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Mark_W

Anti vibrato article in NY Times

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I can't read the article without registering (which I choose not to do), so I can't comment on it. I will say that way too much energy is spent by curmudgeons bitching about the amount of vibrato in use these days. I simply don't buy the notion that it wasn't common long, long ago.

And while we're at it, I have to ask: Why is it that instrumentalists are compelled to endlessly ponder, argue, and fret over what constitutes "tasteful" vibrato, while classical vocalists are given almost a complete pass?!

Even a "pops" concert auidience would rush the stage and toss a violinist into the street if he/she played with the ridiculous amplitude of vibrato that is perfectly acceptable among opera stars!

What's with the double-standard?

Rat (HARRUMPH!)

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For what it's worth, Leopold Auer wrote the following in "Violin Playing as I Teach It," published in 1921, speaking of violinists who in his opinion overused vibrato:

"[T]heir own appreciation of musical values ought to tell them how false is the notion that vibration, whether in good or bad taste, adds spice and flavor to their playing...their musical taste (or what does service for them in place of it) does not tell them that they can reduce a programme of the most dissimilar pieces to the same level of monotony by peppering them all with the tabasco of a continuous vibrato."

and further:

"In any case, remember that only the most sparing use of the vibrato is desirable; the too generous employment of the device defeats the purpose for which you use it. The excessive vibrato is a habit for which I have no tolerance, and I always fight against it when I observe it in my pupils--though often, I must admit, without success. As a rule I forbid my students using the vibrato at all on notes which are not sustained, and I earnestly advise them not to abuse it even in the case of sustained notes which succeed each other in a phrase." -Steve

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Vibrato is so little understood.

If you listen carefully to a great Artist, Perlman say, playing upon a great instrument, you will note that there is a component to the sound in addition to the natural sonority of the fiddle and the "wobble" of the vibrato. I have always referred to it as the "sizzle", somewhat akin to bacon frying if you will. That is caused by the bow exciting the bridge, but without the vibrato the bow is unable to achieve this. The two have a symbiotic relationship which was perhaps, very probably, first realised by Wieniawski in the late 1800s.

The problem with many players is not so much the constant use of vibrato, but rather the constant speed and width of it in all registers. There has to be variety for both artistic and purely practical reasons.

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In reply to:

"In any case, remember that only the most sparing use of the vibrato is desirable; the too generous

employment of the device defeats the purpose for which you use it. The excessive vibrato is a habit for which I

have no tolerance, and I always fight against it when I observe it in my pupils--though often, I must admit,

without success. As a rule I forbid my students using the vibrato at all on notes which are not sustained, and I

earnestly advise them not to abuse it even in the case of sustained notes which succeed each other in a

phrase."


IMHO, I think Auer's advice worked well. Auer was THE teacher every one aspired to study with back in the days. Every child prodigy would more or less be assured of a fine career if they were accepted to study with him. On the other hand, Auer would only accept those pupils who seemed to have an extreme desire to express, in fact little trouble makers, i.e., Milstein. So, he insisted on no vibrato KNOWING that, at the end of the day, when those children got on the stage, lights on, full houses, etc, those children were goint to vibrate anyways, see? In my opinion this is one the reasons why so many of these students ended up playing with different types of vibrato, different tones, for their vibrato came from their very soul, not the intellect. It was like they were breaking the rules set by the master teacher. Is where I am at with this

Pag

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I was wondering if Mr. Redrobe would expand a bit about how vibrato effects the vibration of the bridge. I have never heard this concept before. Ah, is that why vibrating on the d string adds a little flavor to an open G?

--Alistair

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Dear Alistair,

I do not propose to share any hypotheses I might have with regard to the sheer physics of these matters. I feel that any theories I may have would be virtually meaningless and worthless when set against my actual experience of the veracity of these things as a player.

Let me give an analogy. A great racing driver, Michael Schumacher for example, would be able to tell us with absolute assurance that one car handles better than another, even though he may not be able to explain the mechanics of it. Yet we would accept his decision with total confidence, would we not?.

Heifetz taught these things because he found them to be true where it matters. On stage in the great concert halls of the world. Erick Friedman discovered that his mentor was right and teaches the same thing. I also found these things to be true and teach them with total confidence.

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I recall someone, perhaps it was Perlman, stating that effective vibrato should 'fit the music,' i.e. be one with the note, unnoticeable, so as not to distract the listener or detract from the beauty of the music. And man, is that a hard thing to get right (at least for me! )

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I recently watched the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (on Breakfast With The Arts on A&E)play all six Brandenburg Concertos. They are a strict "period" group playing on period instruments and in the style of the era's music that they are playing. One of the many things that caught my eye was a distinct LACK of vibrato on all six concertos. As a result, the renditions were clean, crisp and IMHO, the best interpretation of the Brandenburgs I've heard to date.

I think too much vibrato can make, what might otherwise be a lively performance, rather syrupy. That's why I have a hard time listening to Anne Sophie Mutter's version of The Four Seasons. Insulin! Quickly! I'm going into diabetic shock!!!

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In the NY Times article, Roger Norrington, who advocates much less vibrato in classical orchestral string playing, points out that he is not promoting expressionless playing. Musical expressiveness can be achieved with the bow also.

But this discussion, and that on the thread "viiibrato" has made me think about several points. For example, It would seem that, with a given bow pressure and speed, a note will be in tune when the left hand finger is in exactly the right place on the string. When we play with vibrato, the position of the contact point of the finger on the string varies slightly, thus making the vibrato sound. My question is why this doesn't sound out of tune. I imagine it's a psycho-acoustic phenomenon, but I wonder whether anyone understands it well. Certainly some players' vibrato is pleasant and that of others is repulsive, and vibrato seems to vary a lot from player to player, even among the greats. For example, Perlman, Heifetz, Francescotti, Szigeti. Is this one of the great unknowns of violin playing? I've heard teachers say vibrato can't really be taught, it will happen automatically when the player really needs it for expression. So what about it?

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Forgive my strong words previously. I can only type with one finger, so this stuff takes a lot of my time. If people don't bother to read it properly, it is immensely frustrating. I usually charge well over $100 per hour for this stuff. Here I am giving it away for free. Sometimes I wonder why.

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In reply to:

I am giving it away for free. Sometimes I wonder why.


Because the passion is within you and you can't help yourself but share your wisdom, Friedman's and Heifetz's, and hope we can learn from this! The problem is, are any of us Maestronetters able to see that, understand it, digest it, and then really try it before giving an opinion? I cannot answer my own question today, because all of your input (as well as some others) don't give immediate results in the "now" concept because one needs to work on them, but the input I have applied a few months ago ARE showing results today!!!! Merci!

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Reading the learned contributions makes me feel so blessed to

share with such illustrious and talented musicians, that I am

near impressed into silence.

But I have to complain.

An Open string does not allow vibrato. There are lots of

stringed instruments and musics where it is neither desirable

nor practical. So we are talking about a genre and not the whole

ball of wax.

Come to think of it, in pre Piano days, the ensemble sound

was very like that we find today in folkstring bands. Perhaps

the tunes were different, the arrangers much better and the

musicians proffesional instead of amateur. But the embrace

of the entire person is the same!

Second the great age of Composition built upon this heritage,

and sure enough we find in the Symphonies, Quartets etc remnants

of peasant country dances. Indeed it is in the variation of these

Classical music eventually lost it's way, and went from a

creative youthfull outburst of genius to a macabre chorous

of lamentations and requiems for lost charm, enchantment and

enlightenment. From Playford to Britain, from Bocherini to

Beethoven, and untimately to interpretations of Wagner that

sufficed for a visit to the Dentist. IOW utter noise.

From total song to total drumming, and all in the space of

a few centuries.

Indeed the same trend happens in popular as well as fringe cultures

across the entire planet, but that OC is another topic.

Reasons can be found for these changes. For one, the technology

for making strings changed so much, that today our attempts

at playing these pieces often fails. Our pitch is also higher

by one full tone, and as I already ran past - the ensemble had,

to use Stephen's term, lots of sizzle.

So the use of vibrato is not realy the problem, rather it may be the

hole in the image that modern tuning and instrumentation creates.

Perhaps in centuries to come the Classicists will be having

similar problems with our popular string pieces, ie Bluegrass and

Celtic.

Third, there existed even before the Violin, a bowedstringed music which

did employ a lot of vibrato and this fact coupled with the

lack of mention of vibrato, esp in manuscripts of the era,

leads me to think that even IF one could have used it perhaps

it would not have been heard by the audiences of the day.

So it's not that Baroque musicains did not know about it, IMHO,

rather that they found little benefit from it.

Today with better acoustics, superior strings and a higher tuning

- perhaps even Auer too would concur - there seems to be

lots of opportunity. So go ahead, use it in noneenoh music too.

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huh?

strungup, Your question about pitch and why vibrato doesn't sound "out of tune" is a good one. There are a number of schools of thoughts about this, and I think that the answer may be different for different instruments. For the violin, given a good vibrato swing, the pitch at the top of the oscillation tends to jump out with a little ping sound. Therefore I vibrate under the note, with the top of the swing right on the note (in theory anyway... ). I see no problem with practicing scales with vibrato. Done correctly, vibrato does nothing to obscure the pitch of a note. Others are sure to disagree

-Jesse

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I don`t like the total absence of vibrato advocated by some period players. I remember Annie Sophie Mutter saying something like this on the STRAD: "have you ever noticed that period players in general play adagios very fast? It`s because they would sound bad if played in the proper tempo without the vibrato". I`m just a violin maker and a humble violinist, but I agree with her.

Since vibrato was used by singers and the instruments always tried to emulate the human voice, I think that the violin was born with the vibrato. I think the same can be said about volume: volume was always desirable, and I don`t agree with people who says that in Bach`s time volume was not so important.

By the way, I think that pianists would love to use some vibrato!

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Well I must say that coming to Scottish fiddling after a number of years of classical lessons, I've had to become more aware of my vibrato and concentrate on toning it down. A level of vibration which nobody would think twice about in a symphony orchestra often comes across as pretentious and out of place in folk fiddling so it has forced me to concentrate to make my vibrato a conscious rather than unconscious habit, and to find alternate ways of producing tone color and expression. The longer I work on this, the more I'm impressed by people like Shetland fiddler Jennifer Wrigley who, while using essentially no vibrato, can still be incredibly emotive (OTOH I am also impressed by Alasdair Fraser who was classically trained and in my opinion strikes an excellent balance between classical and folk technique). -Steve

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"Even a "pops" concert auidience would rush the stage and toss a violinist into the street if he/she played with the ridiculous amplitude of vibrato that is perfectly acceptable among opera stars!"

From what do you form your opinions of how opera stars sing? From Bugs Bunny cartoons?

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manfio, if your quote attributed to anne-sophie mutter is correct, it would display ignorance on her part. the relatively quick renditions of adagio movements by period ensembles has one simple explanation: adagio, in the baroque period, was the quickest of all the "slow" movements. it's faster than grave, faster than lento. when a composer marked agagio, it implied a tempo that really is not that slow. an adagio marking nowadays has a different connotation.

also, there is a big misconception about vibrato in period performances. vibrato existed in the classical period, and existed in the baroque period. it was, however, reserved largely for soloists. it was rare, if not unheard of, to use vibrato in orchestras until the early part of the 20th century. thus, the reason for tempering vibrato in orchestral performances is not because vibrato was unheard of....it is due to inherent problems with multiple people vibrating the same phrase at the same time, inevitably at slightly varying speeds and amplitudes.

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Heya Steven,

Sorry if my previous response came off as a challenge, i did not mean it that way. I just have not come across this concept before, and found it to be interesting. It does seem true to me, after you mentioned it, that vibrato brings a little something to the tone of the violin that is not accounted for simply by the pitch modulation. I was thinking that if this is caused by the way that the vibrato effects bridge mechanics, then perhaps this could result in some well directed analysis and possibly improved bridge design by violin makers. In the articles and books i have read about violin accoustics, this factor does not seem to figure into the analyses of violin tone production, and maybe it has not received proper attention (i really don't know, because there are very many obscure articles on violin acoustics, and the Catgut people have published a ton of pretty dense analyses only a fraction of which i have ever read). I am thinking that a bow stroke on the string causes lateral vibration of the bridge, but perhaps vibrato adds an acoustically significant amount of oscillation forward and back as well. Perhaps this spreads the vibration out over the belly more efficiently or perhaps it simply complicates the vibrations and makes them a little richer. Just speculating, but i think it's interesting.

As far as expertise goes, i take everything with a grain of salt. I am very much a "Why?" learner. I've read a lot of pedagogical interviews, books, and articles and i know that there are many world famous virtuosos and pedagogues who do not agree about many aspects of violin technique and tone production. There is fractious debate among acoustical experts on violin tone production as well. To use your analogy, perhaps Schumacher finds that a car does not handle well and then maybe Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives the same car and wins the race and says it handled great. I have seen bigger inconsistencies than that among experts in every discipline i have ever encountered. People are people are people, and blindly following an expert is the better part of stupidity, imo.

But i really do appreciate the expert insight that you and some other posters here offer, i don't take it for granted and that is precisely the reason why i ask questions about it.

Cheers,

--Alistair

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