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Guess which artist is winning at my elementary school: Bell or Milstein?


Theresa
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Think:

Why shouldn't people discuss Bell's appearance? Mutter, Salerno-Sonnenberg, Vanessa Mae, Harnoy, etc. and all the women get discussed. Visual appeal counts in prodigies too--the littler and younger the better. From another angle, how does one effectively teach one's children to appreciate content over appearance, to look for internal beauty behind a plain face, to value solid truth over transient lies?

Honestly, I (female) would rather view Bell than Isaac Stern, for example. (I'd rather hear Bell too, but that is another scenario for me not dependent on how he looks.) In today's world it is nearly impossible isolate the music from the artist himself. They are sold to us as a unit.

It's interesting to think about how much external signals have to do with making the musical image of musicians, or of anybody. I recall a bluntly honest 13-year old friend of my daughter's who once said in my hearing: "I don't care what my boyfriend is like as long as he's cute." Youth and beauty are hyped in the media. Norman Lebrecht's books are tremendous eye-openers to understanding today's music.

AB

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From a few of the comments thrown around I seem to be getting the impression that Bell is gay, not that it matters in the least, as what he does behind closed doors is HIS business. It's just that I've never seen or read anything suggesting that he was anything other than heterosexual.

Though he is a marvelous player and one of my favorite of the younger generation violinists, I haven't yet put him in the same league as Michael Rabin, insofar as his ability to MOVE me is concerened, but that is just MY opinion, someone else I'm sure would differ.

As far as making critical comments about famous violinists, a topic that came up several months ago (or thereabouts) it should be remembered that NO ONE can be 'all things to all people', and that this BB gives us all an opportunity to express an opinion, favorable or unfavorable, about people, places, or events that we feel strongly about.

Therefore I say unto you Huang, keep being critical and judgemental.

[This message has been edited by gypsyfiddler (edited 05-12-2000).]

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There is nothing inherently wrong about discussing a musician's looks. Neither do I claim to never have engaged in such a discussion. Looks are not, however, relevant to a discussion of the music.

The bulk of the comments regarding Bell in this thread could hardly be called complimentary. Criticism is healthy, and subjectivity will always enter into a discussion such as this. However, as this thread grew, I grew uneasy at the seeming lack of respect for Bell as a musician and as a person.

No musician can please all of the people all of the time, but all musicians deserve respect.

[This message has been edited by Alison (edited 05-12-2000).]

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Whew! Midterms are over... for the time being...

Anyhoo, about that collective sore spot that a lot of Joshua Bell fans have: see, the thing is, we like knowing he has a lot of fans and everything, but when people go on and on and on about his looks, it makes us wonder if those people ever listen to his playing. I'm sure they do, but when other people hear fans going on and on about his looks, they may draw (and some have) the conclusion that looks is all there is to it.

After years of London Records' wacked marketing schemes and slightly airheaded groupies and people poo-poohing him as a "pretty-boy violinist", some fans get a wee bit paranoid and defensive. I'll admit that I and a lot of other folk I know tend to overreact when anyone says they think Josh is hot. It's not that you can't say it; we can't stop you and you're free to express your opinion, but the image of the stereotypical Josh fan as a screaming groupie is never far from our mind...

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Current score: One of 'em has 108; the other, 431.

Monday's the last day, so this thread will definitely get lost over the weekend. I'll just post the winner.

Comments today included: "He understood the music better"; "He sounded like he practiced more"; "His playing was more energetic"; "He got my attention"; "The other one was boring"; (of the one with few votes)"He sounded inexperienced--like he wasn't sure of what he was doing."

There really isn't a winner, and I'll explain this to the kids when we broadcast the news on our elementary school broadcast. I'm calling it "Battle of the Bows" in which everyone's a winner because everyone gets to discuss world-class violinists.

Personally, I've found more to admire in Bell--more to understand about the sensitive message he conveys. However, I'm as adamantly blown away by Milstein's genius as ever. Really completely blown away. And how many times have I heard him play this one unassuming work just this one week???

TR

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I think I have to go for Milstein, although I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Bell fan. The starter of this post is a Milstein fan. Bell is generally assumed to appeal more to younger audiences. Therefore, I think if Bell were the far and away favorite; she wouldn't be posting about it. At least, she wouldn't be using the sense of surprise that I believe I detect in her writing.

How's that for a little over the net uneducated psychology?

Elaine

Norman, OK

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To Elaine: I posted this post, not because I'm a Milstein fan, but because I like listening to young violinists. I'm a fan of Leila Josefovicz's--big fan--and so are my kids at school.

But I teach 600 children, and I thought it would an interesting survey to have them listen to two violinists with very different styles just to survey the kids to see which style appealed to them. Then I could draw some conclusions.

I've done everything I can figure out to make sure the kids are not swayed by my own preference for Milstein, which is very, very strong, I'll admit.

I don't show them photographs. I just tell them that we're going to listen to two violinists play the same piece of music and when the two pieces are over, they'll vote for the one they preferred. I've switched the order of the recordings, and I keep myself out of view of the class while they listen. The lights in the music room are off so the kids can focus aurally as much as possible on the music. The music room does not have bright acoustics--just good acoustics. Not too warm, but more warm than dark.

We write so much here on the Fingerboard about the young versus the old violinists--and I thought it might be fun to play two of them--a work within the grasp and concentration of elementary kids who usually are on the soccer, football, baseball fields rather than in a concert hall.

To the credit of both musicians, the kids have listened well.

It's pretty evident that the musician in the lead won't be overtaken on Monday when I take the final 140+ children through the exercise, so you may as well know that it is Milstein who's ahead.

But that's not why I posted this--not to say, "Ah-ha! Milstein beat out the whippersnapper!" It really was to listen to what Fingerboard people had to say about what they expected children to lean toward.

I have no earthly idea why the kids are categorically voting more for Milstein than Bell. One of my musical kids--one who'll be in Pennsylvania next year--voted for Bell so I was very interested in what he had to say.

I'm intrigued by what the majority of the kids were hearing in Milstein's playing that has kept this from being a close contest.

I really expected the kids to prefer Bell because he makes dramatic dynamic sweeps that I would expect children to enjoy--he pulls back on the tempo and teases the beat--something else I would expect children to enjoy. But that hasn't been the case.

I just thought it would make for an interesting discussion--but, quite frankly, I'm much more puzzled now than I was when I started this on Tuesday.

The best thing is: at least I appreciate what Bell is doing with that work now even though Milstein is technically more precise and, for me, more emotionally moving than Bell, who moves me in a different way--not quite as exciting, I suppose.

Respectfully,

Theresa, the Aged One

[This message has been edited by Theresa (edited 05-12-2000).]

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Pete

It sounds like you've got a couple of drama queens who feed off of each other. What a nightmare. She's lucky you are a decent person because one day she's going to piss somebody off who is not like you. You're not the bad guy, she's the idiot and she better grow up if she wants to make it in this society.

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I didn't mean to imply in any way a tilt in favor of Milstein or that you *wouldn't* have posted if Bell were ahead. Although in all fairness, I believe my original post actually does say something like the latter. It was the last phrase about your sense of surprise that I was really focusing on. When you first started this thread there was kind of a "you'll never believe this but" tone to your writing.

Personally, I think it is great that you have gotten children not just to listen but to think critically about music. Frankly, thinking critically about anything is a skill I like to see encouraged at any age.

I too would have thought that Bell would grab their attention. Granted, I have never heard either recording; but Bell's style is emotionally a bit over the top. (Which I love, especially on his Gershwin CD.)

Elaine

Norman, OK

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I will honor Pete's wishes to receive no more correspondence from me, but I feel the need to make a public apology to everyone at Maestronet.

I have realized the seriousness and wrongness of my actions. My actions were inexcusable, and I sincerely apologize for what I did.

Today I have learned a sobering and humbling lesson.

This will be my last post at Maestronet.

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Even though I am not a fan of Joshua Bell, I feel very sorry for the Bell-lovers in this thread... Nobody likes to have their favorite violinist criticized and if I were a fan of Bell I would find it insulting if somebody says that I got into his music because of his look. There is NO DOUBT a very intimate and stylish quality in Bell's playing that I can imagine people falling in love with. The only reason why I am not a Bell fan is I am what I am ^^, that is, every person has his/her own character and taste. Some qualities in violin playing can be objectively agreed on (just like that Heifetz's technique makes him a saint), while some just don't.

The only thing I have to add is that if I am in a situation where a piece of music or a performer I love is criticized, rather than getting annoyed I will try hard to listen to the things preferred by those who criticize. I do this all the time, and I find my taste changing over the years. Classical music is an amazing thing: as long as you have an open mind, you will always find yourself growing. I like Theresa's attitude, and just like her, I have been discovering more and more good qualities in Bell's playing (Although I seriously don't like Leila Josefowicz, and the reason is different from that for Bell). It might be hard to believe, but taste does grow!

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The interesting thing is that I personally like the Bell version more than the Milstein one (this from the guy who dared call Bell "effeminate"!!!)

That's because I feel like Milstein is a bit too "matter-of-fact" with the music!

My personal favorite is the unbeatable Perlman version on his perpetual "Perpetual Motion" CD.

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Well, a good thing is we've got a bunch of references for some other interpretations of Prelud. and Alleg. to take a look at.

If still posting on Fingerboard next year, I'll ask for suggestions for "Battle of the Bows"--two works, not too long (these are children, after all), maybe together no more than 15-20 minutes (max) with variety in tempo and a discernible degree of emotion. "Prelud. and All" was ideal lengthwise and varietywise.

But now I'm hungry to hear Toscha's reference to an interpretation that is no longer available--drat!

Respectfully,

Theresa

P.S. "Alfredo Campoli" was the one Toscha recommended. Who was Alfredo Campoli???

[This message has been edited by Theresa (edited 05-13-2000).]

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Theresa:

Thanks for an interesting topic. I wonder what would happen if you showed photos of the performers to the children and asked them to match the photo with the "better" performance? I could see it going either way. Children relate more to a young face/recent photo, so they might choose Bell. On the other hand, the "more serious, practices harder" comments might lead them to choose the old-fashioned-looking fellow.

Anyway, thanks again. Very interesing.

Stacy

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I showed the kids the musicians' faces afterwards. I referred to Bell as "the handsome young man" and Milstein as "more of a Daddy figure"--

Children in one class disagreed and came to agreement that Milstein looked like "James Bond in the old movies."

To Huang, if he happens to stop by again: I must beg to differ with your opinion of the Milstein. It's not as straightforward as you may think. There are really wonderful subtleties in his performance that Bell doesn't even come close to matching--very fine distinctions in rhythmic emphases, particularly impressive in the fast passages but apparent throughout.

Milstein, in my opinion, makes his very difficult-to-execute performance appear easy. And I suspect it just plain isn't. Bell makes broader sweeps; Milstein is the fine tuner. Yeah, I sure appreciated Bell after having heard him so many times this week, but, I promise, if you listen to those two recordings daily, a minimum of five times a day, you'd be amazed at what Milstein is pulling off with apparent ease.

It's kind of like watching Fred Astaire and Gene Kelley--they both make extraordinarily difficult gross motor movement look so easy that we all feel we could jump up and do it with 'em. (Not that YOU couldn't, Huang!! I mean ordinary people like me! smile.gif

I really think Milstein is of the Elite of the Elite, Bell certainly being a member of the Elite.

Oh, and I did buy the Perlman P and A today, listened to it on the way home, and found it to be a midpoint between the Bell and Milstein versions.

Fun readings these opinions, really.

Respectfully as always,

Theresa

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I would like to thank Pete for his graciousness in removing certain posts from this thread, and I would like to thank the rest of you for your patience in this matter, and for not rushing to judgement on Alison and myself. I am terribly sorry that the issues on Cindy's Message Board had to spill over into this thread.

If Pete would allow me to apologize to him, I am sorry that my words on Cindy's message board offended you so greatly-- I never realized that their impact would be so great.

I will not be asking Cindy to delete the post, but will be posting an apology under it shortly. I feel that I ought to be held accountable for my words, and the rest of the members of that board can reach what conclusions they will about me. At least they will have my exact words to judge from.

Again, I am terribly sorry, and promise not to shoot from the hip from now on.

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No surprises for me re: this outcome...Milstein is outstanding at pieces requiring style over substance (and I consider all Kreisler music to be heavily stylized but wonderful early 20th C. parlour fare). Milstein was also only a generation younger than Kreisler, so it was a part of his whole social background. He would "get" this music much more easily than somebody of Bell's generation. Perhaps if the current soloists were of a different general personality type than they are they might be able to better grokk stuff like Kreisler...

That said, I would much rather hear Bell than Milstein perform something like the Faure Sonata!

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