February 2010

Beautiful Sound: Where did it go?

February 3, 2010 16:54

 I rarely attend live concerts because I  am almost always disappointed. I don't listen to many modern recordings of string soloists for the same reason..

Well I tried last night. I went to an all Brahms program at the local music school. Three star faculty members (including two BIG names) performed sonatas and the c minor trio. 

The pianist is very accomplished and the program was clearly a tour de force for him. But the violinist and the cellist were huge disappointments. Every thing was grunting, squeezing and groaning. The violinist, in particular, made me think that he was having a severe case of cramps. (His gestures didn't cause me to think otherwise but if I had been blind folded I would not have thought differently. 

The hall seated no more than 300 but both string players flexed their bows into the string as far as they would flex. The violin was bruised and beaten and couldn't do anything but groan. 

If my intention was to single out these players I would name them but I am afraid that they represent the best of modern playing. They received a standing ovation from the capacity audience. But only those who are caught up in modern violin playing could have thought it worth listening to. I can't imagine that an ordinary non-musician would have been even slightly charmed. 

On the way out I ran into a graduate wind student acquaintance. Didn't I love it? No. I replied there was no tone made all evening. She looked at me like I was crazy. She doesn't know scraping and sawing from tone. What have we come to?

When I arrived home I put together this list of links to real violin playing. 



This is an old performance of the Brahms Violin Sonata that is drastically different from last night's performance
What can be done? Who plays this way today? If someone did play this way would they make it out of music school? Is tone dead? Is playing the violin a lost art? Is everyone just pretending that there is something real called violin playing?


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