The Weekend Vote
Beyond the jaw-dropping level of the young artists participating in the the Menuhin Competition this week in Austin, I've also enjoyed the many other attractions of this event, like master classes and performances.
In particular, I enjoyed seeing jury member Brian Lewis perform with a small ensemble yesterday at Blanton Museum at the University of Texas. After the performance, I asked him: Who was playing in this small ensemble? The answer: his students!
This reminded me of the fact that Midori also performs regularly with her University students, giving recitals together at local nursing homes.
This strikes me as a wonderful meeting of generations of violinists -- not just in a teacher's studio, but also in performance. After all, violin-playing takes place out in the real world, in real life, in real time. What better way to communicate between generations?
I tried to remember if I'd ever had a chance to play publicly with any of my private teachers when I was young; not really! Have you ever performed with one of your teachers, as a student, in a public recital or concert?
This week we had two rather different blogs, right in a row, related to the power of positive thought. Karin Rile wrote thoughtfully about the concept of "Cockeyed Optimism," questioning the popular notion that positive thinking always yields positive results and reminding us of the difference between complacent fantasizing and active goal-setting.
Heather Broadbent also wrote a list of positive thinking strategies to help with performing.
It would seem to me that the power -- or lack of power -- that comes from positive thinking depends very much on where an individual stands. For example, sometimes a person is beaten down by the rigor of music training. If you have truly walked that path, chances are that you have put yourself before teachers who are demanding and detail-oriented, you have likely taken auditions, received criticism and responded to it. You have practiced in a way that you demand much of yourself, and you have spent countless hours aimed at highly-focused self-improvement. If that is where you stand, then you may just be standing right on that fine line between success and depression -- in other words, you may need a good dose of positive thinking to temper your self-criticism.
However, if you have not put in this kind of work, you may actually need a kick in the keister rather than a tutorial on positive thinking! Sometimes a good look into the abyss can be motivating, "I sound awful now and the recital is in two weeks, I have to practice!"
That said, it's still possible to assess your deficiencies realistically, then go about concrete goals in a positive way. "I can master this scale in two weeks" is different from "I can be the next Heifetz"!
Do you find positive thinking to be helpful, or not, when it comes to your violin progress at this stage?
Why would a wildly successful, high-budget HBO series with lavish costumes, special effects and exotic locations fail so miserably with its music?
That is, why would it use a midi cello solo, instead of one recorded by an actual cellist? Lara St. John asks this question in a blog she wrote this week entitled Lara Takes On HBO and Game of Thrones in an Open Letter.
In fact, Lara apparently felt so strongly about the problem that she actually paid professional Albanian cellist Rubin Kodheli -- at 1.5 scale -- to record the music in question, to GIVE to Game of Thrones.
In your expert opinion, which version of the "Game of Thrones" music sounds better? Real cello, or fake midi? Let's chime in below, to describe why real strings matter!
Fake cello midi version:
Version with real cello:
So which one gets your vote?
This week the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia, but what if the Olympics included some of the amazing feats that violinists do?
I think one category for Olympic Violin would have to be left-hand pizzicato, and this week our weekend vote will focus on this virtuoso technique. With much help from Buri, who suggested this idea, I've assembled videos of five top-notch fiddlers who display some wicked-good left-hand pizzicato technique. The question is: Whose impresses you the most and why?
I'm not saying that these are the only worthy displays of this technique, in fact, if you have one that you really admire, please do share it with us. The idea is to get us looking at examples of great left-hand pizzicato, so we can be inspired to practice the extra 10,000 hours required to achieve this level of technique.
Or maybe we can just appreciate something well-done. Enjoy, and then vote!
Here is "La Streghe" by Paganini, played by the late violinist Eugene Fodor; you can find the left-hand pizzicato around 5:00.
Here is "Nel cor piu non mi sento" by Paganini, played by the late violinist Yehudi Menuhin in about 1934. The left-hand pizzicato begins around 1:22.
Here is another version of "Nel cor più non mi sento" by Paganini, played by the late Soviet violinist Leonid Kogan (1:14 and on):
Here is "God Save the King" by Paganini, played by Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos. The recording quality is poor and it's obviously live, but WOW. The left hand pizzicato is throughout, but especially at 2:52:
And here is "La Campanella" by Paganini, played by Viktor Tretyakov. The left-hand pizzicato begins at 6:00, 6:30 and 7:00.
The assault on Frank Almond and the theft of the violin he was carrying is something that should give us all great pause, but what should be done, as a result?
After Frank was shot with a taser gun and robbed of the "Lipinski" Strad while emerging from a gig last Monday night in Milwaukee, many people have called for the better-guarding of highly-valuable fine instruments. But what would this look like?
Should we put all highly-valuable instruments in vaults or museum display cases, only to be removed when a guard unlocks them? Should violinists who regularly play Strads have armed guards with them at all times when they transport instruments that are worth millions? Should these instruments even be played?
Carried to the extreme, these measures seem pretty impractical and would be a real victory for the power of fear. A violinist who plays a fine instrument needs to practice it, bring it to rehearsal, travel with it and perform with it. They are some of the finest-sounding instruments on the planet, and this is part of their value. They benefit from being played. That said, it's already near-impossible for a player to buy such an instrument; imagine the financial burden of an arrangement that requires an armed guard?
Yet I shudder to think about what Frank Almond has endured, physically and emotionally. And I shudder to think of an object as historically significant, artistically pure, musically beautiful and financially valuable -- in the hands of a crook! If we only could have protected Frank, if we only could have protected the instrument!
I've transported valuable violins, and though I was nervous about doing so, I never worried that I would be assaulted and robbed of them. At most, I worried that someone might make off with them while I wasn't looking, so I endeavored to be looking at all times. I worried more about my level of alertness, about keeping from banging or dropping them, about getting through TSA without being told I'd have to check the violins as baggage, and about preventing anyone from trying to pile something heavy on top of them in the overhead compartment of the plane, once inside.
But the concept of being assaulted for one's instrument is just shocking. How should we handle the fact that the instrument of our trade has become a high-end art object and "financial instrument" for collectors?
Previous entries: January 2014
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles went to Austin, Texas to cover the Menuhin Competition 2014, watching some of the world's top young violinists. Read her ongoing coverage.
The Weekend Vote is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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