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Serious Violinist, No Parental Support

Life in general: What should he do?

From Chris Coritsidis
Posted February 6, 2004 at 05:13 PM

Hello Everyone! the following post is very serious and I as all of you to take some time and help me to advise my friend on what he should do with his career. For that past couple of years a friend of mine has worked for at 5 hours a day perfecting his violin playing. His tone is sumptuous and soaring, technique flawless, and his musicality is outstanding. The problem with him though is that his parents do not support him in his studies. He has played every major concerto plus modern concerti, and given various recitals where it was made clear to the audience how incredible of a player he was and his great potential. Sadly, His parents have only bought him one bow for 400 dollars, his instrument is on loan from his teacher, a Hopf violin of pretty good quality. He recently has asked them to buy him two more bows, a lightone for paganini etc. and a bow for chamber music which he often participates in. They replied no, but instead purchased a house for investment purposes, over buying him two new bows. He is very frustrated under these conditions and feels the need to leave his parents home and go somewhere where he can truly grow to his full potential. He is considering an audition for Anne-Sophie Mutter's Circle of Friends Foundation, yes he's a Mutter fan too, which will allow him to live in Germany for a period of time, is this wise??
His family also only allows him to practice after school from 4 till 8 pm, so he must then force himself to wake up at 5am to practice from 6 am till 7 am before he must leave for school. On top of that he practices like mad during his one free period of the day just to make between 5 to 6 hours a day. He is truly gifted in every sense of the word, I believe that he could become one of the most outstanding violinists of his generation if he received the right tools, guidance, and support. So, what would you tell him to do???

From Lefebure Alain
Posted on February 6, 2004 at 05:54 PM
Parents are often afraid of artistic career which is hazardous and they rightfully insist upon their children continue general studies as far as possible.Children cannot juge parent's financial options;then could simply not afford to buy a new violin. Unfortunately for your friend,he only has to win international prize.He may then have wonderful violin as the Bellosio from Adami. Anyway most of great violinists have been patronized ,so be confident
From Tommy Atkinson
Posted on February 6, 2004 at 09:32 PM
if his parents are against him going to germany, maybe your friend audition for curtis... they take pretty much any age violinist and tuition is free.

how old is your friend, btw?

From JAY ZHONG
Posted on February 6, 2004 at 11:56 PM
It depends on how serious he is. When you are starving for food, other things seldom matters. So it is with passion for anything.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 7, 2004 at 02:56 AM
Greetings,
well, i"m a miserable old bugger so make all necessary allowances please, but I think a little rethink is called for here.
I am sure the assessment of talent is correct but a little calmness and reflection on values is also important. It is all too easy for the talent to get ahead of the human being.
First of all, a teacher is necessary for this kind of -potential-, especially when the parents are not artistically inclined. The teacher will take the role of surrogate parent and however perfect you think the technique is the stuff you can learn from players like Silverstein, Laredo, Rosand, Weilerstein,Gruenberg, Bron or whatever is not only priceless, but will often click years later. The violin is a very profound curse and there is more to playing it well than just playingit superbly. So, yeah, maybe this person needs to take the risk and go somewhere. Get good advice on that.
The reason I personally percieve some wobbly areas perhaps unrelated to sheer violinistic talent and potential is simply in what is written and if I am wrong I humbly beg your forgiveness. But what is this stuff about bows, for starters? Actually, this idea about having x bow for Paginin, X bow for chamber and so on is pure bs. He /she should learn to live with the present moment. With greatness will conme valuable things but if that person is obssessing on them right now then they will never appreciate true value when it does come their way.
What is also truly valuable?
The love of your parents, no matter how misguided or -ignorant- they may be in some areas. Be without a family, understand what it really means to be alone and or sick and then take a breathe of fresh air. Look at some trees.
All the best,
Buri
From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on February 7, 2004 at 04:18 AM
Buri, I have to disagree on a couple of points. First of all, you stress the importance of family, friends and the human being behind the talent. But there are plenty of people whose personality and well-rounded happiness is inseparable from their violinistic life. I should know...I'm one of them. For such people, being happy and being a violinist are synonymous, and parents who are unwilling or unable to see this are treating their child with the ultimate disrespect. And disrespect, FROM any age TOWARDS any age, is not to be blithely dismissed - especially if it's between family members.

Richard Bach once wrote "rarely do members of the same family grow up under the same roof." And he was absolutely right. The act of giving birth does not entitle the parent to ownership of the child's life or goals. Being unable to understand those goals is no excuse for dismissing a genuine, visceral need for music. Such a dismissal would earn enmity among strangers, so why should having some DNA in common earn anything less when the DNA is all that is shared? In short, blood doesn't excuse everything and when it takes it upon itself to fundamentally alter another's life, there is no excuse. Guide your children, but remember that they're people too, for goodness' sake.

As for the bows, I agree with you that a student should learn to play with whatever equipment he/she has available. But there does come a point where $400 bows become the equivalent of tying anchors to the legs of a sprinter. When that sprinter then fails to break the speed record, it is not proof that there was no point in removing such handicaps in the first place. Substandard equipment is definitely not crippling in the initial stages of learning to play, but is nothing less than sabotage when the player becomes even moderately advanced. Do I advocate parents buying their kids Strads for their fifth lesson? No. But surely they can splurge, even when buying a new house, on at least a middlin' decent, $1500 bow. I'm sure their closing costs alone were five times that amount.

For what my own example is worth, I keep four bows in my fiddle case. And one IS used mainly for showpieces, while another is used for the heavier sonatas or concerti (the other two are spares, for when the main ones are being rehaired). And I'd definitely be severely handicapped trying to play Perpetuum Mobile with a stick that has all the bounce of overboiled pasta. Been there, done that, offered the tee-shirt for sale...

From Sarah Levin
Posted on February 7, 2004 at 06:23 AM
I wouldn't be so quick to judge these parents as heartless or disrespectful because they are "only" letting their child practice five hours each day. There is a lot about this young person that we don't know - how old is he, first of all? does he have trouble in school? Does he have friends? Depending on his age, you might even ask what could this kid possibly be escaping from? There are many perfectly well-adjusted virtuosos out there, but just as many virtuosos with so much baggage and neglect in their backgrounds that would make your heart drop to your feet.

We want to encourage talented violinists, for sure. But we also want to encourage healthy kids. We really don't know this kid at all and therefore can't judge his or his parents intentions.

From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on February 7, 2004 at 08:08 AM
Sarah, you're absolutely right. We don't know the kid at all other than through his friend's impression and description. I also grant that five hours is ample time for practice, especially in the case of someone as talented as Chris says his friend is. Actually, the only aspect of Chris' post that rang warning bells with me as far as his friend's actual talent was that friend's eagerness to judge the success or failure of his practicing by the tyranny of the clock. Chris, for what it's worth, there is no quota of hours which your friend must practice or else forfeit his dreams. If he plays better, even in one passage, at the end of each day than he did when the day began, he has practiced successfully.

However, Sarah, Chris' friend's parents do not let their child practice for five hours a day. They give him a four hour time slot, immediately on the heels of his return from school, presumably. Speaking from personal experience, a four hour time slot equals two and a half to three hours of productive work. Aside from the impossibility of sustained concentration for four hours straight, there's the issue of physical strain. If Chris' friend practices nonstop, without putting the violin down, for four hours straight, I would seriously question the QUALITY of that practicing and, regrettably, foresee tendonitus or some similar physical injury in his near future.

How old the kid is, or his circle of friends is not entirely relevant, I think. Yes, of course school must be given attention, but if that's all that bothers the parents I would assume Chris' friend and his folks would have easily reached a tit-for-tat arrangement where if he maintains some respectable GPA, he is allowed free rein with the fiddle. As for his circle of friends, I'd worry more, again, about the quality of the friends he does have rather than instilling in him some generic, socially acceptable thirst for universal popularity. And as for escaping, Sarah, I'd say Chris' friend is just as likely running TO something rather than FROM something. He has drive, a talent, and a dream. What quotidian ecstasy should he wallow in instead of rushing headlong towards his goal?

You raise serious points, Sarah, but all of them easily enough addressed by well-intentioned people. Are his parents worried about his schoolwork? Write down an agreement where they pledge noninterference in return for his maintaining some mutually acceptable GPA. Are they worried about him growing up "healthy"? In a world where practically no-one is considered psychologically healthy, where psychobabble prevails and Dr. Lauras and Dr. Ruths have us navel-gazing in between sessions of self-flagellation, I'd suggest setting some objective, obtainable definition of mental health. And again, if he meets that criteria - one which, remember, is clearly defined in order to be attainable - he is left alone to live his life.

In a world where keeping kids off drugs, STDs, and teenage pregnancy seems to be the most common parental challenge, I'd think that Chris' friend's parents should be rather grateful that their son has chosen to obsess over something with a future, something that exercises the brain and cleanses the soul. That they aren't leads me to suspect their objectives, however well-intentioned or unconscious of disrespect. It smacks all too much of "this isn't what I want the kid to be/do" (a common enough attitude, I think you'll agree). What if he wants to be something better? Who should say him "nay"?

From Sarah Levin
Posted on February 7, 2004 at 08:38 AM
Good points there too, Emil. As a social worker, I work with many mentally ill children and see a lot of escapism that comes in various forms. I'm sure many of us disappeared into our rooms to practice for hours on end to slip gracefully away from the Outside, and while this is a healthy release compared to other coping mechanisms, there is something that strikes me as very haunting - albeit poignant - about a 13-year-old child, for instance, practicing his violin for five hours a day when it is not fully accepted and supported by his parents. I give any kid kudos for wanting to practice like that, but usually this kind of desire is partly fueled by parental "nudging," if you will.

That is not to say that a 13-year-old cannot have an independent drive for greatness in one area of his life. But the very fact that his parents are non-supportive of his obvious wants and needs indicates to me that their relationship is under some pretty intense stress and this kid could possibly be using the violin in a rebellious way, which, in the long run, will likely burn him out.

I state again that there are no easy answers to situations like this, but without knowing the history it is unfair to make assumptions about the parents or the child. I wish him the best of luck and hope that he and his parents can arrive at some kind of compromise so that neither his talent, nor his youth, is wasted.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 7, 2004 at 09:49 PM
Greetings,
Emil, glad you are around to comment on this one.
I think I am going to respectfully reject your suggestion that aspects of my previous post were ‘blithe." First, to have written in such a way would have been slighting the serious intent with which Chris wrote about his friend (CF) and second, what I said (about the importance of family) has a strong element of personal experience in it. Mine all died when I was young. I have a strong dislike of the act of proselytizing to the young on topics such as poverty or loneliness by people who know nothing about such things.
I am very familiar with the notion of one’s happiness being irrevocably intertwined with playing the violin. As one of my students once kindly noted "Buri, you seem to change from sheepish dolt to expert human through the act of opening the violin case." However, I think this condition(?) is learned rather than innate and can contain an unhealthy element of self delusion, particularly in young people who often have less experience in self-reflection but not always...) I would , for example posit the following to you; Are you happy a) playing chess? b) making love? If so, then the condition of being happy or unhappy is somewhat different from the way you explicate it, at least as far as I can see. ( Incidentally, there is a highly perceptive and erudite essay that explores this by Christopher Bunting which also serves as the forward to is book "TheArt and Craft of Cello Playing. Well worth scrounging a copy from any cellist colleague who has a copy)
It is because of the danger really talented young players like CF face that I so strongly advocate the role of a surrogate parent who is a violinist if the parents are unable to fill the role. I believe I did so in my previous post therefore focusing on my shorter homily on family values was arguably an unbalanced representation of what I was saying.
As far as ‘disrespect’ is concerned , if a stranger is rude to me I have, among others, the options of walking away, being rude back or giving them a smack in the mouth. Of course these options exist within the family context but they are very much proscribed by that context. I agree with you that it has nothing to do with DNA whatsoever. But , it does have a lot to do with the values that society has associated with the family. I am familiar with the Bach and I do find that er, "blithe." Firstly because the paths of growing up we take are set for better or worse by the first people we have contact with I E family and second, much of the growing up that Bach refers to actually take place within the context of new relationships (marriage etc.) which are , in essence more family....
I thought it was actually rather a big leap to CF’s situation as one of disrespect. Mixed in with all this is the rather normal element of a young persons need to reject family and make their own way in life. I am aware of a number of cases where this level of talent has , as part of thenature of the beast, become very self centered and or self destructive and the family may not understand too much about the nature of genius but they did know enough to provide limits to help their child. No idea if this is remotely relevant in this case. There was not enough data to actually take any reliable position on this point and frankly, I think i is better that way.
What came across to me, perhaps a complete misconstruction on my part, was a small sense of anomaly in the situation. For all the problems, and the real sense that a very talented person needs to initiate change , there did not seem to me to be that much that has actually gone wrong.
CF not only managed to develop his talent well, learn an extensive repertoire, give recitals, but also has the sense of self worth that allows him to talk with some confidence about doing what is right for himself. That actually is a hell of a lot better than most people manage!
Finally, I too have a tee shirt collection although it may be somewhat grubbier than yours. I also have a collection of bows including a number of Nurnbergers, a Pecatte and a Sartory. And yes, some of them work better for some situations by a substantial margin. Indeed there is nothing that gets my goat more than some nekulturney twerp telling me that the same quality of music can be expressed using a $400 bow than can be found using one that costs $4000. But it is also true that a lot of professionals do use only one bow.
The reason I stretched the point somewhat is because of a small feeling of anomaly I felt again in CFs approach. I suppose a child has a certain expectation that parents are going to foster their career until such a time as they can do it themselves though I also note in passing that this actually varies very strongly across cultures. What seemed possible was the question of initiative. I am not an advocate of the hard knocks school of life by any means but it does seem to me that someone of Cf"s level of talent and determination who has done so well so far and is openly talking about packing up and making tracks can either negotiate with his parents or set a goal of earning a thousand dollars or so and then flipping burgers in the summer vacation or whatever. I presented the distaff side for the simple reason that it is sometimes better to really earn something (especially if in the near future you are going to get a lot of stuff handed to you on a plate) and even considered the possibility that that is what one’s parents are very indirectly asking you to do for your own sake. I always feel rather sad reading about a genius such as Friedmann being unable to balance a checkbook, or the Rabin"s and Heifetz’ with no control over their lives remotely commensurate with the beauty of what they did. In a world where being an international superstar has perhaps more to do with things than violinistic genuis than CF is perhaps yet aware of, such things are worth considering,
Cheers,
Buri
From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 7, 2004 at 11:13 PM
I'm not any kind of fabulous soloist, just a good, solid orchestra player. That means my life has still nonetheless centered on playing the violin and doing it well. But I did spend a summer flipping burgers while my friends were at Aspen, Tanglewood, NRO, etc. It was a little frustrating, and I felt like I was falling behind my peers. But I still practiced every day in my parents' basement and made progress that summer. In the grand scheme of things, it was a valuable lesson. I know how it feels to flip burgers for a living and how people treat you when you are in that position. I also know I have to make my own opportunities. My parents did much to foster my development as a violinist, but they did not buy me a violin, did not make me practice, did not fund my summer endeavors. As my husband likes to say, "Play with the hand you are dealt!" Find a way to get the life you want, starting with the life you have.
From Rich Gee
Posted on February 8, 2004 at 02:47 AM
Christopher, Your story is facinating. Have you ever played with this friend? Any duets? That is the ideal way to assess a player. Remember, anyone can play a Bruch solo if they put some work into it (if talent is lacking so will quality, but nonetheless it will be a Bruch solo). In a duet, a player must form a symbiotic relationship with their fellow muscian, and play as though they are one.

Does your friend mesh? If you do play, do your parents support you? What sort of violin do you use?

Has your friend played any concerts recietly, solo or in an ensamble?

From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on February 8, 2004 at 02:38 AM
Buri, I wasn't saying your post was blithe. I was saying that dismissing disrespect - as is so often done when parents disrespect their children - is wrong, especially when justified with a "well, he's only a kid" line of argument. Your post was, as usual, thoughtful although I disagreed with aspects of it.

I completely agree with you, though, about the role of the teacher as a surrogate parent, especially in cases where the student lives in a musically restricted environment. And even when the student doesn't, sometimes. (In my case, though I grew up in the epitome of a musical household, the teacher to whom I most often send grateful thoughts is Vladimir Zykind, who was not only a mentor to me, but almost an older brother.) And you're also correct to point out that your post did focus on this. Since I didn't disagree in the slightest with that portion of your post, I merely focused on the parts which I found more alien to my views. Please understand that when I write about disagreeing with an element of something you write, I'm not wholesale dismissing EVERYTHING you write, merely the sections on which I then elaborate.

As for bows, I think you and I see more eye to eye on this than might at first appear. I also know many pros who use one bow. Antal Szalai, for instance, used only one bow for all his Lipizer programme as I recall. However, I borrowed that bow for the Tchaikovsky in the laureates' concert and found it to be an absolute gem. With that bow, I certainly would feel no need to switch-hit, since it has both breadth of sound and speed of response. As I have two bows, one of which has the one quality and the other of which has a different one, I'm forced to switch off. And, since CF seems to have a similar situation, I could more easily understand his requests for better equipment as an indication of his advanced level than as an indication of his blaming anything but himself for whatever technical problems he might encounter.

Finally, as for happiness, I can honestly say that whether playing chess or making love, I tend to have my mood unalterably colored by the events in my violinistic life. After a successful concert or competition, it takes a whole lot less to make me happy - whether winning a game from my grandmaster cousin (THAT'll be the day!) or finding myself in a bedroom with Venus herself. Several ex-gf's have expressed frustration over the fact that their wiles were insufficient to make me forget the last lost concert. It was in vain that I assured them the fault lay not in their stars (or any other bits of them) but in my own, self-centered and ambitious little soul. Is this learned behaviour? I don't think so. At any rate, I can't remember ever being any different.

Perhaps I argue most against the notion that it's always a good idea to be a healthy human being first and a violinist second. "Healthy, well rounded person" is a phrase too often tossed around, with no clear idea of what it means. I certainly have none. Is it a good idea to die, like Jascha Heifetz, alienated, alone, and friendless? Surely not. But is it advisable to convince oneself one is happy BEING happy, while forsaking the lofty professional heights one set out to scale as being unhealthy ones, and best made into some tolerable hobby? I'm sure you'll agree that this extreme is no better than the other.

Oh, and I found something BETTER than prunes. Kefir. RASBERRY flavored, too!

From Rich Gee
Posted on February 8, 2004 at 03:08 AM
Forgive me for so immediatly calling you christopher, if your name is otherwise I appologize. Be it: Christian, Christoff, Chrissy, Crystal, Christine, Christina, etc.

I appologize- it was rash of me to draw so hastily to such a conclusion.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 9, 2004 at 12:48 AM
Greetings,
Emil wrote:
Perhaps I argue most against the notion that it's always a good idea to be a healthy human being first and a violinist second. "Healthy, well rounded person" is a phrase too often tossed around, with no clear idea of what it means. I certainly have none. Is it a good idea to die, like Jascha Heifetz, alienated, alone, and friendless? Surely not. But is it advisable to convince oneself one is happy BEING happy, while forsaking the lofty professional heights one set out to scale as being unhealthy ones, and best made into some tolerable hobby? I'm sure you'll agree that this extreme is no better than the other.

Emil, 150% agreement. Sorry if I over reacted. Struggling through flu at the moment- literally everything I am looking at right now is a curious red color...
I have not been able to figure out the origin of this phenomenon, but I have found that whenever I consult books on anthopology and evolution that attempt to draw tree diagrams of human development there never seems to be a separate path on the left showing a chimpanzee playing the violin.
Nonetheless, despite having been forced to spend ten or so years in the company of educational theorists who belive the ultimate goal of education is a balanced diet for everyone, I have finally and utterly concluded that some people just -have to do music- and to deprive them of that by mixing their genius in with so called `peers` at the local junior high is a disaster. Fairness in education for me means putting every kid in exactly the environment that is right for them.
I don`t know how you evaluate your students, colleagues etc. But asides from the obvious talent/technical aspects I think there is one fundamental criteria that is the difference between a soloist and a worthy musician of the middle classes. That is, in spite of the stage fright, assuming circumstances are favourable, the moment they are on stage the feeling they are experiencing is one of absolute pure joy. A kind of unaldultered and open love for every single member of the audience that in its own way is er, easily as good as a top class bonk...
Cheers,
Buri

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 9, 2004 at 03:43 AM
Greetings,
or as Cardinal Newman spelled out all too clearly in `The Idea of a University Defined` (1873):
`Stuffing birds or playing stringed instruments is an elegant pastime, and a resource to the idle, but it is not an education.`

Cheers,
Buri

From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on February 9, 2004 at 10:04 AM
Buri, when the mood is right (the hands feeling electrified, the brain focused, the imagination active), I have to admit that being onstage is better than any bonk I've ever had. I suppose it's easy to understand when you consider that, when things are going the way you want them to, it's very much like having 2000 lovers. At one time.
And yes, I know quantity doesn't ALWAYS beat quality...but THAT kind of quantity?? ;-)
From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on February 9, 2004 at 02:47 PM
Where is the person who started this thread?

A lot of relevant points and queries in all the comments,

but basically,
Chris, where does your friend learn the violin? Or is he on his own? Anyone else decided on his brilliance as a violinist? Perhaps here (Carl, Sue you may agree) in Europe I think people would be very reluctant to use these kinds of descriptions, even for veryadvanced students. Chris seems to be of the opinion that his friend is perfect.
Has he talked to his parents about all the possibilities of studying in a different type of school? What do they say to more formal training in music? Has he planted the question a responsible way, found out all the info, the years of study required, what he hopes to be by the end? He does sound very confused, and I (as a parent) certanly would not allow my kids to get up at 5 in the morning to play, regardless...theres such things as consideration for other people living in the house to say nothing of neighbours. Parents who allow him to practise 4 hours a day don't sound particularly anti-music, and perhaps your friend needs to back up his case about new bow with the backing of a responsible adult, like his violin teacher , or director of a school etc. Just my thoughts.

From janet griffiths
Posted on February 9, 2004 at 10:19 PM
Why can't this boys teacher (the one who has lent him the Hopf violin of pretty good quality)be given any say in his future career.Presumably he/she is best placed to assess his abilities.It seems a strange request to give advice on the unknown and even stranger to attempt to give it.
From Sam Geel
Posted on February 9, 2004 at 11:04 PM
What sort of Hopf is does your friend have?

Has Chris left us to wander in our own words alone? There are many good words above mine, and if I needed advice I would heed the above.

I would also like to add one thing: It is important to realize that many people have different tastes although you may find his technique to be wonderful, and his tone superior- but someone else may see a self absorbed player who exaggerates their music so much that they completely miss the point of the piece. As stated by Auer in his book, it is good to interpret music but sometimes overinterpretation kills the piece. Being a student under the power of his parents, I feel it best to heed their advice.

Remember- there is none so biased towards a child than his parents. Their opinion may the best for him. Perhaps this four hundred dollar bow is best for this student.

In regards to his practicing technique, remind your friend that there is such a thing as over practicing. I myself have followed even more rigerous routines, but I have gained little from it. But then again that is just me. I remember a previous post in which people stated similiar thoughts.

Have you ever considered the words of your friends to be lies- I don't mean to be offensive, but in my many years of playing, I have learned that those who boast of practice seldom do, and those that say they never practice have the redest necks and most practiced fingers.

Thank you for reading my words, and I hope they help you. I don't mean to pry, but is this friend you? Don't be bashful, if it is, be proud.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 10, 2004 at 12:24 AM
Greetings,
Janet said:
>It seems a strange request to give advice on the unknown and even stranger to attempt to give it.

Janet, I understand exactly what promted you to write this. I too am very dubious about the internet used for anything other than very specific technical questions. It is all too easy to forget that there are a huge number of people reading this stuff and if one makes a pratt of oneself the implications for career may well come back to haunt you. In a more general sense I find the Internet generates a false sense of security for people who are having trouble that may be very serious indeed. In fact, since i began posting way back when (?) I have recieved a small number of requests for help from victims of sexual abuse of varying degrees of seriousness, one of which was extremely dangerous for the person concerned. Aside from suggesting where to get help the most importnat thing I felt I had to do was to strongly emphasize that -predators- are way ahead of the rest of us on using the Internet and -nobody- knows 100% who they are talking too at least in the short run. An extreme example might be some pervert who decides to play the role of sponsor in order to get in touch with insecure yougsters who are struggling to fit in with what is ultimately an outsider`s art.
Having said that, I take issue with the last part of your comment for a number ofreasons. The Internet is here to stay for better or worse and the way it is going to stay `better` is if the people who actually have some desire to help others get their finger out. I have no hesitation in writing about issues like this because I trust myself not to give too bad advice too often, and if it is lousy I know that otehrs will respond with the opposite which may at least provide the poster with the idea that what they are cocnerned about has many different sides. Were they to keep the problem locked in theri own head then it is only human nature to see it purely in one dimension.
Finally, if you do argue for some kind of mild censorship when are you going to stop? The perversity of the violin lies in the fact that most of the problems involved in learning it are deeply personal,
Cheers,
Buri

From Chris Coritsidis
Posted on February 10, 2004 at 01:27 AM
sorry sorry I've been preparing for my own concertizing lately so I hadn't found the time to come online and chat. First of all, NO, I don't think my friend is perfect at the violin, I am personally more established as a musician than he is, he just has great potential and the skills to become a great musician . His teacher is a Russian of the line of Auer pupils and his parents and teacher don't communicate very well because of the language barrier but he does say that he is the greatest violinist he ever had, and that means alot since some of his students are in the Berlin and Israel Phil. So I believe that is evidence enough for you skeptics...Um his Hopf violin, I don't know too much about it, but it's pretty descent, a nice g-string sound...I estimate it's from the late 1700s.
From Sam Geel
Posted on February 12, 2004 at 01:59 AM
What sort of shape is this Hopf in? Any open seems or cracks?
From Page Silverman
Posted on March 15, 2004 at 04:32 AM
I don't totally agree with the whole thing about this kid having a certain type of violin, or price, or type or price of bow. Ofcourse a stradivarious violin is going to sound like god compared to a tissue box with 4 rubber bands on it, but I like to think at times that the violin player is not in the instrument, but in the player itself. If you put itzhak perlman on an instrument found at...let's say...sam ash music, and then a beginner playing on joshua bell's stradivarius(nothing against joshua bell or his violin, i am just using this as a point on musicianship)... then ofcourse itzhak perlman on the sam ash instrument is going to sound better. So all I have to say on the situation on his instrument is that it shouldnt matter what he is playing on, but what should matter is his playing. I know that many of you are going to dissagree, but I think that everybody has their own opinion. I might not be playing the violin for long, but I know what good and bad sounds like, and I have studied a lot the instrument itself, and I think my comment was safe to say.
From Brian Bak
Posted on March 15, 2004 at 06:37 AM
I have a pretty good idea of the talente described here and this person MUST have a decent violin and a decent bow to get anywhere. Sometimes, you can be very good but not get anywhere and not win any competitions because of certain limitations. I'd like to know any example of someone who didn't have a wonderful violin and bow and won a major competition or became a major violinist.

On the issue of parents, I think it would be a very bad idea to break away from the family in that sort of way. If I were your friend, I would try my best to alter my parents' beliefs. I would keep trying and never stop until I was accepted. Only after you have tried everything imaginable should you even consider breaking away.

From Joseph Beckman
Posted on March 15, 2004 at 04:39 PM
Oistrakh didn't have a good violin for most of his early career (not to mention the fact that even after he got his Strad, it wasn't even of of the greatest ones), and yet he had one of the biggest, and most striking sounds of all. Also, Milstein played on a cheap violin and bow for most of his early career (he played on a very cheap violin when he played for Yesaye). Ricci was said to be able to switch to any instrument and still play incredibly, and I am not even mentioning the fact that Hiefez, when he was still very young (before he came to the West), could not, in any way, afford a trully good violin.
Actually, this would probably go for every player that came out of Eastern Europe (Russia, Hungry, Ukraine...) in the first half of the 20th century.
From Brian Bak
Posted on March 16, 2004 at 03:45 AM
Joseph,
That was a different time. And although Oistrakh may not have had the best Strad, it still was a Strad. My current violin for example, has so little ability in bringing out all the overtones that everyone tells me it sounds muted, even though I know how to create the sound I want. Major artists have told me that I desperately need a new violin and that it makes a huge difference. When you go to a major competition, the judges will not blame the violin and then assume that you can create great sounds on a different instrument and then give you 1st prize. They will blame the player. They are not that considerate. Although the sound does come from the individual, the amount of the individual's sound that comes through depends greatly on the instrument. Trust me, I've had major artists play on my instrument and they failed to bring out their sound that they could create on their great Italian instruments. I can say without a doubt that Perlman can create his own individual sound more easily on his Strad than on a cheap box-like violin. Also, if you talk about psychological factors, the harder you have to concentrate and focus on the sound, the worse you'll do in all other parts of playing the instrument. Well, maybe not always worse but it would be more probable to do worse.
From Sue Donim
Posted on March 16, 2004 at 04:10 AM
Maybe it depends on the circumstances? I see your point, Brian, about the judges' opinions, but on the other hand I have a student who sounds the same on his £600 instrument as on my £3k one, so what's that about?
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 16, 2004 at 04:47 AM
Greetings,
Sue, that probably means the potential of the expensive instrument is beyond his current capabilities. ;)
Cheers,
Buri
From Carl Fulbrook
Posted on March 16, 2004 at 07:25 AM
All this stuff about expensive instruments is a bit hard to swallow. I play on a violin I got for £1800 (roughly $2500) that has a better tone than most instruments I've heard that can be double or triple that amount, and a very consistent range. My bow was about £300 ($500) and serves me perfectly. I have been complimented on the sound my instrument makes frequently.
The instrument comes from France, was made in 1927, but other than that I don't know much about it. It is in excellent condition, so that can't have anything to do with the price.

The point is, there are always going to be a few high quality instruments that are reasonably priced. Keep searching.

Carl.

From Joseph Beckman
Posted on March 16, 2004 at 05:13 PM
Brian, I complitely agree with you in this respect, but you don't have to have, in our time, a Strad or an old Italian istrument to better your sound. There are plenty of modern makers that make good violins that don't cost as much as an old Italian instruments, and whose sounds are close to the quality or of the quality of the above mentioned instruments.
From Brian Bak
Posted on March 16, 2004 at 08:21 PM
Joseph,
I agree that there are wonderful modern italian violin makers and in my opinion some selected ones sounds just as good as the old ones made by the masters. However, the violinist we're talking about here seems to not have such a great instrument like a good modern Italian.
From Sue Donim
Posted on March 16, 2004 at 10:43 PM
Yes, Buri, that's exactly my point. How many of us could honestly expect to make a better sound on a Strad than we could on a less prestigious instrument? Also, as Carl has said (and as we've discussed on previous occasions) value is subjective. Example: My bow was bought by my grandfather for £50 and later valued at £250. A top soloist estimated it to be worth £700 and made me an offer, which I refused. When I got it revalued in 1997 it was found to be worth £2k...
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 17, 2004 at 12:10 AM
Greetings,
I think we sort of agree here, Sue. But I am also referring to a progressive situation whearas yours seems a little absolte to me. If a student has a reasonable grasp of the mechanics of things and the violin is not responding at this level (say a factory instrument) then the student will sound better on a finer instrument, the price of which may be fairly variable within a cerain price range. But as te student has nothign like the skill to play a Strad that would not be too impresssive. I feel this progression repeats itself over adover again with progressvely more expensive instruments, whateve the many irrational and quite genuine exceptions to the value of violnins that turn up so often.
I often play on sequences of value instruments up to the level of good Guarneris ad have always found the fact of increase in value conistent with the massive potential i sense in the isntruments and the quality of palyign I produce. That the monetary difiference between the cost of the isntruments is often so vast is much harder to justify...
Cheers,
Buri
From Sue Donim
Posted on March 17, 2004 at 01:23 AM
The out-growing process seems to apply to teachers also, don't you think?
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 17, 2004 at 01:51 AM
Greetings,
I assume it applies to everyone. But it does beg the question , if our playing begins to detiriorate with age should we then work back down to a Chinese factory instrument for our `90s? (oops, don`t mention you know who...)
Cheers,
Buri
From Sue Donim
Posted on March 17, 2004 at 02:35 AM
Lol! I meant we can outgrow teachers just as we outgrow violins. And vice versa? Just imagine, I'll be in my 90s and playing a Skylark in 20min group lessons...
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 17, 2004 at 03:42 AM
Greetings,
teachers? Absolutely. The non plus ultra raison d`etre of evey teacher should be to make themselves utterly redundant.
Sadly, most of us are just thinking about that col pint of bitter this hard earned five quid is goingto buy us. Or has the pint now passed the fiver benchmark?
Gordon Bennet,
Buri

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