From Raymond Paul
Posted July 21, 2006 at 08:46 PM
Now please understand that I believe there is an incredible upside to the repertoire that exists in the classical violin world, and all the tradition that goes with it. It is really great to hear so many versions or approaches to the same pieces. But the fact that we are all playing the same music and that very few good things have come since Kreisler, is huge downside to our musical world.
The greatest violinist of our time will be the one who cannot only play like Ehns, or Perlman, or Bell, or Rippin, etc., but the one that adds meaningful melodies to the existing repertoire, in other words--new stuff that is as good as the old stuff! That is the person or persons that we should all be waiting for.
Anyway, my favorite violinist (I will refrain from using the phrase "the best violinist ever" LOL) is David Oistrakh. Everything he plays is so amazing. Everything is well thought-out, and all the things he does with his bow arm or his body only add to the way he wants his music to be. His bow arm, by the way, is fantastic.
Before passing judgment on the current generation, I think you should consider the contemporary musical climate more carefully. Just because modern violinists don't tour with their own works doesn't mean that they are any lesser musicians for it - or even that they don't compose for their instrument, period! (To use two of your examples, I have read that both Mr. Bell and Mr. Ehnes compose, whether in the form of cadenzas or even solo sonatas.) Consider today's audience or booking agent. The fact is, a booking agent for the New York Philharmonic is *probably* going to be more likely to book Hilary Hahn to play the Mendelssohn Concerto than a Hahn Concerto. I'm not necessarily saying that's the way it should be, or that things shouldn't change, but from what I've observed, this is the way it is. Violinists - especially when they're starting out - get paid to play the works of the masters. Heck, this dilemma even existed in Kreisler's own time. The only way that he got his own pieces on the program was by claiming they were written by dusty Baroque masters! And if Kreisler had to lie then - in the age of Brahms and Mahler and Bruckner and their contemporaries; now some of our generations' most renowned "masters" - then certainly modern violinists would have to lie now. And I would think such a stunt would fall flat in today's more critical, demanding classical musical world. It very nearly fell flat in Kreisler's own time. Can we blame today's violinists for not composing or sharing their compositions with us, when most of them don't have the infrastructure to do so?
So that's a quick explanation why I don't think composer/violinists are in high demand, or even practical in today's classical music world, unless something changes. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it wouldn't be fascinating - I would just love to hear a Bell or Ehnes or Hahn sonata, and how they compose to make the most of their own personal styles of playing - but I just cannot see it happening in the infrastructure that's in place right now. Non-composing virtuosos have been in the majority for fifty - maybe even seventy-five - years, and I feel it will take a powerful force to change that trend.
let the flame wars begin!
Now there's a statement that's easy to say, but impossible to prove.
This is a very rediculous statement. The reason we've been playing the same repertoire is because it continues to speak relevantly to the human condition, irregardless of the century. And I maintain that there is music being written today that will show to have the same ability/effect, but first the unworthy music must be weeded out...it's the same process that occured hundreds of years ago, we just won't necessarily be around to see what sticks.
I actually taught god how to play the violin.
Unlike many of the historical players, virtuosity has sadly become less multifaceted. Players now rarely improvise, compose, or are proficient in more than one instrument. That seems to be a thing of the past. It does not mean that they are any less a virtuoso, perhaps simply less rounded overall.
In a sense you are right. As members of the public, we all will be part of the decision making process of what is eventually going to stick.
Ask him yourself:
Fritz Kreisler is up there. Shmuel Ashkenasi.
You've got a guy like Marc O'Connor who writes, arranges, plays practically every style, and is incredibly influential.
There's also Jean Luc Ponty, who's singlehandedly defined the art of electric jazz violin and is a great player. To my knowledge, he's got classical training too.
A lot of us knock Andre Rieu, but he's bringing violin to the masses. I actually like him for the fact that he stays within his limits and is a good entertainer. Obviously there are lots of players that can do more, but he's selling and that's what counts.
Vanessa Mae is a better violinist than most people give her credit for. Say all you want about her, but she's extremely well trained and probably outearns most of us. She writes, she transcribes, she reads, she does a little bit of everything. That lady has EARNED her success the hard way.
This is going to sound like self-promoting bragging, but I myself play different styles on different instruments. I write, I transcribe, and I'm even putting together a solo guitar act on acoustic-electric guitar (just bought a terrific Alvarez today). Meanwhile I'm practicing my violin as hard as ever just because it's fun.
My point is that there are guys doing all sorts of neat stuff all over the place. We just have to open ours eyes and hearts to them, that's all.
Earning success on looks is earning it the "hard" way? Not that she isn't a well-trained violinist--but is she of the same caliber as today's soloists? She is half musician, and half sex symbol. Let's be honest here.
I don't think it's the lack of new music written in general, or new music written by violinists in particular that is the problem. The problem is orchestrating the forces needed to perform the new works. Maybe that's one reason new chamber works seem to have a better chance at being performed.
The situation with works requiring an orchestra might be open to improving, but a new work still needs a champion to give the money people confidence. The classical music industry is conservative, but so is the popular music industry. The interesting stuff emerges despite the big money backers, not because of them. I'm sure there are good and interesting works written already that hardly anyone's heard. That's a good place to start.
There are some interesting players out there making original music, both classically trained like the Kronos Quartet and Ethel who typically work closely with the composers and collaborating musicians, and people like Yann Tiersen and Owen Pallett who fit more the jazz/rock writer-performer tradition.
Is it just me, or does anyone else find it curious that the greatly gifted classical soloists that crop up all happen to be good-looking? I guess there must not be any fat and ugly and musically gifted violinists in the world.
And no, Vanessa Mae is "not in the same caliber as today's soloists". She EARNS MORE than they do, I'd imagine. And she's definitely more famous, especially in Asia.
Looks count BIG TIME in all genres of music. There are tons of people who can play, tons of people who look good, and tons of people who can play AND look good.
Fortunately, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there's pretty much room for everybody.
It occurs to me that Pag, and Sarasate, and Kreisler wrote in a style that was very compatible with popular music of their time and place. They didn't write "serious" music (though you can call it what you want, or consider it to work on multiple levels). The violin isn't a natural part of the major trends of today's popular music. A classical violinist today would have to write either bad or awkward pop music, or serious classical music that likely wouldn't stand up to the scrutiny that would demand. So classical violinists today don't perform their own compositions. There's plenty of repertory today. I've heard Kreisler wrote his small pieces to have something to play in that style (like O'Connor probably). You know at least at the beginning they were originally forgeries, to give them validity, before it was found out and they became "in the style of..." You have classical musicians like Jason Vieux at CIM writing their own compositions for guitar, in a light popular style like I said, because guitar...well figure it all out for yourself. Oh yeah, and who's best ever is a dumb question.
And thank you to those (Marty and Jasmine) who rank me among the best! I'll do my best to make you both proud! ;)
So true. Just look at Charolette Church, Andrea Bocelli, Il Divo, and Britney Spears....*heave*
It seems very obvious to me that if someone were to come along and play like Ehns or Perlman, etc…but write like Sarasate, Pag, and Kreisler, well he/she would be contributing much more to the classical violin world than anyone else today! If that were so than that would make this person the most meaningful violinist of our time. And if that were so than that would make this person the best because if someone is the most meaningful than he is the best.
Someone else said it couldn’t be done because of the market. But why could not an Ehns, etc., put out a CD made up of mostly classical rep. and include something of his own that is just as good as the stuff that has been written. Can you imagine a violinist like this writing something as musical as “ Meditation from Thais,” or “Vocalise,” or “Siciliene,” or “ Pag’s “Sonata No.12,” or “Cantabile,” or Sarasate’s “Introduction and Tarantella,” or “Malaguena,” or “Romanza,” or Mendelson’s “sweet Rememberance, or “On Wings of Song” or Kriesler’s “Libesleid,” or “Libesfreud,” or “Praeludium and Allegro.”
If a great violinist did such a thing the world would listen! And the violin world would be that much better for it! And if it were happening with many artists, well, you can only imagine… The point is that it could easily be marketed today, as long as it did not replace the traditional rep. And eventually it would come to be expected!!!!!!!!
Some others talked about the fact that most of the modern classical stuff is non-melodic. I could not agree more! But I did not say we needed this modern stuff that sounds like trains about to collide, I said stuff as good as the old master’s wrote.
A few questioned that the rest of the musical world is not laughing at us. I have to laugh. To say such a thing means you must be so buried in your classical world that you cannot smell the roses right in front of you! I have a few friends who are big-time session players in L.A. and I have often had the privilege of coming to their sessions. I cannot count how many times other players, or engineers, or vocalists have told me that the real problem with the classical world is it has nothing that is truly melodic to offer that is NEW.
And why is it that we are stuck in this type of situation. It is for the very type of responses that I knew so many of you would write. It is exactly these types of dead and scared thoughts and attitudes and feelings that cripple and kill what could otherwise be glorious!
If you doubt that it would be glorious, ask yourself what the violin world would be like without the works of Kriesler, Paganini, Sarasate, etc…
And yes this work could come from outside of the players themselves, the point is that it is badly needed. If not we will always be listening to Joe Newcomber’s version of the 24 Caprices, etc…
There are few things I'd want Vanessa Mae to do to me... none of them involve her playing the violin.
Now, if the question is "Who is your favorite violinist, and why?" then that's different.
If someone is composing something to "sound like the old masters" or to "be melodic," then they're composing for the wrong reasons. You're just going to end up with cheap imitations. I don't want more music that sounds like Paganini or Kreisler or Vieuxtemps. Yes, Kreisler wrote "in the style of" other composers, and his pieces are certainly beautiful. (I wouldn't put them up against Bach or Beethoven, but still, they're beautiful.) I think Kreisler had a very special talent - to go backwards without sounding contrived or unoriginal. But most people who do that end up looking ridiculous. I want music that's truly innovative, that brings something new and profound to classical music. I love melody; don't get me wrong. And I think it will always be important. But melody is not the only element of good composition - look at Beethoven.
IMHO, one area that is in relative infancy right now and will probably be appreciated about 200 years later is microtonal music. I believe Stravinsky said that pitch is the last area in which true innovation remains to be seen.
After all, a modern song like "Ashokan Farewell" is truly great by any standard.
WHAT?!?! I find it very strange for a trained musician (as per your profile) to make a comment like the above.
Have you not heard Schoenberg's Phantasy for violin and piano? It's a remarkable piece of music, fiendishly difficult and quite accessible to most trained and untrained ears; though completely atonal.
But back to the topic at hand: I think Tom has hit the nail on the head. We are arguing about the most important violinist, not the best violinist. For the latter, I don't see how anything other than playing ability is relevant. But as for the person who has left the most significant legacy, certainly his/her contributions to the entirety of musical history should be considered. I would still argue, however, that compositions are not the only contributions of value; there is teaching, which has a great deal of importance for future violinists, as well as philanthropy, enabling certain people to study who might otherwise not be able to, and other aspects I haven't listed.
I knew the whole time long that what I was really arguing for was who is the most important violinist. But then, in a somewhat roundabout way, I am arguing that to be the most important is to be the best.
As for a strict interpretation of “who is the best,” I do not think that anyone can say that, or even should; music is about creating music, not being first, or the tallest, or the fastest, etc… Which means that the only way you could determine who is best is if you had a “most musical meter,” but of course such a device does not exist, and I for one am very happy that it does not.
There is not a “best violinist,” there are only the ones we enjoy most, and if you are a musician the ones you should enjoy most are the ones who you “hear” as most musical.
Oh, and as for the most important: surely other factors would come into play, but in the end it would be: how did the person play, and what did the person contribute to his instrument. And surely teaching, acts of benevolence, etc., would matter, but not nearly as much as really incredible music like what I mentioned before.
Perhaps we could look at it this way: a classic is defined as “something that passes the test of time.” If that is so, and it is, than today we are not involved, or “being” true classical musicians because we are not doing anything that will pass the test of time. We are only repeating things that have already passed the test of time.
Now I realize that there are some exceptions: the stuff John Williams wrote for Perlman will surely be heard forever (Schindler’s list, The Color Purple) and then there are other Perlman movie scores: Il Postino, Cinema Paradiso, Bloch’s “From Jewish Life,”etc. But there are few, and we need to honor the heritage that we belong to by adding to it, not just replaying it over and over again as if it can no longer be done. To put it in another way: there is a part of me that thinks Dvorak and Brahms are probably rolling over in their graves screaming—“Write something really good, and do it over and over again!!!!!!!!”
Sorry to burst your bubble but the most important musicians of the 20th century were no where close to being white, and nowhere near classical artists for that matter.
If you don't like the way today's violin music sounds, come up with your own. Why rely on somebody else's foibles when it is your personal pleasure you seek? I write and perform my own songs, not that I expect other people to like them as much as I do. Certainly you have the background and capability to fill the tonal void you're complaining about.
Besides, there's other great modern violin music that you're not acknowledging. Arvo Part's "Fratres" is a great piece that is getting more and more attention. And didn't Joshua Bell just star in "Red Violin" playing some fabulous works by John Corigliano? That stuff WILL stand the test of time.
Do you really want to tell me that when you get Ehn’s new album, or Rippin, Chang, Hahn, Bell, etc., that you expect to see a few original works on their album? On the other hand, if I buy a jazz album by some jazz virtuoso, say Carl Verheyen or Ford, or Sanborn, etc., I will surely see many original tracks, and a few of them will be great and add to the jazz rep. Is this not true?
So I am not saying that we should all write something. Why? Because most of us do not have the talent to really add something beautiful to what already exists. What I am saying is this generation of violinists will not have done much if they do not start working on adding to the rep. that already exists. And they will not start doing this till we as a buying public start demanding good new melodies.
And until the violinists of today start doing this they will be a mere shadow of the Paganinis, Sarates, Kreislers, etc…
And yes I am sure there are more original things out there than I have heard or acknowledged here. My point, however, stands strong! If it did not you would expect to hear original work when you buy the next Mutter or Shaham CD, but you and I both know that there will be nothing new that is good on there; just another version of the many versions that have already been done over and over again.
Finally, I guess I should say this: I wish I was the answer to this dilemma, but sadly I am not. I do not play like Bell, or write like Sarasate. What I am is a voice in the wilderness crying out about the woods that are burning before us, which most are not willing to see.
I just got into the habit of writing songs, albeit most of them are for guitar at this point. I've got at least one violin song on the burner and probably could do more of them if I wasn't so tied up trying to be a guitar fingerpicker. And of course I've got unaccompanied transcriptions galore since I stroll as a solo violinist.
I and the players I mentioned above are probably not YOUR concept of violinist-composers, but there are folks like me who try to do our own transcriptions and original compositions. Some of the stuff we do will stick and most of it won't.
You may think you're a voice in the wilderness, but if you open your mind you'll hear that the wilderness is NOT SILENT. Besides, wood has to burn for new growth to take place.
You probably know that for many years Mutter has been playing new works by all different composers. It seems like she has an album every few years or so with new stuff on it. She has been doing this ever since she was in her teens.
Recently, Leila Josefowicz has been playing a lot of new music. One of her more recent CDs has works by both Beeethoven and Brahms, as well as modern composers. I'm sure she did this to try and get more people listening to the new rep; they are practically forced to if they want to haer her B's. Another one of her CDs has various show pieces as well as some rock pieces. Most of the concerts she plays nowadays have some standard rep.(Beethoven symphonies), and then Leila will ome out with a brand new violin concerto.
Edgar Meyer worte a violin concerto for Hilary Hahn. A violin conerto based on the Red Violin was transcribed for Joshua Bell.
Most of these new pieces are not bad at all. They could easily stay around for some time, if they are played enough. Maybe they are not written by the players themselves, but that does not mean they are not new works for the violin rep.
Heifetz and Oistrakh did not write pieces for themselves, but they had many works written for them that are still FREQUENTLY played.
Raymond--While Perlman recorded two albums of cinema music with John Williams conducting, be very careful not to jump to the conclusions that (a) John Williams composed all of the music on those albums; (b) Perlman played the violin solos on the original soundtracks; or (c) the selected cinema melodies represented actual violin solos from their respective movies. In most cases, NONE of these are true.
To my knowledge, John Williams only composed THREE violin solos FOR Perlman to play on original soundtrack recordings. They are "Schindler's List," "Sabrina," and "Chairman's Waltz" from Memoirs of a Geisha.
The music from The Color Purple was composed by Quincy Jones and there were no violin solos in the original soundtrack, if memory serves. It yielded a beautiful melody for the Perlman/Williams album, however! Il Postino and Cinema Paradiso have equally beautiful melodies but were not exclusively written as violin solos nor did Perlman perform them on those soundtracks.
John Williams created a showpiece "Devil's Dance" for Gil Shaham to record, which was based on the music Williams composed for the movie "Witches of Eastwick." Interestingly, Perlman appears on a TV show in that movie!
Heifetz composed MANY arrangements for violin/piano and violn/orchestra. In fact, Heifetz was a very accomplished pianist and was very skilled at writing full piano arrangements & transciptions with violin.
The Violin Concerto based on the music from The Red Violin was NOT transcribed for Joshua Bell. In actuality, the Violin Concerto uses the original "The Red Violin: Chaccone for Violin and Orchestra" as the FIRST MOVEMENT of the Concerto and John Corigliano composed Second and Third movements to complete the concerto--these are not transcriptions.
In fact, many are not aware of the fact that Corigliano composed the "Chaccone" BEFORE writing the music that appeared in the movie. The story goes that Corigliano was chomping at the bit to write the film score, but the producers were behind in production (no dailies for him to view). Corigliano knew that he was going to prepare a concert work based on this music for Joshua Bell to perform on tour. So, with permission, Corigliano chose to simply compose the "Chaccone" outright (with full orchestra instrumentation--woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings, etc.--most of which NEVER APPEARED in the scores for the film!!!) For those of you who saw the movie, you may recall that Corigliano skillfully arranged his original themes in the style of each musical period through which the "Red Violin" travels. This meant that the orchestration was primarily for violin and strings!--no winds/percussion!
In any event, this was somewhat rare for a film score to be composed "in reverse" order. Still, he won the Academy Award.
That's some excellent information there.
And yes I am aware of the compositions that all of you mention, but I think this proves my point, more than anything else. I mean many of you are scratching the top of your head for meaningful melodies written for violin in this generation, and we have only a few. And only a few of those are in the league of what the Paganinis, Sarasates, Kreislers, etc. wrote.
As I said I do not think this weakens my argument, I think it strengthens it!
And Kevin, unless what you are writing is in the class of the rep. that now exists, and unless it gets recorded, it will do us very little good. But if you are writing great stuff then by all means get it out there and add to the rep that already exists.
There is a lot of composition going on for violin--it is simply not "classical." Except movie scores, which are sort of classical except that they are not.
And look at the few modern players who stich their necks out: Joshua bell for instance. He gets shredded by classical "purists" for (a) making his own stuff and b for crossover
There have to be some distinctions made regarding those violinist who recorded their work and those who only performed live or who lived before recordings. Unfortunately, we only have historic accounts regarding the later and, in some cases as you might imagine, folklore can stretch the legend a bit. It is also extremely important to remember that TIMING and circumstance is often quite significant regarding the success and/or failure of any given violinist. This is why the younger generation of violinists will listen to some of the old masters (who we now have the privilege of hearing on remastered CDs) and will scratch their heads in wonder as to why these violinists were considered great. In our age of multiple takes, editing, cutting/splicing, it is less difficult to get that "perfect" recording.
Finally, as much as this may sound hokey, I think it is quite appropriate to say that ALL the great violinists were equally important, for they all influenced each other--all had an INDIVIDUAL sound--and often were the greatest of their nationality or generation. The violin world is so interconnected in this way that one should listen to as many violinists as possible.
There are many fine books about the great violinists--some by Henry Roth, for example--but perhaps the most comprehensive book that truly addresses these issues of lineage would be "GREAT MASTERS OF THE VIOLIN" by BORIS SCHWARZ. It covers violinists as far back as Corelli & Vivaldi to Paganini, Vieuxtemps, Wieniawski, Ysaye, Kreisler, Heifetz, Milstein, Oistrakh, Rabin, Perlman, etc. up thru the early 1980s. Clearly, there are many many great violinists who have emerged since the 80s, but for historical perspective, this book is invaluable. I consult it frequently. It contains literally hundreds of violinists and teacher of the violin. Actually, Henry Roth has done an excellent job of covering many of the modern violinists and teachers of the last 20 years.
If I had to pick the most influential of all great violinists of the 20th century, it would have to be Heifetz. He was the most prolific of all violinists before or since with regard to recording repertoire, he played with absolute perfection on recording and live--with a huge sound; he appeared in movies and television and is perhaps the greatest known violinist to the masses. Even the Muppet "Ralph the Dog" (a pianist) once said, "I'm no Heifetz, but I get by . . ." which speaks volumes to Heifetz' influence. I'm not saying he is my favorite violinist and there are many who claim Heifetz looked and sounded cold, but no one can deny his place at the top, in my opinion.
Who the $$$$ does that these days. That's so 1910.
Pieter, you crack me up.
I understand what you're saying and agree with much of it. But I do have a question. Since when are works by Paganini, Sarasate, Kreisler, or Vieuxtemps considered great or inspired music? Or, for that matter, the Thais Meditation? Please don't get me wrong: I love all these pieces. But it seems to me that they are not anywhere in the same league as Beethoven, Bach, Shostakovich, Prokovief, Sibelius, or Brahms. The first group of composers wrote (mostly) good music. The second wrote inspired music.
What we need are not violinists who also happen to compose; we need composers who can play violin or have a capable violinist at hand to show them what's possible and not possible for the instrument.
P.S. I also agree that much modern music is pretty horrible. But I don't think you can say that microtonal music sounds like trains colliding because I seriously doubt you've ever heard any true microtonal music. There hasn't been much composed yet. Most of the stuff out there is still essentially a 12 tone system with microtones thrown in rather haphazardly for color or effect, which is what we do with expressive intonation anyway.
So I guess I would just say that these great violinists wrote stuff that has become embedded in the ears and minds of all those who followed. But honestly I do not have a real problem with at least saying that the composers you mentioned, and many others for that matter (Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, Vivaldi, etc…) are on par with the ones I mentioned.
My real point is that the classical violin world would be much better if artist not only played the traditional repertoire that we all love, but would also contribute original stuff that is just as good. And that stuff could come from them personally, or as you said from “ composers who can play violin or have a capable violinist at hand to show them what's possible and not possible for the instrument.”
Does anyone else see this?
Midori commissions works each day...sarah chang is going to premiere the Stern-dedicated composition...mutter is comissioning a ton of stuff...bell is obviously performing the red violin concerto...there seems to be more violinists these days taking note of the contemporary makers. Or am i wrong? Have they been doing this since the beginning?
(oh, and did anyone know that Paris Hilton plays the violin and piano? ever since the age of 6!)
Posted on July 24, 2006 at 12:36 PM
Posted on July 24, 2006 at 02:30 PM
I agree 100%.
I think you are right patrick. there are tons of new pieces being commissioned right now.
You might be right but somehow I suspect you are saying these things simply because it's conventional wisdom. What do you find uninspiring about Sarasate? There is a vitality and a joie de vivre in his works which can be very cathartic. I am not comparing him to Beethoven, I'm always just very wary of these people who say things like "this piece is not that hard technically. It's musically hard". People say things like this all the time, but you can bet the farm that they have no idea what it means... they just heard some famous teacher say it in a masterclass about someone playing a Brahms sonata or something.
The same thing applies to the venerable aforementioned. It seems that everything else is completely secondary to Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart etc... this is fine, if there is some design to your reasoning. Whenever I go to a concert and someone plays Lalo or maybe Bruch concerto, 90% of the violinists will say "wow that was great. I really like that piece. Obviously it's not like Beethoven (or insert whatever thoughtless pseudo intellectual nugget here)....."
It's as if we have to apologize for liking candy. I heard Perlman say that not everything has to be profound. Sarasate, is like candy. If one day you fall in love with a woman, would you want every last moment to be spent gazing lovingly into her eyes, contemplating the beauty of creation and celebrating that the gods have conspired to put you two together? No, probably not. Life is a series of different emotions... elation and light hearted joy are as important as our more profound moments. These kinds of stock wisdoms are part of what I'm observing more and more here and comming from the mouths of violinists and musicians of all different levels. It seems our musicology classes are preventing people from thinking for themselves...
Taking into consideration how music has helped shape our current society, I'd have to say early jazz musicians from New Orleans, Bessie Smith(when the world needed a strong woman, and a black one, at that), Robert Johnson (30 years of what is now "classic rock" owes it all to him), Hendrix, who for the guitar was as important as Paganini was for instrumental composing....
The guy that really got American guitar going was Django Reinhardt. There are many other fine guitarists from that era, but Django was the most interesting and wrote the most lasting compositions. EVERYBODY copied Django, likely Hendrix as well.
Virtually no attention has been given to some of the great African American guitarists of the far past, but there was one who made a HUGE impact on guitar technique: Charlie Christian of the Benny Goodman Orchestra. He was one of the first players to amplify the guitar and take it from a rhythm instrument to a melodic one. Also the ragtime guitarist Blind Blake purportedly had a HUGE influence on fingerstyle pickers like Merle Travis.
I'd also name Les Paul, the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar. Chet Atkins came soon after, and he had far more of an impact on pop music than people realize. After all, he produced the Everly Brothers and their influence can be heard in the work of the Beatles (at least according to Mark Knopfler).
One guy seldom talked about anymore is Stanley Jordan, who was the first big pioneer of the two-hand guitar tapping technique. That style is seldom seen today, but it never fails to impress. I may take a stab at it one day myself.
Back to the topic: there are more and more people playing their own stuff in the pop violin world than ever before.
Kindly read the bios of Clapton, Ace Frehley of Kiss, (widely known as THE most influential guitarist in rock), Slash, Page, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, even David Gilmour and pretty much anyone else in rock, all worship Hendrix. He took Robert Johnson's blues, and put it into overdrive. Not only the sound, but that very very alpha male style that defined guitar playing, the principle melodic instrument of the 20th century from the 60s to Nirvana. Yes, I know jazz guitar will pull influences from les paul, atkins, johnston, reinhardt etc... but the guitar as an icon in the 20th century is completely in rock n roll.
It transcends male dominance in society. I know what you might think is more interesting or whatever, but when you consider impact on society at large, Hendrix is probably the most important guitarist ever. I'm not going to get into the chicken and the egg argument... yes I know that if Dixie Land Jim in 1920 didn't play his little banjo in some cess pool in New Orleans, Hendrix wouldn't exist, but who do we consider the most important for violin, given what he did for romantic repertoire (and the principle body of work in the violin cannon), Paganini. Yes, he probably ripped off Locatelli, but no one cares.
You are totally right, but guitar in Jazz was never really a standout instrument for me, unless I was listening to Reinhardt and Grapelli, or Venuti and Johnston...
Blues very much took over, and that's why I consider Hendrix who is all powerful in rock. The lasting influences of some of the guys you mentioned are far more archaic, but they are there nonetheless.
Hendrix had a phenomenal influence on rock guitarists specifically, but it isn't as if he taught anybody anything new. Everything he did had been done over and over again by the guys I mentioned. His career was incredibly short (died young) and he did not bring any new innovations to guitar technique. On the other hand, each one of the players I mentioned had long careers spanning decades and truly revolutionized guitar technique.
Because I gig on guitar, I run into a lot of guitarists of all brands and shapes INCLUDING the hard core rockers. We acknowledge's Hendrix's brief but potent influence, but none of us would go so far as to say that he was THE most influential guy when there are guys like Chet who literally created rock-and-roll from scratch. Or Les Paul, who invented not just the electric guitar but the concepts of effects boards and multitracking. Or Django, who took gypsy into the pop world for the first time in history and has been inspiring guitarists for the last 100 years.
You and all these gigging guitarists have some very differing opinions from the "guitar gods". But, whatever. Maybe that's why the world is ordered as such.
Hendrix not inventing anything new? No one ever used overdrive like that, and no one ever used a whammy bar or a cry baby like that, at all. Not to mention his virtuosic playing and taking the pentatonic scale to a new level... the aformentioned is like, the entire basis of rock guitar playing. Have you picked up a guitar magazine in the last 20 years?
Hendrix was a guitar virtuoso. You think because he didn't play a lot of fast notes that he didn't have a great command of the fretboard, and ample expressive abilities? David Gilmour is also a virtuoso. It's incredible to me how limited some people's ideas are when it comes to the guitar. They all think Eric Johnson is the greatest...
Lesson two is that the "gods" of rock guitar often are big fans of the players I mentioned. Steve Vai is a big jazz fan, Peter Frampton hung out with Chet Atkins and Les Paul, Joe Satriani gigs with jazz guitarists and probably listens to the classic recordings, and Eric Johnson appeared on Chet's Nashville Now show. Malmsteen himself probably grew up listening to the same guys I grew up listening to.
The first guitarist to use overdrive like that recently died in his advanced age. He was chronicled on NPR earlier this year. Many people called him the "inventor of the power chord", and he was a heavy user of distortion to create that "heavy" sound. Unfortunately, I don't remember his name. Hot player, too.
The whammy bar is a watered down version of the "Bigsby", which is a tremelo bar pioneered in the early 20th century. Chet Atkins used it to great effect, and so did quite a few "Hawaiian" guitarists. If you listen to many historic recordings in the pre-Hendrix days, the use of the Bigbsy is everywhere. However, kudos should be given to Hendrix for using it in his own music in his own way.
The pentatonic scale has been used by blues and ethnic guitarists since the late 1800s and early 20th century. Bill Pratt mentioned Charlie Christian - that guy had a really incredible usage of the pentatonic scale. Eddie Lang also took the pentatonic quite far, and those two were more listened to and copied in their day than Hendrix was in his. In fact, I have a feeling that Hendrix was listening to those guys just as many folks in that generation were. Not listening to Charlie Christian in those days would be like being a violinist today and not knowing who Jascha Heifetz is.
And yes, Hendrix very much is a "virtuoso".
You mention Vai. Funny, he told me Hendrix is without a doubt the top for him, which Satriani confirmed about 5 seconds later (I met them at G3 in Montreal, along with Malmsteen).
You don't need to explain what a Bigsby is. I had a Black Beauty RI with a Bigsby which I sold for an LP Supreme and an SG custom... I'm sorry, but those Haiwaian sounds Atkins was making was nothing like Hendrix, nowhere near as cool.
Malmsteen was principally influenced by Blackmore of Deep Purple, Hendrix, Bach and Paganini.
There is no "best" or most important violinist. I would have to say that Bach showed how to compose for most instruments, including the violin. People like Vivaldi, Locatelli, and ultimately Paganini pushed the violin to its technical limits. This is incredibly important for the violin because it allows the later great composers such Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelsohn, Brahms and such up to Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Corigliano etc. to know exactly what their limits are for their masterpieces.
Obviously Heifetz was a great giant of the violin as well. He didn't push the limits of what could be done, he just perfected (well, nearly) these technical aspects. I do believe Ricci is actually the most prolific recorder of the violin repetoire though, Peter.
In the sense of violinists/composers I believe Heifetz hurt this area. Of course he made many transcriptions and cadenzas and wrote some original pop songs, but he raised the technical proficency that is expected to almost unreal expectations.
With the violin repetoire being so incredibly enormous to learn and memorize combined with being compared to Heifetz's "perfection," I believe there is little time for the great violinists of this generation to really dive into composing and actually be productive and turn out meaningful works. That is if they want to have concert careers, sleep, and perhaps have a little spare time. Maybe this is why Sibelius and others gave up the violin.
Joachim is also another that I neglected to mention. He composed and helped other "greater" composers turn out much of the core of the concerto repetoire.
James Ehnes, Franz Peter Zimmerman, Nikolaj Znaider, Julia Fischer, Viktoria Mullova, Leonidas Kavakos, Hillary Hahn, Vadim Repin etc... I don't think Heifetz hurt anything. Maybe he made things better. It's just an illusion, or better yet, a bedtime story that no one can reach his technical level. That's BS. Go to a concert of Ehnes or Kavakos... tell me how many mistakes you hear, if that's what important to you.
A thing I forgot to mention was that we don't know what this generation of great violinists will do later in their lives. Perhaps when their concert careers decline they will turn to composing like some other violinists have done in the past.
I don't think this is true. Sure, there are way more concerts, but I think soloists get a lot of fulfillment from playing all the time. That, and the commercial structuring has changed such that I don't think audiences really want to hear what soloists have to say. Maybe that's not true, but other than safely composed cadenzas, you almost never hear anything original. I'm not complaining, but like you say, I think it's the result of the current market.
i think that both the art of violin performance and composition have advanced so much that specialization is now necessary to meet the technical demands of today. i doubt we can turn back the clock and return to the innocent days of the violinist/conductor/composer. classical music today is far too sophisticated and wide-ranging for the hyphenated musician.
it would be a godsend to find a cross between heifetz, beethoven, and toscanini in one human being but i somehow doubt that standard will be reached in my lifetime. would love to see it happen, though...now THAT would be an all time great musician.
Time was when a good doctor could treat your earache or your constipation or the battle wound in your leg. But the trouble is that this was back when the treatment for all three might well have involved leeches and Evil Spirits. Now we have ENTs and GI specialists and emergency room surgeons. Who decries that evolution of specialization? or pines away, longing for a return to the good old days of alligator dung being used to treat cataracts?
And in the arts, who would say that Shakespeare was a lesser playwright for not also being a player? Or that Burbage was a lesser player for not being a playwright?
Some people are blessed with multiple gifts. But that does not increase the significance of any of their endowments taken individually. Michaelangelo was not a better or worse painter than Leonardo because Leonardo was also an inventor, natural philosopher, and diplomat. Either judge their painting side by side or judge their multifacetedness. But don't use one judgment to inform the unrelated other.
And as for the violin world, let's be very, very careful how we use the word "compose", and what exactly we term a "composition". I don't compose because I don't want to write senseless or trivial garbage. But for anyone who thinks that any arranged series of pitches constitutes a composition, they are all too willing to claim multifaceted musicianship for themselves. If the definition is vague enough, then yes there IS something to bemoan about the fact that performers no longer compose. But then again, if the definition is vague enough, then I'm a doctor for having applied Neosporin to my sliced-open index finger yesterday.
But seriously, I think Emil said much better what I was trying to get at before. Being a musician and being a composer are two different things, and while one might argue that composition is a valuable contribution to musical history, so are many other things.
Szigeti, Enescu, Thibaud, Kreisler, and many other fiddle players called Ysaye "The Master of us all."
He was conductor of the Cincinatti Symphony.
He composed the greatest, most important, unaccompanied works for the violin since Bach, the Six Sonatas, Op. 27 and these are a clear reflection of the mastery Ysaye had on the instrument.
Even Heifetz would agree.
As for the comment made that the Ysaye Sonatas are overrated, I'm going to have to refrain from detailed comment because perhaps I'm too close to these works--dissertation topic and all--I could defend them for some time. In short, I believe they are UNDERrated.
What I'm surprised about here is:
1) that Nigel Kennedy is not even mentioned, though he is really the most wellknown "classical and all other styles" violinist in europe - has played his symphonic "doors concerto", made his own "Hendrix experience" (my favorite!) and also played gipsy style and improvised Jazz.
2) Also Mark o'Connor should be more well known in USA as composer of quite some violin pieces like his Capriccios - seem to be a bit like Paganinis in difficulty.
3) If even Vanessa Mae is considered (I also like her Storm, Toccata and Devil's Sonata, but I hate her "classically played" pieces - her "original" 4 seasons are the worst of the about 30 interpretations I have) I think someone should also mention Regina Carter (some fantastic pieces on her CD's "freefall" and "something for Grace" and others)
and there are more - especially Edgar Meyer (already mentioned above - this one at least is a really serious composer)
I forgot: Gilles Apap (also living in USA and if you ever listen to his Ysaye Interpretations on his new "solo" CD you know why some consider this music as so beautiful - which in most available interpretations is "not possible to listen to" . Gilles Apap was mentioned by Menuhin as "the violinist of the 21st century" and plays wonderful Bach as well as all kinds of american and european folk and even indian music)
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