October 2007

Some brief musings on technical perfection

October 20, 2007 08:51

So many times I hear my friends and colleagues raving about some violinist or the other on account of his or her perfect, flawless virtuoso technique. "The articulation was so clean! The intonation was so accurate! The spiccato was so fast! The tone was so even!" I can appreciate those things too, but after people have been going on and on about them for long enough I just want to reply: well, obviously.

It's much more understandable when people are talking about other students. What are the conservatory years for but perfecting and refining a virtuoso technique? It's when the topic of conversation turns to world-class artists that I get confused and, frankly, annoyed.
There comes a point, a certain level at which technical perfection ought to be taken for granted. Great intonation? Clean articulation? Even tone? Everybody at the highest echelon should have that, so it should be nothing remarkable! And if the player's flawless technique is all anyone can ever find to comment on, then maybe that player is missing something.

Instrumental technique is like grammar. Essential to master completely, but only the means to an end, never an end in itself. No one, upon reading Tolstoy, would spend time enthusing about how well he conjugates his verbs and declines his nouns, so why is it so common to get so excited about flawless intonation and accurate articulation?

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Why stop there?

October 18, 2007 06:49

So Hilary Hahn is now officially a v.commie. Cool! :) Welcome Hilary, and may you long enjoy our protracted flame wars about shoulder rest usage, the endless debate over gut vs. synthetic, nit-picky technique discussions and grand Romantic rhapsodies on "What is Music??" :)

But heck, why stop there? ;-) As long as we're picking up famous people, I'd like to extend an official violinist.com invitation to:

Itzhak Perlman, for all the zillions of stories he could probably tell us, and for his sense of humor,

Maxim Vengerov, for being awesome,

Barnabás Kelemen, also for being awesome,

Any or all of the members of the Takacs Quartet, to provide the insight into the finer points of high-level chamber music that we actually don't hear around here as much as we might (the insight I mean, not the music),

Joshua Bell, to make Sydney happy :)

Gilles Apap, if he ever gets over his dislike of computers, just for the inevitable bruhaha his appearance here would cause,

Sergiu Luca, to tell Enescu stories and add his many-more-than-two cents to any Bach discussions,

Pinchas Zukerman, to argue vehemently with Sergiu Luca about proper Bach interpretation, to the general entertainment and edification of the rest of us,

And if Ilya Gringolts ever feels like coming back, he'll get no objection from me. :)

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OK...what gives?

October 6, 2007 11:50

So, as I feared, I did indeed lose my third chair first violin spot....BY MOVING UP TO SECOND CHAIR (associate, assistant, whatever!!!) FOR SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE NEXT MONTH. What...the hell...GIVES here???

I hope this doesn't seem like bragging...really, I'm more mystified than anything.

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The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

October 3, 2007 22:31

With sincere apologies to Vaclav Havel, an absurdist look at Oberlin life.

SCENE: stage is simply set. Looks like a big practice room. Two doors: one stage left, another stage right. Grand piano, table with open violin case resting on top, desk covered with manuscript paper, MHST 101 homework, and scribblings of figured bass realizations. MARA sits at the desk, ostensibly doing her homework but actually nodding off to sleep. Just as she is about to totally collapse like a wet noodle, the stage left door bursts open and in barges MILOŠ, irate.

MARA (awakes with a start): Whaaa...?
MILOŠ: Come on! It's me, Miloš! The personification of your violin? Or don't you recognize me? (sniffs haughtily) I wouldn't be surprised...
MARA: Cripes, Milos, I can't practice NOW! I'm so tired I feel like I might completely collapse and disintegrate any second now! Trying to practice now would be completely counter-productive. And besides, look at all this...
She indicates the Leaning Tower of homework teetering precariously on the desk. A book falls off the top. Milos pokes through the pile, looking more disgusted by the second.
MILOŠ: What is this? Are you a music history major? Are you a music theory major? Are you a solfege major? Why do you even have to learn solfege?
MARA: I wish I knew...
The stage right door swings open. EMIL and JIM barge onto the stage, arguing furiously. Completely oblivious to the other characters, they bicker nonstop while walking across the stage, and exit stage left. There is a brief silence.
MILOŠ: Anyway, what I was saying...
The stage left door swings open. Enter the entire Oberlin Orchestra, moving like a herd across the stage.
DAVID: Rehearsal is in Finney Chapel again! Hurry up!
Five seconds of silence after the last orchestra member leaves the stage, the door opens again and the assistant concertmaster scurries sheepishly across the stage and disappears through the door on the opposite side.
MILOŠ: What I was SAYING is, you are a violin performance major. To hell with all this other stuff.
MARA: But I'll flunk out of theory!!
MILOŠ (impassioned): So what?! You'd hardly be the first! (suddenly emotional) How do you think it makes me feel, when you're always studying or sleeping or blogging or just "too tired" to spend any time with me? I...I hardly saw you outside of rehearsal today!
MARA: Wednesdays are a madhouse, Miloš. Don't take it personally. I was practically unconscious. Remember how I almost fell asleep DURING the Berg?
MILOŠ (sullenly): Still, you could put a little more effort into our relationship...
Stage left door swings open. Enter JOE, KONSTANTIN and BORIS.
JOE: Are you mad at me because I'm Slovenian??
MARA: Joe, that's still a ridiculous question...just because my country used to own your country's little Slavic butt doesn't mean I think any less of you.
JOE: OK. I'm going to go listen to some Mahler now. (Exits.)
KONSTANTIN: Did I ever tell you zat I am a conductor? I vant you in my orchestra zis semester!
MARA: Really? Sweet! You're actually asking a lowly freshman?
KONSTANTIN: Of course...you are brilliant...you vill be concertmaster, and ve vill tour all over Europe next year...
JOE pokes his head back in the room from the stage right door.
JOE: Disclaimer: only the first half of that exchange ever really took place. (Exits.)
BORIS: Hey, do you guys like my new shoes??
MARA (exasperated, addressing all three random Eastern Europeans at once): Guys, I love you all, but can you please get lost? I'm having relationship issues with my violin.
Exit random Eastern Europeans.
MILOS: Finally, a bit of peace and quiet. Now I can tell you what bothers me the most: you have all this music in you! All these ideas, these sparks, these caprices and flights of fancy, lamentations of a poet, ecstasies of a mystic, sublime revelations of a philosopher! And I never get to hear any of it, I can never be part of any of it!
MARA leaps to her feet dramatically, as the climactic scene is now upon us. As she stands from the desk, the audience can now see that she is bound with symbolism-heavy chains.
MARA: But I CAN'T, Milos! I just can't! No one will ever hear it! No one will ever be able to hear it!
There is a sudden commotion offstage, with sounds akin to that of a bull in a china shop. The stage right door is kicked right off its hinges and EUGENE IONESCO tears through, wild-eyed and frantic, running as fast as he possibly can. Moments later, to bring this absurdist late-night rumination in the form of a play to a suitable close, a large rhinoceros stampedes through in hot pursuit of IONESCO. The rhino knocks over the large stacks of books, completely burying both MARA and MILOS. Exit rhino, stage left. Curtain.


Oh my god. I should have been in bed long ago...but writing this was too much fun to pass up. :)

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