The 2015 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide

December 1, 2015, 2:34 PM · Gift-giving is one of the great joys of the holiday season, and each year we compile a list of some of the year's best new offerings from violinists for you to consider in your holiday gift-giving, gift-asking — and post-holiday loading of the iPhone, Kindle, or other device! We hope this allows you to consider a music-related gift.

gift guide

We also would suggest considering supporting your local live music scene by purchasing tickets to local music events or simply making a year-end donation to a musical non-profit of your choice. I've tried to be inclusive, but I'm sure I have missed some ideas, so please feel free add your suggestions in the comments section. And yes, in this case, you are allowed to toot your own horn and recommend your own CD or book or product! You may also wish to refer to our gift-giving guides from previous years; I've listed links to those at the end of this blog.

Many of the recordings below are linked to Amazon.com. Note that if you follow these links and make a purchase from Amazon, a portion of that will go to support Violinist.com. (If you would like to give a donation to support Violinist.com, click here.) I've also listed the artists' names in italics, and sometimes those are linked to stories we have written this year about them and their work. And whenever you buy any of these selections, from any source, you'll be helping to support the musicians and other artists who created them.

Happy holidays, and may your season be filled with good music!

RECORDINGS

Mendelssohn Concerto and Bartók Concerto No. 2
Augustin Hadelich
Augustin Hadelich brings out Bartók's lyrical side in this recording of two beloved concertos that he has been playing since he was eight years old.

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5/Vieuxtemps: Violin Concerto No. 4
Hilary Hahn
Hilary Hahn's recording of Mozart 5 and Vieuxtemps 4 with The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and conductor Paavo Järvi represents an important year in her life: when she was 10 years old, in 1990. The Vieuxtemps was the last piece she learned with her childhood teacher, Klara Berkovich, and the Mozart was the first she learned with Jascha Brodsky, the teacher who would usher her into the world of Curtis Institute and the idea of being a professional violinist.

Hahn and Berkovich
Hilary Hahn with her childhood teacher, Klara Berkovich.

American Spirit
Christian Howes
Christian Howes finds his own jazzy take on Bernstein, Joni Mitchell, spirituals, the theme from "Taxi," Samuel Barber's "Galop" and even a little Paganini and Bach. In other words, he speaks musically with an unapologetically eclectic American voice that is, nonetheless, all his own.

Shiksa
Lara St. John
Whatever the project, Lara St. John tends to bring her wicked chops and some good irreverent humor to the endeavor. This collaboration with pianist Matt Herskowitz is no exception, with sources for these tunes range from the violin canon ("Czardas") to: a "scratchy old record from Oltenia," the ubiquitous Hava Nagila, a traditional hammer dulcimer tune, a tune from a klezmer lesson, a tune learned in a bar and more.

Lara St. John
Lara St. John has turned the popular "Czardas" into a virtuosic "Czardashian Rhapsody." © J. Farley Photography.

Bach & Beyond Part 2
Jennifer Koh
This is the second in a projected a three-CD cycle in which Jennifer Koh performs modern works alongside the Bach Sonatas and Partitas that inspired them. This recording includes Bach's Sonata No. 1 in G minor and Partita No. 1 in B minor, along with Bartók's Sonata for Solo Violin and the world premiere of "Frises" by Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952).

Serenade: The Love Album
Anne Akiko Meyers
Anne Akiko Meyers has recorded Leonard Bernstein's "Serenade after Plato's Symposium," his five-movement violin concerto, written in 1954, as well as 11 love-inspired songs from the 20th century. Meyers performs with the London Symphony Orchestra, Keith Lockhart conducting. Meyers also released The American Masters, a recording that includes the Barber Violin Concerto as well as two new works: a work that Anne's husband commissioned Corigliano to write for the birth of their first child, "Lullaby for Natalie," (2010) and the CD premiere of Mason Bates' "Violin Concerto," (2012).

Itzhak Perlman: Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon
Itzhak Perlman
In honor of his 70th birthday in August, Itzhak Perlman released several comprehensive sets of his recordings this year. This set of 25 CDs from 1968 to 2001 includes Itzhak Perlman's Berg/Stravinsky Concerto recording with Ozawa; Elgar Concerto with Barenboim; and recordings of the Saint-Saëns, Wieniawski, Lalo, and Vivaldi “The Four Seasons” concertos. It also includes a recording of Bach Arias with Kathleen Battle and Perlman conducting Ilya Gringolts in the Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich Concertos.

Itzhak Perlman
Itzhak Perlman celebrated his 70th birthday in 2015. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Itzhak Perlman - The Complete Warner Recordings (77CD)
Itzhak Perlman
This set reunites Perlman's EMI and Teldec recordings made over a period of more than 30 years, including violins concertos as well as Perlman’s commissions from living composers, Perlman’s own commissions from living composers, crossover repertoire such as jazz, ragtime and klezmer, and more.


Mozart: Complete Violin Concertos, Sinfonia Concertante
Rachel Barton Pine
Rachel Barton Pine's recording of all five Mozart Concertos, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and conductor Neville Marriner, includes all cadenzas written by Pine herself. (Find the sheet music for her Concerto 1-4 cadenzas in The Rachel Barton Pine Collection.) The recording also includes the Sinfonia Concertante, with violist Matthew Lipman. Also, this year Rachel Barton Pine released Vivaldi: The Complete Viola d'Amore Concertos -- a product of her longtime love for that rare, violin-related instrument.

L'Estro Armonico: Vivaldi 12 Concertos
Rachel Podger
Want a new perspective on the Vivaldi A minor Concerto, and beyond? Rachel Podger brings her period performance sparkle to that work and many others in her new recording with Brecon Baroque of the set of 12 concerti by Vivaldi called "L'Estro Armonico".

Rachel Podger
Rachel Podger. Photo by Jonas Sacks.

Bach XXI
Philippe Quint
What happens when a couple of Juilliard buddies decide to take a new look at Bach, through a 21st-century lens? Probably something like Bach XXI, a recording by violinist Philippe Quint and jazz pianist Matt Herskowitz.

J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for Violin
Gil Shaham
Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin have been a lifelong exploration for Gil Shaham, who started playing them as a child and released his first complete recording of them in March. For the project, he outfitted the 1699 "The Countess Polignac" Strad that he plays with gut-core strings and a Baroque bridge, and he also used a Baroque bow. He took about 12 years re-thinking the works before recording them, and the result is a virtuosic, up-tempo interpretation, full of revelations. The CD also includes fantastic liner notes written by former Strad Magazine editor Ariane Todes based on extensive discussions with Gil.

Gil Shaham
Gil Shaham plays Bach.

Portrait - Works for Violin & Piano
Itamar Zorman
This recording is a gem -- Israeli violinist Itamar Zorman, winner of the 2011 Tchaikovsky competition and a recipient of the 2013 Avery Fisher Career Grant, has put together a collection of various pieces for violin, including Messiaen's "Theme and Variations"; Schubert's "Rondo in B minor"; Chausson Poeme; Hindemith Sonata for violin solo, op. 31 no. 1 and Brahms Sonata in D minor.

SHEET MUSIC

Mozart Violin Concerti #3, #4 and #5, arranged for Two (Advanced) or Three (Simplified) Violins
Martha Yasuda
Want to accompany your students when they play the Mozart Concerti? Martha Yasuda has arranged accompaniments to Mozart Concertos 3, 4 and 5 as a duo (advanced double stop accompaniment) and also as a trio (simplified, with Violins 2 and 3 breaking apart the notes from the double stop accompaniment). You will get four bound books with each order -- a reduced score, the double stop accompaniment and violins 2 and 3. Concertos are sold separately or as all three bundled together.

24 Progressive Études for violin or viola
Scott Slapin
Scott Slapin's has devised a set of 24 Progressive Études for violin or viola that also works as a book of duets: the first half of the book can be played with the second half. Slapin, along with violist Tanya Solomon, also has a new recording out called Violacentrism: the Opera, "No singers. No staging. Just violas." Beautiful playing, I'll add.

Editions of Ševcík exercises and Heifetz arrangements
Endre Granat
Having some technical trouble with one of the major violin concertos, or just want to brush up? Here are new editions of exercises written by Otakar Ševcík, designed to solve just about every technical problem in specific pieces, including: the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto; the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto; the Brahms Violin Concerto; Paganini Concerto No. 1; Wieniawski Scherzo-Tarantelle, and Wieniawski Violin Concerto in D minor.

Endre Granat
Endre Granat with Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles, at the 2015 ASTA Convention.

"Violin Recital Album" Books 1 and 2
Kurt Sassmannshaus
Looking for more repertoire that is all in first position? Here is a book of first-position pieces, with teacher duets, for young students and beginners. Includes a piano part.

High Tech 35 Exercises for the Violin or Viola
Eun Hwan Bai
If you think your technique has reached a high level, Eun Hwan Bai is ready to pull you out of your comfort zone with an unending stream of what he simply calls High Tech Exercises. Physically impossible? He says, just try!

BOOKS and MISCELLANEOUS

Baby crumpetCrumpet the Trumpet
Kristine Papillon
Here is a children's book that introduces the instruments of the orchestra, written by violinist Kristine Papillon. The premise: Mama Trumpet tries to sing lullabies to baby Crumpet, she's just too loud because...she's a trumpet! It goes from there, narrated by Fort Wayne Philharmonic conductor Andrew Constantine and enhanced with music played by 32 musicians, and guest artist Anne Akiko Meyers.

Coregami High-Tech Tux Shirt
Kevin Yu
V.com member Kevin Yu has invented a tux shirt with the athletic wicking powers and flexibility of a high-tech running shirt. If you know someone who needs a more comfortable alternative to the conventional tux shirt, this may be the answer. Use the code "violinist" to get a 15% discount on all orders (expires 12/30/2015).

Shoot the Conductor: Too Close to Monteux, Szell, and Ormandy
Anshel Brusilow and Robin Underdahl
Often humorous, sometimes painful, this is a nonfictional account of violinist Anshel Brusilow's adventures as a violinist, concertmaster and conductor. Raised in Philadelphia by Russian Jewish parents, Brusilow soloed with the Philadelphia Orchestra by 16, studied at Pierre Monteux’ summer conducting school, and served as associate concertmaster at the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell and in Philadelphia under Ormandy. At Philadelphia, Brusilow couldn’t resist conducting on the side, to Ormandy’s displeasure. More than a personal account, it's also a window on the world of classical music in the 20th century.

Laurie in LAPhil bookstoreThe Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 1
Laurie Niles
This book by Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles, with a foreword by Hilary Hahn, is a compilation of 27 of Violinist.com's best interviews from the last decade, with lovely photos of the artists and a beautiful cover that looks great on any coffee table. If you are in Los Angeles, come by the LA Phil Store during Hilary Hahn's Dec. 11 and 12th concerts and have Laurie sign your book! (She'll be selling them, there, too!)

Off Balance
Terez Mertes Rose
Longtime V.com member, Terez Mertes (Rose) is a former professional dancer who came to us here at Violinist.com when she began playing the violin 10 years ago. She's written a book about the dance world -- which also has a character who is a violinist -- and it's some good, page-turning fiction!

Violin Bag from Violettes
Becky Chaffee
Violinist.com member Becky Chaffee makes violin-shaped handbags and gig bags, in velvet, leather and more. Check it out, as well as her other music-related gifts like art quilts and jewelry at Violettes by Becky.

You might also consider giving a gift from our previous guides:

  • The 2014 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide
  • The 2013 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide
  • The 2012 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide
  • The 2011 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide
  • The 2010 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide
  • The 2009 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide
  • The 2008 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide
  • Replies

    December 3, 2015 at 09:43 PM · Give the gift of violin lessons! My course is a beginner's guide to the violin. Learn fundamentals, scales, and songs for only $19!

    https://www.udemy.com/learn-the-violin-no-music-experience-necessary/?couponCode=NorthEast19

    December 5, 2015 at 04:45 PM · Thanks for this list, Laurie!

    Readers may also know someone who'd be interested in my book, Not by Love Alone: The Violin in Japan, 1850-2010. It did come out in time for last year's holiday season, but only just. Please see www.notbylovealone.com for details!

    Also David Schoenbaum's book, The Violin: A Social History of the World's Most Versatile Instrument (W.W. Norton, 2013): German-speaking list members who'd prefer to read such a massive tome in their native language might be pleased to know that a German edition has just become available, Die Violine: Eine Kulturgeschichte des vielseitigsten Instruments der Welt (Bärenreiter/Metzler).

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