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Lie low with Lalo on your Lilo.

April 10, 2009 at 5:32 AM


For a beginning student the selection of works to play is often not that difficult.  The teacher might even be systematically adhering to a system such as Suzuki, Adventures in Violinland or Doflein in which case it is something of a no-brainer.  There are plenty of other problems to deal with. However, I have found that even using the last two methods which I consider really sound, I often can jump start a student to a much higher level by throwing something much more challenging at the student. Perhaps one of the specially written student concertos. One of the things beginners to find a bit of a shock is having to work on longer pieces.  That is a managerial art of a kind even though  the actual technical demands may not be that much higher than in a shorter work. The leap needs to be made at some point.  The repertoire list from ASTA is a helpful guide as well, allowing the teacher flexibility and a reasonable degree of reliability.  However, once one gets past the initial stages even in that work one starts to see difficulties of classifications and generalizations that could prove less than helpful in the wrong hands.  In the past the so called `soviet school` (Oistrak/Kogan period) had a very clear learning sequence for violin works.  Presumably deviation from this path led to one cultivating prunes in the Gulags. Although a system of clear technical evolution was apparent it did I think, stifle some talents and have a tendency to straitjacket.
In the realm of the major concertos it gets even more confusing.   Is there a sensible order for learning them?   The factors involved are so numerous.  One might for example have a student who can make a reasonable stab at the Sibelius who would actually benefit a great deal from some in depth work on a Mozart concerto which they might well view as a big step backwards.  Is it better to start getting to grips with major works that are barely within a students technical grasp yet musically beyond them?    Or is one going to use a masterpiece that the student is dying to start on to pull up a technical level which is not quite ready?  In the past students have been fed a great many fine works by violinist composers such as Kreutzer, Spohr, Viotti, and Vieuxtemps before doing the Mendelssohn.  Was that so bad? It’s very debatable when we routinely see kids of 8 or 9 playing the Mendelssohn or Paginini caprices.
Probably it`s all somewhat case by case but I do have quite a strong opinion on concerto order in one case.  The question occasionally crops up which should come first between Mendelssohn,   Bruch, Saint Seans 3 and the Lalo Symphony Espagnole.  I have a definite preference for preceding the former with extensive work on at least the first movement but preferably all of the Lalo.   Hopefully without disrespecting it as a fine piece of music I think it can function a training work leading into the other works thereby allowing them to be approached on a purely interpretive technical level.   Not sure if this is entirely clear, but basically I think the kind of passage work found in the Lalo can be used to improve 3 fuzzy areas:1) all manner of aspects of technique, in particular,   accuracy of shifting, bowing planes and string crossing, and sound production   2)  develop the kind of stamina and soloistic attitude necessary for later works and 3) force the student to think very carefully about creating contrast in color through rather long phrases that are just a little repetitive.   Perhaps this last aspect is rather esoteric but I think paradoxically the player will be better quipped to find some of the more subtle nuances inherent in Mendelssohn et al if they have already had to create their own in long stretches of basically good material that can be terribly boring if it is all played the same way.
Cheers and prunes,

From Mazz Swift-Camlet
Posted on April 10, 2009 at 1:10 PM
I love this post (and very much agree with it)! Thanks for writing it, Buri. In my mind you are a Rock Star!
From Charlie Caldwell
Posted on April 10, 2009 at 5:15 PM

> "In the past the so called `soviet school` (Oistrak/Kogan period) had a very clear learning sequence for violin works"

My current teacher studied violin in Russia (went to Moscow Conservatory, studied with Yankelevich, Kogan, Bezrodny and others), and the stuff he has made me do worked well for me. The order I learned music was Handel Sonata (g minor), Bach E major Concerto, Mozart No. 4, Wieniawski No. 2, (end of first year, start of second year) Mendelssohn, Vieuxtemps 4, Vieuxtemps 5.

Buri, before I had this great teacher, I had played both Bruch and first movement of Lalo very badly. If I could go back in time, I would have never played these pieces in the first place.

From Wiebke Nazareth
Posted on April 10, 2009 at 11:17 PM

Love the title!

From David Burgess
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 2:33 AM

Buri, I think you've made some thechnical observations with high merit.

From Manuel Tabora
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 5:46 PM

As a youngish player, this is an area that I'm very interested in. How to progress through the repertoire? Last year I played the first movement of the Khachaturian violin concerto, which was a big challenge for me technically. Now I'm playing Mozart's 3rd concerto, and honestly I think in some ways it is much more difficult. I guess you really have to have all the fundamentals in place to successfully perform a piece like Mozart. Sometimes I wonder if I should have played Mozart first, then Khachaturian. I don't know, but as far as I can tell the Khachaturian didn't hurt me, and it was great fun as I love that piece. Mozart is forcing me to think like an artist.

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