Recently I was watching a video of that spectacular, quintessential showman and violinist Andre Rieu. Crowned with flowing mane and bedecked in sartorial splendor he raised his violin to play. That glorious imagery of the grand romantic-era violinist was suddenly, irrevocably shattered as the camera caught a glimpse of that hideous and grotesque appliance attached to the bottom of his violin!
Imagine, if you will, watching a great, famous conductor mount the podium and, as he raises his arms for the down beat, you observe he is holding his baton wearing a ski glove! Or, you are watching the Tour de France and, as a world-famous cyclist speeds by, you observe his bicycle is fitted with training wheels!
Only in this age of gimmicks, gadgets, short cuts and quick fixes does the shoulder rest even exist. None, none of the truly great violinists ever used the thing. None. (And Paganini didn’t even have a chin rest.) Today a number of fine violinists, including Pearlman and Zuckerman, still play that way. Watch Anne-Sophie Mutter play magnificently sans rest. And, on YouTube watch Dylana Jenson as a child, as a teen and as a young woman play superbly, likewise without the violin stilts.
And, lest you remain yet unconvinced, I invite you to watch any video of that great giraffe-necked Hungarian violinist Josef Szigeti and observe how exquisitely and effortlessly he played without recourse to some god-awful clunky appendage clamped to the bottom of his fiddle! I rest my case.
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