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What is important?


technique_doc
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I have resisted the urge to present this before, fearing I would be thoroughly 'shot down' but I need some input to rescue my troubled mind.

What are the essential elements in deciding on the winner of a competition class?

I have recently experienced a 'phenomenon' which I consider greatly distressing as both a Violinist and a Musician: that of awarding prizes in competitions to players that don't uphold the values that all my past teachers and I myself hold dear.

Performances that are technicaly flawed (poor intonation, ruthless 'hacking' of the instrument, mono-tone vibrato (mainly *wild*) cribbed interpretation etc.) but have character, committment and flair seem to take precedence over those that display ultimate control, innovative interpretation and deep 'modest' musicality.

I note also that these results come solely when the adjudicator is NOT a string player and the choices of repertoire are the old favourites (Bruch, Mendelssohn) as opposed to less well-known works.

I am sad about this, a performance that is not in tune and contains only superficial musicality is no performance and why oh why do non-string players get selected to sit on panels - it's so stupid and I will not be part of the fraternity which is happy to degrade *our* instrument to the cheap and least artisitc levels.

Please comment.......

T_D

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I guess it all comes down to how you judge musicality and for the untrained ear, it might be easier to see flashy "acting" superficial interpretaions as passionate musical playing, than more subtle sincere musicainship. Perhaps some judges see technically perfect performances with more subtle interpretations as "cold" and the less technically perfect with flashy "dancing/acting" as warm passionate playing.

My personal experience, as a high-school student, (after playing for several competitions) is that anything to do with interpretation will be seen differently by every judge.

Probably the worst suggestion I recieved from a concerto compeition judge was "a little more passion" What did she want? (As a player I tend to lean towards more subtle interpretations, and am bothered by excessive "dancing or acting" while playing, but I'm not exactly a "cold statue" player either) This comment told me absolutely nothing except that there was something she thought was missing in my performance , suggestions such as more/less vibrato or pay more attention to phrasing and/or dymamics would have been much more helpful. I mean What is passion anyway? In contrast to what she said I was later praised by other judges (on the same piece) for my "lyrical, soulful" playing.

Fortuantley most of the suggestions recieved from judges were about flaws in intonation, technique, etc. not about musical interpretation and the winners seem to have at least techinically flawless perfomances, although there was one competition where the least accomplished winners seemed to be the judge's students, but thats another thread altogether.

However, I do think that players with a wonderful sense of musicainship and interpretation, with a few minor techincal flaws/ intonation slips, can be rightfully chosen over those who play techincally perfect but without any tasteful musical interpretation. But again it all depends on the taste/experience of the judges, who are not all, unfortuantely, qualified for their position.

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I know what you mean, and I agree -- to a point. What distresses me is when there is technical perfection but nothing else. I'd rather hear someone with a few (and I mean few) technical flaws who is musical than someone who is technically perfect and says nothing else. But empty emotional flashy gesture coupled with bad intonation and major technical problems doesn't cut it.

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Hi guys,

interesting topic and i'm glad that the thread was posted

I'm reminded of the time when I went for my grade 5 exam, a few years ago ('twas fun - i did the telemann viola concerto in g!) and got an 'A' in the end, but came out of the exam thinking that I did everything badly and that she was going to give me a 'D' (the lowest grade they award in Australia) instead.

It was awful: I stuffed up scales, stopped about four times in the middle of my study, played badly out of tune in my pieces and sight-read horribly.

I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet, but people tell me that I have and have always had a high level of musicianship, and interpret works in a pleasing fasion, and this is what my teacher and I concluded on as to the reason why I got such a good mark when I played so badly.

Back then, my technique was terrible (as in, worse than it

is now ) and I was depressed for weeks after my exam, until I got the result. My teacher thought (and I agreed) that I did not deserve the 'A' and to this day I feel guilty every time I read the report from the examiner.

I feel that both general musicianship and technique are important in a player, and I will never feel adequate as a violist until my technique is at the same standard as my musicianship. What i'm trying to say is that you've got to be a well balanced player. Being a well balanced player makes a good player.

a bit of a boring personal recount, but i think it ties in here quite well.

In a competition, it's really a judge's personal taste and what they themselves value most in a player. You can argue about the end result, but it's their decision, and as competitors/spectators we should learn to accept it and be "good sports".

P.S> Is there such a thing as being "technically perfect" anyway?

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"Technically perfect"...hmm...Look at it this way, if your own technique is solid enough to play all and any of the music YOU want to play, cleanly and without effort, then in your eyes it may as well be perfect (for you). For someone who just wants to play Bach concertos, this level will be different for someone who wants to play Ernst, and easier to achieve. Just my 2 cents.

Carlo.

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I had a similar thing happen this February when I felt I had not played well, but I still received a "superior" rating. I even posted a thread here about the fact that I was disappointed with the high score. After I received the judge's comments the following week, it seems she was able to see beyond my nasty case of nerves into what my playing is really about and I was rewarded for that versus being penalized for a case of the "shakes." Since, in my mind, she justified my rating with her comments to support the rating, I finally accepted it.

Well, that and a lot of "You big dummy take the score and smile" sort of comments I received from you guys on my post.

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I agree wholeheartedly - no technical-only performance ever got my vote (either listening or adjudicating) but there is a limit to how much *rubbish* one can take in a commited musical rendition, a few mistakes/slips OK, forget it , but all out of tune and degredation of the the art of Violin - NO WAY!

A boring performance is a bad as an untidy performance, it's a matter of degrees - a 90% musical rendition should beat a 95% one but way out of tune - or maybe not?!

Maybe my ears are too quick to spot the bad intonation - I am a Violin teacher after all - some of these panelists (and this is not supposed to be patronising) simply don't inhabit the same intonation Galaxy as us Stringies!!

T_D

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Years ago I was asked to be a judge at a Yamaha organ competition. I was probably the only vocalist, but had a masters degree in music. The winners were the ones who were all show. It was improvization. The one I thought excelled slipped in melodic inversions and other very creative and musically educated techniques...and I really don't think the other judges noticed. I'm sure the other organists probably didn't either, nor would they have had the ability. I, needless to say, went home discouraged also.

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I heard the competition on the radio this evening - my opinion hasn't changed from hearing the recordings; the best player didn't win and I now have the evidence on tape....

I'll send it to anyone wishing to do some fun adjudicating -as long as it's returned. My pupil did great - that's all I care about anyway - at least he plays nicely! , oh and in tune too

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In reply to:

Is there such a thing as being "technically perfect" anyway?


I'm going to say 'yes there is' to this question. If you take all the physical elements of constructing a piece e.g.

Place/speed/length/pressure etc. of bow

Intonation/vibrato/shifting/articulation etc. of left hand - rather in the way a robot would play - it is possible I believe.

I have seen performances that are near as damn it to perfection but if they lack musicality then what is the point?......um.......um......none.

Also, there is a limit to each individuals ability so often a less than perfect physical performance may be *perfect* for a less able/inexperienced player.

I know I'm digging a big hole for myself, but once the technique cannot realisticaly be improved you have actually reached the goal.

Now, I sit in the Chicken and Egg catagory over what comes first - with some pupils, you might say 'play more gently, sweetly' and the musical demand creates the correct technical change, with others you might say 'calm that bow and please vibrato more' and the technical demand creates the musical change.

If there is nothing to fault, then that is technical perfection......BUT you need to take a deep breath and understand how much is possible and be aware when 'paralysis through analysis' starts a viscous circle of non-improvement.

I like musical playing, and rarely demand total technical flawlessness, but it certainly speeds up expressing yourself.

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I agree completely, technique is only for the end result of music. Perlman addresses this issue in the Art of Violin. He says something like: "Some of the fiddle players stuck with all the things it takes to make a violin sound good, but by the time you've mastered all of that, you're 95 years old - there's no time for music! So those players who could do both, those are the great ones."

Carlo.

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