Why I ditched my shoulder rest after 30 years border=0 align=

Why I ditched my shoulder rest after 30 years

July 25, 2016, 9:47 AM ·

We had a great run, didn’t we? We finished all ten Suzuki books, learned the Tchaikovsky concerto, went to Curtis, won some prizes and a few auditions… I’ve been with you longer than I’ve been with my wife and children. But I’m leaving you.

A taboo subject

The whole topic of shoulder rests had always raised my hackles. This was mainly because, as a "user", I felt the need to explain myself. I wished that I could have had the musical, even the moral, upper hand of the non-users! They never had to explain themselves to us<. They had only to recite the hallowed names in whose rest-less footsteps they were following: Heifetz, Milstein, Oistrakh, and so many more.

Check out this old thread from right here at violinist.com to get a sense of the stakes involved: by the end, everyone may as well be unfurling campaign banners: #NeverRest or #ImWithKun!

Even my friends and colleagues who played without rests annoyed me: not through word or deed, exactly. But I could see the naked undersides of their fiddles smirking at me. So I wish that I had known then what I know now: playing without a rest simply means that you support the instrument exclusively with the left hand; playing with a rest gives you other choices. So how could choice be a bad thing? Keep reading...

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Violinist.com Interviews, Volume 1

Violinist.com Interviews, Volume 1: This collection by Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles includes exclusive, one-on-one interviews with 27 of the world's best-known violinists, including Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, David Garrett, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Maxim Vengerov and Augustin Hadelich - and includes a foreword by Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn. Available in paperback and for Kindle (Ad)

Happy 300th Birthday to the 'Milstein' Stradivarius! border=0 align=

Happy 300th Birthday to the 'Milstein' Stradivarius!

July 23, 2016, 5:45 PM · Bringing the "Milstein" Stradivarius to California has changed Jerry Kohl's life.

That is what Kohl told 300 people gathered to celebrate the 300th birthday of the Golden-Period violin, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1716 in Cremona, Italy. The celebration concert, featuring Los Angeles Philharmonic Concertmaster Martin Chalifour, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Concertmaster Margaret Batjer and LACO conductor and pianist Jeffrey Kahane, took place at the Huntington Library and Gardens' new Rothenberg Hall. Other fine instruments in attendance included the 1711 "Kreisler" Strad that Chalifour regularly plays, and the 1650 Nicolo Amati composite, with a table by Stradivari, played by Batjer.

"It's changed my life, because they're magical," said Kohl, who is owner and president of accessories retailer Brighton. Watching his Strad on stage is a little bit like watching one's kid in a school play, "My child's on stage!"

Kohl is rooting for the fiddle to keep going another 300 years; "The people who own them care for them -- I'm just the custodian for the next 300 years," he said. And thinking about 300 years, "California isn't 300 years old -- there's not a building in Los Angeles that's 300 years old."

Most of the time, the instrument sits protected in a safe, in a nice, air-conditioned room. It takes a fine artist to bring forth its finest quality: that storied Strad sound. "When I have the violin at home, it doesn't sound like this!" he said.

To that end, Batjer, Chalifour and Kahane put together a concert that featured the Strad in music of many periods, styles and sentiments. Keep reading...

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Making Your Bach Better border=0 align=

Making Your Bach Better

July 22, 2016, 3:04 PM · Does playing the music of J.S. Bach make you a better musician? Does it improve your chops as a violinist or violist? Does Bach heal your soul?

That's what I wondered, when I heard the name of this lecture by violist David Rose at the American Viola Society Festival in Oberlin last month: "Bach Makes You Better."

"For me this has been a literal truth," Rose explained. "I believe Bach does make you better, at least in your heart and spirit."

For those who'd like to make their Bach better, Rose had some great ideas, culled from his years of playing and studying Early Music, as well as teaching a course on solo Bach at State University of New York in Fredonia, where he is Associate Professor of Viola. Take, for example, this unique way that he makes a point about "syllables" in Bach:

In other words, the natural adjustments we make to sing well can guide us in creating good bowings for Bach. If it's easiest to sing short syllables in a passage with large intervals, then it might be easiest to use short bows in a similar passage on viola or violin. Keep reading...

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Violinist.com Interviews, Volume 1