The 2023 Holiday Gift Guide border=0 align=

The 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

December 4, 2023, 4:29 PM · Welcome to our 14th annual Holiday Gift Guide! Gift-giving is one of the great joys of the holiday season, and each year we compile a list of some of the year's best new gear, books, recordings, and other offerings from violinists for you to consider in your holiday gift-giving, gift-asking — and loading of the smartphone, computer or other device. We hope this allows you to consider a music-related gift. We include gifts you can purchase in support of our sponsors, recommendations from Laurie, and a list of some of this year's top recordings.

We also would suggest that you consider supporting your local live music scene by purchasing tickets to local music events or simply making a year-end donation to a musical non-profit of your choice. Please feel free add your suggestions in the comments section. And yes, in this case, you are allowed to toot your own horn and recommend your own CD or book or product! You may also wish to refer to our gift-giving guides from previous years; I've listed links to those at the end of this blog. Keep reading... weekend vote: In what role do you best know Leonard Bernstein?

December 3, 2023, 10:12 PM · Leonard Bernstein is on people's minds these days, thanks to the movie Maestro, a new bio-pic about one of the 20th century's most interesting and influential musicians.

The movie is coming out on Netflix on Dec. 20, but I wanted to see it in the theater, which proved to be a challenge, even in a city as big and movie-loving as Los Angeles - I saw it one of the small "select theaters" devoted to art flicks. I went with my son, Brian, who is 23.

And certainly, the film provided much food for thought. Bradley Cooper, who both directs and plays Bernstein, gives a remarkable performance, as does Carey Mulligan as Bernstein's wife, Felicia Montealegre. After an introduction showing Bernstein in the later stages of his life, it backs up and begins at the point in Bernstein's career when he is called last-minute to conduct the New York Philharmonic, at age 25. It goes on to focus on his relationship with his wife, with all the complications that stemmed from the fact he was gay and polyamorous. In the end is a searing depiction of Montealegre's struggle with cancer - him at her side.

I liked the movie quite a lot, as a depiction of one seemingly superhuman person's very human difficulties.

But there is only one Leonard Bernstein, and Bernstein's superpower lay in the fact that he could seemingly beam music from his soul, straight into your heart. Cooper, as an actor, could only go so far.

It occurred to me that, there are probably a number of people on who saw Bernstein conduct live, or who were sitting in the audience for a Young People's Concert, or who even interacted in some way with the man himself. I'm interested in that - and for those who never saw him live, what is the primary way that you know of Bernstein? As a conductor? An educator? A celebrity? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts about Leonard Bernstein.

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For the Record, Op. 263: Verona Quartet; Jaakko Kuusisto's Symphony Op. 39

December 1, 2023, 11:41 AM · Welcome to "For the Record,"'s weekly roundup of new releases of recordings by violinists, violists, cellists and other classical musicians. We hope it helps you keep track of your favorite artists, as well as find some new ones to add to your listening!

György Ligeti: Complete String Quartets
Verona Quartet
Jonathan Ong, violin
Dorothy Ro, violin
Abigail Rojansky, viola
Jonathan Dormand, cello

This album, celebrating Ligeti’s centennial, presents his complete works for string quartet composed between 1950 and 1968. The two numbered string quartets are predated by a lyrical early Andante and Allegretto, the folk-music inflections of which foreshadow the hints of Bartók in the first quartet, Métamorphoses nocturnes. The calculated anarchy, dynamic extremes and sublime atmospheres of the Second Quartet present Ligeti at his most distinctive. These spectacular works are performed here by the Verona Quartet, winner of the Cleveland Quartet Award and currently serving as Quartet-in-Residence at Oberlin College and Conservatory. BELOW: Trailer for the album.

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Interview with Violinist Christian Tetzlaff: the Loving Hand of Brahms

November 30, 2023, 9:59 AM · For the German violinist Christian Tetzlaff, the music of Johannes Brahms has been a lifelong focus and a source of solace and companionship. It also is deeply connected to a dear friend and significant musical partner that Tetzlaff recently lost: the pianist Lars Vogt.

In late 2022 Vogt died of cancer at the age of 51. After his death, Tetzlaff told VAN magazine: "Brahms is the composer who connected Lars and I the most all these years and who allowed us to say goodbye in such a beautiful way." Tetzlaff had performed extensively with Vogt, and much of their work was devoted to Brahms: they made a 2016 recording featuring all the Brahms Violin Sonatas; and another recording that same year, all the Brahms Trios, along with his sister, the cellist Tanja Tetzlaff.

BELOW: Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt perform Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78: I. Vivace ma non troppo:

"Brahms has been core repertoire always - I've certainly performed the Brahms Violin Concerto well over 200 times," Tetzlaff told me in a phone interview in late November. Tetzlaff, who has played as a soloist with major orchestras across the world over the course of his multi-decade career, teaches at the Kronberg Academy and lives in Berlin. "With Lars Vogt and my sister (the cellist Tanja Tetzlaff), we played and recorded the Brahms Trios, and we played the complete other chamber music of Brahms - quartets, quintets and everything there is. That's not only because Brahms wrote so much for the instrument, but because he was for us, a central figure of musical expression."

On Dec. 9 and 10 Tetzlaff will once again perform the Brahms Violin Concerto, this time with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and conductor Jaime Martín, and he also will give a master class at the Colburn School on Dec. 8. (Click here for information and concert tickets, and use the code VIOLINIST for 20% off. Click here for free tickets to the master class.)

"Growing older, what we find about the music of Brahms is that it does talk of the pain and the joy of living. But even in his dark pieces, there is still a major element of solace, or companionship, or friendship that links you to him," Tetzlaff said. Keep reading...

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Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine