juliette Kang), I was impressed by their tremendous tonal control and wonderfully liquid bow arms, both clearly from the same source of training -- and Ysaye (Franco-Belgian) in origin.

  12. Ifshin's sells a neat fold-up black stand that has the sturdy music-backing portion of something like a Manhasset (but in sturdier material), good solid legs, and so forth. The music-backing portion folds up to form a box for the rest. I don't know what it's called, but it'd beat a Hamilton out any day.

    Andy Victor -- what's the name of this thing? I've been meaning to get one for myself. tongue.gif

  13. "Sound exhaustion" -- eventually everything starts to blur together.

    The modern Italians sound hugely overpriced to me, at least based on my recent look at such instruments in the Bay Area. (A glance at the MaestroNet price histories confirms this, as well.)

  14. MAAMONTANA, pit players using steel makes a certain amount of sense to me -- especially if the humidity and temperature in the theatre are whimsical. Steel stays in tune very well, and in an opera, you can be playing for a very long time without an opportunity to retune. (And having fine tuners is similarly useful in that situation.)

    crystal, I don't think classical players look down on steel strings, though you'll find plenty of people sneering at Supersensitive Red Labels (because, honestly, they're a really awful string, soundwise). The Soviet violinists, up until the 1970s or so, mostly used steel A and E strings (though D and G gut strings). Most classical players are looking for a complexity of sound not found in single-strand steel (Helicores are rope core).

  15. It doesn't seem like Auer was really responsible for the technical training of his students -- he had assistants that did that. Milstein speculates that Auer students learned from each other, more than they did from Auer, and this is almost certainly part of the equation as well. I suspect Auer's talent was to bring out the best in prodigiously gifted youngsters who already had solid technical skills.

    Regardless, I believe that you can instill good habits while remaining entirely gentle.

  16. I am an advocate of supporting children through the educational process, as long as their studies are directed (i.e., they have a goal in mind and are progressing steadily towards it), and it appears that at some point in time, that goal will be achieved, and they will be willing and able to support themselves in their chosen profession. The student should also be willing to contribute towards his own support in some way -- teaching in graduate school, freelancing as a musician, and so forth, as well as living within a student's budget. Obviously, this also has to be within the financial means of the parents.

    The age of 32 seems extreme to me. The age of 26 seems more reasonable -- long enough to get a Ph.D, MD, JD, MBA + master's in another field, etc.

  17. I started the violin at the age of five, and I don't believe it was too young -- indeed, I think starting that young turned out to be an advantage, later on. I had no interest in playing the violin at the time; I had never heard or seen one prior to starting lessons. I was enrolled in a Suzuki program, and my sole ambition was to advance through the numbered repertoire. (My other early ambition was to get to play with the string orchestra, which took me about a year to achieve.) Nor did I like my teacher, though I am in retrospect grateful to her for having established good habits for me from the beginning.

    However, I was a quiet kid with a very long attention span. I imagine it might have been torture for a five-year-old who was less inclined to stay still and concentrate.

    I think children of that age enjoy mastering physical skills. (Though my parents found it ironic that I could play the violin but not tie my shoes.) So give it a try!

  18. Milstein didn't teach very many students, and I believe that by and large, he was the final polish on them, rather than their primary teacher.

    I don't know if Elman taught anyone at all. If he had, they would be quite elderly at this point in time, and possibly retired from teaching.

    Similarly, anyone who studied with Zimbalist would also be quite old, and possibly retired from teaching. Helen Kwalwasser, who teaches at Temple, by the way, was a Zimbalist pupil. Zimbalist taught at Curtis, so he'd likely have taught a student for much longer than a "polisher" like Milstein would have, but it's possible that he did not account for the majority of most of his students' training. (After all, except for those accepted into Curtis before college-age, by the time someone got to Zimbalist, they probably had over ten years of instruction under someone else.)

    If you want to restrict yourself only to people who have been primarily trained by star performers, you will indeed have a very difficult time finding such a teacher for your child, unless you have a prodigy on your hands.

    There are certainly plenty of people who teach in the Old Russian tradition, though. Auer, Flesch, Sevcik, etc. all taught a ton of students who did not go on to be famous, who in turn have taught several generations of violinists.

  19. I believe that there's a serendipitous match between a particular student's physique, and a particular "school" of thought's physical approach... and that in the end, a student's overall approach to the instrument might draw from several such "schools", with original unique amendments Just For That Person.

    I don't believe it hurts a student to be exposed to many such ways of thinking; over time, the student will sort out what works for them.

    I have been through an Old German approach (bow arm held against the body, "hold a book under your arm while you play", and so forth, ick), a New Soviet approach (think Vengerov: very forceful), a Gingold-influenced approach (i.e., Ysaye/Franco-Belgian), a Galamian-influenced approach (later topped off with some of Kato Havas' thought), and an Old Russian (i.e., Auer) approach.

    All of those teachers were good, despite their different approaches. And of course none of them were 100% "pure" in any "school", because everyone always adjusts for their own needs and discoveries. And yes, I did spend some time re-learning basic technique under each teacher. This has provided me with both a conscious understanding of why I do things in certain ways, as well as flexibility in possible technical approaches in a given situation.

    This is further complicated by the fact that students, early on, are typically taught ways of playing that are designed to correct flaws by exaggerating in the opposite direction, and other such "waypoints" not intended to be part of the student's final "polished" technique.

    My advice: Find a good teacher who has a good rapport with your child, and whose teaching results in the child making technical progress, *even if the way the child plays is not in the same tradition as your personal preference*. It'll all get sorted out in the end.

  20. Also: How do you know that your violin has great projection, as opposed to simply being loud under the ear when you're playing it, alone, in a medium-sized room?

    Or the reverse: Some violins have terrific projection without being particularly loud under the ear.

    Are you looking for projection (being clearly heard at a distance), volume in an ensemble (how loud you sound to other people that you're playing with), or loudness under the ear (how well you hear yourself)?

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