"Oh that poor child!"
That is what the late violist Karen Tuttle wrote in her journal about her then-student, violist Kim Kashkashian, the very first time she saw her play. Why?
"I was so twisted up," Kashkashian explained, at a lecture about the pedagogy of Tuttle, who trained many of today's top violists. Tuttle (1920-2010), a violist who taught at Curtis Institute, The Juilliard School, Peabody Conservatory, Aspen and Banff, was known not only to push her students to a high level of playing, but also to completely rework their physical approach to playing the instrument. Tuttle came up with a concept called "Coordination," a set of physical solutions for viola, to keep the body relaxed and mobile despite the potential for strain when playing what many consider to be a large and unwieldy instrument. Her ideas certainly also resonate with violinists, who must fight physical tension, strain and injury as well.
"It was a complete revelation for me, the way she talked about music and playing the viola," Kashkashian said at a lecture at the American Viola Society Festival at Oberlin Conservatory earlier this month. Kashkashian, a Grammy-winning violist who teaches at the New England Conservatory, was joined by other former Tuttle students Jeffrey Irvine, Sheila Browne and Susan Dubois. Many of those present hold regular workshops on Tuttle's ideas and will serve as faculty next month at a Karen Tuttle Viola Coordination workshop in Prague.
Though the idea of playing without tension sounds fantastic, it did not come easily for many Tuttle students. Keep reading...Tweet Comments (3)
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In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.
Julia Fischer performed the Beethoven with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Robert McDuffie premiered the Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra by R.E.M's Mike Mills.
Robert Vernon adds a whole new dimension.Playing the opening to Strauss's "Don Juan" is no easy feat for any violinist or violist. Playing it for the no-nonsense, always-on-point Cleveland Orchestra principal violist
Set to retire this summer after 40 seasons, 4,500 + concerts and 110 concert tours with the Cleveland Orchestra, Vernon's perspective and expertise -- not to mention his wit and wisdom -- lent a special air to the American Viola Society Festival in Oberlin earlier this month. Vernon also teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music and The Juilliard School, his alma mater.
"Excerpts cannot be coached," Vernon said in a master class at the festival, in which he -- well, coached students on viola excerpts by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Strauss! In fact, Vernon has written a book called, The Essential Orchestral Excerpts for Viola: Keys to a Successful Audition.
Vernon meant, though, that the answers lie in the score, and with one's ongoing technical expertise.
Conductors will ask for all kinds of things in the music -- what if a conductor asks for it to sound "like a piece of silk" or "rough, like the bottom of the ocean"? Faced with these kinds of nebulous requests, one should look to the music for concrete answers. "There is so much in the music that tells us exactly what we should do." The music has articulations, expressive markings. One has to find the right tempo for those articulations that are inherent in the music, with an awareness of each composer's style.
For example, in the "Scherzo" from Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream, if a conductor asks for it to be faster, more spiccato, and softer, "He's not making any sense," Vernon said. Keep reading...
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