Written by Stephen Brivati
Published: November 26, 2013 at 10:15 PM [UTC]
Efficiency and progress are ours once again,
Now that we`ve got the neutron bomb.
Or more violinistically speaking, we are now told to `equalize the fingers,` and not favor one over the other a large part of the time. Indeed, I recently watched a sort of master class in which a wonderful violinist spoke quite adamantly about this need to equalize the fingers.
Ironically, he was one of two players who actually started me on this train of thought. In both cases I was listening to two of the best players around today. Violinists who make your heart stand still. However, I suddenly noticed that just occasionally they played the highest note of a long melodic line with the fourth finger and there was a slight reduction in richness or some kind of lessening of sonority. I was actually quite surprised that two players who so closely approach perfection and obviously listen voraciously to every sound they produce should do this. One thought that crossed my mind was they might have worked so hard at equalizing the fingers that psychologically they are hearing something different to what is coming out of the instrument.
My personal belief is that in the practice room we work on this issue but in performance it is only the sound that matters. In which case something different is required. Is it possible that modern playing seems so determined to avoid portamento at all costs that the `less efficient ` fingering is used? (players of yore like Kreisler took the opposite tack so one is hardly in bad company….)
Then today I was listening to Vadim Repin playing the Beethoven on You Tube in one of the most sublime performances of this concerto I have ever heard the problem sound did not arise even though he didn`t compromise with the fourth. Perhaps the explanation can be found in the thick, stubbiness of his hands as opposed to the long slender fingers of the two players I referred to earlier?
I don`t know. But for now I will stay with the principle of using the fourth in the practice room and using the best sounding finger in the concert hall.
Fortunately I never play in concert halls…..
Not exactly--no one has ever used (or even possesses) a neutron bomb. And no nukes have been used since 1945.
I think a more apt comparison to the use of the 4th finger is the 1980s tennis icon Bjorn Borg: while he had a great backhand, he frequently ran around it to hit a forehand, because it was always better. I think the same way about my own 4th finger--no matter how much I work on it, my 3rd will always have a better vibrato. Period. Sometimes one just has to run around that backhand and do what will get the best results.
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