One of my Mom's clients works at Stonybrook University. Yesterday, he found out I play the violin. So, he suggested we go to a concert in the Spring. My Mom, of course, couldn't remember the name of the violinist and just mentioned her being Japanese. I didn't think anything of it, until my Mom practically made me search for the concert on Stonybrook's website.
Then, I was like, "OH SNAP! MIDORI'S PLAYING HERE IN MARCH! WE HAVE TO GET TICKETS."
I looked next to her name. Sold out. Gah. Must... bribe... Mom's... client...
But don't worry... I've got connections.
Hey look! It's snowing outside! *sticks tongue out*
Short attention span. o_O
As most of you might know, I had tickets to see Hilary Hahn and the New York String Orchestra play in Carnegie Hall last night. Being that I live in New York, the City is about a 1.5 hours drive. I figured I would pay a visit to a violin dealer and save my parents another drive to the City.
Before I say anything else, let me explain that my dad is totally musically illiterate. He knew that I needed and wanted a new bow. But he didn't understand how a stick of wood could make a difference. According to his thoughts, a $20 bow and a $2000 are all wood? So what's the difference? (Believe it or not: At the dealer's he actually cared more for the HAIR on the bow than the stick itself. o_O)
That being said, when we walked into the store and the owner asked us what we were looking for, my Dad said, "Bows."
"What kind of bow? Are you looking for a $50 or maybe a $500"
"Well... 500 is guess."
He started out by giving me a $600 German to try. I played a line or two of the middle section of Caprice 20. The spiccato felt so weak and the stick would bend with pressure. After a couple more tests with bow with no success, the dealer handed me a beautiful stick. Immediately, I fell in love. Even before playing any pieces with it, the bow felt alive. I felt it had power. I raised the stick to my strings and played. It was so easy to control and I understood for the first time what it means to "have an extension to the arm."
"Magnificent," I said, "100 times better than the German." It turns out the bow is a French. I would've bought it right then and there, but time was running out and I had to head over to Carnegie before I was late. After a Thank you and a we'll come back soon, my dad and I began the long walk from 42nd street to 57th street.
I haven't been in Carnegie Hall in years. I was too young to remember the last time I was there. I grew up hearing great things about how legendary the hall was. How it was every musicians dream. How Heifetz, how Milstein, how Elman, how Berstein, how Tchaikovsky, how Stern, and all the other great people made their debut there. I have seen a great many pictures of the hall. Videos of people playing there. I knew what to expect. But I saw wasn't what I expected.
When I walked into Isaac Stern Auditorium, I first saw the stage with it half circle shape and light tan wood. Luxurious soft white walls were embroidered with brilliant gold designs. The designs swirled and twirled around the tiers, the balcony, the stage. I noticed the large doors at either sides of the stage and thought about who had once walked through those doors. I could hear Tchaikosky's concerto, I could see trilled Americans in awe at the young Heifetz. I could imagine Michael Rabin once stepping on the stage, and Stern with his robust vibrato. And then I could see the future musicians of tomorrow, nervous but eager, walking out slowing on the half-moon stage for their Carnegie Hall debut.
The Hall had music in itself. It was alive. Magnificent. A dream.
Settling down into my seat in the prime parquet, I watched as members of the NY String stepped out of the spectacular doors onto the stage. Eventually, the concertmaster stepped on to tune and the conductor arrived with Hilary Hahn. My first thought was, "Wow. When'd she get a haircut?"
The first piece was the Bach Double or The Concerto for Two Violins in D minor. Ms. Hahn gave the orchestra the ready signal and they one, two, three, began. Jaime Laredo and Hilary Hahn, the two solo violins, looked as if they had been partners for years. Their body movement and playing style made it seem as if they were having a conversation, and their violins acted like vocal cords. I thought of how amazing it was that Johann Sebastian Bach could compose in such a manner so that a mystical dialogue was woven with the music. The slow movement of the Bach Double was so beautiful. Both violinists had beautiful technique and the notes were all so clear. The notes rang through legendary Carnegie Hall, adding more beauty imaginable to the sound. This concerto ended with a big bang. Lively and quick, the final movement gave me the vision of friends; playful and sometimes fighting, only to become friends again.
The second piece, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, was an excellent contrast to the Bach D minor. The melody was so beautiful, yet so haunting and mysterious at the same time. It sent chills down my spine with every crescendo. During this piece, I recall lifting my head up, and just staring at the ceiling, at the tiers, at the lighting. The piece was perfect for Carnegie Hall. Beautiful yet Haunting.
The Louis Spohr Concerto No. 8 has always been one of my favorites. I’ve always enjoyed dancing to the quick movements and snapping (though I can’t snap) to the da-da-da-dum, da-da-da-dum, DAAA, da-dum-dum-daaa. Ms. Hahn’s shifts were beautiful and she looked like she was really enjoying what she was playing. What took away from this fantastic concerto were the orchestra’s body movements. Maybe I just watch too much Heifetz, but I felt that the orchestra was over exaggerating. Every time they would have the DAAA (slightly-accented note), the entire group would jump up in their chairs. Their butts would actually lift up and jump two inches. It was distracting. (but entertaining)
Right before intermission, Hilary Hahn came on stage again, and said, “Now, some more Bach.” She began to play. I recognized it immediately as the Sarabanda from Partita No. 2. (Made me proud to know I learned something listening to Milstein.) Her chords were so clear and clean. Her bow arm was smooth. Her technique was flawless. The audience was so quiet and intent, staring at Hilary. It was amazing how young Hilary could be on the stage projecting so that the music ran through the hall. I suddenly wished the Sarabanda was as long as the Chaconne.
After intermission, the NY String began Beethoven’s 7th. It was humorous. I’m sorry, but I was grinning in an unhealthy manner. And I wasn’t the only one. My neighbor was too. You know that whole tremolo section in Beethoven? Well, the girl in Principle Chair would actually stomp her feet with the tremolos. The louder she played, the higher she stomped. (There’s a major crescendo.) She was practically laying down in her chair because of stomping so high. Don’t get me wrong. It sounded awesome.
After the concert, I managed to get Mozart Sonatas and Bach Concertos signed by Ms. Hahn herself. I’ll see if I can upload a pic. And holy crap! I talked to her! She was just like I thought she would be, easy-going and carefree. Always had a smile on her face. She asked me if I played anything. I told her I play the violin too. “I wasn’t bad eh?”
I didn’t want the night to be over. Silly Carnegie Hall staff… no cameras allowed in the hall. Good thing actually, I would have been all over the musicians.
Wow. I just discovered how I need some friends that are actually serious violin players and not just playing because their parents made them.
My friend just asked me what I was doing tommorrow. I told her I was going to a concert tommorrow and probably stopping by at a couple of luthiers. Here's what she said:
"What is the luthier? Is it like a concert hall or something?"
(Oh yea, my violin teacher called this morning to rescedule my lessons. Instead of having another 5 days to touch up a Caprice, I have a day. Uh-huh, I better get to it... Which reminds me of the interesting conversation we had last week.)
I was holding my teacher's violin when I caught a glance at the label. First thought that went through my head? Holy Friskers! It's a Strad! My teacher who must have seen my face said, "It's a copy."
Oh. Duh. I knew that... (I just didn't think of it that second)
"My real one's at home. I don't bring my best violin to lessons."
My mouth drops open again.
"It's not a Stradivari though."
"It's a Guarnius."
I have a lot to say. So much happened in the past two weeks. But.. It's Christmas! So I'll stop here.
(Besides getting a laptop, I think I'm also getting a bow. According to my violin teacher, I won't be able to manage saltato and the rest of Paganini with my current bows. If anyone has any tips in buying bows or knows of any good French bow makers....)
Just had lesson an hour ago. Nothing too interesting. Told me I was playing BL a bit too fast, commented on how the ricolet was coming, etc. etc.
Yup, just a hour ago, my violin teacher suddenly had a thought go through his brain. Uh-huh, today was the day he decided to pull out Paganini's 24 Caprices and introduce me to the Devil. Oh god. I was really excited, to tell you the truth. I've been listening to Paganini since I, well, fell in love with the violin. Danced to his Caprices. Broke windows singing to his concertos. Wished, dreamed, imagined that someday I would play them. Just last night, I was wondering. Never did I even dare think that the day after, today, would be the day I've been waiting for.
Flipping through the book, my teacher nodded a sign of approval at Number 20. Told me to watch and listen. Played the whole thing through. I was in awe. In shock. At both the beauty and difficulty. Then he says, "See what you can make of it. I'll hear whatever you have next week." And leaves. Lesson over. Done. Great. I'm supposed to figure out how to play that thing? Whew. It's going to be a tough week.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.