The 2021 Holiday Gift Guide border=0 align=

The 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

December 2, 2021, 11:16 PM · 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 also would suggest that you consider supporting your local orchestra, ensemble or arts organization by purchasing tickets to online events they may offer, and/or by making a year-end donation.

The first section of this guide includes a list of gear, music and instruments that you can purchase from sponsors of Supporting our sponsors helps support! You can also find those sponsors directly in our Business Directory.

The next section lists this year's top recordings by violinists, violists, cellists and other classical performers. Many of the recordings are linked to Note that if you follow these links and make a purchase from Amazon, a portion of that will go to support (If you would like to give a donation to support, click here.)

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...

Target Practice for Violinists - The World of Left-Hand Pizzicato

December 2, 2021, 12:10 PM · Left-hand pizzicato - when a violinist uses the fingers of the left hand to pluck the string - has a significance far beyond musical and virtuosic effects. If used as an exercise, It offers the opportunity to make rhythm more precise and to organize your musical mind.

In fact, the little plus sign which denotes a left-hand pizzicato comes up in early repertoire, in books meant for elementary school orchestras and pieces for beginners. In these cases, it’s a neat effect and relatively easy to perform, since it’s usually on the open E string. After the novelty wears off, it’s replaced with more complicated techniques and virtuosic examples, such as in Paganini's 24th Caprice and Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen." In these cases, the bow hits the string while the fourth finger plucks the string - so how do you manage that? Keep reading...

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 331: Philippe Quint; Handel and Haydn Society

December 1, 2021, 12:30 PM · In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Philippe Quint performed a recital called "Between Angels and Demons: A Musical Portrait" with pianist Jun Cho in collaboration with the North Shore Chamber Music Festival.

Keep reading...

Interview with Violist and Composer Nokuthula Ngwenyama: LA Phil Premiere of 'Primal Message'

November 30, 2021, 9:38 PM · In the viola world, people know the name Nokuthula Ngwenyama (or "Thula," pronounced "Toola"). Thula won the Primrose International Viola Competition when she was just 16. She went on to win the Young Concert Artists International Audition and then embarked on something rare for a violist: a solo career, starting with debuts at the Kennedy Center and the 92nd Street Y. A recipient of Avery Fisher Career Grant, by now Thula has soloed with orchestras and played recitals all over the world.

And she kept advocating for the viola -- she served on the board of the American Viola Society, as President for three years. She also served as Director of the Primrose Competition for eight years. (The next Primrose Competition actually takes place in mid-December at The Colburn School - click here for more info on that).

At the moment, though, Thula's star is rising in a different but related musical field: as a composer. This weekend the Los Angeles Philharmonic will give three performances of her piece "Primal Message" with conductor Xian Zhang. Click here for more information on the concert, which also includes the world premiere of Julia Adolphe's violin concerto, "Woven Loom, Silver Spindle" performed by Martin Chalifour; and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

Thula's path as a musician began in her native Los Angeles, when she was four years old. Thula wanted to learn to play the violin, but her mother advised that she start with the piano, and so she did.

"I started composing in those early Yamaha piano classes that I took," Thula said. The classes, taught by Ann Pittel ("Miss Annie"), also emphasized ear-training and solfege, and "each student received a kit. It had the grand staff on it, with magnetic notes. No rhythmic value, just little circle magnets. And we could move them around on the grand staff. We would have an assignment of arranging these notes, and then playing them."

"Being given those notes from the get-go made me feel like I had the freedom to put them wherever I wanted, and I could create a series of sounds," Thula said. "I think that everyone should start like that, being able to manipulate the notes and then see what happens." Keep reading...

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