Gift-giving is one of the great joys of the holiday season, and each year we compile a list of some of the year's best new offerings from violinists for you to consider in your holiday gift-giving, gift-asking — and loading of the smartphone, computer or other device. We hope this allows you to consider a music-related gift.
We also would suggest considering supporting your local live music scene by purchasing tickets to local music events or simply making a year-end donation to a musical non-profit of your choice. I've tried to be inclusive, but I'm sure I have missed some ideas, so please feel free add your suggestions in the comments section. And yes, in this case, you are allowed to toot your own horn and recommend your own CD or book or product! You may also wish to refer to our gift-giving guides from previous years; I've listed links to those at the end of this blog. Also, please consider purchasing a gift from one of our Violinist.com sponsors, which you can find in our Directory of Shops and Services or on the right-hand side of this page.
Many of the recordings below are linked to Amazon.com. Note that if you follow these links and make a purchase from Amazon, a portion of that will go to support Violinist.com. (If you would like to give a donation to support Violinist.com, click here.) I've also listed the artists' names in italics, and sometimes those are linked to stories we have written this year about them and their work. And whenever you buy any of these selections, from any source, you'll be helping to support the musicians and other artists who created them.
Joshua Bell - The Classical Collection
If you are a fan of violinist Joshua Bell, here is a very big collection, with 20 years' worth of his recordings for Sony Classical. The 14-album set includes favorites by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Gershwin, Ravel, and Sibelius. It also has complete albums such as Bell's Bach (2014); Romance of the Violin (2003); and Voice of the Violin (2006). Other highlights include British composer Nicholas Maw’s Grammy Award-winning Violin Concerto, written for Bell in 1993; The Red Violin Concerto, based on themes from John Corigliano’s score to the film The Red Violin; and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite. Bell also is featured in his role as Music Director (since 2011) of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with performances of Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh Symphonies.
Bel Canto Paganini
Rachel Barton Pine
For Rachel Barton Pine, Nicolò Paganini's 24 Caprices are not just a set of virtuoso works that exist in their own universe, but they are very much grounded in the operatic style of the composer's time and place. This recording includes Paganini's 24 Caprices as well as his "Duet for One," Op. 6; "Caprice d'adieu" Op. 68; and a work by Rachel Barton Pine called "Introduction, Theme and Variations on "God Defend New Zealand," inspired by Paganini. It also includes a booklet with program notes written by Pine. Read more in our Interview with Rachel Barton Pine.
Beethoven: Violin Concerto
For Canadian violinist James Ehnes' first recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, he has teamed up with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, led by fellow violinist/conductor Andrew Manze. The recording also includes Beethoven's "Romances" for violin; and Schubert's "Rondo."
Ella: Accentuate the Positive
American violinist Regina Carter's homage to Ella Fitzgerald is a collection of nine of the singer's "B-side" hits, reimagined for jazz violin. "There was a period when I would wake up every morning and put on Ella: Ella and coffee, that's what I needed to get through the day," Carter told The Chicago Tribune. It's a beautiful collection, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fitzgerald's birth.
Anne Akiko Meyers
Philharmonia Orchestra; Kristjan Järvi conducting
This album is named for the last work by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, "Fantasia," which was written for and commissioned by Anne Akiko Meyers, who premiered the work after his death in 2016. The album also includes Karol Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No. 1, and Ravel's virtuoso showpiece Tzigane. Read more in our interview with Anne Akiko Meyers
Halvorsen & Nielsen: Violin Concertos
Who knew that Johan Halvorsen -- as in the "Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia" -- wrote a violin concerto? He did, but then it was performed only three times, all in 1909, by Canadian prodigy Kathleen Parlow, who was just 18 years old. But the manuscript score went with her wherever she lived throughout her life, her personal archives ending up in the University of Toronto library archives, only to be rediscovered in 2016. Violinist Henning Kraggerud gives it a gorgeous 21st century premiere with this first-ever recording, on Naxos. Read more in our Violinist.com Interview with Henning Kraggerud.
Daniel Hope, violin
Violinist Daniel Hope performs Vivaldi's Four Seasons with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, where Hope has been Music Director since 2016. Along with the Vivaldi, Hope has chosen 12 broadly ranging works to represent each of the 12 months of the year, with compositions by Rameau, Bach, Schumann and Tchaikovsky as well as recent works by Aphex Twin, Nils Frahm, Chilly Gonzales and Max Richter. What makes it a nice physical gift is the fact that Hope also commissioned 12 artworks to go each with a month, making the accompanying booklet is its own little work of art, with each month's painting paired on a page with Hope's thoughts about that month's music. Read more in our Violinist.com Interview with Daniel Hope.
Amanda Maier, Vol. 2
This album features even world premiere recordings of the music of violinist Amanda Maier (1853-1894), who was a Swedish-German composer who was married to fellow composer Julius Rontgen and a close friend of Edvard Grieg, Johannes Brahms, and other great musicians of the time. The first volume of her music was released in 2016. On Volume 2, Swedish violinist Cecilia Zilliacus and pianist Bengt Forsberg perform Maier’s violin sonata, and Nine Pieces for Violin and Piano. Soprano Sabina Bisholt makes her recording debut with her interpretation of Maier’s songs. Eight of these seventeen tracks are world premiere recordings.
Astor Piazzolla: Legacy
This album is a celebration of the music of Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. "Part of my interpretation and understanding of (the music of Piazzolla) comes from my own perception of the noisy, dirty, crazy and yet wonderful megapolis of Buenos Aires," said Cotik, who grew up in Buenos Aires and has lived in Germany, Canada and the U.S. "Raw, edgy, intense, violent, sexy...not cheesy, nor kitsch, ultra-romantic or pseudo-crossover. Piazzolas' music, informed by a multicultural upbringing, resonates with my journey." The album commemorates the 25th anniversary of Astor Piazzolla’s death with some of the composer’s most memorable works, such as "Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas," "Milonga del ángel," "Adiós nonino," and "Balada para un loco." Cotik and Lin previously collaborated on the Piazzolla album Tango Nuevo.
Rachel Podger, violin
For period-performance aficionados (and those who would like to become period-performance aficionados!): violinist Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque perform works by Pisendel, Tartini, Veracini and Vivaldi that explore the sonata form for violin and continuo. Gorgeous stuff.
Hidden Treasure: Classical Armenian Music for Violin and Piano
Nuné Melik, violin
Since 2010, Canada-based violinist Nuné Melik has been on a mission to uncover the music of her Armenian and Georgian heritage, and this album is "a celebration of the survival spirit and creativity of the Armenian people," she said. Among the composers represented are the well-known Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978), as well as lesser-known composers such as Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935); and Arno Babadjanian (1921-1983). Melik's Hidden Treasures Project goes beyond this one recording; her research has taken her to Armenia three times over the last seven years and between her commissions and discoveries she has brought forth more than one hundred pieces of music from the Caucasus. If you would like to purchase a physical CD, please click here to e-mail your request to Nuné.
Glass: Partitas for Solo Cello
Matt Haimovitz, cello
American cellist Matt Haimovitz performs the world premiere of new cello music of Philip Glass, his Partita No.2 for Solo Cello. The recording also includes Glass's Partita No. 1 for Solo Cello "Songs & Poems." Glass, in speaking about the creation of these Partitas for cello, has cited his intense study of Bach with his mentor Nadia Boulanger; and how that "re-wired" his brain.
Brahms Concerto and Sonata no. 1
Premiered by Joseph Joachim on New Year’s Day 1879, the Brahms Violin Concerto is a perennial favorite for us fiddle players. Vadim Gluzman also performs the Violin Sonata No. 1 with his wife and recital partner, pianist Angela Yoffe.
Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell
Emerson String Quartet:
In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Emerson String Quartet released this recording of Britten's String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 as well as a selection of chaconnes and fantasias from Purcell, including Chacony in G Minor, Z. 730 and Fantazia No. 11 in G Major, Z. 742. "It’s hard to believe that the music on this CD spans almost three centuries, ranging from Purcell’s surprisingly pungent harmonies to Britten’s distinctive voice," said violinist Eugene Drucker. This is the ensemble's first feature recording to include cellist Paul Watkins, who joined in 2013.
BOOKS and MISCELLANEOUS
Bach: Six Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Alone
Rachel Barton Pine
When Rachel Barton Pine's recording of the Six Bach Sonatas and Partitas was released in 2016, she mentioned in an interview with Violinist.com that she was creating her own edition of the sheet music for Carl Fischer Music. Well, here it is! "My guiding principle in creating my book and the accompanying materials was: What is the edition that I always wish that I'd had, or that I wish that I now had for myself? " she said, "and secondly, what are the resources that I wish every kid I taught Bach to had at hand?" This edition includes detailed historical notes, performance suggestions, and downloadable study materials, including a new Urtext edition and a specifically prepared manuscript.
24 Caprices by Niccolo Paganini
Violinist Endre Granat, who studied the Caprices with Jascha Heifetz, sought to create an edition that was as true as possible to the manuscript, while also incorporating the fingerings, bowings and performance suggestions he learned from Heifetz. Granat, who has had a distinguished career in performing, film recording and teaching, also counts Zoltan Kodaly, Gyorgy Ligeti and Josef Gingold among his teachers.
The Slapin-Solomon Duo's Big Gig Books for Violin and Viola Duet Combos
Scott Slapin and Tanya Solomon
Do you have a go-to gig book of duets for weddings or other events? This year violist duo Scott Slapin and Tanya Solomon released their book of 35 tunes, all "duo arrangements of the absolutely most requested, most standard classical music," wrote Slapin. There are actually three separate versions available of these 35 duets: one book for viola duo, one for violin duo, and one for violin/viola duo.
This delightful documentary by violinist Stefan Avalos seems too strange to be true - and yet it is! Strad Style tells the story of Danny Houck, an eccentric luthier who makes violins in a ramshackle farmhouse in rural Ohio. Through the Internet, Houck convinces concert violinist Razvan Stoica that he can make him a perfect replica of the violin once played by Paganini: the 1743 "Il Cannone" Guarneri el Gesù. The suspense builds from there! We viewed the movie back in January and found it both comedic and inspiring. The movie, which keeps winning awards (including Best Documentary Feature and Audience Favorite at Slamdance), can be streamed via Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, VUDU and Youtube. A Strad Style album, featuring music performed on Houck's violin by violinist Razvan Stoica, is also available on iTunes.
Leatherwood Bespoke Violin Rosin
Maybe you would like to give your beloved an extravagant rosin experience - is there such a thing? Yes there is: you can order your own customized and personalized rosin from violinist and rosin maker Andrew Baker, who will not only ask you about your instrument, bow, strings and playing context, but will also ask you which timber you prefer: Blackheart Sassafras, Camphor Laurel, Huon Pine, Silky Oak, Silver Ash, Tasmanian Myrtle, and White Beech (or he can choose for you, if you prefer). Yes, it's expensive, but so far this Australian-based company has had good reviews from Violinist.com members.
Dance of the Violin
Superstar violinist Joshua Bell is once again the subject of a children's book: The Dance of the Violin, written by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Dušan Petricic. this is Bell's second appearance in a children's book, the first being The Man With the Violin, released a year ago by the same author and illustrator, retelling the story of Bell's famous busking experiment in a Washington D.C. Metro station 10 years ago. The Dance of the Violin tells about a time in Bell's youth when he messed up so badly at a competition that he had to stop and start all over again. Delightful illustrations, and a story with a great message about perseverance.
Joshua Bell Virtual Violin library
Composers who prefer a digital audio workstation can now access the sound of a Stradivari with the new Joshua Bell Virtual Violin library, released in October by the virtual instrument sampling company Embertone. The library contains more than 20,000 individual samples performed by Bell on his 1713 "Huberman" Strad, with a Tourte bow. Read more about it here.
A New Violin
Well of course we all want one of those. But if you are serious about upgrading to a high-quality instrument, Violinist.com put together several comprehensive lists of modern violin makers, with links to their contact information. Thanks to two major shows this year at Metzler Violin Shop in Glendale, Calif., we've also been able to include video of these violins being played. We hope that this will help violinists in their search for a quality instrument that is also affordable. Check these out:
30 Modern Violins Made in Cremona, with demonstrations by Tokyo String Quartet First Violinist Martin Beaver.
50 Modern Violins Made in America, with demonstrations by LA Philharmonic Concertmaster Martin Chalifour.
Music Lesson Note Cards
Longtime Violinist.com member Becky Chaffee has created a series of greeting cards based on her paintings illustrating serious and humorous music lessons. They come in sets of eight 4 X 6 cards with envelopes, and the cards have serious or humorous practice tips on the back. She also offers prints and other gifts on her website.
Duet Arrangements of all Suzuki Repertoire and more
If you are a teacher who likes to accompany students on violin, this is for you: Atlanta-based violinist and arranger Martha Yasuda has made duet arrangments of quite a lot of student repertoire, including all the Suzuki books. She also has Christmas duets, American melodies, church hymns and more. Until Jan. 2 she is offering 20 percent off; the coupon code is on the home page that is reachable with the above link.
You might also consider giving a gift from our previous guides:
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