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 Anne Akiko Meyers
August 2, 2012 07:53
I am so excited to give one of my gold Arcus violin bows away. I have owned many different violin bows throughout my life, and now play using Tourte and Gold Arcus carbon fiber bows. It is extremely light and spiccato can come out super-clean at lightening speed. I used to think that using a heavy stick produced a bigger sound but now I believe it really is quite the opposite. Physically it takes a different skill to handle well but proper technique helps avoid chronic overuse and tendonitis.
It’s similar to playing tennis. Wood rackets were sturdy back in the day, but the newer titanium, carbon fiber rackets used today, create a top spin and speed that wood simply can not. You don’t have to worry about breaking the Arcus either-I think they say the bow is pretty indestructible!
Please visit my Facebook page for more information on winning one of these bows worth $5000. Good luck!Tweet
By Laurie Niles
August 1, 2012 19:20
The violin concerto by Danish composer Carl Nielsen might not be the most commonly recorded or performed, but it has a passionate and highly competent champion in the 26-year-old Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang.
Her new recording of the Tchaikovsky and Carl Nielsen Violin Concertos, with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, is one of three she's released in rapid succession: in 2010 she recorded the Sibelius Violin Concerto and Humoresques and Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1; and in 2011 she recorded the Grieg Violin Sonata No. 1; Bartok Sonata for Solo Violin; and Strauss Violin Sonata, Op. 18.
© EMI CLASSICS
At the start of the year, Vilde was awarded the 2012 Credit Suisse Young Artist Award. As a part of that, she will make her debut in September with the Vienna Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink at the 2012 Lucerne Summer Music Festival.
Her teachers have included Kolja Blacher at Musikhochschule Hamburg; and Ana Chumachenco at the Kronberg Academy. She also studied at the The Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo. She plays a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin lent by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Freundeskreis Stiftung.
Speaking with me over the phone last month from Frankfurt, we talked about the Nielsen, about her relationship with Anne-Sophie Mutter, about her family of bassists and her Suzuki start, and more:
* * *
Laurie: I'm so excited that you've recorded the Nielsen. Having perhaps never heard this piece, I was struck with how worthy and likable it is. It has moments of great beauty as well as a kaleidoscope of emotions. While the harmonies are modern, it certainly sticks to a tonal language. How did you personally discover this piece?
Vilde: Nielsen was actually a very late discovery for me -- he is still quite an undiscovered composer. It's very hard to get Nielsen right; I think it's because his music isn't very obvious. Structurally, it's so free -- it swims, in a way. There is a structure, but it's a very exotic, very special, very personal kind of structure. Some people might struggle with Mahler -- Mahler has the same kind of exotic way of structuring music.
Also, technically, the Nielsen is incredibly awkward.
Laurie: I wondered about that.
Vilde: It is, actually. When the Tchaikovsky concerto was premiered, it was considered unplayable because of its technical difficulties, and really, Nielsen is no less difficult to play than the Tchaikovsky concerto! Also, it's a lot of notes!
Laurie: It's a long work, isn't it?
Vilde: It's a very long work, and it's kind of inaccessible, in a way. It's not an easy listen. I enjoy much more playing this concerto than actually listening to it. When I first heard this concerto, I found it very difficult to understand. Then I had to learn this concerto. I had an orchestra engagement with the Danish Orchestra and Nielsen is sort of the great son of Denmark -- they wanted me to come and play Nielsen because part of this concerto was written in Norway. It was actually partly composed in Grieg's home. Nielsen went to visit Grieg's widow in their house, and then when he was staying there he was working in Grieg's working cottage, which is there he composed the first part of this concerto. Since I am a Norwegian, they thought they might make a point out of that.
Then I discovered this piece has a lot of possibilities. It's a wonderful piece for the violin. I think every violinist should play this concerto, because you get challenged not only technically, but also structure-wise. You have to take a bird's eye view of this concerto, you need this kind of perspective.
Laurie: It seems like it changes moods very quickly.
Vilde: That's right, and it can be a little confusing. The challenge is to tie everything together. In that way, it's a little bit like a Danish version of the Elgar concerto actually. The end of the Elgar concerto is very long, and it's kind of the same challenge, with Nielsen.
Laurie: There aren't too many recordings of it, that I found. How did you go about studying it? Honestly I don't know if I've ever heard it, ever, before now. Which is crazy!
Vilde: There is a recording of Nikolaj Znaider, who made it when he was a bit younger. In a way, it's nice that there aren't any prejudices about this violin concerto. It's pretty untouched, and there is no one way to play this concerto, no general opinion. It's still pretty undiscovered.
The thing about this concerto is that you can't just play this concerto 100 percent, you need to be in 140-percent shape. You need to play this music with a lot of purpose, otherwise it won't work out. If you play the Nielsen at 80 percent effort, or 80 percent technically, that sounds horrible, miserable! You need to play with a lot of energy. It might be a daunting task for most people just to approach this concerto.
Also, it's very important not to forget that this is a tonal language. The notes are never just virtuoso effects; they always have a musical purpose. In some ways, this is like the Tchaikovsky Concerto. Tchaikovsky, in the first movement, has all these technical passages, but there are melodies in those passages, even though they are very high and very tricky. It's the same thing with Nielsen. It sounds weird, but it makes Nielsen-sense.
Laurie: What brought you to the violin? Did you start out with the Suzuki method?
Vilde: I did, yes.
My father is a double bass player, and my sister is also a double bass player -- my mother isn't a musician, actually. But I watched my sister play in youth orchestra, when I was small, and obviously I thought I was the next one in line, in the double basses family! To me it was a natural thing, but then my father made this argument: our family had a Volkswagon, which was a very tiny car. He said, 'Can you imagine, when we go on holiday, with three double basses? There is no chance the whole family will get space in the car!"
So he made me a smaller instrument. It was made of cardboard -- there were no strings on it. So I could put my Little Twin Star stickers on it, and Hello Kitty stickers -- but the fact that it didn't make any sound -- I found this to be very frustrating! I had to 'play' on it for almost a year until I finally got a violin which was alive, which made sound.
I remember the moment I got the violin that was real, that was really living and alive -- I've never practiced so inspired in all my life, as I did the first couple of days with that violin! I was in seventh heaven, I was so happy.
Laurie: And now you have much better than a cardboard violin, you have a Vuillaume that you play, is that right?
Vilde: That's correct.
Laurie: How did that all come about, with Anne-Sophie Mutter and her foundation?
Vilde: I first played for Anne-Sophie Mutter when I was 11 years old. After that, she asked me to keep her updated, and she followed my development. I kept sending her recordings and tapes of my playing, and letters about how I was doing. It was obviously a very inspirational thing for me, because I knew that she was always there watching, somewhere. When I was 15, she invited me to Munich to audition for her again, and then I was taken into her foundation, her Freundeskreis Stiftung, or Circle of Friends Foundation, and I was also given this Vuillaume instrument.
I've been playing the Vuillaume for eight years now. Over the years, it's opened a lot. It has the most beautiful voice! It's not perfect; I've had a lot of fights, a lot of quarrels, with this instrument over the years. I still do, because it's got a horrible wolf on every C and B natural, in every octave! But still, I love it so much. It's not perfect, but it's like me: I'm also not perfect. I think we've improved each other so much over the years.
Ms. Mutter has also been a great, great mentor to me over all these years. I did a tour with her in 2008, and we played in Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center in Washington. I played the Bach Double with her. Of course, I learned a lot from this experience, not only playing for her, but playing with her.
Laurie: She's a really spontaneous player, it seems to me. What kinds of things did you learn from her?
Vilde: I think the most important was that she encouraged me to always trust my own instincts and follow my own voice. That is her top priority, and that's the message she wanted to give, which I think is a wonderful thing.
But more than any other musician I know, she is extremely focused on exploring the musical score, in order to get as close as possible to the composer. Many people might consider her to be very free, but actually she has the most authentic and strictest approach that I know of. I think that is why she allows herself to have that amount of freedom. The more you know the piece and the better you know the score, the more freedom you actually have yourself.
Laurie: When you won the Credit Suisse contest you were playing the wonderful Bartok Op. Posthumous, (she plays this piece in the background on this video, starting 1:40, then 3:00, etc.) I love that piece; I used to feel like I was the only one who knew about that piece, but obviously I'm not, you're playing it!
Vilde: Isn't it strange? Because so few people know about this concerto, it's too bad.
Laurie: I love that one movement is one thing, and the other is just complete insanity, completely unhinged.
Vilde: Bartok dedicated this concerto to the girl he was so much in love with, Stefi Geyer, and it really portrays "she and he," I think. The first movement is very dedicated to her; it opens with the "Stefi" theme, which you can also find throughout the concerto. In the second movement, it's very much the young boy who is proud and he wants to make an impression on her. It shows another side of Bartok. Most people imagine Bartok as very rough composer, and I think he's actually very lyrical, and extremely pure. For me he's the most pure composer of the 20th century, actually. He's so close to Bach: he doesn't need to add anything, because it's not necessary. Something about his musical expression is so honest.
Laurie: You've performed a lot of Bartok -- your second recording also has the Bartok solo Sonata.
Vilde: I did record the Bartok solo Sonata, which is my favorite piece.
(Below is an excerpt from the Bartok solo Sonata; if you want to hear her play it all, here is a link with no video.)
Laurie: What makes it your favorite?
Vilde: It is like a monologue, really. The structure is kind of a Baroque structure. It is like a journey, to play that piece. I've never been as focused as when playing this piece; it requires such an effort from the performer -- and also from the audience. Frankly, when I was learning this piece, I was a little bit anxious about how the audience would react to it, because it's not easy listening. I thought, 'Are they going to cough? Are they going to leave? How are they going to react?' In reality, when I'm playing the Bartok Sonata, it feels like the connection is stronger than ever. I think the audience is very hypnotized by this music. It's such a powerful piece.
Laurie: You grew up in Norway, where do you live now?
Vilde: I'm moving from Munich to Berlin. I've been living in Munich for five years, and I'm moving to Berlin.
Laurie: What's coming up for you?
Vilde: I'm looking forward to making my debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in September at the Lucerne Festival,as part of the Credit Suisse Young Artist Award, with Bernard Haitink conducting. Also, I will be making my Proms debut with the BBC Philharmonic, next summer. I'm taking part in quite a lot of festivals, and there quite a lot going on for the time being. This CD was just released in June.
Laurie: You'll be doing the Sibelius with the Vienna, and you've also recorded it. Tell me your thoughts on that concerto.
Vilde: The Sibelius Concerto is another close relation of mine! It's a piece I feel very attached to, and a piece I'm known for. It was such a milestone. When I was a kid, I remember listening to this piece and imagining that one day I would be able to play these notes myself. Now that I've sort of ascended that mountain, that only gave me a new perspective. Now it's a little bit like becoming this mountain, when I'm playing it. My approach to the piece is changing all the time -- I think I'm playing it very differently now from the recording I made just two years ago.
Laurie: That's allowed, isn't it? It's a good sign.
Vilde: I think so. It's like certain words, which change meaning over the years. When you're four years old, "love" might mean one thing, and then when you're 20 years old it might mean something else. The same thing with age 32, age 58, or 71 -- it's always changing. The power of this word is always getting different, and I think it's the same with music, no?
Laurie: It's the same with music, and the wonderful thing is that I think when you're 58 it still means what it meant to you when you were four and it still means what it meant to you when you were 20, it just means more.
Vilde: Yes exactly! But also you articulate it in a different way, I think, and you have a different approach to it.
(Vilde Frang, on the Bruch Violin Concerto, which she played with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Jakub Hrusa in April 2012.)
By Emily Hogstad
August 1, 2012 15:02
My last blog entry was about the Minnesota Orchestra and the general awesomeness of their new concertmaster, Erin Keefe. You can hear the Beethoven program that I wrote about at 8pm CST tonight on Minnesota Public Radio (try the classical stream at minnesotapublicradio.org). On tap is the Coriolan Overture, the Eroica, and the violin concerto, with Ms. Keefe in her concerto debut with the Orchestra. Trust me, this is a concert not to be missed...it's one of the greatest orchestras in America in some of the repertoire they play best. If you do catch it, let me know what you thought in the comments. I love comparing impressions of performances with other listeners.
As I mentioned in my last blog, if you feel moved to do so, visit and like the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra Facebook page.Tweet
By Kahne Raja
July 31, 2012 16:47
Here is a sob success story.
Basically, my solution to burnout is to start collaborating with local musicians and work together to create new and interesting opportunities. This is why I built Musomap.com
I'm writing this post in response to the following comments on burnout.
I previously replied (via the comments on MusicianWages.com) with my thoughts on 'dedication to the art' VS 'a more secure career'. Now that I've had some time to think on this further I've realised that this question is pivotal to my music and family life.
I grew up with my brother performing classical violin. We both fell out from music in our early 20s and he has since gone on to experience an extraordinary life of stress and mental health disruption. To some extent I believe the pressure of music performance on his youth was linked to his complete rejection of society. This experience has made me realise that music is demanding work and requires more support. Being a musician ain't easy.
To start with I'd like to focus on an economic principle. Supply and demand. People love music, which is great, and if you have a skill then you can supply a music service but how do you find demand? Well, sorry to say it but, you will have to create this demand. Look at Apple, they've done a stella job convincing us we all need unnecessary stuff. Convince people! If you want to get cash for your art you need to find or create demand - finding demand is a skill in itself. The service we musicians provide to the community is valuable and we need to find a way to capitolise, just like athletes.
I mentioned earlier that I, along with my brother, fell out of the professional classical music game in our early 20s. I'm now 31. Unlike my brother, I had luck on my side, and found an alternative career in software development.
After a few years off I was encouraged to join a local amateur orchestra, an old friend needed an extra violin (any level - they didn't care), and even though I was shit scared I decided to go along and give it a go. There was something exhausted and depressing about arriving at that first rehearsal. Playing in that orchestra was not exactly satisfying but it help me make new music friends.
Making music friends is massively important if you want to succeed. As previously discuss on Musician Wages, the good jobs in music are never advertised. More often than not they are handed out privately through word of mouth, just like most jobs.
After a few months of performing with a number of orchestra in Sydney, for free, I found myself connecting with lots of professional musicians and playing at countless corporate and private events. These gigs were straight up and kinda boring but they led me on to other types of creative performances and success. I now perform with the Sydney Independent Opera.
My success as a musician, and my solution to burnout, has lead me to create Musomap.com
Do you collaborate with your local musicians enough?
By Dottie Case
July 30, 2012 16:10
The arts school where I work does two major productions every summer...a musical and an opera. (Our season is summer only, due to lack-of-heat and need-of-new-roof in our historical building). This summer we scheduled Carousel and La Boheme, and last week(19th-22nd) was show week for Carousel.
It ended up being a really amazing show (I had previous reservations about this show due to the truly-dreadful-and-insipid movie I'd seen, starring a young Shirley Jones) and, as is true of show week, it was all-enveloping. We lived and breathed Carousel for the last 8 days straight, and everyone involved felt highly invested in this really lovely performance. We closed on Sunday afternoon, exhausted but feeling like we had really been part of something major.
The very next Wednesday was the first orchestral rehearsal for La Boheme. I am unfamiliar with this Opera (I'm a slowly-learning novice when it comes to Opera), and am playing viola (!!!) for this show. As I dragged my tired self to rehearsal, I didn't know what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away. We had a skeleton string section there... 1 first, no 2nd, 1 viola.... but there were places where I could just HEAR the whole fleshed-out orchestra, and it blew me away. The lushness and romance was more than I expected.
On the way home that night, I found myself thinking, not for the first time, about the temporal nature of almost all that we do. Four days prior to that rehearsal, we were a part of creating something wonderful for Carousel... the audiences were moved to tears and thunderous applause. And yet, at the end of it, we erased our books, packed away the stand lights, and immediately moved into the next work that will (we hope) move an audience to tears and applause. While it's happening, it's huge and defining and all-encompassing...and then it's over and gone and we're onto the next thing.
This is the nature of what we do. The finest recording equipment cannot capture that 'thing' that exists between audience, actors and musicians, and a composer. It's ephemeral and fleeting... This is true of many moments in life too...'joy' cannot be captured and held onto. Just experienced and maybe even savored. Still, the balance for us all is to be able to be fully in the moment of making music, (in the hugest definition of that phrase) and then be able to move to the next thing, in its time, even if that means mere days later. AND, it's impossible, not to mention counter-productive, to attempt to live in the future. Meaning, there was no way to be experiencing Puccini while engrossed in Carousel...and the attempt would have robbed each.
It seems to me that the sort of ability to be 'in the moment fully' is a skill that might be well transferred to the rest of life. I'm better at in in music than I am in my daily life.
I've spent much of the last month virtually crippled with waiting and agonizing over what would/would not be my job status in September; and how might I prepare for the various possibilities. I've finally decided that since I cannot know, I'm going to let August be fully about August, and attempt to live as intensely in all of those things as I can, before September comes and demands its due.
Luckily for me, August contains La Boheme and a week of Chamber Music camp for me.
By Karen Allendoerfer
July 30, 2012 11:52
When you look at this logo, what do you see?
I recently read a business article that painstakingly pointed out, taking two entire paragraphs, how the arrow pointing from the a to the z was actually meant to resemble a smile. The article went on to praise the Amazon logo, and the smile in particular, saying that it was good marketing to associate the brand with smiling.
My reaction to the article was a little different. I've never been much of a smiler. In particular I've chafed under exhortations to "keep smiling" or to "put on a happy face," especially when I didn't feel like it. Smiles that are not spontaneous strike me as not genuine. Rather, to me they tend to look fake--manipulative, even. My conscious mind doesn't much like the Amazon logo smile, either. In fact, the "face" was the very first thing I noticed about it. I hadn't even realized the "mouth" doubled as an arrow, pointing from a to z. Even as my Amazon use has grown over the years (suggesting the manipulation is working on me), I didn't need an article to explain to me how I was being manipulated. Every time you order something from them, there's that creepy box, smiling at you even from depths of the recycling bin.
So why am I writing about an Amazon logo in a violin blog? Sure, I have ordered sheet music and CDs from Amazon, and have recycled my share of smirking boxes. But it was a different experience with smiling that has gotten me thinking about this. Several months ago I entered the "Rockin' Fiddle Challenge 2012." To enter, contestants had to learn to play Adam DeGraff's "Violinists Don't Stop Believin'" and post a YouTube video of themselves playing the piece to a special FB page that Adam had set up.
By the time I entered this year's contest, I thought I had already (mostly) gotten over the shock of seeing myself play violin on video. I had had a small solo with orchestra in the fall of 2010, which was recorded. I had entered the 2010-2011 TRFC challenge. So I knew I sometimes had this kind of "deer in the headlights" look about me when I played; I knew that at one point in my solo when I hit a bad note I had made what my daughter called a "scary face."
I had tried to make my peace with these foibles, to view them as endearing little quirks. To point out that, hey, at least I take playing the violin seriously. I would call to mind a live performance I'd seen of Midori playing the Shostakovich violin concerto: her posture had been hunched over, her face unsmiling. She'd wrung the pain and passion out of every note of that piece, for herself and for the audience. My teacher understands, she says that she and her professional colleagues can also look very serious, even to the point of scowling, while they are playing. It means something good for the sound of the music. Although you wouldn't know it from the images on google, passion, seriousness, even grace, do not always wear a smile.
And yet. In practicing for TRFC, I recorded myself multiple times and started to get a more complete picture of how I looked while playing. One thing that was completely new to me was that I do weird things with my mouth:
What the heck? The next time through, I realized that some of this comes from making sure to breathe while playing. It also comes from moving my chin around on the chin rest and flexing my jaw so I don't get neck and shoulder pain--both good and necessary actions, but geez, it looks funny.
And then, in response to another one of my posted practice run-throughs, Adam suggested that I play the piece while donning a pink wig and bejeweled sunglasses. He also suggested a bigger smile.
Smiling? Really? Oh dear. Did I mention I'm just not a smiler? Can't I just wear the glasses? I don't have a pink wig, but would a boa help?
It was a couple of days before the final upload was due, and so, for the first time, I consciously started trying to practice while smiling.
It's a lot harder than it looks. What I discovered is that trying to smile while playing is a lot like trying to play with/without a shoulder rest if you're used to the other way. Or like trying to keep the wrist straight to get rid of a pizza wrist. Or like trying to remember to keep the left index finger poised over the strings instead of waving in the air like a flag when doing vibrato. In short, it's pretty much like learning an entirely new technique, or breaking a bad habit. That first video became almost comical to watch. The smile would start out okay:
And then I'd start to lose it:
Going . . . going . . . gone:
And then, something would bring me back and I'd remember:
And the cycle would start all over again. It repeated several times in less than 3 minutes.
Smiling absorbs a lot of bandwidth, making my brain run more slowly, like nothing so much as a computer with a virus running in the background. And yet I kind of liked that smiling violinist. She surprised me with how happy and enthusiastic she looked, playing the violin. I wanted her to be less of a stranger. I'd certainly rather be (and listen to) her than this gal:
My final upload was better than the first, not as good as I'd like--on many levels. It's still a work in progress. But I still feel like I learned something important in the attempt.
By Robert Niles
July 30, 2012 09:48
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If you own a violin shop - or other manage another business, festival or school that wants to reach out to violinists - we hope that you'll consider joining the family of sponsors supporting Violinist.com. We reach an average of more than 200,000 readers each month with our reporting, interviews, reviews, discussion, advice, and encouragement. But none of that happens without financial support. Please visit violinist.com/advertising to find out more about sponsorship opportunities to help support this community. Thank you!Tweet
By Bram Heemskerk
July 30, 2012 07:37
2 Swedish composers. Berwald wrote a violin concerto and Stenhamer 2 Romances for violin + orchestra like Beethoven.
By Gabriela Olcese
July 29, 2012 20:52
We are pleased to announce the results of the Second International Violin Competition Buenos Aires 2012 just ended:
1st. Prize: Erzhan KULIBAEV (Kazakhstan)
Here is first-place winner Erzhan Kulibaev of Kazakhstan playing "Cuando tú no estás" by C. Gardel; and "Adiós Nonino" by A. Piazzolla; with Juan Pablo Navarro, bass, and Diego Schissi, piano:
Congratulations to all and we said goodbye to the Winner's Tour 2013 and the III International Violin Competition Buenos Aires 2014 !Tweet
By Tyrone Wilkins
July 29, 2012 10:14
I'll be dropping 'violin life' and starting a new series after this last post.
When I started middle school, I started learning piano from my daily piano class. We had a book filled with easy, little pieces that we had to perform every friday for a grade. That was never a problem for me because piano comes some naturally to me.
By the time I began to learn violin I was already pretty good at piano and descent at guitar. I was also (and still am) very good at guitar hero which I believe is responsible for my fast hands,shifting,and hand eye coordination. Playing piano was great for right and left hand coordination,right hand strength (I'm left handed) and speed. No wonder violin comes so easily!
I've always wondered why everything about violin came so naturally to me while others struggle on them. Well,I know for a fact that the instruments I've learned previous to violin had a positive effect. My 2-3 years of guitar hero playing has helped me way more than I ever thought possible.
If you have any interest in guitar hero I'd advise that you do your best to master the hardest songs on it as they are GREAT finger exercises that I use all the time. Sometimes I warm up on guitar hero before playing my scales! For those of you that are more 'normal' than I,try taking up a different instrument. I suggest piano,viola,cello,or guitar.If you take them seriously you can take your playing to a higher level,you'll understand more about stringed instruments in general,and hey! You learned a new instrument! Now you can enjoy music just that much more.
If you wonder about how all this will turn out,look at me. I'm not perfect (yet) seeing as how I've only been playing for a year and a half,but I was concert master of the intermediate orchestra at my high school and I'm preparing for chair placement audition for the school's Chamber (advanced) orchestra in the fall.I'm in Suzuki book 5-6 and I'm working on completing Kayer's op.20 by the end of the year! Good fortune to anyone who tries! :D
Violinist.com has not reviewed, and does not endorse, the content of any of the articles below.
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