Violinists tend to agree on one thing: the Six Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the greatest music written for violin. This music garners our most profound respect, even our awe.
Just look at the first page, in the composer's hand. You don't even need ears to understand that this is a work of deep beauty.
It's actually amazing that this page even survived the apathy of time. The introduction to my Galamian edition tells me that these gorgeous manuscripts -- the center of our violin universe -- narrowly escaped a pile of papers destined for use as wrappings in a butter shop in St. Petersburg.
It's a good thing they survived, because without this music, we violinists would be without something that causes almost as much argument as shoulder rests. Violinists tend to disagree, with passion equal to their love for these works, about how this music ought to be played. And no one, NO ONE, wants to play it "wrong," despite the inevitability of the fact that your interpretation will surely offend the good taste of another violinist or teacher.
This disagreement has given rise to many different editions of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, as the various interpretations fall in and out of favor.
I'm not asking in this poll which edition you prefer; if you'd like to say, then leave a comment. Instead, I'm asking you which editions you actually have in your pile of music; actions speak louder than words. I actually have three editions (well, four, if you count that manuscript in the back of one), and I do refer to all of them.
The jolly old elf is making his judgments, and it's pretty much too late to change your behavior this year. What's the verdict?
I could be helpful, and ask all of you what you would really want for a holiday gift so your relatives could go to V.com and find your heart's desire. But I think it's more amusing to see just how many of us have received various kinds of violin-related gifts over the years. I've listed a good number of typical knick-knack kinds of gifts, as well as some violin accessory kinds of gifts, just to get the ball rolling.
As a youngster, I actually did not want to pin my identity on the violin, and I bristled at getting violin-related kitsch. "Do NOT get me some frog-playing violin figurine!"
Then a nice boy, not one who took music lessons, in my seventh grade class called me up one night before Christmas, "I, uh, well, have a present for you..." and he showed up on my snowy doorstep with a sweet little ceramic angel, playing the violin. It melted my heart. I came across it recently, when I was cleaning, and I was glad I'd kept that angel safe; my friend died young.
I suppose in some way, my entire life's story could be told through violin-related gifts. There's the beautiful Russian music box, which played the "Sugar Plum Fairy," given me by students who were sisters, and they'd bought it with their allowance. To my great chagrin, it was lost during a move.
My Christmas tree is full of the little ornaments given me by students, and I regularly wear the musical jewelry they have given me.
I couldn't resist including this on the list: the piano scarf, as I consider this to be THE campiest music-related item on the planet -- a true classic.
What little violin-related gifts have been given you, and what is their story?
As violinists, we are lucky that many of the world's most gifted composers devoted so much of their output to our instrument.
Of all the literature written for our instrument, though, the works for solo violin are the ones that delve most deeply into the violin's capabilities, technically, musically and emotionally. The works that stand at the core include the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, the Paganini 24 Caprices and the Ysaye Solo Sonatas.
Each of these bodies of work is worth deep study, and repeated study. But if you were given time to devote to just one of them, which would you choose? That's our poll for today:
Vengerov plays the Sarabande from Bach's Partita No. 2.
Heifetz plays Paganini Caprice 24
Nikita Borisoglebsky of Russia performs the Ysaye Sonata 3, 'Ballade' at the Tchaikovsky Competition last summer
It must be admitted, we violinists tend to live in the past. Which is the musical period you like best?
The Weekend Vote is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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