There was a time when I did quite a bit of playing with a Russian émigré violinist by the name of Daniel Shindarov. Daniel is pushing ninety now, and recently gave a full recital at Zipper Hall in Los Angeles. It was packed with virtuosity.
By all reports he’s playing with the same Mercurial energy and velocity he did thirty years ago, just after he left pre-Glasnost Russia, and at the time I first heard him.
Daniel was the sort of ‘high energy’ guy that could not have a violin in his hand without scrambling all over it. At film recording sessions he would ‘noodle’ constantly during what down-time we had; unless, that is, he was regaling us with stories from Khrushchev era Russia.
Stories about wooing ballerinas mid-performance while sitting in the concertmaster chair of the Bolshoi Ballet.
Yet Daniel has always been a true gentleman and a man with a great heart, when it comes to art. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and encouraging roll model during the time, in my early twenties, when I strove to understand the instrument technically.
In the intervals between Milstein visitations, I had Daniel.
And I remember, one day, complaining to Daniel that I couldn’t do this or that virtuosic skill clean enough, or fast enough – maybe both, actually!
Daniel’s reaction, ‘Ah, those are tricks only, but you make very good music. This is much more important!’
As you can see, that comment has stuck with me for a long time. Yet today I understand ‘tricks’ much better than I did then. And for three reasons.
Number one, I know how to practice slowly in such a way that a good foundation is put in place.
Number two, I know how to shift my thinking when it comes time to play fast.
And number three, I understand that both of the above are really tools for ‘tricking’ the body to play beyond one’s ability to think.
Yes, it takes regular practice, and plenty of it, to confidently lay down many of the 'tricks' you'll find in the violin repertoire. Just don't forget to keep the 'little gray cells' involved when you do it.
All the best,
I've been studing with Daniel for a few years and I can attest that Daniel is both an amazing player, almost every lesson includes a mini concert as he demostrates something I should be doing, and a great gentleman whose goal is to make a violinist out of me, instead of just an amateur violin player.
The Colburn school produced a high quality DVD of Daniel's Jubilee Concert at Zipper Hall.
It can be purchased by contacting Leo Zisman firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel will also be in concert with the Cal Phil at Disney Hall on the weekend of August 7/8.
Thanks for sharing your blog! It's so great to hear about someone at 90 playing with full control of his body... I was just wondering/worrying about that earlier today, how long I will be able to play for (having endured a period of time where I couldn't play altogether, it's something that I think about a great deal).
I like your way of describing practicing--that it tricks the body beyond one's ability to think. Never thought of it that way--clever! I don't know the gentleman to whom you refer, but he sounds great. One, he's Russian ;) (heheh, my background, can't help it!), and two, he sounds wise.
Was told once that my body knew what to do, and to stop letting my mind interfere.
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April 21, 2010 at 12:31 AM ·
Thanks very true and intersting blog!