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Top BlogsBy Raphael Klayman
October 25, 2012 14:47
A GLENN DICTEROW MASTER CLASS
A Master Class is a different breed of animal. Part public lesson, part performance, part audition - and part firing squad, a Master Class is one of the most challenging activities that a student can participate in. It also can be one of the most stimulating and inspiring events that one can experience. It can be quite enjoyable too – especially if you just sit in the audience as an innocent bystander!
As a young man I participated in Master Classes of Arturo Delmoni, and later of Aaron Rosand. The Rosand Master Classes that I took part in, in Nice France, were semi-private and more intimate – a little like some of the Heifetz classes that we can see on film. In the past few years three of my colleagues with high school programs have invited me to come and perform and then give a Master Class. Most recently such an invitation has come from an impresario in Bangkok Thailand! All are pending, due to - what else? - funding.
But whenever I could, I've always loved to sit in on Master Classes. If we go to a fine artist's concert and listen and watch attentively, we can essentially get a lesson from that artist. How much more so at a Master class, where the artist not only demonstrates, but explains the why's and wherefores leading to the demonstration. And we certainly learn from the students too, who are usually top notch, and may be preparing for major auditions and competitions. (Of course this is not a substitute for, but a great supplement to, a direct lesson, where you get feedback from a teacher on what you're doing.)
Every artist has a different personality, and so every master class will have a different feel, and sometimes different format and agenda. I still have a fond memory of a Master Class in the mid-1970's given by the legendary pianist, Arthur Rubinstein, in New York's Alice Tully Hall. (Yes, I'm interested in the piano too, and other instruments. Plus, my girlfriend at the time was a pianist! I also once attended a Master Class of the great cellist, Janos Starker.) I still have a warm glow of Rubinstein's deep gold and bronze tone and his unique personal charm! Not long after that, but some years before my own work with him, I attended a couple of Master Classes at the Manhattan School of Music of Aaron Rosand. He just blew me away! I had grown up with recordings of Heifetz, Oistrakh and Francescatti. Not long before these events I had attended wonderful recitals in Carnegie Hall by Perlman and Rostropovich – then at the heights of their respective powers. But I don't think I had ever heard more compelling string playing than that of Aaron Rosand – especially at the first Class. At one point he tore into the Chausson Poéme, and played a large portion of it. It just put me in another world. I was later to experience the same hair-raising and emotionally shattering Chausson phenomenon in Nice, where I worked with Rosand. I learned more from Rosand in that one summer than I did in 4 years with a certain teacher that I had at Mannes and one year with another teacher, privately. Rosand is not your warm fuzzy type, though he actually can be very nice, caring and supportive. But he was probably one of the more intimidating Master teachers. I also had the pleasure of attending Master Classes of Joseph Silverstein – soloist, chamber musician, and long time Concertmaster of the Boston Symphony. One thing I particularly appreciated was his giving members of the audience a chance to ask him questions. I also enjoyed attending a Master Class of Midori a few years ago at the Mannes College. One thing I took away from her class was how language can make a difference. Whereas someone else might tell a student “you're out of tune” or “your rhythm is all askew”, she would tend to say “I have questions about your intonation in this spot”. It's the same critique, but less intimidating. And then there is Glenn Dicterow.
I first met Glenn (-while I am on a first-name basis with him, I don't mean to imply anything but the deepest respect and highest regard that I have for him-) in the mid-80's and had some private lessons with him over the course of a year. Having already heard him in the Vieuxtemps 4th concerto, and the Concertmaster solos of Scheherazade and Ein Heldenleben, I was blown away by him as well. I was quickly struck by his outsized virtuoso technique, his fine, expressive and stylish musicianship, his rich, beautiful tone and his great projection. As a soloist, chamber musician, recording-session player (with prominent solos in a number of movies), and as long-time concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic – he is as complete a violinist as can be. He studied with almost everyone, from Heifetz to Galamian, Szerying to Eudice Shapiro and other big West Coast names, with all the influences filtering through his particular talent and personality. As a teacher I found him to be very focused and his criticisms always very constructive. They were along the lines of “this isn't working because...” rather than the “what's wrong with you?” type of critiques that some other teachers dole out. I found him to be supportive and encouraging. I frequently entered the lessons with trepidation, never feeling properly prepared. But somehow I'd always fly out of the lessons, excited and inspired. One thing that he stressed more than any other teacher that I've had is the importance of projecting into a hall. “Get those overtones to fly right out of the instrument” is a favorite expression of his. Then, as with Rosand, I continued to keep in touch with Glenn on occasion by attending some of his public Master Classes whenever I could. Glenn was kind enough to take some private questions from me at the end of a number of master Classes whenever he had the time. He also put me on the spot once at the end of a class when he asked me to try a couple of violins that a maker was trying to interest him in. The class had finished after several highly talented and obviously extremely well prepared graduate students had played for him, he had demonstrated amazingly and with everyone still milling around, and me not warmed up, unprepared with anything in particular – and not even having with me my very minimally padded suede chin-rest cover to give me a bit of support - was supposed to play on two completely unfamiliar violins in front of everybody! “Sure, I'd be glad to” I said . Inside I felt more like Rocky Balboa before his first shot at Apollo Creed - “everybody says fight the big fight. Yeah, I'll fight the big fight. Probably get my head kicked in!” At first I was so nervous I could barely speak coherently. Fortunately I played better than I spoke and didn't at all embarrass myself. On another occasion at the end of a Class, Glenn treated me by agreeing to play a bit on one of my violins and bows that I brought to show him. He started tuning it rather loudly, gauging, I think, its range and core. Suddenly he tore into the first allegro of the Bruch g minor concerto with such power, energy and presence that I felt a palpable shock wave that almost knocked me over. As I began to recover, he generously pronounced the Maday violin and Halsey bow “very good”.
I came early to Greenfield Hall at the Manhattan School of Music and got a good seat close to the front. Three excellent graduate students – Henry Wang, Dan Bee Park and Christina Bouey gave extremely fine accounts of themselves in concertos of Tchaikovsky and Brahms, and some standard excerpts of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mahler and Strauss. Glenn let them play quite a bit before stopping them. He demonstrated amply but not too much - not to show off but to illustrate. The students were all excellent but Glenn Dicterow was...well, Glenn Dicterow! As soon as he tuned his del Gesu, some special sounds filled the hall. The symbiosis of great violinist and great violin was made manifest in burnished tones, dark and rich, yet clear, focused and centered, and with a seemingly effortless sonority and presence. The violin responded to his slightest sotto voce touch. But when it came time for 'blood and guts' its core more than held up to his brilliant playing. At one point when he played some of the minore F# minor section from the Brahms concerto, I couldn't help the tears welling up in my eyes.
Glenn maintains the highest standards and will not hesitate to be as picky as necessary to try to get the student from a very good effort to a totally convincing public performance that is not only accurate, but musical and three-dimensional in its presence. But he balances any criticisms with praise, supportiveness and even touches of humor. I took some notes and would like to share some nuggets. But there is nothing like the words when they directly come from the mouth of the master – especially when they follow some performance snag and are backed up by a demonstration. Also I can't vouch for 100% accuracy, but hopefully I will convey a few of his ideas:
> opening of the Tchaikovsky concerto – there should be freedom, yet proportion. Don't make any one note too long for no particular reason, and maintain the syncopated rhythm at the end of the opening even with a bit of rubato.
> Beethoven 9th, 3rd movement: your 1st note is your 1st impression. Don't throw it away.
> Brahms concerto, 1st mvt.: You're coming in after a long introduction with the full sonority of the orchestra in forte bringing you in – and then there is you and your one little violin. You must come in like a house on fire. Try to match the sonority of the orchestra. You've got to tear the place up!
In the chord passages – this is not the time to be too flexible with your fingers on the bow, or they will collapse, and you won't achieve the necessary sonority and projection. Keep them a bit stiffer and more spread out. Also be sure to maintain the dotted rhythm – they should never border on triplets.
> Especially in orchestral playing, if you use too much bow, you will fall behind. To control off-the-string passages above the middle, elevate the wrist slightly.
> In Mahler it's important to bring out all the little 'hairpins' of crescendo and diminuendo. When doing a slide, it's not just the slide; it's how you prepare the slide.
> In Brahms, the phrases go across the bar lines. It's a-symmetric.
> In the opening to Don Juan – there's no time to use the wrist; keep it in the fingers.
> In playing orchestral excerpts, you have to hear the whole score in your head.
As in a recital, the role of an accompanist in a Master Class is so important. This is usually done by piano students from the same school – and they usually do a very fine job. For some reason, at his class it was a MSM professor, and chamber music colleague of Glenn – Gerald Robbins - who did the honors, and he definitely brought to the proceedings a deeper level of maturity and weight – especially in the Brahms concerto.
After the class I went up to Glenn and we had a nice chat. I had e-mailed him a notice about a violin I'm selling (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=YD3Em3YH7Uo) He said that to the extent he could trust the quality of a sound file on his computer, he thought it sounded very good “-and some very nice playing from you, too, by the way.” That was certainly a nice cherry to put atop the afternoon's musical ice cream sundae! I then asked him a question that I believe had come up on v.com a long time ago “Is Don Juan ever started up-bow?” He said that in his 40 years of orchestral playing, it always started down-bow. He said it was easier to grab the fast 1/16's that way. He seemed surprised that I'd want to start it up-bow. I said that for me, the first 3 notes didn't make that much difference, but that the next 4 – C-E-G-C and then the E (after which I would hook the following F# in a re-articulated down-bow) feel more comfortable for the string crossings, when I can start the C down-bow. I'm so glad he didn't ask me to demonstrate! In fact he surprised and flattered me by saying that he'd try it my way at home! Then we joked a bit along the lines of “professional Don Juan player – do not try this at home!”
I exited MSM and walked down one of Manhattan's longest streets, Broadway, where you can scarcely go a block without passing at least a couple of restaurants. I chose some tasty bargain fare and then made my way home on the subway from upper Manhattan to the southern tip of Brooklyn, where I live. But somehow the long ride seemed less tedious as I continued to bathe in the glow of that inspiring Master Class!
October 25, 2012 14:15
A soloist who has played with many of the world's finest orchestras, French violinist Renaud Capuçon nevertheless finds much of his artistic nourishment in chamber music.
Capuçon's achievements in chamber music are equally impressive. His long list of collaborators include: Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Elena Bashkirova, Hélène Grimaud, Yefim Bronfman, Myung-Whun Chung, Stephen Kovacevich, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Mikhail Pletnev, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Vadim Repin, Yuri Bashmet, Truls Mork, Paul Meyer -- and his brother, the cellist Gautier Capuçon.
Capuçon, who was born in 1976 in Chambéry, France, plays the 1737 "Panette" Guarneri del Gesù, which once belonged to Isaac Stern. He is married to the French journalist Laurence Ferrari, and they have a two-year-old son.
Capuçon and I spoke over the phone on Monday about his journey on the violin, the benefits of playing chamber music, and the violin concertos of Brahms, Berg and Korngold.
Photo: Renaud Hennekeuser
Laurie: What got you started, playing the violin?
Renaud: As a young child, I was in an ear-training class -- there was a woman playing piano and we sang and did rhythms. This woman told my mother that I had a very good ear, and perhaps I should begin the violin. So that's how I began!
Laurie: How old were you when you began?
Renaud: I was four, and I began with a Vivaldi movement, which was kind of the Suzuki method. The great thing with this method was that you played straightaway with others. We had some individual lessons, but we also some lessons with other kids. Right away, I developed a love for playing together. I think I went on stage at four and a half, not playing more than four open strings, but at least doing a concert!
Laurie: I understand you play on Isaac Stern's Guarneri del Gesù and also took a number of masterclasses with him. What was that like?
Renaud: I had six or seven lessons with Isaac Stern in Verbier 1995, which was absolutely amazing. It has no relation with the fact that I play his violin -- it's just a nice story! The funny thing is, in 1995, I asked him to write me a recommendation letter because I was looking for a good violin -- of course, not a del Gesù at that time. I needed a recommendation letter for a sponsor. He wrote me an amazing letter, saying that I deserve to have an instrument. And just 10 years later, I was playing his violin! Of course, he had already died when I started playing his violin, so he couldn't know it. But I think life is nice sometimes this way!
Laurie: What is that violin like?
Renaud: It's a perfect violin. What I love about it is the way it speaks. I wouldn't say it's loud, or it's strong -- it's just large. I like its dark colors. Yet it can also be absolutely sparkling -- if you play Mozart, it's absolutely fine. I think it helps me a lot, because I'm perhaps lighter person, and the violin is more dark. It gives me a lot of different colors.
Laurie: How long have you been playing it?
Renaud: I've been playing it seven years. It's wonderful, it's really the violin of my life. I remember the first time I played it, I played the Brahms Concerto. I clearly had the feeling that the violin had sounded so many times with the Brahms Concerto, that the harmonies were already there. Of course, I mean this in a humble way. I play completely differently than Isaac Stern; I wouldn't ever compare myself. But the great thing with a violin is that, even if I were to buy it one day, it would never really be mine. After me, it will be played by somebody else.
Laurie: It has its own life!
Laurie: You mentioned the Brahms, and this is one of the concertos on your new recording. Tell me a little bit about your choice of using the cadenza by Fritz Kreisler for this recording of the Brahms.
Renaud: I used to play the Joachim cadenza, and I play it very often in concert. When I set about recording it, I wanted to do the Kreisler cadenza, just because I love it, and I'd never played it before. Also, it's in the 1954 recording I cherish of Christian Ferras playing the Brahms -- he plays the Kreisler cadenza also. So it is a double homage to Ferras and to Kreisler. I also listened to the Busch cadenza, and to the Reger cadenza…
Laurie: There are a lot of cadenzas for the Brahms!
Renaud: There are a lot! I didn't listen to all of of them. I love the Milstein one, but then I thought, it can't be played by anyone other than Milstein! (He laughs) You could say the same with Kreisler, but at least, I tried to do it.
(Editor's note: Out of curiosity, I did some research. I found 21 Brahms cadenzas, and I'm pretty sure I'm missing a few! Besides the original cadenza by Joseph Joachim, others were written by: Leopold Auer, Joshua Bell, Adolf Busch, Ferruccio Busoni, George Enescu, Hugo Heermann, Jascha Heifetz, Nigel Kennedy, Franz Kneisel, Fritz Kreisler, Jan Kubelik, Henri Marteau, Nathan Milstein, Franz Ondricek, Rachel Barton Pine, Max Reger, Ruggiero Ricci, Edmund Singer, Donald Francis Tovey, Eugène Ysaÿe. Here is a link to music for various cadenzas that are in the public domain. Also, in 1991 Ruggiero Ricci made a recording in which he performed 16 different Brahms cadenzas!)
Laurie: In in the liner notes, you formally dedicate this recording to Christian Ferras.
Renaud: His recording is my favorite recording of Brahms concerto, perhaps, ever. Of course, I love the one with Stern, and the one with Milstein, as well as some other recordings. But for me, as a French violinist, it was a great inspiration to be able to record this piece, 60 years later, with the same orchestra. When I stood up in front of the Vienna Philharmonic, I was thinking about him. I never met him -- he died before I was able to meet him -- but he always was one of the violinists I admired. I know his sonority. Even though we are completely different players, he's a great inspiration to me. So I wanted to dedicate the CD to him.
Laurie: So when you were younger and first listening to this recording by Ferras, did you have a big vinyl record of his 1954 performance?
Renaud: Yes, of course! And when I did this Brahms Concerto, I asked the CD company to do a vinyl record. So we did a CD, and also a vinyl record! It's really beautiful. There is just the Brahms on it, because they couldn't fit both concertos. But I wanted it, just to be able say that one time in my life I did a vinyl recording! (He laughs)
(The vinyl recording is only available in Europe - they did a very limited pressing of it.)
Laurie: I wanted to ask you about the Berg Concerto. In the liner notes, you called it "the great concerto of the 20th century." What makes it so?
Renaud: First of all, the structure and the way it's written is pure genius. You could ask any musicologist -- it's one of their favorite pieces, because they can explain every single beat, every single bar! It's everything: it's logical, it's clever, it's well-done. But it would be very boring if it were only a case for musicologists. The fact is, it's one of the most emotional pieces written for the violin. Of course, you have to know it very, very well to get from the structure to the emotion -- you have to get to know what's inside.
People always talk about the three B's: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. In my mind, I would love to make the fourth one, Berg. I really, really think the Berg Violin Concerto is a masterpiece.
Laurie: A lot of those 12-tone works from the 20th century didn't go over so well.
Renaud: I know. But this did! (He laughs) I guess because it's not just a musicologist's project. It's really done from the heart. You can feel that it's carried by this love of this daughter of Alma Mahler and Walter Gropius (Manon Gropius, who had died from polio at the young age of 18, and for whom the concerto was dedicated "to the memory of an angel.") You can feel that he's deeply concerned about this, and he puts all his heart into the composition of this piece.
Laurie: Speaking of other 20th-century pieces, you're going to be in Los Angeles this weekend, performing the Violin Concerto by Erich Korngold with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Renaud: I've loved that piece for a long time. I discovered the concerto with the CD of Gil Shaham, which came out in 1994, with the Korngold and the Barber.
Laurie: That's when I discovered it, too!
Renaud: I guess a lot of people discovered it at this time! Thanks to Gil, I learned it very quickly, and I've played it almost 10 years now. I love it. It's one of the concertos you can't be bored of playing. It sings all the time, and its proportions are very good: it's rather short but not too short. It's very well-written for the violin. We don't have so many concertos like this, from this period of time.
Laurie: The Korngold is such a sunny piece, considering that it was written in 1945. The Shostakovich concerto was written just a few years later, and it's the opposite in disposition.
Renaud: I know. But I wouldn't say the Korngold is a sunny piece exactly -- it's a sweet piece. It's a Viennese piece. We forget, especially in America, that Korngold was a Viennese composer, a guy who came from central Europe. We just think of him as a Hollywood composer, but he's not! He brought his music from Europe and adapted it to Hollywood, which is completely different.
From the violin concerto, I discovered Korngold, and then I dug into all of his chamber music. I played his trio, I recorded his Violin Sonata last year, and I played his suite, I played his piano quintet, piano quartet -- I played almost all his chamber music.
And it's interesting to play the Korngold Violin Concerto, also knowing his opera, Die tote Stadt, which is a masterpiece, and knowing his Symphony in F sharp major. It's great music; it's fantastic music.
Laurie: I was reading your biography, and you've collaborated with a lot of musicians, including your brother, Gautier Capuçon. Did you start playing with your brother when you were a child?
Renaud: No, because he is five years younger than me. When I left (to study at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris at age 14), my brother was still at home. We began to play together when I was 19 or 20. It's great, of course.
Laurie: How much chamber music do you do, versus solo playing?
Renaud: I began to play chamber music when I was very young. Of course, these days I play a lot of solo concerti. As much as I love performing concerti, I couldn't do just concerti! I always try to balance it. I need chamber music; for me, it's like bread and water. When you are playing a trio or string quartet, you build the performance with a lot of rehearsals and share ideas. When you go on stage, you are sharing the spotlight with three or four other musicians.
Also, playing chamber music nourishes your view on the concerti. You play concerti differently, and you play chamber music differently, if you do both. It's like reading books written by the same author: you like one book of Victor Hugo, then you want to read everything. It's exactly the same.
* * *
Here is a French treat for you, Renaud Capuçon and Hèléne Grimaud perform the first movement of the Ravel Sonata:
By Robert Niles
October 24, 2012 20:24
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By Susan Pascale
October 24, 2012 14:14
“Mom, can I practice Puh-LEEEEZE!”
How often do you hear that from your child? I never heard it from my older daughter, now a sophomore at Juilliard; nor from my adult son, a jazz musician. But recently, I’ve been hearing it from my 10-year-old daughter Jenna, a cellist – ever since we launched our practice club.
The idea came about because of Jenna. She was born into and grew up in my music school. She’s naturally musical, but it took an unnatural amount of effort to get her to sit down and practice. My usual tactics – prizes, bribes, and badgering - weren’t working.
What had worked in the past was rewarding her with something that meant a lot to her. When she was younger, it was all about stuffed animals. Now, it’s all about her friends. Her closest friends all play in my orchestra with her.
So I thought having a practice club on Sunday, my one day off, might be worth it.
Of course, parents immediately jumped on the idea – they were happy to drop their children off with me for the afternoon, especially when they heard it was to practice!
The first two Sundays were utterly exhausting . As soon as the six young musicians were dropped off at 12:30 p.m., they scattered like mice, running wild on the property. It was a challenge to keep them engaged for three hours
But by the third attempt I had an improved plan. I visited the 99 cent store and bought fuzzy slippers, small candies and assorted prizes. On Sunday, the kids arrived and I immediately pulled out a basket of slippers, informing them that, to be a club member, they had to wear them. That engaged them right away (with just a little bickering over who got which color).
Next, they were handed a clipboard, a mini-pencil, and a blank practice log. They were instructed to write down everything they intended to practice for the next two hours. The log I designed has columns that show how much time they planned to spend on each piece or exercise, and then the actual time that they spent.
They were each led into their own practice room; I strategically placed the closest friends furthest apart!
For the third hour, the kids played in groups, which of course, they love. Some played duets, others worked on their orchestra music together.
I’m still practicing practice club, and it keeps getting better. Here are some of my most successful strategies.
1. Fifty is fabulous – Fifty minute intervals, followed by a 10 minute break, seems to work best.
2. Pop-ins are popular - Frequent interruptions in the beginning of their practice session sets them up for the afternoon – they know I’m listening.
3. Reward them often - While making the rounds, bring an arsenal of stickers and throw one on their practice log to reward their efforts. They also perk up with an M&M or two. (Cheerios work too.)
4. Have snacks, will practice – For some reason, practicing makes kids hungry. Each ten minute or longer break should come with a healthy snack or beverage.
5. Leave the door open - For your most challenging practicers, pass by often , calling out “Do it again! “ or “That was out of tune!” or “You’re doing great!” The surprise coaching keeps them on their toes.
6. Extend the fun - After club time, ask a parent to take the kids out for frozen yogurt, miniature golf, or a movie.
7. Try a weekday club - On Thursday nights, parents in my program have picked up the ball and begun offering a mini-practice club. The kids do their homework, practice, and eat dinner. By the time Jenna gets home, all that’s left for me to bark is, “Brush your teeth and go to bed!”
8. Encourage teachers to join the club - One of our cello teachers, Tao Ni, the associate principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has occasionally joined the club. So has our viola teacher, Zach Dellinger, who is preparing for an important competition. Hearing them practice makes a huge impression on our budding musicians. It teaches them that practice really does make perfect!
9. Acknowledge accomplishments - We have a binder in which kids put their completed practice logs . At the end of each month, we add up everyone’s hours, and post them on the school bulletin board. Kids feel proud and it inspires other children to join a practice club!
Some people think I’m crazy to do this on my Sunday afternoon. But it’s worth it, to to hear my daughter and her friends begging to practice, and to hear the improvement in their playing. My household is a lot more peaceful these days, with less nagging and more cello!
By Graham Emberton
October 23, 2012 22:38
The Indianapolis Symphony is back! Last week a settlement was reached between musicians and management; this “bridge agreement” will cover the ISO up to February 3rd next year. If a substantial $5 million can be raised before January 31st, 2013, then a second contract will come into effect, covering the ISO up to September 3rd, 2017. The musicians have accepted some pretty steep cuts; the minimum pay has dropped to $53,000 from $78,000 (it would rise to $70,000 over the next five years) and the season has dropped from 52 weeks to 38-42. Especially considering these deep concessions, I’m very thankful the symphony has returned- there is something of a dearth of symphonies in Indiana and the ISO’s five week hiatus was significant (I think my university’s orchestra performance in September may have been the first symphony concert in the Indianapolis area). While I cannot afford to donate the handsome sums the ISO desperately needs, this weekend I did what a college student can best do to support orchestras, and attended the ISO’s opening concert consisting of Messiaen’s “Poemes pour Mi,” Ravel’s “Bolero,” and Debussy’s “La Mer.”
When I entered Hilbert Circle Theatre, home of the ISO, there was a real buzz to the place (not all due to the cocktail bar). As soon as the orchestra had assembled on stage the audience burst into a lengthy standing ovation. It was really touching, actually. Certainly the only time I’ve witnessed such glee and gratitude before a note had been played. Eventually the musicians themselves joined in the applause and everyone stood there, clapping. I think anyone watching this would have been boggled about how strife could possibly have permeated the ISO in the first place. Truly, people have missed having the symphony perform regularly.
Eventually the applause died down and conductor Krzysztof Urbanski, soprano Twyla Robinson, and the ISO began “Poemes pour Mi.” This cycle of nine songs was composed in 1936 and is dedicated to Messiaen’s wife, Clare Delbos (nicknamed Mi). Twyla Robinson sang with a beautiful, warm tone that was very appropriate for a work inspired by love and steeped in Catholic and biblical allusions. Following intermission, the orchestra performed “Bolero.” Krzysztof Urbanski made quite a statement; after coming on stage he pointedly walked off again to sit and watch the ISO perform sans conductor. I have loved Bolero for a long time, and even if you hate its repetitive nature, there’s no denying it’s catchy. The ISO did a fine job and a highlight for me was a positively rude saxophone solo by principal bassoonist Mark Ortwein. The performance closed with “La Mer.” This was what I was looking forward to most; I had recently worked on some of Debussy’s other orchestral works, “Nocturnes” and “Iberia,” for my school’s orchestra, and I’ve never seen “La Mer” performed live. Urbanski led the ISO in another strong rendition. The orchestra pulled off Debussy’s characteristic colors and tonal “painting” with success and Urbanski was hugely dynamic from the podium. Again the best part for me was observing individual players; this time it was fun watching concertmaster Zach DePue and principal violist Mike Chen interact with one another- looked like they were having a blast! Another standing ovation ensued, lasting for a long, long time. I think Urbanksi was puzzled by the fourth curtain call, but such was the appreciation of the audience, myself included.
Even if for now the ISO has lost its place amongst the full-year orchestras, even though its musicians are currently underpaid, even though gobs of money need to be raised, the gloomy aspects of the symphonic world were temporarily alleviated on Saturday with the essence of it all, music-making. I really hope the other orchestras around the nation also facing difficulties are able to reach a solution quickly because audiences really do care. The ISO is clearly a fundamental aspect of the Indianapolis cultural scene and was missed a great deal.
By Susan Pascale
October 23, 2012 13:23
Snap your strings! Stomp your feet! Play on the bridge!
That may not sound like traditional advice for a conductor to give her
At least that’s what we’ve discovered in our strings program, now
Doing Halloween up big started about eight years ago, with monthly
Then we decided the entire orchestra should perform in costume. Our 60 orchestra members are ages 5 – 12. For that concert, I couldn’t resist getting into the act. –I dressed up as Cruella de Ville. The kids and parents at first did not recognize me. It came as a hilarious shock. There were lots of laughs as I ran the recital in character, as a meanie!
The following year, our orchestras were invited to perform at
After overcoming that obstacle, we were quite a hit! The kids had a blast and so did I. So now, a Halloween concert is an annual ritual.
Here are seven reasons why Halloween can be the best time of year for you and your music students:
#1. It’s a great way to dive into the fall semester, and get your students
# 2. Halloween can be a technical smorgasbord. There is a lot of
- Creepy Crawl, by David Shaffer and Jason Barrera
#3. You can develop creative rituals and traditions. For example, ‘Rosin Eating Zombies’ calls for a solo scream. We hold an open audition during rehearsal. There is tons of hysterical laughter as the kids vote for a winner. We make it even scarier by turning off the lights during the performance so we’re in a completely black room (I wave a light-up baton, and the kids play from memory.)
Another ritual: Long before the concert, we create ‘guess what the conductor will be wearing!’ game. It’s top secret, revealed at the time of the concert. It’s a fun shock for all.
#4. It’s a bonding experience. My goal is to keep kids playing their instruments as long as possible, especially through the difficult teen years. Events like these create lasting friendships, which leads to children staying in music.
#5. The media loves it. A costumed children’s orchestra dressed playing spooky and classical music– it’s eye candy, as well as ‘ear candy’!
#6. It’s a fundraising opportunity. As long as you’re generating
#7. It’s an outreach opportunity. We advertise the Halloween concert as
So what will I wear this Halloween? Shhhh, I’m not saying! You’ll find out soon enough! (One clue: we’ll need an even bigger van than last year!)
The Los Angeles Children’s Orchestra’s performance at the Kidspace Museum Pumpkin Festival in Pasadena, CA will take place on October 28, 2012, at noon. For more information go to www.kidspacemuseum.org.
By Heather Broadbent
October 23, 2012 10:56
Who would have thought to teach online? Not me two years ago. Two years ago I protested the idea of skype violin lessons. I had students request them when I was overseas and I didn't make the effort to even try because I wasn't sure about the effectiveness. This last summer my student insisted and I agreed. I also had two other students on the skype lesson bandwagon. I was truly surprised by the results. For me it was absolutely amazing. After the first lesson I was completely convinced that this was and is a very effective and valid form of teaching.
This last week I taught Emilly Thieme her second skype lesson. She loves it because she doesn't have to leave her house. I have had Emilly as a student for at least four years I think. In this last lesson we were talking about Boccherini Minuet and the corresponding scale work. I decided to have her watch my youtube video to remind her of the A Major scale. Before watching the video let's say Emilly was a little rusty but after the video 100% better. Night and day difference. A true testimonial to me the effectiveness of online tools. I tell her the same thing in the same way that is in the video but I think it was more effective for her because it was a youtube video. I was in a different setting - actually a different country when I filmed the video. Whatever the influences it was extremely beneficial for Emilly and in turn for me.
By Bram Heemskerk
October 22, 2012 14:15
3 Baroque violinconcerto's of Myslivecek + Leclair.
By The Weekend Vote
October 19, 2012 10:14
The theories about what makes a Strad a Strad continue to pour in, as well as theories on how one could make a Strad-quality instrument today.
Some of the theories include the idea that the wood used by luthiers of that period was of a special density -- due to the Little Ice Age -- that just so happened to make for superior violins. Another theory that was especially widely accepted in the 20th century: Stradivari had a secret formula for his varnish, and that made all the difference. A few have surmised that perhaps the guy was just a great violin maker. Or, perhaps he made a good number of duds, which have fallen to the wayside as his best fiddles became valued. Another theory is simply that violins improve with age, and so that is a primary reason why Strads sound great: they are all some 300 years old.
And then based on these theories, there are other theories for how to reproduced this excellence today. For example, if you believe that wood density is the primary key to the sweet sound of a Strad, this might resonate for you: Swiss wood researcher Professor Francis W. M. R. Schwarze claims that treating a fiddle with two kinds of special fungi can make it sound, as an article in Science Daily said, "indistinguishably similar to a Stradivarius."
What is your theory? What makes a Strad a Strad? And I've intentionally left out "all of the above" so we can each pick what we fell is the primary reason. Feel free to discuss your thoughts and theories below.
Violinist.com Interview with Augustin Hadelich: Beethoven, Strads and the Virtues of Practicing SlowlyBy Laurie Niles
October 18, 2012 12:18
While violinist Augustin Hadelich was in Los Angeles to play with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, I had the pleasure of sitting down to chat with him over lunch between his rehearsal and concert (pasta before a performance, he said. And he knew a lot about pasta!)
Tonight Augustin will perform Lalo's "Symphony Espagnole" with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fischer Hall (Oct. 18, 19, 20, 23), after which he goes to Houston to play Bartok's Concerto No. 2 with the Houston Symphony. The rest of his schedule is on his website.
Winner of the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Hadelich has spent the last six years hopping the globe. Born to German parents, Hadelich grew up on a farm in Italy. His recordings include Flying Solo, with works for solo violin by Bartok, Ysaye, Paganini and Bernd Zimmermann; and Echoes of Paris, with works by Poulenc, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Debussy, performed with pianist Robert Kulek. Over the summer, Augustin collaborated with guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas on works by de Falla, Paganini, Piazolla and Sarasate, for a recording that will come out next March. Next summer he is scheduled to record the Thomas Adès and Sibelius Concertos with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Hannu Lintu.
In Los Angeles, Augustin said he enjoyed working with conductor Jeffrey Kahane, who is an accomplished pianist (in fact, he was playing the Ravel Piano Concerto, in the same concert!)
"We had 30-minute meeting, playing through some places. He'd sit down at the piano and he had a great time playing the piano reduction!"
"I think every time I've played this piece, it's been with symphony orchestra, not chamber orchestra," Augustin said of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Of course, it's a piece that can be played with either set-up, but a lot of the balance problems that arise with the typical symphony performance simply were not issues with a chamber orchestra.
"The whole approach is different," he said. "It's quite easy to be flexible in tempo, because (chamber musicians) are so used to listening. With a big symphony orchestra, if you want to move the tempo, it's so difficult. The conductor can do it, but it isn't easy because sometimes the conductor will do it and they don't even pay attention. Of course, there are moments in the piece -- some of the big tuttis, big climaxes -- where having the full, big orchestra sound is incredibly good. So it can work several ways."
Figuring out the tempo is one of the most challenging things about the Beethoven Concerto.
"I've gone back and forth many times. Sometimes I've played with some stern older German conductors who want it very, very slow, and it can work. It becomes other-worldly and quiet," Augustin said. Then again, "if you just look at the orchestral introduction and think about what tempo it should go, and not think about any of the rest of the piece, you arrive at a tempo that is much faster than how most people play." When the violin enters and plays these themes, they are ornamented and full of passagework. "I think the mistake that a lot of violinists make, and I used to make as well, is that you try to play that ornamentation melodically. I think it bogs down, suddenly you have to play it much slower, and you lose the large structure."
So for a while, he tried playing the piece at the tempo of the introduction. "I really went for it -- and it was really fast. It becomes a really different piece," he said. "I was pretty unsatisfied, actually, afterward. The problem was that somehow, it felt restless. It no longer had the depth, and the time and space."
These days, he looks for the compromise that is both fast enough to be flashy and to give the listener a sense of the larger structure, but slow enough to show the piece's ethereal quality and peacefulness.
"I was around eight when I started playing the Beethoven," Augustin said. "As a child, you don't really understand Beethoven at all. The violin part is very exposed, so it's very useful, having played it that long. Although, some places never get easier! It's one of those pieces that I can do 100 times in a row and not be tired of. It's such a gorgeous piece."
For about two years, Augustin has been playing the "Kiesewetter" Stradivari of 1723, on loan from the Stradivari Society.
"It's a great instrument, it sounded good right away, but it's a process, to get used to the way it sounds," he said. "The one I had before (the ex-Gingold Strad) was really different."
Most Strads are fairly finicky, and in the last six years, Augustin has become a student of how to finesse a Strad. When it comes to sound production, "you can't press too much, and you have to use enough bow," especially with the earlier Strads.
The "Kiesewetter" is from a later period, and "it's somehow more resilient. It goes through changes in humidity and temperature, and it will sound sometimes a bit better, a bit worse, but the difference is not so great that an audience would notice anything -- you notice as a player. You do have the option, when you're really in trouble, like you're just playing in the worst hall possible or the orchestra is way too loud, you can push it, you can press on it, and it does actually have a reserve that you can push out and make it sound even better. It's quite good as a soloist's instrument."
"And I think it has a very beautiful sound, and it has more colors than the other one," he said. "It's not so sweet, so when you play music that is not always just beautiful, you play the Shostakovich, or composers who write music about the ugly sides of life, then you need to be able to get colors that are really different, and that was really difficult on the other one. It was just so sweet all the time!
Like Mr. Gingold!
To get a fast response, he was changing the strings every 10 days or so with the ex-Gingold. He found that Vision Titanium strings gave the fastest response, if not the prettiest sound. "I still use those strings on this one, but I can leave them on for a month now, and it still sounds fine. It speaks."
"That Gingold Strad, I had to sort of tame it. It's gorgeous, the sound that comes out in the recordings, when you don't have any balance problems and you can put the mike really close, it has such a beautiful sound. I really loved it. I had to have it adjusted all the time." That is, he eventually started taking it to the luthier every week.
"She was just down the street in New York, and she was really nice," he said. "We would just check. Sometimes things happen, like cracks or seams opening. Depending on what condition the violin is in or what repairs were done how long ago, it can happen quite frequently. Once dirt gets into the seams, they open up very quickly again. Also, with every little weather change, you have to do the soundpost again."
"With the one I have now, I go three times a year. I don't really get soundpost adjustments because it sounds good, even when it's out of adjustment! It's very stable. It's made my life a lot easier."
Hadelich also became adept at dealing with a "wolf" -- when a specific note on the G string tends to crack when played and sound like an opera-singing frog.
"The violin I have now usually doesn't have a wolf - only if the weather is really bad," he said. "Most violins have a wolf on the B or C or C#, that range, and I can feel it on this violin, the notes are always more precarious when you are up on the G string. But if it's stable enough, then you play them and you usually don't have trouble. But when the wolf is really strong, you can start having a wolf on every string, for those same pitches on the D string or on the A string. It has to be the same pitch, whatever pitch the wolf is on, you can have it on the D or A as well."
Here's the secret to dealing with it:
"The Gingold had a wolf on the B natural on the G string. If you are playing a piece like Tzigane, where you play that note a lot, you have to find a way to get the note to speak. It is possible, actually. You can compensate for it with your bow pressure and bow speed. It's hard to just start playing the wolf-note, but if you arrive to it from another note, and you get the string to really ring on the previous note, whatever that note is, and you build the sound and pressure and bow speed up, then if you switch to the wolf note and you keep it the same, or you can decrease it, and it won't do the wolf thing to you. But, if you increase it, or if when you switch to the wolf note for some reason the sound is stopped and you have to restart it, then it will be wolf-y. You can't really crescendo well on it, then. That's when it gets really precarious, if you increase the pressure or bow speed on the wolf. So the trick is, usually you will arrive to it from another note on the G string -- you get the string to really, really ring, then play the wolf just a tiny bit softer, or just relax a little on it, and then it will be fine. If you have to start on the wolf note…There's a way you can attack it, you attack it then you let go of it. But once it starts doing the wolf thing, it's over!"
Augustin has found that, with all the traveling and playing with various orchestras, he has had to change his practice routine.
"My practicing methods changed a bit over the last year, because I had a bout of tendonitis in one of my fingers," Augustin said. "I never used to warm up or anything like that. I always practiced only at tempo and not slower." The stress of switching pieces frequently -- playing Sibelius one week and Mendelssohn the next week -- caused stress, which led to tension in his hand.
"I really overdid it one week, and suddenly I had tendonitis," he said. "So for a while, I couldn't practice very much, but I still had concerts. So I started practicing very slowly. Suddenly, I discovered that I was actually playing better, even though I was doing so little practicing. I did two things: I practiced very slowly, and I would go through the piece in my head. I'd look at the score, and go through it. So my idea of the piece, how to interpret it and structure it, was much clearer. And, I was practicing slowly -- there's a reason why people always say you should practice slowly, I realize now!" (He smiles)
"Of course, now my finger is all better," he said. But he has become more aware of the warning signs. "I learned how to figure out when there was tension when I was playing. I'm better at not doing it. There would be certain moments in the piece, where I would tense up. If I practiced it a bit more, or practiced it slowly, and then I wouldn't need to be so tense."
"I used to think that if you practice it at a slower tempo, you only get better at playing it at that tempo," he said. "There is some truth to that: when you play it faster, everything is different. If something doesn't work, you can slow it down and figure it out, or get a clearer idea in your head, but it is important to practice at speed as well."
"At the same time, you can get a passage a lot better by practicing it slowly. It doesn't put any strain on your hand," he said. "So that's become a big part and now I do warm up as well, when I start playing in the morning."
"I felt really stupid when this happened last year, because it didn't really come from the way I was playing the violin in general, it wasn't anything major I had to change, it was just the kinds of things that are sort of common knowledge," he said. "When you're very young, you don't absolutely have to warm up before you play. You can just pick the violin up and everything works. The body is really resilient. Then at some point you just have to - warm up!"
"Even stuff that's very difficult, your hand CAN do it in a relaxed way, if you practice it," he said. "The faster the passage, the less your fingers have to press down on the string, and that can take care of a lot of tension, when there's something very fast." For example, in Lalo's Symphony Espagnole, a piece with a lot of fast notes: "A lot of times, your fingers just don't need to go all the way down. The faster the passage is, and the higher up, the less they have to go down. That can take care of a lot of tension as well."
And here's another thing: "It's important to enjoy it -- you are up there for 40 minutes, you should really love the experience," Hadelich said. For example, in the Beethoven: "When the orchestral introduction starts, I try to have a good time and enjoy the fact that I'm playing one of the most beautiful pieces ever written."
Hadelich played Paganini 24 as an encore in Los Angeles, here is a live performance from 2010 in Saarbrücken, Germany:
Revisit Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles' coverage from Canada of the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition, including her interview with gold medalist Marc Bouchkov.
Violinist.com has not reviewed, and does not endorse, the content of any of the articles below.
Confessions of a Former Suzuki Teacher by Pamela Wiley - May 2013
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