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DR. S

Where are the Great Violists?

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I began playing viola over 30 years ago and have played it seriously ever since (I finally added violin to my instrument list just 3 years ago), but to this day, outside of sitting in on a viola competition in New York City, I have never heard a respectable viola recital or concerto played live.

Granted, live public viola performances by nationally recognized performers are rare (especially where I live). But I've heard principle violists of major symphonies butcher some of the simpler concertos. I saw one world famous violist twice, and both times she played an extremely elementary program horribly (speaking in terms of musicality, tone, intonation, facility).

I've heard good recordings, I've seen Zuckerman on T.V. play the instrument very well, I tried to get tickets to see Neubauer but it was sold out, but every solo recital or concerto performance I have managed to make was less than satisfying (a shared opinion with all that saw it with me).

I love the instrument, the masculine rich sound, but is the cliche' true, that the instrument just isn't suited for solo playing or have I just been unlucky in who I've heard.

My thread here is not to bash viola playing in general, I have heard a lot of good viola playing in orchestras and chamber music, but just not as a solo instrument, at least not at the level of the world class violinists and cellists around. There certainly is worthy repertoire (Bartok, Hindemith, Walton, Brahms etc, so where are the players?

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Well, what about Bashmet?

Don't know which player you were referring to (Kashkashian, Imai?), but they can't all be that bad...

Australia's Patricia Pollett is perhaps less well-known but an excellent violist who has recorded and performed both the standard repertoire and a lot of new music composed for her. Her web site: http://www.uq.edu.au/~muppolle/

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Not sure whether you're just unlucky, or whatever, but here's what I know:

My school has an excellent music program. We have a lot of depth in almost every section. But, unfortunately for me, the most fiercely competitve section is the violins. We push each other so hard that we are easily one of the best sections in the orchestra.

Viola section: While it's good, the competitiveness isn't there. If I were as good at the viola as I am at the violin, I'd be 1st chair viola. In the violin section, I'm anywhere from 5th to 10th. The drive for violists to become great isn't nearly as strong as violins or even cellos.

Now this is at the High School level, but I think it directly affects the professional level. The viola simply doesn't carry the prestige that many other instruments do. Thus, we haven't seen a Heifetz of the viola, and there is no modern day Perlman of the viola.

It's sad. I really like the viola (a.k.a. I want a C string on my violin) and it's a shame that interested violists like yourself haven't had the chance to experience truly brilliant viola playing.

DM

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Bashmet puts on a good show, in the right literature. (I've heard horror stories about his Mozart.) Phenomenal technique and great sound--- all of the liveliness of a good violinist.

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Dr. S.,

I am so sorry that you haven't gotten to hear what you have been longing for. I haven't heard a lot of viola recitals live and I've never heard a viola concerto live yet, but one viola recital I attended that was fantastic was by Korey Konkol, who teaches at the Univ. of Minnesota. Intonation, technique, tone, and rich musical ideas. His faculty recital at Bowling Green State University in 1989 was beautiful and electrifying from start to stop.

I've heard my share of not-so-hot ones too, but haven't had the pleasure of hearing Zukerman or Bashmet or Kashkashian or Imai live yet.

[This message has been edited by bleeviola (edited 07-28-2000).]

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quote:

Originally posted by DigiMark:

we haven't seen a Heifetz of the viola, and there is no modern day Perlman of the viola.DM

William Primrose, Pinchas Zukerman, Michael Tree -

But true... Not like the violin.

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I've heard Bashmet this year with his chamber orchestra; he's much the conductor and didn't tackle anything technically virtuostic.

At risk of being called provincial, I heard a viola recital in Seattle this year that included the Schumann, the Clarke, and the Shostakovich. This is a full technical program of pillars of the viola repertoire. Wonderfully colored tone qualities, technically clean, musically exquisite. Helen Callus.

Recently I heard another more informal performance by someone else considered premier in our town, and the comment of my viola playing conservatory daughter was "in my studio, we would say she needs to practice." The standards are high, but the players are out there.

AB

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It's true they're few and far between. The names mentioned here are all outstanding, and there's a terrific Swedish violist, whose name escapes me just now. The most exciting young talent is a girl currently studying with Tree at Curtis (pre-college). Took first prize in the recent Johansen International Competition in Washington. Played the Paganin Grand Sonata, and left us literally stunned. I'd never heard such brilliant viola playing. I forget her name too, but she's Chinese.

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Oy Oy,

If you recall her name, post it or send it to me e-mail. I would really look forward to prodigy on the viola!

Everyone please note. I did not say I haven't heard good viola playing - I have lots of great recordings, it just seems so much harder to find the live preformances - because there are so many fewer great ones out there. I appreaciate the list of names. I'll keep a look out for these.

Thanks

[This message has been edited by DR. S (edited 07-28-2000).]

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pinky zukerman is a violinist who occasionally performs on viola, so he doesn't count on my list (I additionally hate many of his famous comments such as the recent one that all baroque music is garbage). i'd like to add, anyway, kim kashkashian, gerard causse, and karen tuttle. lillian fuchs was great, but she's dead. =(

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Pinky may be a violinist, but he is also the best violist I have ever heard. And I have heard via recording many of those listed above.

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quote:

Originally posted by andy989:

pinky zukerman ...(I additionally hate many of his famous comments such as the recent one that all baroque music is garbage).(

What he said was that many "authentic interpretations" were garbage and actually he said they were "sh-t." But the music itself? No.

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