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matesic

Gil Shaham's violin

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Anyone know what (whose?) violin Shaham might have been playing at the Prom performance of Prokofiev 2 broadcast on the BBC tonight? It certainly wasn't the long-pattern Strad cited on Wikipedia. Pretty much brand-new I'd say, blood-red (arterial blood) in colour and quite unlike the usual run of Strads and GdGs in sound. Towards the end I started to miss a little fruit in the lower registers.

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Yes, it looked in very good condition so I assumed modern(ish). Didn't like the varnish much (looked the same colour as the Messiah on my TV) but did like the sound, especially in the Bach.

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9 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Mr Shaham may not have as many violins as Elmar Oliveira, regardless must have many violins. I have been curious about trying one of these, though...

http://www.gaybaryanviolins.com/

Not red, as you describe it.

That was surely it, the middle one of the three or another Gaybaryan in the same varnish. I thought the sound was almost antithetical to what I'd expect from a long-pattern Strad but entirely appropriate for the piece so I guess Shaham must operate a "horses for courses" policy. Or maybe he just doesn't like to take the Strad on tour?

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On 8/30/2019 at 11:34 PM, matesic said:

That was surely it, the middle one of the three or another Gaybaryan in the same varnish. I thought the sound was almost antithetical to what I'd expect from a long-pattern Strad but entirely appropriate for the piece so I guess Shaham must operate a "horses for courses" policy. Or maybe he just doesn't like to take the Strad on tour?

Trying to think of a good rhyme for "courses." You are likely to be correct. Hall size, piece and perhaps a relationship with the orchestra?

Would that the Royal Albert Hall's size might have played in the selection of violin and bow? If he were playing the Mendelssohn, perhaps the Strad might have been the better suitor? Experience is one that modern concertos are listened to by somewhat impatient and noisier audiences. I have noticed that the traditional concertos are listened to by more cooperative, hushed, rapt audiences.

Also to give the Prokofiev a more brilliant performance with clarity, perhaps a well-made modern instrument achieves that with less work. This is not a critique of Mr Shaham, as he is an excellent performer that might have performed the #2 fifty times, but that live television poses potential problems. And though there are never guarantees, perhaps delivering a more definitive performance or product, was better achieved by this instrument. The ensemble is certainly miked for broadcast, so that might not so much be the issue, but Prokofiev's orchestration has a few surprises and tricky moments. Certainly, this piece has more soaring parts than the #1, but there are far more melodious concertos out there and can put the orchestra at risk. Would this also be professional courtesy?

I have heard of great players requesting the management to extend an additional warm up or even a rehearsal before a live broadcast. This is certainly a generous request and an offer of kindness. Everyone should be individually prepared ( one would hope ) but there can be synergistic and ensemble issues through certain sections that only a common rehearsal can resolve. This is ultimately an issue of cost and sometimes logistics. I have also heard of the broadcast personnel attending these rehearsals to better learn the cuts to specific players and thanking the soloist for the added time. So the hope is to produce a better product by all parties? The soloist generally looks great in these performances. Rarely does a conductor look bad as they hardly make a sound. Rather their hope to look important in the broadcast, can manage to sacrifice the ensemble in a sudden musical change or inspiration. That lack of discipline can ruin a presto passage or a fugal motiv, in a fit of unplanned ambition, ego and messy hair.  

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I see Shaham used the same violin for Prok 1 in the Carnegie Hall when the violin was scarcely a year old. Would the maker have recommended that I wonder? Unfortunately i suspect the visual element would  probably have adversely influenced people's perception, mine included. I heard the same prom broadcast over the radio a few days earlier and didn't give the tone a single thought

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The coupling of an older French bow ( my bias ) with a new instrument takes quite a bit of that "new, shiny" edge off the sound, immediately. Even withing the 1st month, maybe 100 hours? a player might switch back to a fine modern bow. Much of it is learning the limits of the instrument and finding a particular voice that works for the instrument. Or a voice that the instrument chooses to speak with. String changes sometimes create personality changes and re-establishing that voice might take more time.

I am not stating this well enough, but at my age, the violin shows me how it wants to be played. That statement is a bit quaint and is misleading because i am not afraid to ( dare i say ) use force, though that is not best word. I have a great viola bow that i might try to expand upon a stubborn violin... i know a shop owner that plays all the violins with a cello bow... but most well-planned instruments guide the player as to what he/she/it likes. My most recent bow purchases force me to play differently. They are stubborn and clearly show my faults, though they can also be very forgiving and generous in offering lots of tonal colour at f and passages that are generally melodic played. Having been on waiting lists for years, i was not willing to be unhappy with the bows when they arrived and they are gratefully played. 

I own and have played quite a few post-WW I violins, the same era as what some consider the fine Sartory-era for bowmaking, where the workmanship is fantastic but sound! horrible by most violinist's standard. Some are famous Italian names in collectible condition, but they were likely unplayed because of their sound quality. 

Along those lines i have a VSA awarded maker instrument with faux antiquing. It does not look great. It used to be my daily teaching instrument until a 8 year old wacked the top with her bow putting a 7cm diagonal gash across the upper arch. Real antiquing. She did not like my approach to J S Bach. Disrespectful, she muttered. Regardless, I am not sure that i would want to perform with that violin on video because it looks so strange. 

But it sounds great. I bought it because it sounds great. 

So Mr Shaham must enjoys this violin because it fulfills his artistic needs. He trusts it, his management trusts it, the EU and the US must trust it too. 

Also on the subject of antiquing, it is likely that the current non-antiqued instruments would stay that way much longer due to the use of shoulder rests and suspension cases. I do worry that when instruments are loaned out for competitions or auditions, that the lower edging would come back damaged. So far, i have not had any problems. but i have had corners taken off, tips broken off ( and bows broken - a french stick - total loss  ) and upper edges damaged by students. When the students are not mindful enough to look for the loose parts makes me more upset than when the accident occurs.

Perhaps Mr Shaham is also teaching more...  

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I expect we're all biased to some degree by a violin's appearance. Does the sound of a new violin have a "shiny" feel to it, or is that the eye dictating to the ear as we know happens in some perceptual illusions? By coincidence my longest-serving violin was also bought new from a maker in Florence, although this was Florence Italy not Florence MA. It sounded bright and shiny, but of course these are visual metaphors; it also looked bright and shiny. As I hoped, after a couple of years the sound became less piercing and more rounded (mixed metaphors!). However, Florentine (It.) violins have always been varnished in a translucent yellow colour and I can't quite rid myself of the feeling that mine actually sounds yellow. Maybe this is a kind of synaesthesia we all share?

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On 8/30/2019 at 9:54 PM, matesic said:

Anyone know what (whose?) violin Shaham might have been playing at the Prom performance of Prokofiev 2 broadcast on the BBC tonight? It certainly wasn't the long-pattern Strad cited on Wikipedia. Pretty much brand-new I'd say, blood-red (arterial blood) in colour and quite unlike the usual run of Strads and GdGs in sound. Towards the end I started to miss a little fruit in the lower registers.

this is the youtube link for this concert:

Perhaps a tv-set is not the best way to sense the "fruit in the lower registers" in a Strad or in any violin.

I sense we're up for yet another Modern - vs Strad / GdG discussion.

 

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9 hours ago, matesic said:

I expect we're all biased to some degree by a violin's appearance. Does the sound of a new violin have a "shiny" feel to it, or is that the eye dictating to the ear as we know happens in some perceptual illusions? By coincidence my longest-serving violin was also bought new from a maker in Florence, although this was Florence Italy not Florence MA. It sounded bright and shiny, but of course these are visual metaphors; it also looked bright and shiny. As I hoped, after a couple of years the sound became less piercing and more rounded (mixed metaphors!). However, Florentine (It.) violins have always been varnished in a translucent yellow colour and I can't quite rid myself of the feeling that mine actually sounds yellow. Maybe this is a kind of synaesthesia we all share?

Yes, you are correct. Certainly, I am not immune to the effects of appearances.

There are biases that are experienced, but i consider myself to be objective. I do not mind shinier instruments, but playing in an ensemble, the audience members often take notice. 

One of the best violins i almost owned was yellow-ish. Unfortounately, it was too dear to own. It was oft ridiculed by fellow players. Actually, under stage lights, the orange brown hues would become more visible. It was a great, expressive instrument.

Inexpensive bows' colors might better reflect tonal associations. Darker > dark, Lighter > brighter 

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I think is great for a world class string player to perform on a brand new, pristine varnished instrument. Audience don't care if the violin is even a Strad, they are there because of the music or maybe just to be entertained a bit. All instruments were eventually new.

I am really thankful to the maker when I comissioned my viola that he didn't wanted to age the instrument. 10 seasons and oil varnish made the instrument look great now.

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