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Anna Karkowska

Violinists: Recordings and Performances: A well-executed prank? Or am I just not getting it?

From Peter Kim
Posted October 22, 2010 at 06:25 PM

Has anyone heard of the violinist Anna Karkowska? I was introduced to her by Stefan Jackiw, who, like myself, doesn't quite know what to make of her...

She records Paganini, Sarasate, Wieniawski with the London Symphony here: 

From Vernon Kirby
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 07:06 PM

She doesn't sound like anyone else for sure... It sounds like her violin is about to break...  that "my rubber band is about to snap quality" Her Faust is nice though!!

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 07:22 PM

 I haven't heard a vibrato much like that in a classical context.

From Robert Keith
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 07:51 PM

 Anna Karkowska is just trying to start something new.  She is trying to break away from the traditional way of playing.  She is playing using   her own version of how she thinks pieces should sound.

I don’t think it was last.  But, she is a very good talented violinist. You can not take that from her.

I guess it is like the Beatles.  There sound music was simple, but there music is still played.  Music from the Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Paganini only to mention a few, will not go away, because their music has a firm foundation.  I do not see the foundation in Anna Karkowska version of how pieces should sound.

 

From Peter Charles
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 08:26 PM

I'm surprised Dennis Simons (who was a student the the RAM with me) was impressed by her. He and I both studied with Frederick Grinke at the Academy here in London.

As far as I'm concerened her "playing" is all fake - terrible intonation, and you can't even hear the notes in many of the arpeggios and runs. Some of the people backing her up are talking absolute rubbish as far as I'm concerned. Her vibrato is about a minor third in width!

From Jonathan Frohnen
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 08:41 PM

I'm pretty sure she is playing the "vibrato" as written in this piece...I have heard her play before (not this piece) and she is not bad at all and is also nothing spectacular.  As well you would be very suprised to hear what some of your favorite violinists sound like RAW with the mic so close to the fiddle in recording before mastering :-)

From Emily Liz
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 09:20 PM

I too thought it was the style of the modern concerto, but she plays Wieniawski and Paganini in the same way. Check out the other parts of the documentary (on the related video tab).

She cries in the fourth part...

From Jerald Archer
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 09:25 PM

Interesting, but not really revolutionary. The very same kind of "vibrato" is sometimes used by some jazz players and country fiddle artists today. I personally have always considered that sound as very distasteful, but since it is a new piece, the term is often defined as modern innovation. Paganini had the same criticisms by some about his musicianship in his day, even to the point that he was just " making it all up" as he went along. I have heard this termed by my past teachers as "impressionistic" playing---both a good and bad term depending on one's musical point of view--and how tastefully they can pull it off. It seems to create a difference between violinists (or any musician) who are creative compared to those who just play like everyone else, which the market is overly saturated with today.

There are no really impressive violinists anymore who offer any unique personality to their playing. The old masters became famous due to their own compositions or  interpretations of great works already well established in the typical violin concert program of their day. It is difficult to top the best examples of what we only can know through the historic recordings we have today, even if they are not always of the highest quality.

I am not a big fan of modern (atonal) "classical" music, but I can see where she would really make a better jazz player than a classical one. In both my professional playing and compositional experiences, unless one begins to use a sophisticated electronic mediums for sound creation, then the violin technique could technically be considered as actually evolving. Other than that, I feel that the height of "pure" violin technique (acoustically and artistically) ended around the beginning of the first quarter of the 20th century. The last great works seem to have been written up to 1900 or so. Jazz took over the field after that and has been evolving ever since in the same manner. It seems that in order to be progressive in art today one sometimes has to be digressive in some ways.

From David Burgess
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 10:12 PM

 

Gad Zooks!!!

Grab your family and run for the hills!

 

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 10:46 PM

 I don't care for this one bit.  It sounds like she's just trying to mask faulty intonation in a crazy wide vibrato.  It isn't clean.  I don't understand the appeal at all.

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 11:22 PM

If ever there was an example of a "conditioned response", it's been made quite obvious in this thread! To be honest, I don't think her wide vibrato suits the context of the music (well, maybe if she used less of it, it would be fine). It's a vibrato more often associated with some jazz styles, as Jerald said.

I think her vibrato is actually quite controlled and deliberate (actually, if you try playing a w i d e vibrato, it's not easy to control). I most certainly do not think that she is trying to mask poor intonation. She is obviously at an extremely high technical standard, and making her mark here and now.

One last point - at least she has gone from "good" vibrato to "bad" vibrato (bad, according to the opinions here). That's reversible. Going from "bad" vibrato to "good" is infinitely more difficult!

I'd be interested to hear her play in styles other than classical.

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on October 22, 2010 at 11:54 PM

 She does demonstrate playing that is not classical period music.  She plays romantic music as well.  There's some Sarasate on there, some Wieniawski and also a contemporary piece.  It all sounds the same.  She never changes her own style to suit the music, she plays everything the same way.

From Rebecca Hopkins
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 12:07 AM

Yikes, she does think highly of herself though. Makes me feel positively overly critical of my own playing. Here all this time I thought that the point of fingering and bowing was to hear all the notes written. If it is accepted to just kind of fly through fast passages, without concern for getting it right, then I am going to start on something I thought was beyond my abilities. I too could become a star....:)

From Peter Kim
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 02:08 AM
I'm trying to reassure myself that this is part of an elaborate experiment or prank, but I'm afraid it isn't. :(
From Sean Gillia
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 02:33 AM

For me, it wasn't just the vibrato but the thin nasally tone she seemed to glory in pulling from her instrument.  A distinctly off putting sound.  Years ago (many), I turned on the TV and found myself being drawn into something that seemed like a documentary, only to find my mouth dropping open, followed by bursts of laughter and the realization that I was watching a mockumentary -- This is Spinal Tap.  Honestly, I had the same feeling watching her play.  The more serious everyone seemed..well.. I kept waiting for her to announce that her violin goes to 11. www.youtube.com/watch

From Ausar Amon
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 03:05 AM

 the worst thing that ever happened to violin playing!!!!!!

From Nate Robinson
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 04:14 AM

She holds a Master's degree from Juilliard according to her biography.  I guess the school accepts students with a very broad range of talent.

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:12 AM

I noticed in this video all they talk about is her technique.  Not once do they mention her musicality.  She doesn't follow dynamics, she plays spiccato in completely the wrong part of the bow so that it doesn't project, and every single nuance of the music is distorted.  Which teacher at Juilliard allowed her to play like this?  How did this become acceptable?!  How much crack are the people in the video on that they don't even notice these things? 

From Peter Charles
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 08:15 AM

" I most certainly do not think that she is trying to mask poor intonation. She is obviously at an extremely high technical standard, and making her mark here and now."

I have to take issue with you here Jim!!

She fails to mask bad intonation. Her intonation is often bad, to my ear. And I don't think that faking it shows a high technical standard, quite the reverse!

Sorry!

 

From Malcolm Turner
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 09:12 AM

I just find it totally ugly. No shape to it, no sense of musical line and sudden interjections of that horrible wobble. I agree that the great players of the past had individual sounds - you can recognize Oistrakh, Heifetz, Menuhin, Milstein, Ricci from just a few notes. What they all have in common is the ability to project that sound - maybe that's what's a bit lacking nowadays. To reassure myself as to what the violin can sound like, I've just listened to Oistrakh playing the Bach Concerto slow movements, with every note beautifully crafted in a continuous musical line. And for virtuosity, maestro Ricci not only played all the notes, but made a beautiful sound as well, and perhaps what set his playing apart from the others (in the virtuoso field) a sense of excitement - try listening to his Carmen Fantasy with the LSO - always seeming to move forward.

Just a thought - what chance would this lady have of landing a job in the orchestra behind her?

 

From Graham Clark
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 09:51 AM

Come on, Jim, you can't hear the tunes!

You have to listen past her vibrato to get to the melody. That should never be the case - the vibrato should never mask anything.

gc

 

From Peter Charles
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 09:53 AM

"Just a thought - what chance would this lady have of landing a job in the orchestra behind her?"

Not a hope in hell!!

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 10:57 AM

 I've listened to it again, and came out of the video after a minute.  Just couldn't take any more of it. That so-called vibrato is musically unacceptable, most certainly in that context.  Even more so to my ears, since for the last 10 years I've been playing violin in a genre where vibrato is not common. I do use it, of course, in classical playing on the occasions when it is necessary. 

From Marina Fragoulis
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Wow this is extreme vibrato.  What ever happened to less is more?  I cannot comment on the intonation because the vibrato is so wide one cannot pinpoint what note is being played.  However those spicatto notes on the upper half of the bow neither "sound" nor look right to me. 

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 12:11 PM

One wonders what the private thoughts of the members of the LSO were during the rehearsals, or what was said over a pint in a pub afterwards.  Perhaps in substance not all that different to most of the comments here.

From David Light
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 01:04 PM

Hmmm.  As Arte Johnson used to say on Laugh-In, "VARRRRRY eentaresting!"  That vibrato is almost Chinese in its extreme amplitude and, given the fact that the world is beating a path to China's door these days, Anna may have hit upon a highly marketable style in terms of the current global economy!

From Graham Clark
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 01:32 PM

I believe Kenny G is HUGE in China.

gc

 

From Sean Gillia
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 03:02 PM

I suspect the whole thing is an extremely self-deluded (and expensive) vanity project, and I would feel mean about saying the things I've said, but she actually seems to invite it -- in that the whole thing is an open  push to establish her as the greatest violinist to have ever walked the face of the earth --- right from the title of her project and on through every single interview.   

What I could gather, beyond her playing, is that she herself commissioned this concerto with the vague idea that it should be like a movie soundtrack (she mentioned this as if she'd hit upon the key to all mythologies).  Who was that  (in)famous soprano from the early part of the previous century who financed numerous recordings of herself....

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 04:05 PM

@Peter  "I have to take issue with you here Jim!!"

I thought you would :) But read on ...

@Graham : "You have to listen past her vibrato to get to the melody. That should never be the case - the vibrato should never mask anything."

You are right. But it's not vibrato, as in fingertip holding firm on the core of the note, rolling up and back to start. I'll get to that in a minute.

I listened again. There's nothing worse than a loud orchestra when you're trying to scrutinise a solo violinist. However, in this vid between 04'04 and 04'10, it's a bit more calm, and it's the ultra-wide "vibrato" itself which is causing the bad intonation, not masking it. Listen again. I admit, it sounds atrocious.
Not to labour the point, but she come off (ends) at 05'24 on a note a full tone above what it should be. She's come off mid-wobble.

Now - the "vibrato" is actually her landing on the string with the flat of her finger (not the tip), sometimes not even fully depressing the string to the board.
It's sometimes as much as a full-tone slide up and down, sometimes sliding her entire hand. She's even got long l/h fingernails! This ain't vibrato, and as I said before, it doesn't suit the music.

Listen to 2'30 - 2'50 on part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2Iwnx2FEow,

and 1'38 - 1'55 on part 3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdYHjw__LMk 

and you'll see what I mean.

I firmly believe that is the "style" she wants to use, and I'm convinced could play just as well as her comtemporary vituosos in today's accepted style, if she wanted to. She might well revert if enough people complain and/or stop buying tickets.

I think there's been a knee-jerk reaction, a "conditioned response" as I said before. I think a bit of in-depth scrutiny is needed before writing her off as a bad player - although those words were not used, that's the general impression I'm getting here.  
 

From Nate Robinson
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 05:33 PM

 

 
From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 06:13 PM

I'm going to be Anna Karkowska for Halloween.

From tammuz kolenyo
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 06:20 PM

but this is weird. if she is not that good, or if she is THAT bad, then why are all these "violin experts" and assumedly renown figures giving her their positive appraisals (this is what is stated in her biography online "Her talent was recognized and aided by letters of recommendation from the famous musicians of our times : Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, and Krzysztof Penderecki").

there is something strange here; i'm also sure that people here won't mean malice by voicing their criticism and are knoweldgeable enough to give a credible assesment.  so there is something strange...either she is THAT good or she is THAT bad; its not a case of something that could be interpreted either way.

in my modest opinion as a beginner, and simply judging from what i like, i find as if she's sending the music is pumping iron at the gym while shooting steroids. the  music spews out  on a chronic endorphin high. there is no sensitivity, no singing, no lilting, no breathing in that voice. and then that vibrato///a vibrato is like the beauty of an imperfection, a small quiver in a reflective voice, a small sob, a wail, a fast laugh....but anna's i find is the same all the time, a hysterical drunk lecherous one all the time; if it were a parody it would have been comic...but that its really like this all the time is just not nice to listen to. its a cold blooded automatic technique that is anti-musical, let alone whether her intonation is good or not good.  and the same with the playing, its non nuanced, like gunfire.

but to also be fair, her concern is virtuosity as she understands it..apparently meaning very very fast, flashy, showy, adrenaline secreting...she doesnt mention musicality, phrasing, nuances...etc. so maybe we should not also blame her for lacking in an area which she doesnt really want to display. one can even say that she purposefully designed this vibrato and its incessant surging just like michael jackson did with his moonwalk, to create a trademark, a logo. she calls it a style, i think its more like a logo.

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 06:39 PM

"Her talent was recognized and aided by letters of recommendation from the famous musicians of our times : Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, and Krzysztof Penderecki". 

Perhaps that was when she was younger and hadn't gone down this route.

From Patrick Hu
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:07 PM

Her playing reminds me of the Heifetz video where he imitates some of the more...interesting auditions he has heard.

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:11 PM

 Ugh.  I was almost certain this was a joke.  Now I'm not so sure.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:13 PM

Ghosts and bats, and wailing cats.

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:15 PM

It would have been a pretty expensive joke, hiring the LSO and conductor for rehearsals, plus the hire of a recording studio and its engineers.  

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:19 PM

 Maybe it's a Halloween project.....

From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:26 PM

But doesn't it just put cobwebs on your arms?

From Nate Robinson
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:34 PM
From Graham Clark
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:47 PM

Nate,

"You can perhaps buy yourself ...   ... even a position on the faculty if you make generous (anonymous) donations (post graduation) to the endowment fund."

Is that really true? Do you know that for a fact?

I can't imagine that it is true.

cg

 

 

From Peter Charles
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 08:04 PM

I watched and listened to the final part (where she cries) and it is just awful. She really can't play to save her life. It is really a very poor joke. A dreadful noise.

Also, the credits had one or two names I recognised in the LSO, but I have a feeling it was a scratch band really, as they seemed pretty young and I didn't recognise anyone much apart from the principal bassoon and principal viola.

 

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 08:18 PM

 @Emily, I think her reviewers may have had some in their ears.

From Nate Robinson
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 08:20 PM

Yeah Peter, I saw that last part where she started crying and said,'God bless America' 'I'm living the American dream...'  I'm confused, didn't she record this in London, UK?

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 08:37 PM

I think quite a few people have missed the point in my previous posts. Having having spent time analysing her video clips, and pointing  everyone directly, to the YouTube player counter's second, of how she executes her "vibrato", and her general method of fingering - for the attention of interested parties on this thread, let me spell it out : she is obviously a highly trained and technically skilled violinist, who chooses to play in that unorthodox style. Her wild "bast*** vibrato" (perfectly executed, by the way - it's not easy - try it yourselves) is so frequent and overused, that it is interfering with the "core notes", and yes, sometimes these notes are fractionally out-of-tune (mostly sharp, in true classical form) as they are often being hit immediately after coming out of that BV. I agree entirely, much of it does sound atrocious (yes, "sh*te", Nate, I can say it openly). Her technique is out of context from what I've heard so far.

I still stick by what I say in that it is her choice (and that she could execute "accepted" vibrato as well as anyone else, and could easily play the pieces well in the "accepted" manner, if she wanted to). Really (it may sound geeky), but I have analysed and scrutinised her playing on these three YouTube clips before posting my opinions. That's my point - she is playing that way because she wants to, not because she is unable to play in the "accepted" manner. The tribal elders will always rule the roost (or at least until they die).

Nate, you mentioned my YouTube clips, but I fail to see how that is in any way relevant to my opinions in this thread. I need to correct you on a few things here : I am not trained in the Celtic fiddling style, although I do play in that style, but not exclusively. Most of my clips show anything but that style. I am a classically trained violinist, as you are (although not from such an early age as you), who has been taught advanced fingering and bowing techniques, tone production, etc by an excellent and well-respected teacher. This forms the core of my technique, no matter what style of music I play. I have not attended a conservatory, nor do I play concerts, but that is of no relevance either. One last heads-up - if you refer to "Celtic" fiddling, rather that Irish or Scots traditonal fiddling, you risk using the phrase pejoratively, although I'm sure that was not your intent. It's a bit like classifying an authentic Blugrass musician as a country and western player, or saying a violnist is "from the great American classical tradition." Oh, and I checked you out on your MySpace page too :)

It will be interesting to follow Anna's progress and her press. Only time will tell if I've been wrong all along :)
 

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 08:43 PM

"I watched and listened to the final part (where she cries) and it is just awful. She really can't play to save her life. It is really a very poor joke. A dreadful noise."

That really just re-inforces my point - no, I didn't watch the crying bit (it's irrelevant). Poor joke for some, yes. A dreadful noise - well, maybe. But "She really can't play to save her life." Someone's missing something, somewhere. Let's just agree to disagree on this one :)

 

 

From Brian Hong
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 08:50 PM

 Jim, I see and hear what you have to say.

You mention that Anna overuses that vibrato too much and that it indeed sounds like "sh*te". 

Therein lies her problem.  It doesn't, in my opinion, matter in the slightest that she can do that vibrato technique flawlessly (as you say she does), rather that she can make it sound good.

I think everyone in this thread can agree that it sounds atrocious.  That thin, nasal tone and shaky arms cannot sound good to anyone.  And there is my argument that she is not a good musician; a musician doesn't just have to have techniques-they should also know how to utilize them.

From sharelle taylor
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 08:58 PM

 She's a one trick pony. she can do a wide vibrato thingy. And she plays so confidently that it Doesn't come like a beginners whiney attempt at vibrato.  she can move the bow quickly too, but so can a lot of kids who've been practising.

If she keeps at it though, she'll be able to play the pag and sarasate as well as I can right now.

I couldn't listen through the whole thing to be honest.

When a supposedly highly skilled violinist consistently lands flat because they are reaching for a note that is out of 1st position, well, that there fellas is a sign that they are not a highly skilled violinist.

She has certainly garnered attention, but as others have said, that won't translate into a career.  its a good thing for youtube though, just like Florence Jenkins.

From Sean Gillia
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 09:03 PM

I didn't conduct any extensive analysis of her clips. I just used my ears. And from what I can tell, I have no idea how she might play if only she wanted to (how would anyone determine that anyone might play beautifully when presented with ironclad evidence that they play atrociously?), but I can certainly say how she does play -- and it's consistent in all of her clips and on her website.  Whether she plays the way she does because that's how she chooses to play, or because it's the only way she can play is beside the point -- it is the only way she actually does play.  This would not merit any comment at all, except for the pomp of the presentation and the extravagent claims about her virtuosity.  When that happens, we have musical theater of a high order. But we don't have good music.  . 

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 09:05 PM

 I've looked at her website and listened to her hilights from the Mendelssohn and the slow movement of Wieniawski Op 22.  I regret to say her rendering of the Mendelssohn reminded me strongly of those elderly singers who sadly have lost control of their vibrato, or perhaps the "wow" you used to hear on poorly set up tape recorders.  The Wieniawski was slightly more acceptable in that you could hear  a command of technique coming through, and the vibrato, although excessive, was not quite so intense and there were some occasions when she was playing very briefly without it and giving us a little glimpse of what she could do otherwise.

From Ausar Amon
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 09:13 PM

 No! when you take the great into account, her technique sucks too!!!

 

From Peter Charles
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 09:29 PM

I've just got her on the phone and I'm going round for a lesson tomorrow. I need a vibrato just like that. I think it could be good on my baroque fiddle. Especially in Bach.

From Peter Charles
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 09:49 PM

"Yeah Peter, I saw that last part where she started crying and said,'God bless America' 'I'm living the American dream...'  I'm confused, didn't she record this in London, UK?"

Nate

Yes, it was in London at the famous Abbey Road studios. They cost a fortune to hire for a start!!

I would love to know what the London Symphony Orchestra thought about it all. If I bump into any of them I'll ask!

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 10:09 PM

I just listened to her playing the Mendelssohn, on her own website, and some of that sounds utterly atrocious too ... the vibrato is not so wide, but it still sounds really awful. I'm quite unpleasantly surprised. I expected it to be totally different from the YouTube clips. I think there's a big gap in what she's capable of, compared to what she actually does, though I may be wrong that one too.

I'll still be checking in from time to time and following the press ...

So why are all these "big" guys praising her to the rooftops? They put their names to some strong words (see the "Anna" button on   http://www.annakarkowska.com/     )

 

 

From Dion Ackermann
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 10:41 PM

Anna may be kitsch but she will be laughing all the way to the bank.  

From Ian Andrew S
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 11:00 PM

 I just threw up in my mouth.

From Nate Robinson
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 11:19 PM
From Dion Ackermann
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 11:36 PM

 Ian was it something that you ate?

From Marc Villeneuve
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 11:44 PM

It is just a joke. I remember Philip Hirshorn saying just before he died that anyone can make a career today. And he was right. With publicity,internet and recording studios ,you can built a sensational career and image, not in conformity with reality... When you attend regularly the concert halls,it is quite obvious.Phillip mentionned that only a very few elected deserve a carreer, speaking about Martha Argerich. In the past,only truly great talents got recognition world-wide...

So this is a prank about violinists or musicians who are building with media and imposing their name as outstanding and very gifted.

From Marc Villeneuve
Posted on October 23, 2010 at 11:56 PM

It is interesting to hear all the video-clips: I love English humor...

From Jim Tsai
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 12:20 AM

HILARIOUS!!!   not just her, the indignation this prank generated

From Patrick Hu
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 05:00 AM

Her audio clips on her website are pleasant...they're not great, but she doesn't play in the same manner as in this documentary.  So I'm guessing this is just an expensive joke...whew!

From Sean Gillia
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 05:40 AM

We'll have to agree to disagree on that one, Patrick.

After listening to her Mendelssohn, I needed an antidote.  Found it: www.youtube.com/watch 

 

From Patrick Hu
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 06:37 AM

I was referring to her audio samples.  just watched the mendelssohn and wieniawski videos and well, they're not my cup of tea.  But in her audio samples, she doesn't play with that same vibrato which perplexes me.  She plays completely differently in her audio samples which is why I thought this was a joke.  Listen to her sibelius audio clip for example...

From Sean Gillia
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 07:07 AM

i had missed those audio samples, Patrick.  You're right -- though other serious issues persist, her vibrato isn't nearly as,,,well, deranged.... on the Sibelius. Strange.

From Jim Tsai
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 08:21 AM

She sounds great...   just needs cowbell

If you aren't laughing at this whole thing, the joke's on you

... nevermind, please continue the analysis

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 09:56 AM

 Just listened to her Sibelius.  Actually I really genuinely like her Sibelius.  The Tchaikovsky excerpt is "normal" too, so she is capable of good playing, it's just that this crazy kind of playing is a conscious decision on her part.  I wonder why she did that. 

From Sam Choi
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 10:16 AM

 I wonder which sounds better, that or this.. 

http://is.gd/gfyV9

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 10:39 AM

..or this : http://www.worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/efinofl-violin-concerto.mp3  :)

@Michael : thank you! I listened as well, and I agree. Bizarre, isn't it?

"If you aren't laughing at this whole thing, the joke's on you"

@Jim : true, although you said this after having read 60-odd replies from everyone :)

I would have thought a true spoof would really have had the orchestra playing badly too...

From Dion Ackermann
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 11:21 AM

@Michael :

Q:  "I wonder why she did that"

A:  "$$$$$$"

It takes courage to be different, like Jimi Hendrix playing the Star-bangled spanner at Woodstock and then torching his Fender.

From Geoff Caplan
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 11:51 AM

Yikes - I feel like we've entered the twilight zone.

I suspect this recording is a vanity project: there's no recording label mentioned in the video so it's probably self-published, and the LSO is available for anyone to hire.

Karknowska presents herself as an established first-rank soloist, but there's little sign of this on the web: she handles her own bookings and Google turns up little other than her own PR. She mainly seems to play in a duo with her sister, which suggests that established musicians aren't exactly standing in line to work with her. And this appears to be her first recording.

The fact that the reviews she features on her website include such mighty organs as "Polish World, Detroit" is another indication that her career has been less than stellar to date.

She's New York based - have any of you New Yorkers out there ever heard of her?

But she does have some good reviews from the provincial press.

www.karkowskaduo.org/about.html

As others have commented, her sound clips indicate that she is capable of a relatively conventional interpretation, so perhaps these positive notices are from the period before she found her "new direction". If not, they are baffling...

Also, the comments about the recording video on her YouTube channel are mostly complementary. Seems like you really can fool most of the people most of the time...

I'm afraid I find her personality almost as grating as her "music": this seems like a lady with a very high opinion of herself. She clearly needs guidance in the area of musical taste, but I suspect she is not one to listen to wiser council...

It will be interesting to see whether she can generate some kind of PR band-wagon behind this hideous "technique"... Here's hoping that good sense prevails and she sinks into deserved obscurity.

From Marina Fragoulis
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 11:57 AM

I wonder what Dorothy Delay would say about her playing now.

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 12:05 PM

@Geoff : I agree - it is bizarre. You've read what I've already written, however the Sibellius recording is a quite different : 

http://www.karkowskaduo.org/SibeliusVlnConcerto.Op47.hi.mp3

...from the Audio button on her site.

From Brian Hong
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 12:13 PM

 Wait...her Sibelius is pretty awesome!

 

I'm really confused....

From Geoff Caplan
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 12:24 PM

Jim

I suspect the Sibelius is from a period before she went off the rails.

Here current promo videos all seem to be in the new "style".

www.karkowskaduo.org/video.html

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 12:41 PM

So, what's the v.com verdict? Once the current dust settles, is she going to play well (as in her Sibelius audio) or continue to play dreadfully and sound terrible, as in the promo video clips, once the "joke" is over?

From Peter Charles
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 12:43 PM

This business of publicity reminds me of a Polish violinist (aged about 25) a few years ago, who emailed me her CV regarding playing some chamber music.

It was a great CV and the colour photo of her was rather lovely and she looked like a model, not that such a thing would influence me.

The list of her achievements included prizes she had won in Poland, her studies and teachers, and all of the work she did regularly in Vienna. She was then just starting with a well known teacher in London, as a post grad.

When it came to the chamber music session the first thing that was a problem was her timekeeping. Nearly an hour late.

The next thing that surprised me was that when I open the door, she looked nothing like her photo. Well she did a bit, but she had obviosly since put on a load of weight and now looked more like a Polish housewife no longer in her youthful prime.

But never mind, she will be a terrific fiddle player ...

Right, well the G major Beethoven string trio had problems, as she couldn't even do the scale run in G major, or much other of it.

We had a break then and re-grouped in my wife's music room to have ago at the G minor Mozart piano quartet.

I think you will have guessed - she broke down every few bars ...

From John Cadd
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 01:15 PM

I can do that vibrato when I whistle.You make it sound like a Glasgow drunk having a sentimental sing song on a night out.

From Sean Gillia
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 01:34 PM

Well, I just have to ask, since the videos are all of a piece (so obvioulsy horrible we think we're in the midst of a classical This Is Spinal Tap), and the audio is all of a piece (ehhh....but vaguely "normal" sounding...even her basic tone sounds worlds better than her video stuff) , and we can't actually see the audio...... .ummmm....well, how can we even be sure she's actually the player...just throwing it out there

From Dion Ackermann
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 01:49 PM

John but can you spit out the pips like her spiccato. 

From Geoff Caplan
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 01:51 PM

"Here's hoping that good sense prevails and she sinks into deserved obscurity."

Think I got carried away - that seems unnecessarily cruel. After all, she's only a kid. I'd some pretty odd ideas at her age too - it's just I didn't get to display them to the world on  YouTube.

So let's say: "here's  hoping she passes through this demented phase and applies her undoubted talents in a more fruitful direction"...

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 04:09 PM

"I can do that vibrato when I whistle.You make it sound like a Glasgow drunk having a sentimental sing song on a night out."

Watch it, Captain. I'm from Glasow!!! :)

@Peter - that's a funny story! Must have been a real bummer, having wasted all that time. Actually, part of it reminds me of complaints from dating agency subscribers, who get sent a nice photo of a tasty young lady. What do they ask for? A good-looking, caring young lady looking for company and love. What do they get? Some old tugboat with a beard + attitude.

From Peter Charles
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 04:23 PM

Careful Jim or you will have the ladies on here giving you a dressing down. I tried to put it fairly tactfully in my post, but I bet I failed!!

From Jim Tsai
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 04:50 PM

 

"I feel like we've entered the twilight zone"   LOL.   Following this thread I feel like I'm watching the violinist version of Borat.

Take a close look at the second clarinetist in the blue shirt at the top left at 3:48 on.   And, if watching the video and reading the outrageously rave reviews weren't enough, here's a clue:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNyaRjDvf8Y

Yes she's at least a half decent violinist.   Who else could have pulled this off?

From Roland Roberts
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 05:19 PM

I remember a similar response to Vanessa Mae and Russell Watson.

Classical music, as lofty as we would like it to be,  is not exempt from business and has to find ways of selling product and promoting artists. Whatever we may think of Anna Karkowska, she will not be easily forgotten when compared with the hundreds of other well trained fiddlers who can all play the Carman Fantasy standing on their heads.

Vanessa Mae has sold over 10 million albums and I believe introduced the violin to many people that would have never listened to it, perhaps benefitting all of us in the long term.

There's only room for a handfull of super league players like the Hilary Hahn's in the classical world, and she is lucky to be selling 500 albums a week.

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2010/02/classical_numbers_-_where_it_r.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/29/AR2010012904193.html

Being talented, practicing 1000's of hours,  going to Julliard and winning competitions does not guarantee anything career wise. 

Look at all the interest Anna Karkowska has generated already, she probably has more of a chance than most IMO.

From Jeff Terflinger
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 05:23 PM

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said,                                                                                                   "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 05:40 PM

"Careful Jim or you will have the ladies on here giving you a dressing down. I tried to put it fairly tactfully in my post, but I bet I failed!!"

What, you mean v.com doubles as a dating agency? Better keep it quiet, then :)

From tammuz kolenyo
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 05:53 PM

There is no contradiction between saying that her playing is unpleasant, in this fashion we saw on youtube, and between acknowledging that she might very well make a lot of money from people with tastes i do not agree with. ITs a logical fallacy to criticize my/our criticism of her playing, strictly speaking, by telling us that she will introduce violin playing (whatever that means) to a wider public and that she might become more successful than Hahn. If i say her playing is unpleasant, it does not detract one bit from her right to be a success in the eyes of other people.

On the other hand, i think we should distinguish between criticizing her playing and making fun of her (the halloween bit). although, on the other other hand, i don't mind making her being made light of if we can also make fun of Hahn and dressing up as the ice princess for halloween. you may also dress up as me for halloween, or as you.

From Brian Hong
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 06:05 PM

@Roland: Yes, but do Russell Watson and Vanessa Mae sing/play without any taste whatsoever? (Okay maybe let's take the latter out of this discussion).

What Anna is doing is unique, but who in this discussion has said that she sounds good when she is playing that froggy noise?  No one.  And that is the basis of the discussion.

From Roland Roberts
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 06:50 PM

Ah but Brian when you say without taste - who's taste?

Your taste? Your next door neighbour's, the local brain surgeon or the Postman's? 

Not that long ago it was considered tasteful to slide around in Mozart and Bach and use a big fat vibrato. Not now.

 

 

From Brian Hong
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 06:59 PM

 Yes, but fat in what way?  A fat juicy vibrato like one employed by the likes of Perlman, Szigeti, or Ashkenasi, or one employed by Anna Karkowska?

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 07:14 PM

 "how good one must be to play that bad?"  Exactly.  I've been told by experienced musicians that this is the reason why Mozart's "Musical Joke" is a difficult one to bring off. 

From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 07:34 PM

 "...you may also dress up as me for halloween, or as you."  Last year, I was Emily for Halloween.

From Lauren Meyer
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 09:19 PM

ouch.

save my ears!

From Dion Ackermann
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 10:32 PM

If  Louis Armstrong can sing then Anna plays a beautiful violin.  

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 10:44 PM

Actually, I'm beginning to warm to that silly sound on the videos. Some of the bashed-out chords really ring out on that lovely violin :)

From Jim Dorans
Posted on October 24, 2010 at 11:04 PM

One of my non-violin-playing lady friends has just described her sound on the videos as "like playing with gloves on". Thank you, Leila :)

From stephen levine
Posted on August 9, 2013 at 03:34 AM
Anyone who has that talemt but chooses to play like that is a disgrace to music and the great instruments she borrows....sounds like anton karas on speed
From Brian Kelly
Posted on August 9, 2013 at 04:22 AM
I just had a listen to her on youtube. I thought it was an 'Anna shreds the violin' clip.

But definitely a good one to show your students ie. How NOT to play the violin.

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on August 9, 2013 at 10:30 AM
Coming to the end of this discussion, so it's worth mentioning that the video first posted by Peter Kim and the two referred to by Jim Dorans on October 23, 2010 are apparently no longer available. Another "interesting" sub-genre now vanished into the ether?
From John Pierce
Posted on August 10, 2013 at 03:15 AM
As will this thread.

To recap: ugh.

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