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elise stanley

Learning Crooked....

June 18, 2012 at 10:30 AM

"Flying Crooked" [Robert Graves]

The butterfly, the cabbage white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has — who knows so well as I? —
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.

So I started with the Bach Aminor, about 3 years ago. It was hard to play but kept me interested and I could almost get through the first movement.

Then I went to Accolay #1. It was easier to play in some respects - except for the double stop bit at the end. But other than the initial theme, got boring...

Then I tried the Mozart G - lovely music and learned a lot - but it was hard to get it right and I never could get right through the first movement...

Then Scene de Ballet, de Beriot. This was fun and felt like a 'real' concerto. Probably sounds like one too to the non-violinist at least. Fast bits, slow bits, high bits and low bits - not to mention swooping cadenzas. But I didn't finish it cause I fell in love with...

Bruch violin concerto in G. It was spectacular to work on - but unfortunately not possible for me to finish. Specially those high broken chords in the first movement... (we don't talk about the third movement). It eventually became a bit frustrating so...

Haydn G. First one I managed to play all the way through - and even perform it (though its not something I would care to share... :-\ ). Still, it was a milestone and what a way to celebrate a Big Birthday?

Mozart D. Nice change and progessing nicely - until I realized I shoulda finished Moz G first...

Moz G. Definitely easier this time round - but still not performance quality. OTOH I can't think of a better learning piece, I just don't get bored with it... still working on it but then my summer training retreat told me that I will be focusing on...

Bach A minor. I've been workin on this for about 3 weeks - and you know I might just be able to finish it. I'm memorizing this time round too. I mean really finish it, to the point of doing a recital. Wouldn't that be neat. Since I'm as competetive as the next violinist, it was a bit of a downer when I went back to this and still couldn't play it. However, I've discovered that its actualy a different piece. My skills (intonation, timing, musical interpretation) have advanced significantly so there is so much more to achieve, so much more to learn.

I guess thats my point: the notion that there is a linear sequence through this great music is really just a teaching convenience. Sure, you can not play a piece beyond your technical abilities - but you sure can learn from one. On the other hand, you might think you can play a technically easier piece - but you really haven't even scratched the surface. 5 years from now I plan to come back to the Aminor and study it again - partially to learn more about the music but mostly to learn more about myself.

So what will be next? Maybe Oscar Reiding... or then again maybe the Beethoven...

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on June 18, 2012 at 1:22 PM
I was just thinking about the Bach A-minor concerto this weekend. That's what I was playing during the lesson where I saw Karl Wallenda plunge to his death on TV, as I wrote about in my last blog . . . it's remarkable what associations you can have with music. But the piece, especially the 3rd movement, is really remarkable in itself. It was the first piece I played where I really started to see and understand at least a glimmer of Bach's chord changes. There are so many layers to it and things to discover.

Mozart #3, though, I am not sure when and if I will ever play that again. My teacher tried to interest me in returning to it a few years ago, and that was enough to send me running for my viola.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 18, 2012 at 6:58 PM
Elise - The Bach A minor is a wonderful piece as the Mozart G. Although I have not really seriously played the Mozart since adolescence, it brings back wonderful memories of the best teacher I ever had, Rene Benedetti. I get nostalgic picking up his edition with his added handwritten edits (M. Benedetti's edits of his edits, as I put it - I can provide it on request) and putting it on my stand.

I agree with you that the concept of linearity in studying violin music is probably the exception rather than the rule, even for professionals. I constantly come back to pieces done earlier simply because I acquire additional skills along the way which permit me to give more to a piece. So, Elise, your history makes perfect sense to me.

From marjory lange
Posted on June 18, 2012 at 7:47 PM
In my first incarnation as string player, I switched to viola before I did Mozart 3 (I did study Mozart 4, so I'm not sure what happened to 3, probably my teachers substituted something else).

Now, decades later, I have come to Mozart 3 for the first time and am enchanted. I think it's like books we are made to read too early (heart is a lonely hunter and catcher in the rye come to mind;) we don't 'get' them as kids, but they can be spoiled for us later. Elise, I'll look into Bach a-minor; I missed that, too, as a kid. It's lovely to come to these out of order.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 19, 2012 at 6:32 PM
Another big fan of Mozart #3 and Bach A minor here. I think both pieces will stay with me for the rest of my life.
For Mozart #3, I played as a child back in China before I even heard anything Mozart. Of course as much as I loved it, I did it all wrong – wrong fingerings, bowings and most of all musically I didn’t have a clue. My current teacher made me relearn it about five years ago, started playing it really, really slowly to nail every note and the sound. After a month or so, I was allowed to work up to tempo. It’s a very exposed piece and no matter how often you played, it can make you vulnerable. This is maybe one reason it is again and again listed in international violin competition programs.
I had similar experience with the Bach piece. I recently revisited the piece after had heard Julia Fischer’s recording of it, which was quite inspiring to me. My teacher and I both enjoyed a wonderful moment when I played it for her recently.
From elise stanley
Posted on June 19, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Its lovely to read these responses - talking about these masterpieces (because thats what they are) as music that one can grow with rather than hurdles that one has to jump.

I guess thats a sign of musical maturity and maybe, at least in my case, a bit of sour grapes - the Paganini caprices really are too high on the vine for me, but if I have to live on these lucious tomatoes I don't think I am faring too badly.

Wow, that was a really bad analogy! So bad I'm not going to delete it....

From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 20, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Elise - hang in there. You will eventually get to the Paganini Caprices or at least some of the easier ones (the so-called "low-hanging tomatoes").
From John Pierce
Posted on June 20, 2012 at 1:36 PM
Another vote for Mozart 3. I never get tired of it: to either listen or play. This spring, I moved on the Mozart 5 (WHY did I wait so long!?!?!).

You may want to look at the Glazunov concerto. It's difficult in parts, but you might enjoy it.

For my summer project, I decided to sight-read the Bach S&Ps. It's helping my sight reading a lot. And some of them are very approachable. I don't know why I waited so long -- probably because the mystique around them intimidated me. Sure, I don't play them like an amphetamine-fueled manic -- but then it's called practice for a reason.

BTW, in discussing how fast one should play Bach, I always think that Bach would say "Immer schön: nie kreischend!!" Always beautiful, never strident.

Good for you on moving forward. Good job!

From elise stanley
Posted on June 21, 2012 at 10:29 AM
Thanks guys :)

Will I get to Paganinin? I don't know - to do so I would have to solve some technical issues that look pretty daunting. I'm spending 2 weeks just studying violin starting July 1st - how much progress I make will, I think, be a pretty good indicator of my potential at this age... Least that was the grand idea!

But I couldn't leave the topic with John's last line:

"Good for you on moving forward. Good job!"

since the whole point is that I'm lurching to and fro. But I guess there is a forward motion in there somewhere!

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 21, 2012 at 4:50 PM
Elise, I assume you’ll spend two weeks in some kind of violin boot camp? I envy you! Just make sure you don’t overdo it. Most learning takes place in our head, where most barriers reside as well. So don’t let the head tell you that your potential is anything less than you hope for, ever! :)
From elise stanley
Posted on June 21, 2012 at 5:04 PM
Boot camp? Anything but.

Its two weeks living 'en famille' in the villa of an accomplished violinist (from a trio) having private lessons every day....

:) My kinda boot camp...

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 21, 2012 at 5:32 PM
oooh, even better! How delicious! Think I’ll work on this kind of arrangement as well one of these days.
From elise stanley
Posted on June 21, 2012 at 9:01 PM
It sure helps having a paying job ;) ;)

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