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Studying the Meditation from Thais -- how to deliver an intensely singing and compelling performance

Roy Sonne

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Published: March 12, 2014 at 2:54 AM [UTC]

I’ve heard this piece played beautifully so many times and so many different ways that there seems to be virtually no right or wrong. So the best thing I can do is to give you some tips and strategies for phrasing, tone quality, variety and color, and hope they open some doors for you.


Posted on March 12, 2014 at 9:42 PM
Hi Roy,

Very nice post and video! Thanks!


From Roy Sonne
Posted on March 13, 2014 at 4:06 AM
Hi Thanks for your appreciation. Do we know each other? Who are you?
From John Cadd
Posted on March 13, 2014 at 10:52 AM
I like studying each version of this piece. In the 1928 Kreisler recording with Charles Lamson I noticed the narrow tight kind of vibrato first. It never gets wide enough to wallow like many players . There is a slight knocking effect with some of the vibrato. Then compare this tight, narrow (short distance between highest and lowest ) vibrato .
Contrast that quick tight effect with some of the slowest vibrato you can hear (anywhere )in later bars.(Be ready with the pencil and paper).
Harder to hear in detail is the way many notes are tapered in volume. Get the pencil to record where that happens . Start (for comparison ) with notes that keep the same strong sound all the way through .
Then notice how some quiet notes taper to a whisper. Not suddenly ,but steadily. Other longer notes are reduced steadily in volume as if he had shaved them with a plane for super accuracy.
The fingering of those falling sections mixed with his portamento can be used if you don`t find portamento "old fashioned". It`s only old fashioned if you overdo it and wallow .
A great piece to analyse . Kreisler 1928 .
From Jesús Fernández
Posted on March 13, 2014 at 12:03 PM
Hi Roy, Which are your favorite versions?


Jesús Fernández

From Bart Meijer
Posted on March 13, 2014 at 2:05 PM
It helps to know the story of the opera, and the role the Méditation plays in it.
From Christian Vachon
Posted on March 13, 2014 at 3:06 PM
Hi Roy,

The anonymous comment was me (hope this time I am not anonymous). Don't know what happened, but I have been experiencing some unusual internet things these past couple of days.

Anyhow, nice video once again and thanks for posting it!


From John Cadd
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 12:47 AM
Roy you have button down collars on your shirt . I realised those buttons make the collarbone contact painful under the violin. It`s easy to not realise that while playing .
From Roy Sonne
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM
Christian: Many thanks for your appreciation. I always enjoy your insightful and generous posts.
John, Thanks for the detailed analysis of the 1928 Kreisler recording. I'll have to check out the various Kreisler versions. I have only heard one. I don't remember which.
John, I don't have a problem with the button down collar, probably because I hold my violin quite loosely. When I have tried to hold the instrument more firmly from the chin/collarbone it did indeed become painful for me in the collarbone area.
Bart: Thanks for your insight. I wonder if you could give us a very brief idea about the opera plot and how it can help us.
Jesus: There are so many wonderful versions and each one has something special. Recently I discovered the Heifetz recording from the Bell Telophone Hour. The tone is absolutely golden. Probably because it seems to be recorded from a greater distance than most of his recordings, it is completely free of the edgy quailty his sound often has due to the close mic placement that he insisted on. I also recently heard and loved the performance by Anne Sophie Mutter. It is the slowest version I have ever heard. She is able to sustain the flow and intensity of the melodic line in that slow tempo beautifully.
Posted on March 16, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Dear Roy,

This video is great! Thanks

From Vita Okunevich
Posted on March 16, 2014 at 12:08 PM
Hi Roy,
This video is great. Thanks

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 5:34 PM
Thanks Roy, I love the Mutter version too. I'll search the Heifetz one.

From Paul Deck
Posted on March 17, 2014 at 10:56 PM
Roy, I really appreciated your emphasis on the musical aspects of the piece. For example your thoughts on finding the right feeling for the reprise were great.
From Roy Sonne
Posted on March 18, 2014 at 12:39 AM
Thanks, Paul

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