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Surely it`s not that difficult?

July 28, 2009 at 8:30 AM


thought I`d set myself a little youtube study and puzzle game today so I took the most overplayed,  corny,  deservedly popular,  wonderful,  silly piece of music ever and tried to find a recording I liked.   It is of course the Bruch concerto no.1  which,  if you read half the comments that mention it on this site is relatively easy and serves as a logical stepping stone to the real meaty concertos: `left hand not too tricky, good for the sound production old bean, yadda, yadda.`

My favorite performance being Milstein`s but having recently used Leila Josefowicz`s video to illustrate a point on another thread I decided to eschew the older players and start around the top dogs of my childhood and up until the present day.  Those of you who didn`t know Veracini recorded the Bruch are in for a surprise.....

Funny thing is,  the more recordings I listened to of basically the first two pages of the first movement the more I thought this couldn`t be an easy concerto after all. So many of these versions I found almost impossible to listen to after a while, both musically and technically. Surprise ,  the Bruch can`t be so easy after all.  

As far as interpretation goes I personally feel most players divide into two camps :  1) I`m going to focus on playing as loudly and dramatically as possible  and 2)  The more sensitive, `I need to pull this around above the orchestra framework because I want to sound different to everybody else` (which doesn`t seem quite the same as just being yourself for some reason.)    In the loud dramatic above all camp I found Marcovici and Zuckerman. Quickly bored with both though Zuckerman is always interesting to watch.  In the more inner child camp I listened to Joshua Bell,  Gil Shaham,  Janine Jansen and Franz Peter Zimmerman.  None of these artists truly convinced me musically and I lost count of the number of examples of slightly off intonation.  Listen to g minor long enough and you can get really aggravated by the sharp b flats and high F# as it changes pitches between g-spots (as it were).

It was only when I finally put Perlman on that I was prevented from throwing the computer out the window.  Somehow he seemed to have escaped the trap of hyperbolic rhetoric.  The orchestra plays. He makes a statement-  unhurried,   natural and thoughtful.   `This is an epic poem we are going to write together.  Let`s just let it unfold with whatever truths we share.` He actually looks like he is enjoying himself

When he needed the attack mode it occurs naturally and in an unforced manner. There is no wobbly vibrato all over the place,   the sound was huge but resonant rather than forced and the range of tone colors huge. Plus he plays in tune.

Good to be reminded not only that we need to go the extra mile  when  playing  well known great music but also that Perlman really was one of the greatest violinists of the 20c.  Just that tiny degree superior but enough to make all the difference at this level.

Now I`m off to listen to Hilary....





From Andrew Paa
Posted on July 28, 2009 at 6:10 PM

I love the Perlman recording, it was one of my inspirations when I was learning it for grad school auditions.  I've found it to definitely not be as easy at it looks and a lot of disagreement on how the first note "should"  be played.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 2:07 AM

You're welcome, for the links, Buri. You owe me a crate of prunes.

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 2:11 AM

Speaking of links, how do you make them so they have different names from the web url? Like, let's say I want a link to say "Midori" but the url is a long Youtube address or something. I used to be able to do it on the older version of with the html, but I can't seem to figure it out now. Tips?

Back to Bruch though . . . I never really thought about what makes it so deceptively difficult. Now that I do think about it though, I do see a certain awkwardness. Like in the first movement tutti section, for example. As you said, it can be hard to find that middle between sheer power and more sensitive expressiveness. 

From Tasha Miner
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 2:19 AM


When I was learning the Bruch, Perlman's version was the only one I liked.  Same with the Saint-Saens B Minor that I'm polishing up now.  He's always going to be among my top 2, the 2nd being Hilary Hahn.  Let me know what you think.

Yes, thank you, Laurie, for the links.  I appreciated it; and for appreciating it, I expect 10% of your prunes. =P

From Corwin Slack
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 2:43 AM

 Oh Laurie, not just links. The spelling looks immaculate. But Buri has such excellent content that what else is an editor to do!?

From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 3:19 AM

Ruth, we've tried to make it easier in the last few months. When you are posting a blog, at the top of the little box that you write (or paste) your blog into, there are some symbols at the top. In order to "hyperlink" (which is highlighting text and making it into a link), you first highlight the words you want to use, then you go to the little globe-with-a-paperclip image, click on that, and a window will pop up, in which you put the link. Then you hit "submit" (I think) and that turns it into a hyperlink. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask or e-mail me.

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 3:47 AM

Thanks Laurie! That makes sense. I think my problem was that I was inserting links that way without highlighting text first. 

From Erica Thaler
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 6:44 PM

The Perlman recording of the Bruch is the first one we ever heard, and my daughter has a copy of the music...she gets all kinds of famous violinists to sign it (the piano part...she won't let anyone write on the violin part except her teacher). 

It's a lovely piece!

From Catie Rinderknecht
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 9:20 PM

I can believe that people believe the Bruch to be "easy," but I will always disagree.  So much may be learned about tone, intonation, vibrato, and technique (especially the 3rd movement!).  I learned it my freshman year of high school and worked again on the 1st movement a year and a half later for a competition and was surprised at the problems that had resolved, what remained, and what new challenges surfaced.  

Playing the Bruch how I wanted it to sound was always a challenge.  If it's too forceful, it loses it's soaring romantic quality and if it's too romantic, it sounds unstable.  Balance is key!  

From Royce Faina
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 11:17 PM

I would like to hear Perlman explain what and why he played it the way he did.  Would love to read / hear an interview of him regarding the Bruch.

From Malcolm Turner
Posted on August 1, 2009 at 12:19 PM

I love the "easy piece" comment. One of the pieces I play is Schindler's List. And then you listen to the original, with Perlman playing it. The first note is a crotchet A. The sound he gets on this simple note demonstrates why he is a great violinist, and I'll never match that in a million years!

You've got to laugh at some of the Youtube comments - there's a wonderful performance of the Vivaldi 4-violin with Oistrakh and Kogan with their sons - and the number of people reckoning they can match that. Maybe they're totally deaf!

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