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January 2011

Otakar Sevcik's ultimate 'cheat sheets' for violin concertos and works

January 27, 2011 16:06

Stephen Shipps is now a Professor of Violin at the University of Michigan, but as 15-year-old student, he first faced Wieniawski's "Scherzo-Tarantelle" with some anxiety.

The piece presents a mountain of tricks for the violinist: awkward barriolage; double-, triple- and quadruple-stops; fast arpeggios – all Presto-fast.

"I studied with Josef Gingold once a month and I had lessons every week with a man named Jacques Israelievitch, who was Gingold's assistant at the time," Shipps said. "Every four weeks I'd get something ready and play for the big man."

"After a year, it was time to learn Scherzo-Tarantelle," Shipps said. "It was a stretch for me, but it was time to do it. So he handed me this decrepit old Xerox copy of Ševcík exercises."

This turned out to be the Holy Grail of all violin cheat sheets – an entire etude book devoted to Wieniawski's "Scherzo-Tarantelle" – all exercises written by the turn-of-the-20th-century violin pedagogue, Otakar Ševcík.

"I had this decrepit old Xerox that floated around in my music. I carried it everywhere," Shipps said. "It turned out that there were multiple pieces that Ševcík had done this with. The two that I learned first were the Mendelssohn Concerto and 'Scherzo-Tarantelle.'"

Who was Otakar Ševcík? 

Otakar Ševcík

He was a Czech violinist with a knack for deconstructing the difficult and reassembling it into easily-playable steps. He taught at the Kiev Conservatory, Prague Conservatory and Vienna Music Academy, and his students included great violinists such as Jan Kubelík, Jaroslav Kocián, Efrem Zimbalist, Juan Manén, Marie Hall, Victor Kolar and Erika Morini.

"Franco Gulli, my last teacher, never played Kreutzer or Rode ...he played only Ševcík," Shipps said. "His father had been a student of Ševcík. Gulli became a total and complete virtuoso by the age of 13, never playing Kreutzer. He went right from Ševcík to Paganini."

Most teachers are familiar with Ševcík's basic method books, but the repertoire books have been something of an open secret. In fact, Ševcík wrote an pile of books of "Analytical Studies" that were devoted to specific pieces of violin repertoire: with exercises specific to the Wieniawski Concerto No. 2 in D minor; Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto; Brahms Violin Concerto and Brahms-Joachim Cadenza; Paganini Violin Concerto No. 1; "Ronde des Lutins" by Bazzini; "Moses Variations" by Paganini and "Hungarian Airs" by Ernst. Versions of the Kreutzer and Dont etudes are rumored to exist, as well as an etude book for the Dvorák Violin Concerto.

Ševcík's repertoire exercises have been passed from teacher to teacher, in the form of crumbling copies and Xeroxes, for the 80 years that they've been out of print, said Shipps. "The repertoire pieces are not available anywhere, they've been out of print since 1931."

That's about to change.

"There were a couple of things Gingold asked me to do on his deathbed," Stephen said. "One was to publish Lucien Capet's 'Superior Bowing Technique' book; that came out six or seven years ago. Then Gingold said, 'If you ever have a chance, publish the Ševcík exercises; the world needs them.'"

So Shipps has teamed up with University of Southern California violin professor Endre Granat to edit and restore these exercises to the repertoire. Granat grew up studying in Budapest, where he was extremely well-schooled in Ševcík.

"He knows more about the actual Ševcík exercises, Op. 1-20, than anybody I've met," Shipps said. "He knows the books by memory."

Photo
Endre Granat, Villem Sokol (one of the few surviving Ševcík students who was interviewed for this project) and Stephen Shipps

The two professors plan to publish a series of 12 volumes. Each edition will include a solo violin part, piano accompaniment and the Analytical Studies that Ševcík wrote for the particular piece. Shipps and Granat have completed two editions so far: Wieniawski's "Scherzo-Tarantelle" (edited by Shipps and Danae Witter) and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (edited by Granat).

The exercises go measure-by-measure, with exhaustive exercises that teach a student to execute every trick in each piece. "It's an entire 24-page etude book about a four-and-a-half-minute piece," Stephen said, holding the new edition of "Scherzo-Tarantelle" by Wieniawski that contains the exercises. "only Ševcík could have thought of something like that."

"They are mindless," Shipps said. "If you do the series of exercises on the first page of the exercise book (for Scherzo-Tarantelle), you will be able to play the first two lines of Scherzo-Tarantelle, in tempo. You just have to do them correctly and slowly enough, in terms of the intonation level. Ševcík goes through every possible variation of how to practice this passage: backwards, forwards, upside-down, repeated, repeated in legato, repeated in separate, repeated with accents, repeated in rhythms – it's ingenious. This is a whole page on two measures. Difficult measures, because depending on your fingering, it involves an extension."

"Trust me, I did it, and it worked," Shipps said. It also works for his students. "The ones who do these exercises end up being able to play the piece." If there's a problem with a passage, it's easy to find the exercises for that passage in the book, assign the student to work on them for a week, and the problem is solved, he said.

Now that the "Scherzo-Tarantelle" and Mendelssohn Concerto have been completed, Shipps and Granat will continue to delve into the long list of repertoire books by Ševcík. Next, Granat will edit the Wieniawski D Minor Violin Concerto and Shipps will edit the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto; and those editions are scheduled for publication in the spring. After that, the two will create a book called the "Essential Ševcík."

"This will attack the weakness of Ševcík," Shipps said. "The weakness, according to us, is that he is long-winded. Ševcík doesn't just give you an exercise, he gives you an exercise and writes it out in every key, in every rhythm. He doesn't do it once and then say, okay here's the little pattern and we hope you are intelligent enough to copy this pattern and not have to buy 50 books. Our idea for the 'Essential Ševcík' is to take all of the important Op. 1-9 exercises and put them in one book, to distill it so that you can have one book of Ševcík exercises, and that's all you need to have."

Shipps pointed out that in the old days, most method and exercises books for violin students came with a second violin part for the teacher to play.

"That was old-fashioned teaching," Shipps said. "If we look back at the Spohr Violin School, 1832, all the exercises have a second violin part. The teacher played along. If you look at Leopold Auer, the Violin School, eight volumes, all the exercises have a second violin part. For example, the Book 1 for Leopold Auer, it's an open-string book for the bow. The teacher gives 'interest' to the open strings. Kreutzer etudes often had a second fiddle published. "

"That was very much a part of the Gingold experience, studying with him," Shipps said. "He knew every orchestra part of every concerto by memory and would improvise in your lessons the entire tutti part of every concerto. Often you couldn't play because it was so beautiful. And that was just part of the game. He never looked at a piece of music, everything was memorized."

"Galamian couldn't do that, DeLay couldn't do that, it was Gingold," Shipps said. "And he got it from Ysaÿe; Ysaÿe did it in (Gingold's) lessons.

"If you were in quartet lessons with Gingold, he would single out your part somehow improvise the other three parts," Shipps said. "That was how well he knew the repertoire. That kind of training doesn't happen any more; we have technology that will do a lot of those things. In those days, if you wanted to hear a Beethoven symphony, you played it at home, four hands on the piano. There were no recordings when he was a child. When Gingold was a child, there was a four-minute 78 side of Elman playing Humoresque; that was it. It was a different time."

Though second-violin parts existed for the Ševcík exercises, "in today's world, we made a publishing decision, an economic decision, that the second-violin part wasn't so important," Shipp said. Their new books include the Ševcík exercises, a piano part, and a new edition of each piece. "Endre and I have each have created new editions based on manuscript, with today's standards," Shipps said. "We have urtext editions of both Mendelssohn and Wieniawski. We tracked down manuscripts whenever they existed so we could give the correct markings, with notes fixed."

"In 1920, if you didn't like something in the music you just changed it, and that is what Ševcík did," Shipps said. "That was a different time. We can't do that any more, we have to play what is written and we have to go back as much as possible and do the bowings, articulations – everything that is original."

In the case of the Wieniawski D Minor Concerto and Tchaikovsky Concerto, "In neither piece does a manuscript exist in the hand of the composer," Shipps said. "The orchestra score is in the hand of Tchaikovsky, but the fiddle part is not. The fiddle part is in the hand of his friend, Iosif Kotek. It's published as a first edition but the actual handwriting is not by Tchaikovsky. So we were debating whether we would be allowed to call it urtext. It will be the original edition that was published, it will come from the original handwritten manuscript that exists, but there isn't an existing fiddle part in Tchaikovsky's -- or Wieniawski's -- handwriting. The first edition was published during their lifetimes, so they approved the first editions. It will be as close as you can get."

"There hasn't been a modern edition of Scherzo-Tarantelle since the early 1960s, since Francescatti," Shipps said. "There are also very expensive editions still out, still selling well, like the Peters Edition from 1890. The Schirmer edition is from the late 1890s. Ours is a truly modern edition, but we go back in history."

"There have been more modern editions of the Mendelssohn, there's a Henle," Shipps said. "There are actually two manuscripts. Isabelle Von Keulen recorded the original edition, it's very different. Ours is the second edition; few people play the first edition, it is more of a curiosity, like the first edition of the Sibelius Concerto, that Kavakos recorded. It's longer, it's a very different piece."

"In the Brahms concerto, you can see in the manuscript where Joachim made all his changes – because they're in a different color. The red pen is Joachim's, and the black marker is Brahms," Shipps said. "It's very interesting to see what's what. But what is published is Brahms. Brahms approved everything, so it's Brahms."

"It's very interesting to see what we actually play," Shipps said. "We don't play original manuscript Brahms, we play manuscript Brahms/Joachim. We don't play manuscript Mendelssohn, we play Mendelssohn/Ferdinand David; And Tchaikovsky, we play Tchaikovsky/Kotek, it's not actually all Tchaikovsky. And Auer. We're publishing both, original and Auer. Heifetz played all Auer. Elman played all Auer."

19 replies

Concerto for Cello, Orchestra and Solo Cell Phone

January 25, 2011 11:43

What sublime beauty is the sound of a cello, particularly in the hands of someone as gifted as the young Narek Hakhnazaryan, particularly in a piece as well-conceived as the Dvorak Cello Concerto, particularly with the support so many gifted principals as are in the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra, where I was playing in the second fiddles on Saturday night.

Thus were my thoughts during an especially quiet, cadenza-like section of the second movement, when the blaring tones of a cell phone startled me from my reverie. As with so many things technological, the ringtone persisted with no regard for its environment until its owner located and silenced it.

Am I calling for the summary execution of the offender? No, though certain scenarios did flash through my mind.

I'm sure the owner of the cell phone was mortified. Most people who own cell phones have experienced at least one terrifyingly embarrassing moment of out-of-control, inappropriate ringing that interrupted something important. I understand.

No, what struck me was the glaring contrast between the beauty of sound we had been experiencing and the profane noise that poured out of the phone. That profane noise? It's the background music of our lives.

Our lives are accompanied by sound of our cell phones, the music from tiny computer speakers, the unchosen tunes in groceries and lobbies and clothing stores, music delivered through earbuds, computer chip music embedded in toys, the list goes on.

It's clear that we need music, why else would we fill our lives with it? But this kind of music also reminds me of faux food that dominates the American market: stripped to its essentials and packaged for convenience, it loses its quality, its nutritional value, its aesthetic, its ability to nurture us.

By contrast, a symphony orchestra concert is a sanctuary of music, performed in a building created for the purpose of silence and sound, with musicians playing with great care on fine instruments. The pieces are carefully composed, carefully chosen. A conductor directs the energy of the music. It's a place where you can leave the noise of the modern world at the door, let go of everything else for a few hours and experience the kind of live music that resonates with your very being.

We need it more than ever.

17 replies

Suzuki Violin and American Fiddling Unite at Pasadena Fiddle Fest

January 18, 2011 13:10

It seemed like a crazy idea back in the fall, when I asked Pamela Wiley to bring her group of violin students from Charleston, South Carolina, all the way across the country to our Suzuki group's first-ever Fiddle Fest in Pasadena, California, in January.

Pam has been working closely with fiddling legend, Mark O'Connor, giving teaching workshops on how to teach his new American Violin Method. We already had North Carolina fiddler Pattie Hopkins coming, wouldn't it be perfect if Pam and her students could help us all get going on Mark's new method?

Pam said yes, and we at Suzuki Talent Education of Pasadena did a little jig and got to work. We taught our students a number of Mark O'Connor fiddle tunes in addition to their Suzuki repertoire, and we also invited students and teachers from all over the region to join us for "Suzuki Fiddle Fest 2011."

Pam, her husband John and a dozen of their students (the Hungry Monk Fiddlers) boarded a plane last Thursday (braving snow, airport closures, etc.) and arrived in Pasadena, where the weather was 70 degrees and sunny.

On Saturday, we had one very fun Fiddle Fest! About 150 students representing more than 30 teachers participated. Students of all ages (yes, three-year-olds through adults) and levels (from "Pre-Twinkle" all the way through the Suzuki books) took fiddle and Suzuki classes, ate giant pizzas, did skills-test games, square-danced and finally took the stage together and played in one very large group concert.

 

Alden

We kicked off the day by listening to Pam's group, who showed us right away that kids can improvise. They'd play a tune, then launch right into a jam session. One person would improvise while the others kept the chord progression going by chopping.

 

Hungry Monk Fiddlers

I taught a Book 4-5 Suzuki repertoire class in the morning, then spent the rest of the day going from class to class and making sure everything was running smoothly. They mostly did, though we had to evacuate the auditorium when the sound board started smoking! (Must have been our red-hot fiddlin'!) All was well, though, it was a gorgeous day to hold class outside:

 

Kids at Fiddle Fest

I stopped in to watch fiddler Pattie Hopkins, who was having kids "duel." She picked a group of four students, and one would play harmony, one would "chop" and the other two would try to out-do each other improvising. Of course they were a little shy at first, but they got into the spirit!

Pamela explained in one class that "improvising isn't just making things up." Instead, one changes some things and leaves other things the same. You might change the rhythm, but leave the melody basically the same. Or change the melody and use the same rhythm. Or, maybe a bit more complicated: the melody changes but the chordal structure stays the same.

 

Girl in hat

Students did not find it difficult to improvise, given parameters in which to do so. For example: play a repeated pattern differently, substitute a scale for an arpeggio, change an ending. But it isn't just free-form, dropping into the abyss. It's reassuring to know that!

Pamela sat under a tree and taught a group of upper-book students how to play the "Sugarfoot Rag." They learned the same way old-time fiddlers always have: bit by bit, completely by ear. The students were playing the tune before anyone realized they'd learned it without any music in front of them.

After lunch, Pattie Hopkins gave a concert with pianist Ben Salisbury and guitarist Hazel Ketchum. Students and teachers alike enjoyed hearing the talents of a professional fiddler who has a lot of fun tools in her arsenal for improv!

 

Pattie Hopkins
Patti Hopkins

After lunch, square dance caller Dale Hoppers led kids, parents and teachers in the chicken dance, Hokey-Pokey and much more.

 

Square dancing at Fiddle Fest

We also held an "Olympics," at which students of varying levels visited stations and had to perform certain techniques, like transposing "Perpetual Motion" into different positions, or naming all the first-finger notes in first position, or for beginners, balancing a little ball on the violin so that it lays flat. Once students performed five tasks correctly, they each received a "medal." I happened to be at the "Pre-Twinkle" Olympics when everyone finished. Then teacher Nonie Reesor led them in some fun stuff, here's a little sample (you can see me way over on the right):

 

We all took the stage together at the end of the day for a massive "play-in," as we call such concerts in Suzuki circles. We played both Suzuki and Mark O'Connor's American music -- a nice combination!

Pam will be offering teacher training in Charleston, S.C. at the beginning of August at Mark O'Connor's first-ever camp for kids, called the O'Connor Method Camp.

Pam Wiley

Here are some related links about Fiddle Fest:

Story in the Pasadena Star News

Photo gallery in the Pasadena Star-News

Pictures taken by Brian Niles

Pictures taken by David Scheidemantle

 

6 replies

In Memory of John D. Kendall, 1917-2011

January 13, 2011 22:06

It's hard to imagine what our collective attitude about the violin would be had it not been for the life and work of violin pedagogue John D. Kendall, who died Jan. 6 in Ann Arbor, Mich., at the age of 93.

John Kendall John Kendall brought the Suzuki Method to America, in every sense. He took the revolutionary ideas of Shinichi Suzuki – that all children are born with talent, that a nurturing environment fosters excellence, that every child can – and translated them not just into English, but into the American culture.

Kendall first visited Shinichi Suzuki in Japan in 1959 – the first American to do so. While at a conference at Oberlin, he had viewed a film of 750 Suzuki students – tiny children – playing the Bach Double. His own experience with beginners made him skeptical that these children really could be playing at this level. He sought a grant so that he could go to Japan see the phenomenon for himself, first-hand.

Of course, when he did, he saw that Suzuki was the real deal.

He went on to organize the first concert tour by Shinichi Suzuki and his students in 1964, a tour that opened eyes across the U.S. and changed history. Kendall published English-language versions of the first two Suzuki Books, with pieces, teaching points, pictures and recordings. At the time the books were called "Listen and Play." (These have since been replaced by the Summy-Birchard Suzuki Violin School books).

Certainly, other teachers and colleagues also brought Suzuki's ideas to life in the West. But Kendall's willingness to travel, his communication skills and his ability to simplify methodology helped Suzuki's ideas land the rather large jump between two very different cultures.

Kendall, with Suzuki

"If he did not have the soul of a gypsy – flyer miles included – or the persistence of a Jewish grandmother...gasp...someone else would have gone to see Sensei, maybe not even an American," said California violin teacher Cynthia Faisst, who also studied with Suzuki ("Sensei," or "Teacher"). "The world would not have been the same!"

Indeed, Kendall's autobiography, Recollections of a Peripatetic Pedagogue, is aptly named, with the front and back inside covers mapping his extensive U.S. and world travels.

"He's really responsible for bringing the Suzuki method to the United States," said Jim Maurer, speaking over the phone on Thursday, along with his wife, Jackie. Jim is a retired Professor of Violin at the University of Denver, who met John when he came to teach the first Denver Suzuki Institute in 1977.

"I sat there and wrote notes for five straight days," Jackie Maurer said of that first institute in Denver.

"That was our introduction to the Suzuki method," Jim said, then laughed, "We thank, or blame, John Kendall for turning us into Suzuki teachers!"

Jim and Jackie Maurer also traveled to Japan to learn from Suzuki, but they found that the connection between what the Japanese teachers were doing and the amazing results they achieved with their students was not always clear. The cultural setting was very different.

"John had a really good way of translating this sort of mystical Eastern way of teaching into an easily palatable, American, meat-and-potatoes way of teaching," said Jim Maurer. "He used lots of humor, and he loved words. He was a great communicator."

Kendall's son, Stephen Kendall, Professor of Architecture at Ball State University, agrees. "He was gregarious – he gave so much of his passion and interest to music and his students," Stephen said Thursday, speaking over the phone from Indiana. "Once he discovered the Suzuki idea, it really clicked with some of his ideas as a methodologist. His real skill as a teacher lay in his ability to help other teachers know how to teach. That is what drew so many gifted teachers to him. He was able to connect artistry and method."

Kendall had earned his undergraduate degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1939 and his master's degree from Columbia Teachers College. He taught violin at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, and at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio.

In 1963, Kendall was invited to direct the string development program at the then-new Edwardsville campus of Southern Illinois University, a position he held until his retirement in 1994. He continued to teach after that – Between his travels and his longtime work at SIU-E, his ideas reached many teachers. (On the Suzuki Association of the Americas website teachers have been posting their remembrances.)

Charleston, South Carolina violin teacher Pamela Wiley remembers John Kendall coming to American University to teach a workshop in 1969 with teacher Neva Greenwood and her students there.

"I just couldn't believe what I was seeing and experiencing," said Pamela. "The kids were having so much fun – and learning so much! I saw then that motivation is really the key to learning, and John was a master motivator. I am forever grateful to Neva's quiet elegance in showing me that I could be a Suzuki teacher and John's purposeful energy in showing me that I wanted to be one."

Kendall, with child

"His positive energy will always be a huge part of my life and teaching," said Suzuki violin teacher trainer Liz Arbus of Pasadena, Calif., who went to school at SIU-E. While at school there, she wrote a play called "Suzuki White and the Twinkle Dwarfs," and Kendall readily agreed to play the Prince. "When he came galloping into the scene while playing Hunter's Chorus, the crowd roared with applause," Liz said. "The fun he put into everything he did was contagious. His positive energy helped me understand that enjoyable learning sticks with us like super glue."

It was more than positive energy, though, that made Kendall an effective teacher. Students and teachers alike remember his unique ability to break a problem down into easily solvable steps.

"He had a way of taking something very hard, simplifying it into its most basic components, and showing you exactly how to get your hands and fingers – and mind – to do what you wanted of them," said Siroth Charnond, who took private lessons from Kendall for 10 years, from age eight to age 18. "It sounds like a very basic approach, but it is very useful in learning almost anything new, not just playing the violin. He also taught me that once you learn and master seemingly simple techniques and have them in your 'tool kit,' you can do amazingly complex things with them."

Kendall seems to have invented an entire vocabulary for violin pedagogy, which New Mexico Suzuki teacher Susan Kempter quotes in her review of his autobiography: "unit practice," "Altitude is power" (on using motion in the bow arm), "We use the pieces to build our technique," "Create a no-fail environment," "Old finger to the new position," and "Hands lead up, elbow leads down."

"My grandfather has always been an inspiration to me as a sheer communicator," said violinist Nick Kendall, grandson of John Kendall's who went to Curtis and currently plays in the band Time for Three. "He was always making jokes, always referring to very creative metaphors that would give children a complete perspective. And he was super-organized when it came to working on technique." Students also talk of the balance that Kendall brought to their violin studies.

"He was always concerned about life being first and music being second for his students," Nick Kendall said. "His interests went beyond music. He and my grandmother, Kay, were very concerned about the earth."

Former student David Waldman, now a violinist in the Colorado Symphony, remembers being one of many children in Mr. Kendall's house one day when a spider crawled across the floor. "As one of us went to smash it, he rushed in, gently picked it up, and set it down outside," David said. "Until then, it would never have occurred to me to do anything other than just smush the little thing. His care with that little spider made a big impression on me."

Born in 1917, John Kendall was a native of Kearney, Neb., and grew up on a farm during the Dust Bowl and Depression days. He was brought up in the Quaker faith, and during World War II, he was a conscientious objector who served in the Civilian Public Service.

He remained dedicated to nature and to public service, and in 1990, he and his wife helped establish a nature preserve in Edwardsville, Ill., called the Watershed Nature Preserve. It includes a welcome center and more than 40 acres of wetlands, prairies and forest.

Nick has strong memories of his grandparents' garden, pond, chicken coup and woods. He remembers making forts and riding the John Deere tractor. "It was such an amazing, wholesome experience," Nick said. "I was allowed to become a whole person."

Siroth also remembers John Kendall's property, "Toadwood Scrubs," which he would visit on weekends during the summer to help skim the pond, cut weeds, harvest hay, gather eggs, tend the bees, clear the nature trail and shovel muck from the sewage treatment plant.

"We spent more time begging him to drive his tractor than actually shoveling muck," Siroth said. "Looking back with adult eyes, I'm now convinced that this was all part of his grand, nefarious scheme to get us to grow up to be whole people."

Here also is an obituary from the St. Louis Beacon.

5 replies

Falling Down

January 10, 2011 13:49

"If you're not falling down, you're not learning," said my friend Linda, an expert skier, as we rode the ski lift up the mountain. She was quoting an instructor who had taught her well.

I spent part of last week up at Mammoth Mountain in northern California, hitting the slopes with my children and with good friends. I'm not an expert skier, though I'm reasonably competent. But I'm also not too fond of falling down! I tended toward the slopes with names like "Sleepy Hollow" -- not so much the ones with names like "Death-Trap Gulch."

 

Skiing

But I did understand what she meant. I had been using the excuse of hanging out with my kids, who have been skiing just twice, to avoid trying anything that was very difficult for me. The thing is, my kids keep improving! Finally, on my last day, I mustered the nerve to try a few little treks through the trees and to ride through the bumpy-steep "Alligator Pit."

Now that was fun! The adrenaline kicked in, and I had to use all my powers of concentration before that "Alligator Pit" spit me out, way too fast, back on the beaten trail. Again! I went back and did it three times, it was so fun.

This is not to say that I did not need to put in plenty of time on the beaten trail, I've still not reached my 10,000 hours there, not even close! But the side-trip into more difficult territory gave me a thrill and motivated me.

The same is true for the violin. Have you been playing tunes called "Meditation," and avoiding "Devil's Double-Stop Trill Ride"?

Of course, it's important to clock the hours, playing familiar pieces and scales well. It's important to play slow tunes and achieve beautiful tone. But you also have to challenge yourself and push your technique. Are you getting too comfortable? Have you tried it faster? Could you play it in a higher position? Could you try a new technique? Have you tried playing that thrill piece that impressed you, that made you want to play in the first place?

Take a risk, do it!

5 replies

Hilary Hahn commissions 27 new encore pieces

January 7, 2011 10:09

What do most violinists play as encores? Very often we hear "oldies but goodies" or if there is a more modern piece, it's often in the category of "crossover." But I certainly haven't heard too many pieces that would be considered "contemporary classical" pieces played as encores.

Hilary Hahn. Photo courtesy artist Hilary Hahn endeavors to change this by commissioning 27 composers to write short-form pieces for acoustic violin and piano, which she will tour over next two years then record. The project is called "In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores."

"My initial goal was to expand the encore genre to embrace works of different styles," she said of her project. "Because I was planning to play the commissioned pieces myself, it was important that the composers’ writing spoke to me in some way. I listened to a lot of contemporary classical music, for hours on end, often late into the night. I loved hearing things I had never heard before. I made nerve-wracking 'cold calls' to composers to ask them to participate in my project. I wasn’t sure what the reactions would be, but to my surprise, so many people were receptive that the project gained exhilarating momentum.

"It has been thrilling and an honor to get to know these composers as artists and to work with such different personalities and styles. Going into this project, I had no idea how much I would learn from it. Each composer brings his or her own musical language to the table. As a performer, the process of exploring these pieces is both challenging and exciting. The structure may be concise, but each work contains a wealth of expression.

"When composers put ideas down on paper, the aural world takes on a greater dimension. My hope is that these particular contributions will showcase the range of music being written today, while bringing enjoyment to listeners and performers alike."

The commissioned composers include:

  • Franghiz Ali-Zadeh
  • Lera Auerbach
  • Richard Barrett
  • Mason Bates
  • Tina Davidson
  • David Del Tredici
  • Avner Dorman
  • Søren Nils Eichberg
  • Christos Hatzis
  • Jennifer Higdon
  • James Newton Howard
  • Bun-Ching Lam
  • David Lang
  • Edgar Meyer
  • Paul Moravec
  • Nico Muhly
  • Michiru Oshima
  • Krysztof Penderecki
  • Einojuhani Rautavaara
  • Max Richter
  • Somei Satoh
  • Elliott Sharp
  • Valentin Silvestrov
  • Mark-Anthony Turnage
  • Gillian Whitehead
  • Du Yun

A press release says that "A final, 27th composer will be decided in a non-traditional fashion later this year."

Interesting!

19 replies

More entries: February 2011December 2010


The Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 1

The Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 1

Hear more from the world's top violinists in The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1, which includes our exclusive conversations with Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, and David Garrett, and others, as well as a foreword by Hilary Hahn.

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