Violinist.com members may keep personal journals on the website. Violinist.com's editor selects the best entries for the column below. Links to all other recent blog posts may be found in the column on the right.
By Hugo De Pril
April 29, 2012 00:55
Order of appearance of the candidates for the first round:
The Competition’s official pianists:
There will be Broadcasting & Streaming from this website, but only from the semifinals.
By Emily Grossman
April 29, 2012 00:14
...on so many levels...
By Emily Allen
April 28, 2012 20:27
Just finished our performance of the Verdi! It was literally the most amazing concert I have ever been a part of. All week, we have been working with a wonderful guest conductor as well as 4 amazing soloists. With each rehearsal, we got to see the piece being "built" befor our eyes (First rehearsal was just orch, then orch and choir, then orch and soloists, then everyone!) The performance ended with a crazy long round of applause (longer than I have ever seen in my life). Next week, we will be performing the Verdi again in New York City! It is experiences like this that really have an impact on you as a musician. All I can say is, I am so glad I came to music school!Tweet
By Emily Allen
April 28, 2012 10:33
After several late night rehearsals this week, I have come to the conclusion that the 50 min long Dies Irae (from the Verdi Requiem) is equivilent to a work out at the gym. This is especially true in the last 25-ish minutes where we literally have no rests. I am a second violin, so we mostly play on the G and D strings, and having your arm at that angle for that long can be quite painful. All those people who said violin wasn't a sport were SO wrong!Tweet
April 28, 2012 00:21
Just finished a concert series. It's tough; the commute in the evenings, the unwanted repertoire (sorry, Schumann's just not up my alley); 2nd violin's in Europe and he didn't bring his instrument so there's no doubt he's rusty, I need a new bow, the viola definitely needs a new instrument...
It makes me wonder. We spend so much more time and energy (and money) honing our skills, worrying over the phrases, and then Linkin Park gets far more people in than any classical concert. You don't see the O2 arena filled with classical goers. But Linkin Park? Lady Gaga? You bet.
Classical music is getting old. I admit that. People listen far more to Michael Jackson than Tchaikovsky. And it makes me wonder why. Classical music requires so much more discipline, so much more skill; you do get an oddity like Al diMeola and John Bonham sometimes but I won't say Marc Bolan is a super guitarist. So what's the difference? Is it because classical music is too cerebral? But what on earth is cerebral music anyway? And why is it that people who listen to all sorts of music tend to perform better?
Sometimes, you just have to switch the gears and listen to something else for it to dawn on you. So that was what I did. After coming out of a Schumann quartet performance which was not the best that I've given, I tapped my phone on, and for some reason Skrillex was blasting from my headphones. Imagine that; a young woman in concert attire (read: evening dress), a violin on her shoulder, heels in hands, listening to Skrillex so loudly it was audible from other people. People were giving me weird looks.
The difference between a classical concert and a rock concert isn't the volume. It's not the skill. It's the energy. That scream of emotion like a bubbling lava that you just control any more. You're no longer sure if you're doing it for yourself or for others. You feel like you're doing emotional regurgitation. All the frustration, anger, sadness, happiness gets mixed up, blended together... and because you can't slam the door hard enough, because you cry and cry and still your bitterness won't go away, you channel it all into music. At this point, you don't care if you hit that high G perfectly. There's a story you want to tell, a message you want to shout out. So that's what you do.
I've noticed that the performances in which I have done so, I got standing ovations from the audience. I played Sibelius a few years ago with an amateur orchestra (a very good one, but still an amateur) a month after forgetting my keys and getting stranded in knee-deep snow for three hours. The silence that surrounded me as if I was a tiny, small being amidst the vast silence - terrifying, oppressive, swallowing me up - was quite frankly a harrowing experience. I wanted to scream to break the silence, but it was too cold for me to open my mouth. All I could do was stand in the snow, lost. I felt as if I was going to die.
The memory was fresh when I played it, all the fear, the oppression... the sense that no one will hear you, and the snow will bury you, was burned fresh in my mind. I needed to let it out, so that I won't have to live with the experience just by myself.
The audience loved it. Quite a lot of ovations were from teenagers (why were they there? I have no idea), people in their twenties who looked as if the last time they listened to classical music was during music class in junior high (again, why were they there? Mystery of the ages). But they reacted just the same as if I was Aerosmith.
I think, in the end, that's what separates a musician from someone who just plays an instrument. Our cellist (who quit our quartet, moving onto organ) seems that he has no stories to tell; his sound shows it. There is no scream, no plea, no loving sighs. The violist, on the other hand (true blue rock boy, plays guitar and sings in a rock band in spare time) is a magnificent violist; his technique may not be perfect (it's good, but he does miss at times) but he definitely has a story to tell. His music is full of energy, full of voices.
But I figured you need harrowing experiences to be able to tell a story. It looks like the cellist lived happily through his life, two loving parents, did cello and was fairly good at it, got fairly good marks on exams, e.t.c. I, on the other hand, was basically trained Russian style; as soon as I said "I want to play the violi..." out came the whip. I remember crying every day, struggling because I could not play well, because I'd make mistakes. Later on as a teenager I was told I had Asperger's Syndrome after being isolated and ridiculed in school. I hated everyone. And unlike others, I couldn't tell anyone anything. The violist was bullied, taunted throughout his high school career. He didn't have any friends. And he was very frustrated.
I'm not saying that if you have a bad childhood, you'll become a good musician; but all the pent up emotions, frustrations, anger does help. But everyone gets bullied at some point in his/her life; it's the sensitivity that makes the difference. The cellist clearly shrugged it off. The violist could not.
So I've decided on something. When I go on stage, I will no longer aim for perfection; anyone can play anything perfectly, given enough time and training. I am not a monkey and a computer can be programmed to play Paganini perfectly with the right audio software. So what I will do is I will try to tell my story. The breeze I felt two days ago, having a fight with my best friend and feeling guilt sit in my stomach like a cat. I will tell that with my instrument. Because, at the end of the day, I might have picked up an electric guitar if I didn't have my violin. But I probably would still have told the same story.
By Laurie Niles
April 27, 2012 20:43
We all have busy weeks, but violinist Philippe Quint describes this last week as "surreal."
First, his movie Downtown Express had its public release in New York; also, his new recording of Bruch and Mendelssohn Concertos and Beethoven Romances was released. Next week he goes to Mexico City to direct the festival he founded, the Mineria Chamber Music Festival, which is in its fourth season.
In the midst of all this, he took some time to chat with me over the phone about his thoughts on recording such popular works, on how his relationship with Mexico has deepened over the years, and about being an ambassador for music. (If you are interested on his thoughts about acting in a movie, here is an interview we did last year about that.)
Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Laurie: The Bruch and the Mendelssohn…it's been done before.
Philippe: (laughing) Yes, it's been done before!
Laurie: In some ways it's got to be easier to put out a recording of works that nobody's heard of before!
Philippe: Which I've been doing! (He laughs) It was an interesting leap for me, in that sense, because I've mostly recorded works by American composers: William Schuman, John Corigliano, Miklós Rózsa, Bernstein, Korngold. But my passion was always the concertos I grew up with, by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Bruch, Sibelius -- all the standard violin repertoire. I've always imagined that one day, I would love to record those works.
Laurie: They are such popular works and they've been recorded so many times. How did you handle that?
Philippe: I needed to put away all the recordings, all the performances that I've ever heard of these pieces and just go with my own experience and my own beliefs about these works. In preparation for the recording, I purposely did not listen to other violinists. Even if I overheard Mendelssohn or Bruch played somewhere, I tried to run away before I could hear it! I just could not take any more influence on these concertos.
While doing a little research on them, I realized that one of the big parallels between the three composers is the fact that they all wrote for voice. They were all such incredible songwriters, even operatic writers. For example, Bruch was known during his lifetime as a choral composer, so his violin concerto, I feel, is infused with purely operatic passages. That includes the very opening of the concerto, where you have such an incredible recitativo line, over baritone, which slowly moves to tenor, and then it goes further to soprano and then it goes to where the voice can't reach any more.
Laurie: How long have you been playing these?
Philippe: Mendelssohn I first studied when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Then Bruch came a little later, around 16 or 17. But Beethoven Romances were my very first pieces -- I must have been six or seven when I first played them. "Romance in G" was the very first piece I learned. I actually remember very well: when my teacher gave me this Romance, I thought to myself, "This is impossible! How will I ever play all these double stops? I don't know where they are!" I have not actually played them since that time. Now, coming back after so many years, I don't really have any memory of that first study. It's great, because I feel the Romances are the freshest compositions on this CD. Again, I did not listen to any other recordings to prepare. Instead, I wanted to dig into history. Where was Beethoven at that time, when he was composing the Romances? He did not compose Romances for any other instrument, only for the violin.
If you look at the dates of the composition of the Romances, they are around 1798 to 1802. This was a very important period in Beethoven's life. It was around the time of his Immortal Beloved letter. He was in love with a new countess (Josephine von Brunsvik, or perhaps her sister Therese), daughter of another countess. He was always one of the most passionate classicists of all times; I don't know any music that's more passionate. It's just incredible: the moods, the way Beethoven notates everything and harmonizes every thing. You see dynamics where it starts piano then a crescendo into -- pianissimo! Or he'll write a fortepiano -- that's one of his favorite notations. These are sudden, sudden mood changes, much like life. For me, the music of a composer always reflects life, rather than anything else. Notes -- those are just paper, they're only a way to preserve the idea. But the musical emotion comes from the actual life of the composer and his current inspirations. Beethoven was somebody who was known to have one muse after another!
Laurie: I was also interested in the fact that you recorded this in Mexico City, and in this hall, Sala Nezahualcóyotl. It seems like a pretty major hall, and yet I'd never heard of it! Is it?
Philippe: Yes, it was inspired by the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The building was designed by the Mexican architects Arcadio Artis and Orso Núñez, along with the American acoustic expert Christopher Jaffe, who followed the model of the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam and the Ushers Hall of Edinburgh. Purely aesthetically, the hall in Mexico just so beautiful. Acoustically, it gives you just the right amount of warmth and reverberation. I recorded the Korngold there, and we thought that this would be a great way to continue our collaboration: bringing the same orchestra (the Mineria Symphony Orchestra, along with my friend, conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto, into this new project. The project also is based on our relationship in the last three years with the orchestra. We've played Mendelssohn and Bruch concerto countless times with this orchestra. So it brings my childhood dream, as well as the last couple of years, together.
Laurie: How did you develop that relationship? Did it start out with knowing Carlos?
Philippe: Yes! However, it has even more of an interesting twist. We actually met many years ago, when I first went to the Aspen Festival. During the times when we were resting from all that great practice (he laughs), the European and South American students played soccer together in the big field right in front of the cafeteria. I was playing with these two Mexican guys who were very good and very friendly. One of them was named Carlos and another was named Juan Carlos. After Aspen, I didn't see them for many years, and we never kept in touch. Then the next time I saw one of them was on the stage in Mexico City, being one of my conductors!
Laurie: What brought you to that stage in Mexico?
Philippe: I was still a student at Juilliard, and I got a call from my manager that somebody had cancelled a performance of the William Schuman concerto. Of course, nobody knew the piece. So I went to the library, looked it up, and I realized, this is not Robert Schumann, this is William. A whole different world! But I quickly looked through the score. I was anxious to do something challenging at the time -- something daring and challenging. So I told all the managers that I would do it. I said, 'Tell them that I know the piece, please tell them that I know it very well!' (He laughs) Which they did, and miraculously they engaged me -- of course nobody knew this little student from the Juilliard School, who just so happened to be a huge fan of the William Schuman Concerto!
I must have worked nine, 10 hours every day to learn the piece and to memorize the piece. So when I came to the stage, that is when I saw Carlos. We had a great time, reminding each other of our days playing soccer. The performance also was memorable, because I finished the second concert with a different violin and a different bow than I started with!
Laurie: How does a performance start on one violin and one bow, and finish with a different violin and a different bow?
Philippe: (He laughs) Very simple: I broke my only, Russian, $100 bow in the dressing room, right before the concert. So Carlos asked that other brother, Juan Carlos, to help me find a bow. Juan Carlos ran quickly and found a couple of bows to choose from.
So I came out on the stage already with a bow that I'd never used before. Fortunately, I finished the concerto and came back for an encore, when my E string popped! So I borrowed the violin from the concertmaster. Therefore I ended the performance with a different violin and a different bow.
That put this incredible beginning on my Mexican journey, because the news spread around: there's this kid from Juilliard who learned learned William Schuman Concerto in one week (they exaggerated, I had about three or four.) And then, he came and he broke his bow, and he broke his string, and he finished his performance on a different instrument. The news spread around so quickly, and in the next couple of years I was engaged with just about every orchestra in the country. Ever since, I've been traveling to Mexico four or five times a year. That's how my festival started, which is of course now going to be the fourth season, and will be May 2- May 14. (Quint is founder and director of the Mineria Chamber Music Festival in Mexico City; here's their Twitter feed.)
Laurie: So you like Mexico.
Philippe: I love Mexico. It's an incredible country with incredible people. The audiences are extremely warm, and they love the artists. They treat artists as kings there, with incredible hospitality. Mexico is a cultural jewel: architecturally speaking, musically speaking, artistically speaking. They have seven orchestras, just in Mexico City, and even more groups starting and collaborating every year. Of course, every country is going through economic crisis, but in Mexico, I feel that the government is really supportive of the arts and understands the value and importance of having as many as possible cultural outlets that can draw people. The halls are always full. The lines are long, and it's very difficult to get tickets to concerts. Just having this atmosphere reminds me a little bit of my childhood in Russia, when I used to go to concerts, ballets and plays with my parents. You would feel this circle, with so many people lining up for classical concerts. When do you ever see that any more? Where did the times go, when Rachmaninov and Horowitz played in Carnegie Hall and people would wait two days, circling around the block of Carnegie Hall and 57th St. to try to get a ticket or even a glimpse of Rachmaninov and Horowitz? It's very sad that this excitement is only present now in selected countries and cities. Of course, we're all ambassadors for classical music.
Laurie: Well, we'll keep up the fight to keep classical music alive.
Philippe: It is a little bit of a fight. You're fighting for our place in a world of electronic and house music, which is kind of easy to understand and draws a lot of people. A lot of younger audiences prefer that to classical music. But in my book, it is only because a lot of times they were not exposed to classical music. In the last couple of years, I've been converting people one by one -- on the plane, in the grocery, in the pharmacy, the train, anywhere. If I strike up a conversation with somebody and I start talking about what I do, a lot of times they are not familiar with it. But they're absolutely fascinated. They very quickly become fans of classical music.
Laurie: They do, and especially if they know somebody involved.
Philippe: Right, exactly. It's one-by-one, and there's nothing more powerful. And of course, you're promoting something very special, something that's been around for years. This is not something where you need to convince somebody that 'this is great, you should try it.' It is known that it's great, it's incredible. They'll see it right away.
* * *
Philippe Quint plays "Nigun" on the "Ex-Vieuxtemps" Guarneri Del Gesu:
* * *
And here is more about this particular recording of Mendelssohn and Bruch Concertos, and Beethoven Romances:
By Bram Heemskerk
April 27, 2012 15:26
The Queen Elisabeth Competition (the yearly Olympic games for violin, piano, singing and composition) starts on April 30 in Brussels, Belgium. It will not be held in the conservatory for 1st round and semi's, but somewhere else, in Flagey Studio4 in Brussels. This year is the 75th anniversary of the competition. After a DVD-selection of 162 applicants, 88 candidates have been selected to participate in the first public round. As some candidates have withdrawn (10), there are 78 participants : 28 nationalities - 39 women - 39 men - *double nationality
Here the order of performance, which just went up online: The order of play of 1st round in the first week.
In the second week you can follow the competition live, and you can see it back with Video On Demand (VOD). The website of the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition has changed and has sometimes connection problems.
By Emily Allen
April 27, 2012 14:28
Today I got to sign the final beam of the new performing arts building at my college! It's pretty crazy to think that in 100 years from now my name will still be a part of that building. It's pretty amazing to be a part of history like this!Tweet
By The Weekend Vote
April 27, 2012 10:22
We've been hearing a lot this week about the composer Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) and his symphonies.
First Emily pronounced her controversial opinion: I hate Bruckner, giving reasons musical, non-musical and personal. Then came the firestorm, with more than 80 responses to her blog. After, she wrote a blog responding to the general nature of the arguments, then after that, a letter to Bruckner.
Certainly the classical world has embraced the composer, and his music has moments of tremendous beauty. I've played Bruckner, and it can be inspiring as well as tedious, simply because of the length.
What are your thoughts about the composer and his music?
Here's some Bruckner 4 for you:
By Mendy Smith
April 26, 2012 20:11
This year Adam DeGraff takes Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and applies a fiddle flair to the piece for "The Rockin' Fiddle Challenge". He graciously sent it to me to transcribe to see what I would do with it.
The first step was to transcribe it for viola. This took longer than I expected. Writing music by hand is an art-form in and of itself. After working out the transposition, I had to figure out the spacing on the page for each measure, and whether the stems go up or down. I could have done this with software, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun.
After that was done, and correcting some incorrectly transcribed notes, it was time to start getting serious and a little not so serious about this piece. Lurking in the back of my head was this Monty Python idea of "...and now for something completely different", inspired by both Igudesmon and Joo and Adam DeGraff: take a piece originally composed in one style and apply a completely different style to the piece. About halfway into the first page, it came to me. Apply a "high classical" style to a few measures and then back to the original style. This is what I came up with:
A few days later, more videos started rolling in from others , including Grace Youn's video, with an amazing transition into Bach and back. This young musician took what I was going for and perfected it.
Did I start a trend? Maybe. Even if I did, I have some fierce competition and some work to do.
From holiday tunes from Joshua Bell to a biography of Jascha Heifetz's early years in Russia, you'll find plenty of great gift ideas for violinists and violin fans on this year's list.
Violinist.com has not reviewed, and does not endorse, the content of any of the articles below.
Paganini project, week two + New Year's Resolutions
What To Do if Your Shoulder Hurts When Playing on the G String
Performances from BISQC 2013 - Canadian Commission Round
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