Casey McGrath's Schindler's List Recording

September 5, 2016 at 01:05 AM · Perhaps my opinion is biased, being that she is my private teacher, but which recording do you guys prefer? The interpretation by Dr. McGrath or the original by Perlman? I'm not trying to compare skill by any means, but just this particular recording. Personally I find that Dr. McGrath's recording has a much greater sense of emotion and passion for the piece. I believe that Perlman's was a good recording, but it just doesn't seem as though he put as much attention to detail into his phrasing. Some (not all) of the notes feel "played", rather than sung. But, that's just my opinion. What do you guys think of it?

Casey McGrath's:

Itzhak Perlman's:

Replies (47)

September 5, 2016 at 01:17 AM · It is certainly a beautiful performance. Lucky to have her as your private teacher.

My favorite is Chloe Hanslip at the BBC Proms.

September 5, 2016 at 01:53 AM · @Sung Coincidentally she's also the only violin teacher in my area! Couldn't have asked for any better of a teacher.

That is most definitely a wonderful performance that you linked, thank you for sharing it

September 5, 2016 at 12:53 PM · Apart from a very slight intonation slip in the first few bars - Perlman for me. No contest.

September 5, 2016 at 03:40 PM · I agree. Perlman, no contest whatsoever. The continuity of Perlman's sound and vibrato is an important distinction.

September 5, 2016 at 04:53 PM · My teacher would tell me not to make a melody out of each note.

This is music of tender, contained despair.

September 5, 2016 at 05:09 PM · Interesting. Perlman's seemed a tad rushed imo, which I felt gave it a more harsh sound than somber. Music is to each their own, after all.

September 6, 2016 at 12:33 AM · I was just reading Casey McGrath's bio. It says that she plays with the Fox Valley Orchestra -- suburban Chicago. If she hasn't moved elsewhere, you're actually in an area with an incredible number of violin teachers. (Her teacher, Drew Lecher, taught my sister, and I took a few lessons from him in childhood.)

What Adrian is referring is to a sense of line -- the way that one note flows into the next note, with direction. This is both a musical approach as well as a technical one. For instance, Casey tends to crescendo at the beginning of each note and decrescendo at the end of it, which detracts from continuity; this is the technical result of speeding up and slowing down the bow at the ends of notes along with not maintaining a vibrato that is fully continuous. It's hard to say if that's fully intentional.

September 6, 2016 at 01:33 AM · @Lydia In my town in particular there are not many, which is probably why she came out this way to give lessons. I'm not sure where she lives at in particular, but I receive my lessons at a high school about 40 minutes south of Naperville where I believe Mr. Lecher gives lessons. A couple towns over there are a few very accomplished violin and viola teachers, but I'm personally not willing to make that commute as it's filled with traffic and nasty road conditions.

Okay thanks for explaining that, that does make a lot of sense. Personally, not to discredit him in any manner, I've never been a particular fan of Perlman's musical style. Maybe I just haven't heard enough good recordings by him, and I will say the one I linked wasn't particularly great in audio quality being over a decade old. However, I do understand what you mean about the consistency of the bow distribution. The main reason I felt it was a tad harsh is, in sections that reiterated the "theme" (so to call it) I felt as though he didn't change notes very smoothly. Now I'm sure he did this on purpose, but it just didn't suit my tastes. I just see the piece as one more so of somber and grieving, than fear and hurt. Admittedly I have never watched the movie, so I can't say as to what mood Williams was attempting to setup.

September 6, 2016 at 02:56 AM · The movie is about the Holocaust. It's a fantastically good movie, but it's not really an enjoyable movie.

Perlman is probably the single most influential post-Heifetz violinist, I think, and many younger and middle-aged players grew up with his recordings, and if there's a modern-player sound, in many ways it is a Perlman-like sound (which also has something to do with how Galamian and DeLay trained a generation of soloists, of course). In my opinion Perlman's best recordings were done when he was younger, during the 1970s and 1980s.

September 6, 2016 at 07:28 AM · For me, (despite the limitations of video and compressed audio signals), it is about the range and depth of tone color, vibrato, and things like the clarity of the descending arpeggios (at 3:00 in McGrath's recording and 3:12 in Perlman's).

> I've never been a particular fan of

> Perlman's musical style

What have you heard exactly, did you ever hear him live when he was younger, his extensive recorded material, or just what is on YouTube?

> crescendo at the beginning of each note

> and decrescendo at the end of it

My teachers call this "moo-ing" on notes. ;)

September 6, 2016 at 02:27 PM ·

September 6, 2016 at 03:32 PM · That movement is practically built for Perlman's massive hands (unsurprising, since it was written for him). He can effortlessly reach a fifth and vibrate in a slow lyrical passage. Many other people have to shift where he simply reaches.

September 6, 2016 at 09:34 PM · There are times when I think I'm getting somewhere with my playing - then you listen to something like Mr Perlman's original recording for the film and the sound changes just in the first two notes - and I feel like giving up!

September 6, 2016 at 09:46 PM · @Lydia I thought it looked like he was reaching pretty far with his 4th finger... Glad I'm not crazy.

I've heard a few pieces from him on youtube, just never really connected to any of his interpretations. The majority of my classical music discovery takes place over the wfmt chicago radio, which is usually local soloists or symphony music, so I haven't necessarily been exposed to many different recordings by the "greats". I tend to find a concerto that I enjoy, and then just stick with it for most of the standard violin concerto recordings I've purchased. Which basically means my phone is over-saturated with Hahn, Fischer, and Heifetz, but 'What's good is good'.

September 6, 2016 at 10:04 PM · Perfect 5th, successive shifts up and down...

As someone who studied (and performed) this piece, I have a feeling that it was composed using the keyboard, where repetitively flipping the 5th is quite easy to do.... with all due respect to the composer, as with other pieces, one simply knows when it was written by a violin player - for a violin player.

September 7, 2016 at 12:28 AM · Well, John Williams plays the piabo, so...

Also the fifths can be reached in lower positions by planting the pinky and reaching back to vibrate using the index.

This works better if you have longer fingers and a flexible hand.

Lucky me... :D

September 7, 2016 at 07:52 AM · Bailey ...

Hahn, Fischer, and Heifetz

I'm amazed you have the middle name in the same sentence! (Just my taste -wink)

September 8, 2016 at 05:04 PM · And I moonwalk better than Michael Jackson but... Seriously though Perlman did play the piece first and set the standard and though I'm not a big fan of direct comparisons I will say that I like that Perlman's interpretation has more linear direction and harmonic rhythm if that makes sense. I've always found this piece to inspire a myriad of emotions, reflective with feelings of sentimentality too not just overwhelming sadness. I feel Perlman's performance is more "layered" somehow. -M

September 8, 2016 at 06:30 PM · She's not doing a good job connecting the notes. The slides are quite sloppy and the intonation in multiple parts is a bit grating to the ears. It's a fine attempt if you're a student. The phrasing, if one could call it that is disjointed. She's trying too hard to be fancy with her bow pressure that she loses it quite a bit hence how each note is fading in and out... Also, too many uses of harmonics just ruins the mood required. There should be a very small controlled vibrato on almost every note that helps give it shape. Many things needed to improve things that this could be a long than needed post. ;)

It's a simple type of piece that has it's own drama without trying to add ones own. I've seen Perlman play this in person and from the get go he's able to walk a very fine line between making it both impressive to listen to and simple to watch. There's no jarring emphasis on wrong notes, the lady tended to make and Perlman moves the piece forward. So, no question about it Perlman's is about 100x better.

Hanslip was impressive without overly exaggerating things, though a couple times tended to forget the point of the piece and just crossing that line you shouldn't with it.

September 8, 2016 at 06:56 PM · It's true Perlman sometimes seems to rush a little, but that could be the conductor not taking his desired tempo; this does not happen in the soundtrack version.

September 8, 2016 at 09:22 PM · Chloe Hanslip's performance is lovely, too, even if I prefer Perlman.

The difference here, I think, is that Hanslip's performance seems 100% intentional. She's controlled, and I suspect what you hear is exactly what she intends you to hear, even if you might not prefer her interpretation.

I'm less convinced that McGrath's performance is 100% what she intended, intonation slips aside. I suspect, for instance, that if she were more consciously aware of what Gene termed the "moo", she would get rid of it in favor of something more continuous and directional.

We're basically talking about the difference between truly world-class soloists and an everyday competent player. (Note to John A: McGrath is a working pro, though it appears that she's still taking lessons.)

Perlman and Hanslip invite comparison, but McGrath isn't in the same league; she's still in the league of violinists that you critique the way you would if she were a student at a master-class, and thus you get drawn to those questions of "did she really mean to do that?" rather than focusing on interpretive choices.

September 8, 2016 at 09:57 PM ·

September 8, 2016 at 09:57 PM ·

September 8, 2016 at 09:57 PM · @John I'm pretty sure the sound you're referring to that came from the slides was intentional. Personally I liked the overemphasis on them. I can't speak to intonation my ear isn't a competent enough judge as of yet.

September 9, 2016 at 12:06 AM · In my listening, I didn't think all the slides were executed in a fully intentional fashion -- specifically, the way that the slides were coordinated and timed, both in terms of left-hand arrival with the note, and sometimes coordination with the bow.

The intonation drifts, along with the stray out-of-tune notes. You can sometimes hear the forcible resync with an open string -- where intonation that has drifted too far (for instance, a passage where the notes gradually creep sharper and sharper) is forced to confront the stable open string and then reset.

September 9, 2016 at 01:05 AM · @Lydia Where did you hear stray notes at? I was able to pick up on 2 of them, but I don't know the piece too well so I'm not sure. They didn't come off terribly noticeable though. I kind of heard the "mooing" that you refer to when going to the open string. Was that due to too much pressure from the bow?

September 9, 2016 at 02:11 AM · Uneven pressure.

Far as slides, this piece can have quite a bit but they need to be executed very carefully otherwise you begin sounding like a cat. There are a couple different types of slides Schindler's List uses such as Heifetz slide and other more Kreisler. Both give a different effect, but similarly executed. McGrath's slides definitely weren't executed well and they come off as such.

Intonation issues are obvious from the get go. But become irritatingly obvious when she gets to the forte repeat of the theme on the E string.

Also, Perlman's is a great tempo. The slower you take the piece, the more difficult it becomes and the more you really really need to be careful.

September 9, 2016 at 02:19 AM · Uneven pressure but even more importantly, uneven bowspeed. You can hear it from the very first note.

September 9, 2016 at 03:31 AM · John. There's a difference between constructive criticisms and complete brashness. It is a basic social skill to present yourself and your views respectfully, and not ostentatiously. Classical music is slowly losing ts threshold in society, as people believe there's a stigma of prestige and class associated with it. Having such conceited and "above all" views on everything is only deterring others further.

It needed to be said.

@Lydia thanks. That clears it up, and I was able to notice a lot of the discrepancies you (and others) mentioned on the thread. Now it makes a lot more sense as to what sets apart the skill set of the best from the rest, so to speak.

But, my view on him still stands, I just don't enjoy any of Perlman's recordings that I've heard. Any recommendations on his best interpretations?

September 9, 2016 at 03:54 AM · John A is actually spot on. I don't find what he's written to be impolite or conceited. As you advance, Bailey, your ears will get better. What is obvious to an experienced violinist -- even painfully so -- might not be obvious to you yet. For you and perhaps many other casual listeners, intonation issues and other technical problems might not spoil a performance. But for many of the folks here, they are a huge distraction, possibly to the point where it's difficult to enjoy the performance, especially if someone has asked you to compare two performances, which pretty much puts you in alert-listener intellectualized mode.

There are a number of aspects to a well-executed slide (portamento). When to slide and how to slide is something of a matter of taste -- it's subjective, though there is some common agreement on what's tasteful. But there are some aspects that are purely technical. For instance, there should be a real start and end to a shift, with the left and right hands properly coordinated so there's no extraneous sound -- a "smearing" to the ends of shifts. You can hear that in McGrath's playing sometimes. Similarly, when you slide, the timing still has to be proper and the arrival needs to be square on the note. You can hear timing issues, problems where too much finger pressure is left on the string for the slide and you get more of a glissando than portamento effect, etc.

I particularly like Perlman's early concerto recordings on EMI, with Andre Previn -- I find his Mendelssohn to be especially appealing. I love his playing on the Schindler's List soundtrack. I like his Suite Italienne live-performance video on YouTube. Perlman is a musician of tremendous charm across everything he plays, though.

September 9, 2016 at 11:22 AM · Bailey

You did put the link up and of course it will get criticised - you were surely aware of that?

I found all the criticisms OK and for me personally they did not jar. It's a tough world out there, and when the amateurs on here put up a link of their own playing, they get advice and gentle criticism and encouragement.

However, professionals tend to get less sympathy and more constructive criticism - even if this sounds hard on them. In the professional world it's dog eat dog. It's also hard for amateurs to take criticism from professionals, as they have not had to develop the thick skin that has to be acquired by serious students and professionals. In that world you are only as good as your last concert. I know top players who have worked as concertmasters who have been told as students to give up as they appeared to have little or no talent. They still went on to become top players. (Even if that meant starting again from scratch ...)

September 9, 2016 at 05:02 PM · "John. There's a difference between constructive criticisms and complete brashness. It is a basic social skill to present yourself and your views respectfully, and not ostentatiously. Classical music is slowly losing ts threshold in society, as people believe there's a stigma of prestige and class associated with it. Having such conceited and "above all" views on everything is only deterring others further.

It needed to be said."

Yes, what I typed needed to be said. Simply put, there's no comparisons between Ms. McGrath's playing and Perlman, Hanslip, et al... It's not nicely put together. One can play it like her without paying attention to the details needed to make it sound good, or one can play it like Hanslip, teetering on the cusp of over dramatic but still in good taste. As you advance, you'll learn these things. Become more aware and subjective about what does and does not sound good. Do not misinterpret critique of skills for "conceited and "above all" views." It's not a personal attack. But, there are numerous problems with her playing from Intonation to very simple basic techniques that those of us who've been around can and will point out.

I also suspect the "emotion and passion" you're interpreting comes from these slides and overuse of vibrato. I found it flat and intermediate playing at best. I'd also suspect since she is your teacher, that factors into your view how great she is. And maybe it's my knowing Perlman that factors into mine, but there's still no comparisons between the two. I'd suggest looking up others playing it to get a better sense of things and broaden your own view. There's a few of Perlman's, obviously Hanslip. There's one I cannot remember who is Asian sitting CM playing it that showed very great restraint and care for the piece. There are also Juilliard student recitals that are decent enough.

I will not apologize for my remarks about Ms. McGrath's playing.

September 9, 2016 at 05:14 PM ·

September 9, 2016 at 07:28 PM · I don't think anyone is being disrespectful here, nor is anyone asserting that this is simple. The OP did ask for a comparison, though, and I think he's received a very fair dissection along with instruction on how to listen himself for what more experienced ears are hearing. The criticism has been technically focused -- the aspects of playing that can be objectively evaluated. There are no personal attacks here, and I'm guessing if the player were reading it, they would probably agree with the criticism.

September 9, 2016 at 09:34 PM · Like I said there's constructive criticism and then there's what John said. I believe many of his points were correct, as the principle behind them is logical, but the way he presents them are in quite a rude manner that I don't think is beneficial to any player. For example, to say that it sounded like cats is a pointless exaggeration. There are better ways to get a message across.

September 9, 2016 at 09:42 PM · Teachers will often say things like that by way of illustration. Note Gene's teacher's description of the "moo" sound, for instance. "Slide sounds like a cat" is a mild criticism, much of the time. Slightly harsher is "sounds like a dying cat" or "sounds like a cat in heat" but still within the realm of normal descriptive teacher complaints. I imagine for most of us, the descriptive language is a matter of habit, and in context, it's not rude or unduly harsh. (Again, because you're a beginner, it might be something you're not used to hearing. Plus you belong to a youth cohort that adults seem to have been reluctant to criticize in anything but the most cotton-candy-wrapped fashion.)

September 9, 2016 at 10:14 PM · Bailey, you can't become overly emotional about technical commentary.

What you perceive as "rude" (the analogy of sounding like cat) is simply a very common way of communicating ways people shape their sound. While it might be more accurate to say "the rise 'x' and fall 'y' in the amplitude of the tone due to the increase/decrease in bow speed 's' as it travels over distance 'd'" to describe the situation, it's not something most younger students would hear, nor easily understand, which is why we use analogies in the first place, to frame them in a more familiar context.

In my own situation, being told to "stop moo-ing" was very clear and effective...if I didn't understand that, then my teachers would have gone into further detail. As an instructor now, I value these sorts of expressions to solve common playing challenges.

Most of us who have had to play this piece (Schindler's List) have faced these exact same challenges, and as others have pointed out, the work is not idiomatic to the instrument and those players whose hands cannot easily reach an in-tune fifth will have greater difficulty executing the work.

September 9, 2016 at 10:37 PM · I teach at a couple major music schools. I have not, nor would I be successful if I sugar-coated things to make people feel good about themselves. I 100% guarantee everything I've told my students in this manner is very beneficial. I've not made any personal attacks against either Ms. McGrath or Bailey. If there was something good to say about the playing, I'd done so. What's said has been said. If you, Bailey want to take stabs at anything I've written about, be my guess but at this point, that's neither constructive nor useful in any ways. And getting upset at what I've said about somebody else's technique, not even yours makes me feel it's time to move on. Good Luck in your potential career as a musician.

September 10, 2016 at 06:57 AM · "I teach at a couple major music schools." John A, apart from not using your full name, which is against rules, it is a pity there is no profile if we click on your name. Brief profiles can assure our readers that we are intelligent and perceptive rather than just opinionated.

About "sugar-coating". When a student arrives, I don't know what kind of a week he or she has had, so my choice of words will depend on their facial and body language. I might well use my dear teacher's expression about "not making a melody out of each note" rather than mooing or meeowing. Amusing animal comparisons can ruin a lesson however apt they may be. I am there to construct, not to inadvertedly demolish.

September 10, 2016 at 07:43 AM · Adrian

Thanks for this.

Good points and I certainly do not disagree. Things should be handled with some tact. However I did not find John A's comments to be over the top, although I agree he could have used better language.

As for the profiles, I quite agree. It happens I don't have one at present as I deleted it a few weeks ago when I was thinking of quitting altogether. I had about three weeks to cool off and then I decided (with encouragement from a very respected member of the forum) not to let one person's posts deter me, as it would mean they had won.

So you have helped me decide to re-instate my profile soon, as I think people should have a minimum profile, which often helps in deciding how to respond to a particular post.

September 10, 2016 at 09:07 AM · Also, we have to remember that humour (especially the deadpan British kind!), or zany images, are linked to our tone voice: in cold print they can go down like the proverbial lead baloon!

And again, videos of the "greats" teaching (admitedly in front of a camera) show that kindness and charm are in no way incompatible with rigour and precision.

September 10, 2016 at 09:34 AM · Also, we have to remember that humour (especially the deadpan British kind!), or zany images, are linked to our tone voice: in cold print they can go down like the proverbial lead baloon!

Adrian - are you incinerating that my sense of humour (note spelling) is OFF!? One has to have a truly Shakespearean sense of humour to enjoy classic British humour, so it's no wonder the ROW does not get it. If they had a Shakespeare, then all would be splendid. (wink)

PS Adrian - I've updated my profile just for YOU!

September 10, 2016 at 10:45 AM · No, Peter I was treating mooing/meeowing as humoUr.

September 10, 2016 at 12:33 PM · Talking of mooing - some people think a certain English composer's music is cow pat music. I must say I have some sympathy ... Just my personal (bad) taste!!

September 11, 2016 at 01:01 AM · It's not really fair to put a gigging musician up against a household name like Perlman, especially when this piece was written for him. I'm torn between cringing and finding it adorable that a student would try.

As far as Hanslip's performance, she's a great player, but I found it a little overwrought. I'm a stickler for that, though; I hate when simple melodies reminiscent of folk tunes are overplayed. Perlman's version wins every time for me.

September 11, 2016 at 02:16 AM · @Sarah I wasn't really attempting to compare the 2 as I disclaimed. More so what made Perlman's so great, as I did not find it enjoyable the first couple times I listened to it.

September 11, 2016 at 08:14 AM · Sarah, Perlman's Klezmer discs are similarly "restrained".

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