January 2007

I ♥ Violinist.com...

January 31, 2007 23:57

...so much that I had to get BOTH shirts!


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Sarah Chang with the SFS

January 16, 2007 13:58

Last weekend I went to hear Sarah Chang perform the Bruch concerto with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of the legendary Kurt Masur. I hadn't seen Sarah in 7-8 years, and the Bruch concerto is one of my favorites.

I was surprised to find that Maestro Masur's hands were shaking continuously; does anyone know if he suffers from Parkinson's or some similar disease? It didn't seem to affect his conducting abilities. The concert started off with a stirring performance of the Mendelssohn "Scottish" Symphony. It was the first time I've seen the SFS concertmaster, Alexander Barantschik, which is surprising since he's been in that position for over five years. My seats were far enough in the front that I could hear individual instruments, and I was quite taken with his sound. I'm curious about what kind of instrument he plays.

When Sarah Chang stepped out on stage after the intermission, I could see immediately how much she's matured since the last time I saw her, both in her appearance and her demeanor. She was wearing a gorgeous fuchsia strapless gown that was very long; I was worried a few times that she'd step on it while playing! Her Bruch was quite enjoyable both to hear and see. She does this interesting flourish sometimes when coming off an up-bow. I'm not sure if it's intentional or not; some might find it annoying, but I thought it was rather neat. It was nice to be able to see her so closely, especially because she has small hands like mine, and then I can imagine (perhaps "dream" would be more accurate!) my own fingers perhaps playing this great work someday. I was really touched at the end of the concerto when Chang and Masur seemed to share a moment. She took his hand and looked up into his eyes, oblivious to the audience's applause. I was later told that Masur played a huge role in the development of Sarah's early career, and I loved seeing how she led him back on stage by the hand for their second curtain call...the young but mature artist now taking care of the old man who'd nurtured her in her youth.

After the SFS concluded the program with a spirited rendition of "Till Eulenspiegel", I went out to meet Sarah and have her sign one of my CDs. The encounter was quite rushed, but I did get a chance to tell her how my three-year-old violinist daughter loves the picture of her on the inside of her "Debut" CD (where she's 6 and playing way up high on the E string), and she seemed to get a kick out of that.

My next concert is Joshua Bell with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in March; until then, I'll have to seek other sources of inspiration.

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Violin shopping, one year later

January 3, 2007 23:27

Happy New Year to everyone! I haven't blogged here in a while, mostly because there hasn't been much to report. I've been struggling with neck and shoulder pain in the last several months, so my practicing and the frequency of my lessons have gone way down. But through a combination of physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, and changes in my chin and shoulder rests, things are finally starting to get better.

Some of you might recall that a little over a year ago, I decided to upgrade my violin outfit but ended up just buying a new bow. The bow served me nicely through 2006. With another year-end bonus (one benefit that thankfully hasn't been slashed in this era of cost-cutting) to add to my savings, I decided I was ready to upgrade the instrument...or was I?

I took yesterday off work to visit Kamimoto Strings in San Jose, the largest string shop in the vicinity and a favorite hangout of fellow V.com member Clare Chu (in fact, that's where I met her for the first time). I told the staff member first to give me instruments in the $5-6000 range. She brought out several; a few had potential, including one gorgeous piece with red varnish and no price label that put the others to shame, at least in physical appearance. Needless to say, it was the favorite of my three-year-old Kiera, whom I'd brought with me to see if she was ready to move up to a 1/16 (which she is).

Just for fun, I then pushed my price range up to about $8K, and found a couple more I liked, including a Scott Cao for $6500 and a Ming-Jiang Zhu for $7800. Oh, and the beautiful red violin? Turns out it was from their Cremona exhibition (can't remember the maker now) and going for a whopping $12K. Beauty has its price. I don't know why they even gave it to me! I could afford it, if I really wanted to, but I feel somewhat uncomfortable upgrading my current instrument by an entire order of magnitude.

Which leads me to my real dilemma, I suppose. Maybe I'm not actually ready for a new violin. I feel like getting one, for a number of reasons; the violin I play on now is one I've had for 20 years (it cost my parents $1200 in 1986), I've improved as a violinist enough that I think I deserve a better instrument---though perhaps not that much better---and I can afford it. If I don't spend this money on a new violin, it'll just go to pay the mortgage or the credit card bill or something boring like that. And yet, the practical side of me wonders whether it's really wise to buy a new violin for just a marginal improvement in my sound. Not to mention the choice of WHICH violin to buy, if I end up buying one. Since I'm a perfectionist in such matters, I feel as if I should check out all my options, which means going back up to Ifshin in Berkeley, a trip I loathe. Argh! Big purchases stress me out! I feel like handing over a wad of cash to someone I trust and saying, "Here, pick one for me" except that I wouldn't really trust anyone to do that...I mean, it's like choosing a spouse. Maybe I just need to play the field a little longer until the right choice becomes apparent.

I suppose one useful thing did come out of my trip, which is that after trying so many violins, I can now finally put on my Kun shoulder rest with one hand!

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