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Laurie Niles

2012 Tournament, Round 2, Day 2: Brahms vs. Sibelius

March 23, 2012 at 6:02 PM

We're in the second round, and we're narrowing things down to our favorites of the favorites. Today's decision is nearly impossible (for me, at least!) but let's think about these concertos. Which do you love to play, which do you love to hear? What kinds of things do these concertos do with the sound of the violin? What are your favorite recordings? Ultimately, which concerto do you favor?

Sibelius Violin Concerto vs. Brahms Violin Concerto

Sibelius Brahms

And some more listening for you:

Brahms Concerto, II. Adagio: Gidon Kremer, with conductor Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Sibelius Violin Concerto, III. Allegro ma non tanto: Violinist Benjamin Beilman, at the final round of the Montreal International Musical Competition:

From Emily Hogstad
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 6:30 PM
I just love that performance of Beilman's, I always get chills listening to it. And I love the preview image in the youtube video. So dramatic.

Went with Brahms in the end, though.

From Michael Bechtel
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 7:07 PM
Yay! Beilman! I love that recording!
This was probably the hardest one yet. The Brahms has been one of my favorite concertos for a long time... and so has Sibelius!
From Maurice Gatewood
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 7:47 PM
Oh Laurie! Really?! I've gotta think on this one for a bit and vote later.
From Simon Streuff
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 8:01 PM
Brahms is nice and more popular so it will win. But Sibelius to me has 3 very characteristic movements who connect together as an incredible statement as a whole thing. Brahms 2. and 3. I am not so much a fan of. RIP Sibelius, my tournament-winner. But maybe I am spoiled being half finish...
From Paul Deck
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 8:40 PM
I voted for the Brahms but frankly it was hard to enjoy either one of the linked performances because they're using shoulder rests. Sigh.
From Karis Crawford
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 8:47 PM
I'm going to vote for Brahms because for me, it was one of three concertos I grew up listening to that inspired me to play the violin. I love the first movement - wrenches at my heart every time.
From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 8:52 PM
Just to make it more difficult, the recordings pit Bernstein/Kremer against Beilman. Still, Sibelius takes the prize.
From Gene Huang
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 8:59 PM
Tough one, but I voted Sibelius.
From Davis King
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 9:25 PM
@Paul Deck... What is wrong with shoulder rests? Many people in my studio play without them, but my neck is so long I'd hurt myself if I tried playing without one. Shouldn't it come down to each player's body and preference? Few things are one way...

I went with Sibelius. No other concerto paints the same pictures and evokes the same mood.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 23, 2012 at 10:12 PM
You couldn't enjoy performances because they were using shoulder rests? That might be the most ridiculous thing I've heard in the long history of the Shoulder Rest Wars!

I don't discriminate based on that notion. Beautiful playing is beautiful playing!

From Paul Deck
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Ouch, I guess there's not much taste for sarcasm around here. I use a shoulder rest too, I also would not be able to play without it.

I enjoyed both those performances. I think that's one of the best of the Sibelius that I've heard in a long time.


From Simon Streuff
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 1:00 AM
my belief in humanity is reborn! Sibelius to me is an expression wich I never heard in that strength somewhere else. I thought it appeals to me because of my roots. but I remember back when I was 16 I startet violin again because I wanted to sometimes play this concerto. Because of lack of notes I started to play it from the recording. I came not very far, but today I am at least able to play first and second movement. And yes, it was totally worth the 10 years of work at the violin!
Ida Haendel:
From marjory lange
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 1:10 AM
Thread leak! with two current threads on shoulder rests, I got Paul's sarcasm, but I can see that if you weren't reading those threads it would be a bit outre.
From Hannah Williams
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 1:26 AM
This is a really hard one. Both of these concertos are favorites of mine and they're both equally grand. Hmmm...
And thanks for posting the video of Beilman. I love, love, love that one!!!
From Maurice Gatewood
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 2:29 AM
Still thinking...
From Maurice Gatewood
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 2:33 AM
Lol I went with Sibelius thinking for sure I'd be a rebel this time guess I'm just not as bad a** as I thought I was.I love these two for the same reason the orchestration for both is amazing but while the Brahms engages my mind and my heart the Sibelius speaks to my very soul.
From Michael Pijoan
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 4:36 AM
Love Sibelius, but I went with Brahms. Brahms is close to heaven.
From elise stanley
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 8:07 AM
Paul - LOL! And I'm surprised anyone fell for that one. Well done! If only it had been April 1st...

This was torture... but I'm currently in love with Brahms so the mood of the day won...

From Wayne Wilkinson
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Just FYI, I got automatically signed out through the night, so in order to see who was winning this morning I had to vote again. So take one vote from the Sibelius total. It wouldn't be fair for me to get two votes (although I live in the Chicago area and such things are not unheard of here).


From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 1:14 PM
Haha wayne :)

Havent voted to choose! I will have to listen to both again!

From elise stanley
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 3:55 PM
Wayne - not to worry, same thing happened to me so I voted for Brahms again. Thus we cancel each other out.

Only difference is I wasn't going to say anything... well, at least I'm sort of honest!

From Paul Deck
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 5:45 PM
I noticed sometime yesterday that Brahms was leading by a nose and then a short time later it was Sibelius by three lengths. That kind of made me go "hmm." C'mon guys, re-voting to see the comments is one thing, but no ballot box stuffing!
From Jim Tsai
Posted on March 24, 2012 at 9:28 PM
you're not the only one thinking there are some voting irregularities. just look at the total vote tallies compared to previous days, up over 50%
From elise stanley
Posted on March 25, 2012 at 12:56 AM
[Laurie: Is it possible to vote multiple times if you are logged out? If so, it might be possible to check the IP addresses of the voters - to see if there are multiples from the same site. Of course that does not stop someone from using multiple computers but that would at least take a lot of effort.]
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on March 25, 2012 at 6:20 AM
Laurie, thanks so much for giving us all these beautiful music clips to listen to. I was too late to vote, but I would have gone for Sibelius. Brahms writes for the violinist but Sibelius seems to write for the violin.
From elise stanley
Posted on March 25, 2012 at 7:14 AM
I've never looked at the concerto - but am familiar with some of the the sonatas. From bizzare fingerings, even for relatively simple passages on paper, I'd guess he had no clue about playing the instrument - though the output was sublime. Thus get the impression he really did write for the violin. not the violinist...
From sarah salmi
Posted on March 25, 2012 at 11:09 AM
I would have voted for Sibelius!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 25, 2012 at 7:18 PM
If you vote a second time, it just wipes out your previous vote. So don't worry, no one gets to vote twice, even if you log out and log back in. It tracks it three ways.
From Erica Thaler
Posted on March 25, 2012 at 11:35 PM
From Paul Deck
Posted on March 26, 2012 at 3:04 AM
@Laurie, whoever is doing your tech work behind the site sure knows his stuff. Give him a big hug from all of us at
From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 30, 2012 at 5:47 PM
Paul, will do!

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