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 recordings, books, gear and other 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.
The gift selection are in the categories of recordings, books and miscellaneous, and reader suggestions. 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.
"Wherever I am, Bach always seems to change the room," Hilary Hahn told Violinist.com. "You spin into a whole connected world with everyone who is in the same room." Hahn completes her recordings of J.S. Bach's Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin with this new recording of Sonata No. 1 in G minor; Partita No. 1 in B minor; and Sonata No. 2 in A minor. Her recording of the other three came out in 1997, on her very first album, also called Hilary Hahn Plays Bach, recorded when she was 16 and 17 years old. That one included the Partita No. 2 in D minor; Sonata No. 3 in C major and Partita No. 3 in E major.
This album features Joshua Bell’s first recording of Bruch's Scottish Fantasy as well as a new recording of the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, which he first recorded more than 30 years ago with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Sir Neville Marriner. Now, as Music Director of the Academy, Bell both performs and directs the orchestra. Bell said that the Scottish Fantasy has become a favorite performance piece for him in recent years: "My father’s descendants were from Scotland, and I grew up hearing stories about how my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather fought in the Black Watch in Scotland," Bell said. "My dad was proud of his Scottish heritage, and this connection makes the melodies in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy even more meaningful to me. It is one of the most beautiful and touching pieces I know, and so brilliantly orchestrated. It is a unique ‘concerto,’ not following the traditional three-movement form. Each of its four movements tells a story."
Augustin Hadelich performs the 24 Caprices for solo violin by Nicolo Paganini with an elegance that has come to characterize his playing in the 12 years since he won the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Please see our Violinist.com interview with Augustin Hadelich for his in-depth thoughts about Paganini and recording, which is his debut with Warner Classics, after his 2015 Warner Prize. More recently, Hadelich won a 2016 Grammy for his recording of Dutilleux's Violin Concerto and Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year 2018.
Bach's cello suites sound profoundly beautiful on viola, played by American violist Kim Kashkashian, who currently teaches at the New England Conservatory. Kashkashian's other solo recordings have included an album of Hindemith sonatas (solo, and with pianist Robert Levin), as well as a Grammy-winning album of solo works by Kurtág and Ligeti.
Ray Chen's newest recording features works chosen from what the artist considers the "Golden Age" of the violin, including the Bruch Concerto as well as arrangements and transcriptions by Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz, which Ray performs with pianist Julien Quentin, including Kreisler’s "Syncopation," "Schön Rosmarin" and his version of Cyril Scott’s "Lotus Land," and Heifetz’s transcriptions of "Estrellita" by Manuel Ponce and George Gershwin’s "Summertime." Stephan Koncz has also arranged Debussy’s "Clair de lune" and the traditional Australian favorite, "Waltzing Matilda," as Chen is from Australia and Taiwan. The album opens with a string quartet arrangement called "A New Satiesfaction," which features Gymnopédie No.1 by Erik Satie, with an allusion to Rossini’s William Tell Overture. It is performed by Chen and his Berlin-based quartet, all of whom are members of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Chicago-based violinist Rachel Barton Pine's newest album features the well-known Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch, as well as Violin Concerto in B minor by Edward Elgar, written 44 years later. It is is dedicated to "the memory of a musical hero and generous friend, Sir Neville Marriner," with whom she was originally to recorded the album. Pine worked with Marriner on the scores before his death in 2016, and Marriner related to her accounts of his teacher, violinist Billy Reed. Reed was the former leader of the London Symphony Orchestra, who collaborated with Elgar on the creation of the violin concerto. The concerto was commissioned Fritz Kreisler, who premiered it in 1910.
James Ehnes plays viola in William Walton's well-known and well-loved Viola Concerto. "This is a piece I have loved since I was a teenager, so it is wonderful that the opportunity has come my way to record it," Ehnes told The Strad. This album also features two later works: the 1957 "Partita for Orchestra" and the "Sonata for String Orchestra," adapted in 1971 from the String Quartet in A minor of 1945-47.
Anne Akiko Meyers called it her "personal recording to date." Ten years in the making, "Mirror in Mirror" features compositions by Jakub Ciupinski, John Corigliano, Philip Glass, Morten Lauridsen, Arvo Pärt and the original luthéal version of Maurice Ravel's Tzigane. Meyers recorded with Akira Eguchi, piano, Kristjan Järvi and the Philharmonia Orchestra, Elizabeth Pridgen, keyboard, and Jakub Ciupinski, lutheal reproduction.
Following her 2016 album with the Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim, Tchaikovsky & Sibelius Violin Concertos, Lisa Batiashvili releases "Visions of Prokofiev," a new album with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The album features Prokofiev’s two violin concertos as well as select movements from his famous ballets (Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, The Love for Three Oranges), newly arranged for solo violin and orchestra by Lisa’s father, Tamás Batiashvili.
Violinist Daniel Hope, who is Music Director of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and this year became Artistic Partner of San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra, aims to put the Classical period in context, with violin concertos by Haydn, Josef Myslivecek, and Mozart, as well as excerpts from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, a Romance by Johann Peter Salomon, and Mozart’s Adagio in E and Rondo alla turca, in a new arrangement for orchestra. "I love researching different styles of music," Hope said. "So much of Mozart’s music is so modern, so revolutionary that I find it hard to relate the term ‘Classical’ to it. We often use the word today to mean old-fashioned, and yet Mozart is anything but old-fashioned. I find the Classical style and period of music history to be fascinating, because it was at this time that composers began to be themselves, to break away from serving kings and princes and gain their independence as artists. We see how the Classical style, governed by the rules of music, became a way of life. It was out of this order that the idea of the brilliant artist was born; it was the beginning of the way we think about music today."
Rachel Podger celebrates her 50th birthday year with this release of Vivaldi’s ‘Le Quattro Stagioni’ with Brecon Baroque. From Producer Jonathan Freeman-Attwood: "Working with Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque has been an object lesson in starting anew and identifying the ingredients which make ‘Le Quattro Stagioni’ great works. Virtuosity is non-negotiable here and Rachel has it in abundance. But it’s the color, poetry, vibrancy and evocative characterization of weather, human warmth and fragility, captured by the dynamic flux of Rachel interlocking with her colleagues in Brecon Baroque, that deliver near-unimaginable qualities in this music."
Christian Tetzlaff performs Béla Bartók's two violin concertos with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu. Bartók's first Violin Concerto was published after the composer's death in 1956, but Bartók reused the opening movement as the first of his "Two Portraits" for orchestra. Bartók completed two movements that portray the character of Stefi Geyer, to whom the work was dedicated. Completed towards the end of 1938, Bartók's second Violin Concerto was dedicated to Zoltán Székely.
Here's a little something for fans of "Fiddler on the Roof": Kelly Hall-Tompkins, the "Fiddler" heard in the recent Tony- and Grammy-nominated 13-month Broadway revival of the musical, has created an entire album of "Fiddler" music inspired by that production.
Josefowicz said of the Adams concerto in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "It was the piece where [Adams] first got to know me as a person and a player, when I was 21. I'm now 38. When I started playing this piece, it was the confirmation of the new path that I was on, to really go down this new road with new music and with composers, because this experience was so inspiring for me. It has a really dancelike feeling, so the violin line is often incredibly syncopated with everything else going on in the orchestra … Basically, it's supposed to make you groove."
Augusta McKay Lodge, winner of the 2015 Juilliard Historical Performance Concerto Competition, explores rare unaccompanied violin music from the time of Bach on this debut album. "Although today we think of Bach as being a lone figure in composing for the unaccompanied violin, his work actually grew out of a long-standing tradition going as far back (and further!) as 17th century Biber’s iconic Passacaglia from the Mystery Sonatas," Lodge said. "Bach could well have heard many performances of such works, and indeed personally knew some of these composers such as Pisendel (featured on the album). These are hidden gems that deserve to hold a place in the current canon of works." The album features solo violin works by Biber, Locatelli and Pisendel, as well as lesser-known composers Nicola Matteis and Thomas Baltzar. BELOW: Augusta McKay Lodge performs Alia fantasia, by Nicola Matteis:
Bach, J.S.: Violin Concertos No. 1 & No. 2; Partita No. 2
Daniel Lozakovich, violin
June 8, 2018 (DG)
The youngest musician currently signed to Deutsche Grammophon, Daniel Lozakovich releases his debut recording of Bach’s two violin concertos with the Kammerorchester des Symphonieorchesters des Bayerischen Rundfunks as well as a solo performance of Bach's Partita No. 2, featuring the famous Chaconne. Lozakovich is a young violinist to watch!
Roman Kim, whose version of Bach's "Air on a G String" made the rounds on Youtube in 2011 and was subsequently published by Bärenreiter, has just released his debut album of works by Paganini, Bach, Alexey Shor, and also several pieces written by himself, including three "Romances" and "Introduction, Theme & Variations on Dal tuo stellato soglio from Rossini's Mose in Egitto, Op. 3, 'I Brindisi'" (Dedicated to Niccolò Paganini). Beyond his violinistic feats and composition, Kim is known for the unusual prismatic glasses he wears to help him focus on the music.
"For both of us, melodies that tug at the heartstrings have always proven more impactful than dazzling virtuosity, and thus the idea for this album was born," Urioste said of the album. The recording features violin pieces from that golden era, including Fritz Kreisler’s "Caprice viennois," Elgar’s "Chanson de Nuit" and "Salut d’amour," as well as pieces by Dvorak, Liszt, Gluck, Debussy and the title track of "Estrellita" by Manuel Ponce. The album ends with Tom’s own arrangements of "Moon River," "When I Fall in Love," and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Tom and Elena first performed together as BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists in 2013, and appear regularly as a duo and in chamber music in the UK and abroad. Their second CD with Grieg’s Complete Violin Sonatas is planned for release in the coming months.
Ahead of the composer’s 85th birthday last fall, Deutsche Grammophon released a double album of works for the violin by Krzysztof Penderecki in celebration of his longtime collaboration with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. Performed by Mutter, the double album features a number of the composer’s works for violin and piano or violin and orchestra, including La Follia, Duo concertante, Sonata No. 2 (dedicated to Mutter) and Metamorphosen.
BOOKS and MISCELLANEOUS
Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 2
Perfect for a violin student, for your teacher, for a fan of the violin, here is a collection of Violinist.com's best interviews, with inspiring and enjoyable stories to help you get to know today's top violinists. The book, which includes a foreword by Rachel Barton Pine, includes exclusive, one-on-one interviews with Frank Almond, Rachel Barton Pine, Deborah Borda, Terry Borman, Ray Chen, Jinjoo Cho, Nathan Cole, James Ehnes, Ning Feng, Midori Goto, Augustin Hadelich, Hilary Hahn, Daniel Heifetz, Daniel Hope, Daishin Kashimoto, Mayu Kishima, Jennifer Koh, Alexander Markov, Anne Akiko Meyers, Tai Murray, Rachel Podger, Philippe Quint, Julian Rachlin, Aaron Rosand, Gil Shaham, Lindsey Stirling and Vera Tsu Weiling. You can also give it as a set, along with Laurie's first book, Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 1!
Music By Black Composers, Violin Volume I
Rachel Barton Pine
After a major 15-year effort involving the talents, input and research of many experts on the subject, Rachel Barton Pine has created a book of sheet music meant for students at a Suzuki Book 1-2 playing level, with 22 works for violin by 16 Black composers, each with accompaniment, with both a second violin duet part and piano accompaniment. You can also get a Coloring Book of Black Composers. (Read our article about it by clicking here.)
College Prep for Musicians
Here is something for the high school student (or his or her parents) who aspires to go to a music school or conservatory. As we know, the application process is tricky, and it's different from regular schools because it involves that all-important audition in addition to the considerable application requirements for regular admission. This book offers advice about choosing schools, communicating with those schools, preparing auditions and navigating the complexities of the whole process.
A New Violin
If you are serious about upgrading to a high-quality instrument, Violinist.com regularly puts together comprehensive lists of modern violin makers, with links to their contact information, based on current shows, competitions and news events. We hope that this will help violinists in their search for a quality instrument that is also affordable. Check these out:
12-inch iPad Pro
Here is something that is on my list: a large-size tablet, so that I can upload my sheet music, orchestra music, and music that I'd like to travel with -- and keep it stored in a compact and easy-to-use way. Of course, it will require some adjustment, but I've determined, after seeing the lecture on technology at last summer's American Viola Society Festival, that it's worth it! Click here for our story about that lecture, which includes info and links on what software programs a violinist may want to upload, and how to use those programs, once you have this technology!
Kréddle Adjustable Chin Rest
Suggested by Cotton Mather: "the be-all end-all chinrest."
Kun Solo shoulder rest
Suggested by Emily Doyle: "It's the newest Kun model - and my personal favourite - with new mechanisms for width adjustment and folding (no screws, hurray!) and there's really nothing else like it on the market."
Practice Mute by wmutes
Suggested by Miguel Pitti: My teacher also owns one of them. I have just tried it for a few days, and I can't be more satisfied with it. It dampens the sound almost like a typical lead practice mute but keeping a high quality sound. The violin sounds almost the same as without the mute, but at a lower volume. I would recommend it to anybody who needs to play often with heavy mutes."
Musicians' Ear Plugs
Readers suggested two kinds:
Christmas Carols and Sacred Hymns for Unaccompanied Violin
Suggested by Paul Fehrenbach (who is the arranger): I have four books - two volumes of sacred hymns for unaccompanied violin and two volumes of Christmas Carols for unaccompanied violin. Also, the two volumes of Christmas Carols are also arranged for unaccompanied viola. The books can be downloaded as PDF files from the website or purchased in book form (spiral bound). Descriptions, tables of contents and song examples can be found on the website for each book.
Thomann Orchestra Stand Deluxe (This one, for those in the U.S., is similar: Performance Plus Deluxe Orchestra Stand)
Suggested by Martin Podhola: "I love stability and massiveness, because my two-year-old daughter is still hitting it with everything :)"
Music and Relationships
Suggested by Katie B.: "I met Evan this summer at a chamber music workshop comprised of people who'd been playing together for decades. The book reflects the unusual camaraderie and singleness of purpose that I encountered there and is especially significant for that reason. More generally is a well-designed manual for chamber musicians of all levels."
You might also consider giving a gift from our previous guides:
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