You might remember that we started this list in September, in response to Conductor Bramwell Tovey, at a performance of the 1812 Overture at the Hollywood Bowl. He told the audience that, if this was their first time seeing the 1812 live and outdoors, "then count it off your 100 Things to Do in Classical Music Before You Die." And also, "How are you doing on the rest of the list"?
My question was: WHERE is the rest of the list? Thus I asked you to help me come up with it, and V.com readers responded with wonderful creativity and imagination -- as always! I've taken the best responses, added some links and spiffed things up, and now we have our list! If you feel it is not yet complete (how could it ever be complete, after all?) please feel free to go beyond 100 and make more suggestions!
If you see anything on this list you'd like to do (or do again), then 2013 might be the year!
100 Things To Do in Classical Music Before You Die
1. See a live, outdoor performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
2. Go to (or play in) a Handel's Messiah sing-along (whether you sing or not!)
3. See a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York.
4. Watch at least a few of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts.
5. Attend a master class and watch a great music teacher work with a great music student.
7. Go to a concert at the Aspen Music Festival in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
8. Buy season tickets to your local symphony orchestra's concerts.
9. Go to Salzburg, Austria and celebrate Mozart's life and birth in some kind of very touristy manner.
10. See a big performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, complete with choir and vocal soloists.
11. See Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet, with live orchestra -- and take a child with you!
12. See a Stradivarius or Guarneri del Gesu violin in person, or better yet, play one!
16. Watch film of the great cellist Jacqueline duPre (1945-1987).
17. Go to an organ recital in an old cathedral with a good organ.
18. Hear an English cathedral choir live.
19. Hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir live.
20. Hear a song cycle, such as Franz Schubert's Winterreise, sung live.
21. Go to a performance of a late Beethoven quartet.
22. See a concert at Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
23. Hear Gregorian chant performed by monks.
24. Take a music lesson from a virtuoso or a member of a major orchestra.
25. Attend the Queen Elisabeth Competition finals in Brussels (or watch online if you can't go).
26. Keep track of a major music competition one year, listening to the players and thinking about whom you'd like to win. Suggestions: the Queen Elisabeth (linked above), the Indianapolis Competition, the Menuhin Competition, the Wieniawski Competition, the Montreal Competition, Paganini Competition, Sphinx Competition -- there are many, and most are streamed online these days!
27. Attend an intimate concert in an unusual space. Socialize with the musicians after.
28. Listen to a recording of Arturo Toscanini conducting a Beethoven symphony.
29. Experience Wanda Landowska's legendary expressive capabilities on harpsichord
30. Attend the Boston Early Music Festival.
31. "Adopt" a student musician--find a person, child or adult, who will regularly play for you and let you cheer them on as they progress.
32. Listen to 100 Symphonies in 100 Days.
33. Go to a performance of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," and ponder the fact that this piece caused riots when it was premiered in Paris on May 29, 1913.
34. Actually listen to all four movements of Beethoven's Fifth, not just the first!
35. Hear the Vienna Mozart Orchestra at the Musikverein Golden Hall in Vienna.
36. While you're in Vienna, hear the Wiener Philharmoniker -- the Vienna Philharmonic -- perform live, too.
37. Go to the Haydnhaus in Gumpendorf, Vienna - the house where Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) spent the last twelve years of his life.
38. Visit the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna, where so many famous composers and musicians are buried.
39. Go to, or participate in, a great live performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
40. Hear a live performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
41. Hear Itzhak Perlman play live.
42. See a Broadway musical.
43. Watch the 1939 Samuel Goldwyn movie, They Shall Have Music, which features the 20th-century violin legend Jascha Heifetz.
44. See the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma live in performance.
45. See a recital with violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk.
47. Busk in downtown New York City (or major city of your choice).
48. Conduct an orchestra.
49. Play a Stradivarius or Guarnerius with a Tourte bow.
50. Go to the BBC Proms festival.
51. Attend a performance of a piece you love and treat yourself to front-row tickets.
52. Find a piece written in the 21st century that you like.
53. Participate somehow in commissioning a new piece of music. (Kickstarter?)
54. Attend an opera at Arena di Verona, an Roman amphitheater in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy.
55. Bring someone who hasn't ever heard live classical music to a performance. Maybe it will stick, and that's one more fan!
57. See the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela live.
58. See John Williams conduct a live concert of his movie music.
59. Listen to an a capella performance of Renaissance music (e.g. Ockeghem, Orlando di Lassus, Josquin des Prez, Byrd etc.) in an old cathedral in Europe, such as the Reims Cathedral in France.
61. Attend Mass at Notre Dame de Paris, and listen.
62. Go to the Bayreuth Festival in Germany.
63. Go to an opera at La Scala in Milan, Italy.
64. Go to most any restaurant in Hungary. Listen to the Gypsy bands. Think how they influenced Liszt, Brahms, Bartok, Dohnanyi....
66. Listen to a great live performance, or participate in, the greatest pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: the Requiem, "Don Juan", "Figaro" or "The Magic Flute" -- in Salzburg would be fantastic.
67. Listen to a great live performance, or participate in, Beethoven's Symphony 3, 7 and 9, and his 5th Piano Concerto.
68. Perform Brahms chamber music (piano trios and quartets; string quartets, septets, etc.)
69. Attend a great performance of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with the Mendelssohn score.
70. See Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" ballet, with live music played by an orchestra.
71. See a performance of Stravinsky's "Sacre du Printemps" or "L'oiseau de Feu".
72. Play or see a live performance of Schoenberg's "Verklaerte Nacht".
73. Play or see a live performance of Shostakovich 8th String Quartet, or the orchestra version.
74. Perform in a grade school for the kids.
75. Perform at a retirement home for the elderly.
76. Watch a performance of Aida in the open air market in Verona or any place else in Italy.
77. Witness the making of an instrument first-hand.
78. Watch the entire process of your bow being re-haired.
79. Attend a pre-concert lecture to learn more about the history and background of pieces featured at a concert.
80. Make an instrument.
81. Invent an instrument.
82. Buy an instrument.
83. Sell an instrument.
84. Attend a performance at Verbier Music Festival.
85. Play an instrument from each instrument family.
86. Hear a non-Western instrument in concert.
87. Play a non-Western instrument, such as a sitar.
88. Attend a period-performance baroque concert, by a group such as Tafelmusik.
89. Sing in a choir.
90. Tell a viola joke.
91. Make a recording of your own playing.
92. Write a piece of music by hand that includes bass+alto+treble clefs.
93. Get an autograph from a famous musician.
94. Take a picture with a famous musician.
95. Perform for your church.
96. Donate money to or find some way to support your local classical music radio station.
97. Read Song of the Lark by Willa Cather.
98. Discover The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (in a music library, or Grove Music Online) and look up at least five things of interest to you in there.
99. Go to a Music Library -- that is, a library dedicated to nothing but music, with scores, recordings, books about musicians and music, etc. (You can find them at many universities -- and there are a few public ones as well, like the Brand Library in LA). You can find treasures that you will not discover on the Internet!
Where did I find the Christmas spirit this year?
At Bill and Judy Sloan's living-room Messiah, on Boxing Day!
I first wrote about their Messiah party two years ago, when I attended it for the first time. The couple has been hosting the private event since 1998 at their home, which once belonged to the late Alexander Borisoff, principal cellist of the LA Philharmonic, and where famous musicians such as cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, and violinists Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein played, according to the LA Times.
Bill Sloan is a urologist as well as an amateur violinist and violin maker. Judy is a Southwestern Law School professor, pianist and mezzo-soprano. Together, they do all kinds of good for music in Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, singers and instrumentalists, professional and amateur, flocked from all over to their home on a hill in Los Feliz, Calif., for an evening of Handel happiness, lox and bagels, music instrument appreciation (there was at least on Guad, a Strad, Guarneri and Gagliano represented…) and for the truly hearty, more chamber music into the night. Frank Fetta conducted, and in the violin section, we had a special guest, Chicago Symphony assistant concertmaster David Taylor. The youngest violinist was nine (it was his first Messiah), and the oldest was 89 (NOT his first Messiah!)
No matter our differences in age, religion, ethnicity, experience, geography, language -- we can all make music together. We all DID make music together. Hallelujah!
Our host, Bill Sloan, is on the far left, standing, with conductor, Frank Fetta on the far right. Far on the left, seated, is the orchestra's youngest player!
Occasionally people will ask me and my husband, Robert, to share our wisdom about creating a website and managing an online community, as we've been running Violinist.com since what feels like the dawn of the Internet. Well, Robert has written a book on this very topic, called "How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online."
Violinist.com just celebrated its 16th birthday -- it officially was born on Christmas 1996, when Robert gave me the domain name as a gift, and I looked at him, completely puzzled, and said, "What do I do with this?"
We continue to come up with the answer! Robert and I actually met in graduate journalism school at Indiana University, and while I've spent a lot of time teaching and fiddling, Robert has had quite a journey in online publishing. His first "online" gig was as the first full-time manager of the Rocky Mountain News' website in Colorado, then as a producer for the Los Angeles Times' website, then teaching online journalism at the University of Southern California. He gathered a lot of wisdom along the way; his book is a summation of that knowledge. It also contains, in the back, an easy-to-understand tutorial on using statistics in writing.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you like it, please tell your friends about it and submit a review to Amazon. Happy new year!
As with many people in the U.S., I've been thinking over the tragic events that occurred in Connecticut last Friday, and the culture that fed into that event. Shinichi Suzuki, having lived through the violent first part of the 20th century, was driven by the idea of putting violins into children's hands instead of guns, to help them create beauty in their lives and hearts. I think it's a worthy goal. And so I came up with a list of things we can teach our children to help them find useful activity and seek beauty and wonder in the world.
Playing the violin
Feel free to add to this list.
We've compiled a glossary of terms used when talking about the violin, to help everyone understand our common vocabulary. We've given short definitions so readers may get a quick answer, then in many cases, we've linked to more information. Here and there you'll find a few definitions that simply illustrate the quirks and history of the Violinist.com community. If you would like to add a term to this glossary, you are welcome to e-mail editor Laurie Niles with the term and your suggested definition.
Arpeggio: sounding the notes of a chord in succession, rather than simultaneously.
Artificial harmonics: harmonics created by holding down one finger (thus "shortening" the string) and then putting another finger down lightly. On the violin, one usually holds down the first finger and touches the fourth lightly to the string. "Czardas" by Monti has a section with all artificial harmonics, as does the "Pe loc" movement from Bartok's Rumanian Folk Dances.
Avec le bois: French: "With the wood." See "col legno."
Bariolage: the quick alternation between a static note and changing notes, which form a melody either above or below the static note. This technique usually involves repeated string crossings and is common in Baroque violin music. A good example is in the Preludio from Bach's Partita No. 3.
Bow: a flexible wooden (or carbon fiber) stick with horse hair stretched from the bent tip, or point, to a moveable frog, or nut. The hair is drawn over the strings to set them vibrating. A Baroque bow has more convex curve to the stick; the modern bow, developed in the late 18th c. by Francois Tourte, has a more concave curve and more tension applied to the hair. (Here is an article on the parts of the bow.)
Bow holds: see Franco-Belgian, Russian and Galamian.
Brazilwood: later-growth Pernambuco wood used to make bows. Here is an article about Brazilwood vs. pernambuco
Bridge: the ornate, raised wood that holds up the strings in the middle of the fiddle. It is not glued down; it stays in place only because of the pressure of the strings.
Buri: Stephen Brivati
Cadenza: Look carefully and you can find the word "cadence" in this term. A "cadence" is the conclusion of a phrase, and a "cadenza" is simply a very fancy one. Usually occurring toward the end of a concerto movement, it is a place where the orchestra drops out and the soloist plays a virtuosic cadence, which can be written by someone else or improvised by the soloist. Rachel Barton Pine has spoken extensively about how to write your own cadenzas.
Chin rest: a wooden device attached to the bottom-front of the violin that separates the chin from direct contact with the violin surface. There are many different kinds. See also: Shoulder rest
Coffee: common elixir among fiddle players
Collé: "pinched" bowing at the frog done with fingers only; often assigned by teachers to help students cultivate finger flexibility while still balancing the weight of the bow. (Here is a discussion about it.)
Col legno: striking the strings with the wood of the bow instead of the hair. To avoid messing up their expensive bows, sometimes professional musicians use a spare bow or even a pencil when music calls for col legno.
Conductor: evolved from the concertmaster position -- Ideally, he or she works to resolve issues of pitch, balance, articulation, pulse, etc. with orchestral musicians during rehearsals and keeps a steady and clear beat during performances.
Con sordini: played with mute. (See "mute")
Concertmaster: the first-chair first violinist of an orchestra, often charged with leading the section, deciding all bowings, translating the wishes of the conductor to the orchestra and vice-versa, listening to auditions, and serving as a representative of the orchestra to its larger community.
Concerto: a composition for solo instrument(s), with orchestral accompaniment. Typically, it's in a three-movement sonata form, with cadenzas in the first and last movements, though a number of violin concertos, especially more modern ones, use different ideas to organize movements. Before 1650, the term referred only to a work for voices with organ or continuo. In a nutshell, it's a vehicle for a soloist, or group of soloists, to show off!
Concerto grosso: a kind of concerto in which a small group of instruments alternates with a larger group. Corelli wrote many of these, most famously his Christmas Concerto.
Daempfer: German word for mute.
Demisemiquaver: the European word for a 32nd note. If you say it loud enough you'll always sound precocious.
Détaché: detached, with separate bow strokes, but not staccato (or short)
Double stops: playing on two strings at the same time. (FYI: "Stopping" is simply putting your finger down on the string, to produce a note other than an open string. So technically, it refers to using your fingers on both of those strings.) And yes, there are "Triple stops," playing on three strings at once, and even "Quadruple stops," playing on four strings at once.
Drone: a single tone that is sustained for a period of time while a melody is being played. (A teacher might play a "drone" on the tonic while a student is playing a scale, to help keep the student on-pitch) Bagpipes have a built-in drone.
F-hole: This sounds bad, but it's not. It describes one of the openings in the face of the violin, on either side of the strings, that is shaped like a cursive "F" but really looks more like an "S."
Fiddle: same exact thing as a violin. That doesn't mean we can't argue about it on Violinist.com.
Fingered octaves: alternating using fingers 1-3 and 2-4 in a passage of double-stop octaves, rather than playing them all with fingers 1-4, or all with fingers 1-3. (Here's a discussion on practicing fingered octaves.)
Flautando: a "sul tasto" (over-the-fingerboard) bow stroke that creates a flute-like sound.
Franco-Belgian bow hold: holding the bow with rounded and flexible fingers, including a rounded pinkie which takes some of the weight of the bow. Here's a nice V.com flame war we had back in 2011 on the subject of 'bow holds'! (See Russian bow hold and Galamian bow hold)
Frog: a removable device at the lower end of the bow stick that secures the hair and permits the regulation of its tension. Also called the "nut" or the "heel."
Haiku: a Japanese form of poetry, and a great way to write about the violin.
Hair: on the violin bow, the hair comes from a horse's tail and is rubbed with rosin to make it sticky.
Galamian bow hold: a modified Franco-Belgian bow hold in which the wrist is flatter and fingers slightly closer together.
Glissando: to glide or slide the fingers along the string, usually to create a special effect. The late Ruggiero Ricci wrote a book called Ricci on Glissando about a kind of violin technique that makes more frequent use of the glissando for shifting.
Heel: the frog of the bow
Hooked bowing: hooking two notes into one bow, usually with a stop between.
Intervals: the distance between two notes. Here are some examples of ways to teach, identify and remember different intervals.
Intonation: the degree to which something is "in tune," or to which something is the correct pitch. (Pythagorian, Just and Equal Temperament)
Jeté: French for "thrown," a bouncing bow stroke that involves two to six ricochets in a row.
Just temperament (or "pure intonation): a tuning system that produces harmonic intervals tuned to eliminate all beats. (Here is a discussion thread on just temperament).
Key: the tonal center of a composition -- the scale that a composition is built upon. The "key" is named after the first note of the scale. For example, "G major" is built on the major scale that starts on the note "G." That first note is also called the "tonic."
Label: Found on the inside of the violin by looking through the left "f"-hole, this tells who made the violin, where it was made, and in what year. Except when the label is fake!
Legato: smooth, connected bow stroke
Limerick: more entertaining poetry about the violin.
Luthier: maker of a stringed instrument such as a violin, viola, cello, bass or guitar. The term comes from the word "lute," a basic stringed instrument.
Major scale: a scale with half-steps between the 3rd and 4th and the 7th and 8th degrees. (My students like to chant, "whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole half," to remember the intervals in an ascending major scale) Here is a Nice, wonky discussion thread on scales and modes and their history.
Martelé: "martellato" in Italian means "hammered." A detached and strongly accented bow stroke.
Measurements for violins: This seems like a fairly amazing website, with an encyclopedic catalogue of precise measurements of violins by makers from the 17th through 20th centuries. For each of 305 instruments, they list 250 measurements: The Luthier's Library.
Minor scale: a scale with a lowered third degree. Many agree it sounds "sad" compared to a major key. In addition to the lowered third degree: a natural minor scale has a lowered sixth and seventh degrees; a harmonic minor scale has a lowered sixth and raised seventh degree; and a melodic minor scale has a raised sixth and seventh degree ascending and a lowered sixth and seventh degree descending.
Modes: There are a total of seven different ways to pick 7 pitches out of the available pitches to form an eight-pitch scale which ends on the same pitch it started with. These seven different ways to arrange the scales are known as modes, and their names are: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. The major and minor scales are actually two of those seven modes. Major is Ionian mode and minor is Aeolian mode. (Definition taken from this discussion.)
Mute: a small device that fits over the bridge to mute the sound of the violin. It makes it sound like the violin is singing with its nose plugged. Not that a violin has a nose. A "practice mute" is usually a bit bigger and heavier and makes the violin very quiet, for times such as practicing in a hotel room. Here are some examples of various mutes.
Natural harmonics: overtones produced by touching the open string very lightly at various points from the bridge. Generally the clearest harmonic occurs in the very middle of the string, which, when touched lightly without depressing the string, sounds an octave above the string's open-string pitch. Harmonics are usually notated with a small circle over the note or a diamond-shaped note, and they tend to sound open and ring-y.
Nut: On the bow: the frog. On the violin: the grooved ridge of wood near the scroll where the strings pass over from the fingerboard into the peg box.
Passage: a section of music
Pedagogy: the art of how to teach something. A "pedagogue" is an expert in teaching techniques and often teaches teachers. Here are the names of some violin pedagogues, past and present: Leopold Mozart, Leopold Auer, Jascha Brodsky, Carl Flesch, Otakar Ševcík, Eugène Ysaÿe, Josef Gingold, Ivan Galamian, Dorothy DeLay, Shinichi Suzuki, Simon Fischer, Roland Vamos, Stanley Ritchie.
Pernambuco: the rare South American wood from which many bows are made. Here is an article about Brazilwood vs. pernambuco and here is an article about a bowmaker who participates in re-forestation efforts for pernambuco.
Pedal tone or pedal point: a sustained note held under the other musical goings-on, as with an organ "pedal." For us string players, it sometimes refers to the repeated (unchanging) note in bariolage.
Pizzicato: an indication for string players to pluck, rather than bow, the string.
Ponticello: the bridge of the violin. "Sul ponticello" is a direction to play very near the bridge, which creates a nasal sound.
Portato: as opposed to up-bow or down-bow staccato, in which each note marked with a bow stop -- each note in a "portato" bowing is re-articulated very gently, with the bow continuing to move between notes. Think "wah-wah-wah-wah." (btw if you type "portato," spell-check will likely change it to "potato.")
Positions: This refers to the position of your left hand on the violin. "First position" is the first one most people learn, with the hand resting near the end of the fingerboard, toward the scroll. Typically, students next learn third position, in which the hand is moved forward so that the first finger is now where the third finger was in first position. There are 10 positions, moving progressively up the fingerboard, and also half-position, which is a half-step lower than first position, with the first finger generally positioned right by the nut.
Practice: The devotion you show your instrument by playing it every day and repeating actions accurately until they come naturally. Shinichi Suzuki suggested that it takes 10,000 repetitions to truly learn a piece. That's a lot of practicing! (the verb form, in Europe, is "practise.")
Prunes: dried plums, which aid in late digestion. Ideal snack for string players who may occasionally suffer bouts of rigidity of mind or bowel, due to their high-strung nature. First recommended in 2004 by V.com member Stephen Brivati, aka "Buri."
Purfling: an inlaid, protective border around the perimeter of a stringed instrument. On a violin, viola or cello, it looks like a painted double line -- but it better not be just paint!
Pythagorian tuning: tuning based on the use of pure fifths. It uses Greek philosopher Pythagorus' theories of physics and sound.
Relative minor: Every major scale has a relative minor that uses its same key signature. The relative minor is located 1 1/2 steps down from the relative major. For example, the relative minor of C major is A minor.
Rhythm: the organization of silence and sound in time.
Ricochet: a bouncing bow stroke in which the bow is dropped or thrown on the string and allowed to rebound and bounce again, several times. (V.com member Drew Lecher wrote an excellent article on developing ricochet bowing)
Rosin: a small cake of solid resin from a tree (often pine) that we rub onto the bow hair in order to make it sticky, to make the string sound. No rosin on the bow = no sound from violin! Light rosin tends to produce a smoother sound, and dark rosin (used more often on lower instruments like the viola or cello) tends to produce a grittier, bigger sound. (Here is a nice informational page on rosin, from Shar.)
Russian bow hold: a bow hold in which the right hand is extremely pronated, leaning toward the index finger, with the pinkie quite straight. The right wrist also tends to be very high. Jascha Heifetz was its most famous adherent.
S & P's: Sonatas and Partitas, for solo violin, written by Johann Sebastian Bach. (Here's a long chat we had about them.)
Sautillé: very fast spiccato, done usually with the hand.
Scale: See major scale, minor scale, modes.
Schoenburger: Hilary Hahn's 2008 challenge, suggested by V.com member Stephen Brivati, to create a Schoenburger recipe in honor of the composer Arnold Schoenberg's 134th birthday in 2008. This was the winning recipe.
Scroll: the decorative "head" of the violin. Generally it is carved to look like rolled parchment, but occasionally a luthier gets creative and makes a scroll that looks like a face or animal head. (Here are some wonderful pictures and description of the making of a typical scroll, from luthier Jonathan Hai and his wife.)
Second violin section: a highly essential and underrated part of the orchestra that often plays harmony to the first violins' melody.
Senza sord: without mute (that means if you have it on, take it off)
Shoulder rest a contraption -- praised by many, vilified by others -- to help hold up the violin. There are many, many different kinds. Choosing one involves matching your body type to the right rest: see our article, How to Hold a Violin. Violinists argue rather vociferously about whether a person really needs a shoulder rest or not. A majority of violinists use a shoulder rest, as evidenced by the results of the first poll we ever took on V.com. Playing without a shoulder rest involves special technique; please refer to Stanley Ritchie and his book called Before the Chinrest. Also, there are many articles on V.com about the topic: for example, this one by Emil Altschuler. Above all, either way you choose, please do not injure yourself.
Solfege: a language that assigns a syllable to each step in a scale. For an ascending major scale, the solfege syllables are: Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do.
Sonata: Officially, this refers to an instrumental work in 2-4 movements. As related to the violin, there are many works we refer to as "violin sonatas" which are actually written for the violin and piano, to be played as chamber music. There are also "solo sonatas" for just violin, written by Bach and by Ysaye.(In this thread, people write about their favorite violin sonatas).
Soundpost: a wooden post, set under the bridge, to transmit the bridge's vibrations to the soundboard. Adjusting the soundpost can change the sound of a violin, thus sometimes violinists take their fiddles to a luthier to "have the soundpost adjusted."
Sounding point: the point on the string between the bridge and the fingerboard where the instrument responds most readily and most resonantly. Shinichi Suzuki called this the "Kreisler highway," the place where one must bow on the string, neither too close to the bridge nor too close to the fingerboard. More refined: Dorothy DeLay, and subsequently Simon Fischer, spoke of five sounding points, from the bridge to the fingerboard -- sort of like five lanes on that highway. Each of of the five "lanes" or sounding points, has a different characteristic and is used for various kinds of bowing.
Spiccato: bouncing bow stroke (Here's an article about a class Barbara Barber gave on spiccato.)
Staccato: a short note, which can be produced with several kinds of bow strokes, including spiccato, sautille, martele, jete, ricochet, up-bow and down-bow staccato and more. (Here is a thread that describes the "staccato" concept well.)
Strings: There are so many of them! Find some guidance at ViolinStringReview.com as well as a string color ID chart to help you figure out what kind of strings you have, based on their colors, all made by V.com member Shawn Boucke.
Suzuki Method: A music education philosophy pioneered by the Japanese violin pedagogue, Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) and used especially in the training of young children. Here is a detailed description of its philosophy and history.
Tasto: The fingerboard. "Sul tasto" is a direction to play over the fingerboard, creating a soft, whispery sound.
Tonic: The first note, or degree, of a major or minor scale. In the key of G major, the "tonic" is the note "G."
Tremolo: extremely rapid repetition of a note, usually accomplished by playing at the tip and using a hand motion.
Trill: rapid alternation of two tones either a whole or a half tone apart.
Vibrato: a fluctuation of pitch to warm the tone of a note, achieved by oscillating the left hand. Vibrato can originate in the fingers, hand, and arm, or a combination of all three. (Here are several articles by Anna Heifetz about vibrato: defining types of vibrato; developing vibrato and vibrato and tension.)
Viola: A most beloved instrument, looking like a violin only larger, with a lower register whose strings include C, G, D and A. Sometimes people tell viola jokes, but it's only because violists are our siblings and we love them.
VSO: "Violin-Shaped Object." Don't buy one.
Wolf tone: when one note gets a wooffy, fuzzy sound, no matter what you do. The note is usually on the G string and becomes a bother mostly if you are playing something like Zigeunerweisen or the last movement of the Brahms Sonata in A. Here's a Long discussion we had on the topic; also, Augustin Hadelich talks in detail in this interview about how to deal with them.
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Would you like to contribute an addition, or an "edit"ion to our Violin Glossary? Please contact editor Laurie Niles with your idea or edit.
Let's hear it for live music! Congratulations to the President's Own Marine Corps Orchestra for its appearance on the David Letterman Show Monday night.
They played Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," the ultimate holiday mood-lifter! (Look for our friend and V.com member Peter Wilson in the violin section!)
Gift-giving is one of the joys of the holiday season, and we hope you will consider giving (or asking for) music-related gifts this holiday season. Each year, we put together a list of some of the year's best new offerings from violinists, with recordings, books and more. We hope this will give you a starting point for thinking about music-related gifts you'd like to give or receive. For example, if you receive a iPod for Christmas or Hanukah, you might want to load it up with some great violin music. Or, if you receive a Kindle or iPad, you might want to think about purchasing a music-related book. You can also do things like purchase tickets to live and local musical events, to support your local live music scene. If you are curious about exploring more high-quality music gifts and recordings recommended by Violinist.com, please see our guides from previous years: 2008 Guide; 2009 Guide; 2010 Guide; and our 2011 Guide. Please feel free add your suggestions in the comments section, as well (and yes, in this case, you are allowed to toot your own horn and recommend your own CD or book or product).
We know that CDs and books can make are nice gifts to wrap and give to someone, but we have also included links for iTunes and eBooks, in case this is your preferred way to get your music.
RECORDINGS (and more)
Decca / Simon Fowler
Italia, with Nicola Benedetti
In addition to Tartini's well-known "Devil's Trill" and Vivaldi's "Summer," Nicola Benedetti uncovers some lesser-known Baroque works, such as Vivaldi's "Grosse Mogul," as well as works by Tartini and Veracini.
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French Impressions, with Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk
A gorgeous recording made by two artists who play like one -- they've performed more than 80 recitals together all over the globe, after all! Jeremy Denk makes that wicked piano part in the Franck Sonata seem like a dream and Joshua Bell is as expressive as ever. The recording also includes sonatas by Saint-Saens and Ravel.
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Bach Sonatas with Lara St. John and harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet
Bach's violin and flute sonatas were written harpsichord accompaniment in mind -- why not play them with harp? It's one of Lara St. John's wonderful musical experiments, and the result is as heavenly as one would think.
Air: The Bach Album, with Anne Akiko Meyers
Anne Akiko Meyers plays the Bach Double with herself -- on each of her two Stradivari violins, the 1730 "Royal Spanish" Strad and the more-recently-acquired 1697 "ex-Molitar/Napoleon" Strad, which she calls "Molly." The recording also includes Bach Concertos Nos. 1 and 2; "Air" from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D; the Bach/Gounod "Ave Maria"; and "Largo" from Concerto for Harpsichord in F m.
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Violinist.com tote bags and T-shirts
Quick, these are flying off the shelves! The V.com tote bag is the ultimate musician tote bag: Made of sturdy canvas, it measures 17 inches wide by 15 inches deep (plenty big for all music) and features adjustable carrying straps, a zip-up top, two mesh side pockets for water bottles, an exterior pocket, and two exterior pencil holders. The T-shirts, which go with everything, are made of high-quality cotton, and women have the option of getting the fitted T's.
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Bruch and Mendelssohn Concertos and Beethoven Romances, with Philippe Quint
Recorded at the Sala Nezahualcoyotl in Mexico City with Orquestra de Mineria, Philippe Quint gives us a great recording and sparkling performance of these well-known pieces -- good inspiration for a young student who is heading toward playing these pieces, and pleasing for all ears.
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Tickets to a live concert by your local symphony orchestra!
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Silfra, with Hilary Hahn and Prepared Piano Specialist Hauschka
Highly experimental stuff! Hilary Hahn teams up with prepared-piano master and innovator Volker Bertelmann ("Hauschka"), to create an album of improvised, minimalist-sounding music inspired by the unique landscape of the Silfra rift in Iceland.
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Eugene Ysaye's Six Sonatas for Solo violin, with Tai Murray
Tai Murray calls Eugene Ysaye's Six Sonatas for Solo violin "an opus of love and expression" -- written from the composer's love for Bach, for his friends, and for the violin itself. Certainly her own new recording of these works reflects the same deep dedication.
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'On Our Way,' with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
It's nearly as interesting to listen to Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg speak as it is to hear her play or watch her conduct. This DVD explores her four-year partnership with the San Francisco-based New Century Chamber Orchestra where she has served as director since 2008.
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'Sounds of Defiance,' with Yevgeny Kutik
Kickstarter dreams really do come true! Violinist Yevgeny Kutik recognizes his Soviet beginnings and pays tribute to his Russian and Jewish heritage with this recording that includes the Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 134, by Dmitri Shostakovich; Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 by Alfred Schnittke; "Hebrew Lullaby" and "Hebrew Melody" by Joseph Achron; and "Spiegel im Spiegel" by Arvo Part. All are in collaboration with pianist Timothy Bozarth. Yevgeny plays a 1916 Stefano Scarampella violin.
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'Legacy' with David Garrett
First he "crossed over" to become a rock violinist playing to sold-out crowds in huge venues. Then for this recording, he crossed back. In reality, he loves both. Violinist David Garrett teams up with with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the Beethoven Violin Concerto with cadenzas by Fritz Kreisler, as well as other works by Kreisler. The works by Kreisler are fun to hear with orchestral accompaniment, much which Garrett himself helped arrange.
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A subscription to The Strad magazine
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The Nielsen and Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos, with Vilde Frang
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.
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Eternal Echoes: Songs & Dances for the Soul, with Itzhak Perlman
Itzhak Perlman calls this his album of "Jewish comfort music": Jewish liturgical and traditional music, recorded with Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot.
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Brahms and Berg Violin Concertos, with Renaud Capucon
French violinist Renaud Capucon performs the Brahms (with Kreisler cadenzas) and Berg with conductor (and good friend) Daniel Harding and the Vienna Philharmonic. Capucon plays the 1737 "Panette" Guarneri del Gesu that Isaac Stern played.
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Out of Nowhere: Violin Concerto by Esa-Pekka Salonen, played by violinist Leila Josefowicz
It's the first recording of conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen's violin concerto, written for violinist Leila Josefowicz and premiered by the two of them in 2009. The music reflects Salonen's feelings about leaving the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
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Beethoven: The Late String Quartets, with the Cypress String Quartet
If you saw "A Late Quartet" and liked the music, the Cypress String Quartet released a new recording this year of all of Beethoven's late quartets, with three discs (if you get the CD version) including Opuses 127, 132, 130, 133, 131 (the one in the movie) and 135. The San Francisco-based ensemble includes violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel.
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String Theory, with jazz violinist Sam Weiser
The young jazz violinist Sam Weiser -- still not yet 20 -- has released another recording that fuses classical, jazz and bluegrass styles into something all his own. Watch this guy! Listen, too, he does some really creative things with our instrument.
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A Second of Silence, with The Knights
This recording is a study in the kind of sound we associate with silence, with pieces that "are not merely tranquil -- quiet meditations are frequently interrupted by by violent gesture -- but dissolution into silence remains their ultimate object," as the New York-based ensemble The Knights describes it. They perform works by Erik Satie, Philip Glass, Franz Schubert and Morton Feldman.
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Serenade for Strings, with the East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO)
Intense! And well-played. Nick Kendall and Tai Murray are just a few of the members of this group of musicians, the East Coast Chamber Orchestra, who met at various summer festivals and continue to meet up several times a year to make great music. This, in spite of the fact that the players live all over the place. Here they've recorded the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings and Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony in C, and attention Suzuki-ites who want to shake up your concept of "La Folia" a bit, the finale of this recording is a great, energy-filled arrangement of "La Follia," based on the Geminiani version of the piece.
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Handel: Messiah (Dublin Version, 1742), with the Dunedin Consort and Singers
I'm extremely impressed with the spot-on pitch and purity of the singing in this version of the "Messiah," which was actually issued in 2006 by the Scotland-based Dunedin Consort. Apparently Handel's Messiah wasn't a big hit when premiered; it was actually much more popular when he took it on the road, to Dublin, where Handel did some arranging to make the oratorio fit the voices available at the time. This version tends toward the Baroque in style.
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Exercises for the Violin in Various Combinations of Double-Stops, by Roland Vamos
Want to get your left hand in shape and keep it that way? Violinist/violist and pedagogue Roland Vamos, who taught Rachel Barton Pine and many other wonderful musicians, knows how to help. His new book lets us in on his famous-but-secret double-stop exercises, which for years have been passed from student to student by means of tattered xeroxes. It comes with a DVD in which Mr. Vamos demonstrates the warmups and exercises.
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Before the Chinrest, by Stanley Ritchie
Even if you (like I) have no intention of ditching your chinrest or shoulder rest any time soon, this book's combination of history, practicality and sheer love for Baroque music is both enlightening and inspiring. Stanley Ritchie is a Baroque violinist and longtime violin professor at Indiana University.
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Scales, by Simon Fischer
British pedagogue Simon Fischer, author of "Basics" and regular columnist in The Strad magazine, set out to write the ultimate scale book, and he's done a mighty fine job. "Scales" includes all the basic one-, two-, three- and four-octave scales and arpeggios, and it also lays out a detailed scheme for understanding intonation as well as exercises for building solid shifts and finger motion in scales.
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The Violin: A Social History, by David Schoenbaum
Scheduled for release on Dec. 10, this 700-page hardback book is an impressive feat of research, tracing the five hundred-year history of the violin. The book is divided into four sections, "Making It," about the evolution of lutherie; "Selling It," with many specific stories about violin dealers and prices; "Playing It," about the instrument's proliferation and most famous players; and "Imagining It," about its place in culture. A good read and a great resource, with an exhaustive bibliography.
Enter to win Ilya Gringolts' recording of the 24 Caprices by Paganini.
Laurie Niles is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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