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 gear, books, recordings, 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 - especially this year -- that you consider supporting your local orchestra, ensemble or arts organization by purchasing tickets to online events they may offer, and/or by making a year-end donation.
The first section of this guide includes a list of gear, music and instruments that you can purchase from sponsors of Violinist.com. Supporting our sponsors helps support Violinist.com! You can also find those sponsors directly in our Business Directory.
The next section lists this year's top recordings by violinists, violists, cellists and other classical performers. Many of the recordings 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.
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.
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BUY GIFTS FROM OUR SPONSORS
Here is a surprisingly lightweight and durable violin case, offered by SHAR. Available in five colors, the case comes in both fitted and oblong models. Use the link to automatically apply a 25 percent discount on all in-stock models, now through the end of the year.)
Fiddlershop Adjustable Fabric Face Mask
If you have to wear a face mask, it might has well be a cool one. Here's a violin-themed non-medical face mask with adjustable ear loops. Buy a three-pack at this link, or get one free face mask with any eligible purchase over $50 - click here for Fiddlershop's holiday deals.
Yamaha Silent Violin
If you want to practice at home but you don't want to make a lot of noise - here is a solid choice. While you can listen to yourself using headphones, the actual sound of your playing will be very quiet for the rest of the household. You can also plug it into an amp to make it speak out loud! It's also one of Yamaha's most established electrical instruments -- the "Silent Violin" has been around since 1997.
Perpetual Viola Strings
Pirastro's newest strings -- "Perpetual" -- are known for their large sound volume and carrying power, as well as focused sound projection. They also boast a short break-in period, so that you can trust the tuning in about a day, rather than a week!
Soundbrenner Pulse Metronome
If you have trouble syncing up to the click of a metronome - here is a different approach: it's a metronome that sends you silent vibrations, rather than an audio pulse. You can wear it like a wristwatch and tap on it three times to set the tempo, or twist the dial to set it to a specific tempo. (You can also wear it on your arm, ankle, etc.) It also has a LED light that flashes in sync in the vibrations, and you can also connect it to a Metronome App that expands the possibilities. Pretty cool gadget! Offered by Johnson String Instrument.
Barenreiter's Beethoven‘s Piano and Violin Sonatas
How about a gorgeous new edition of all ten sonatas for pianoforte and violin? These important works deserve a special place in a violinist's (or pianist's) music library, and just this year Barenreiter came out with a new edition, edited by Clive Brown. Based on an incredible amount of research, this edition provides more guidance on the performance implications of Beethoven’s notation, clarifying notational conventions employed by Beethoven that went out of use, were ignored or were misunderstood in later editions. For more, check out this video in which violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Alasdair Beatson talk about a few revelations they had, using the new Barenreiter edition.
Codabow: 'Prodigy' Violin Bow
I nearly always recommend Codabows to my advancing students as the best "bang" for the buck. Besides being well-balanced bows that can do the tricks you need (like spiccato and other advanced bowings), they are nearly indestructible. "Precision-engineered to provide select professional characteristics at a pre-professional price" - that's how they say it. They are available for 3/4 - 4/4 violin and viola, from Potter Violins.
Limited Edition Phoenix Strings, by Warchal
Warchal Strings has made good on its mission to recycle violin strings, and this holiday season they offer Violinist.com readers a 50 percent discount on a set of their Limited Edition Phoenix Violin strings. The strings are made from recycled Warchal strings that were once played and were sent to Warchal from musicians around the world. "The set is warm-sounding, well-balanced but at the same time it provides a lot of projection. It features our bestseller - the non whistling, helix E string," said Klaudia Warchal. To get the discount, musicians should use the code: VIOLINIST on Warchalshop.com in their baskets.
Serafina Student Violin Outfit
It's hard to find a good-sounding fractional instrument at a reasonable price, but Metzler Violin has succeeded in putting together an quality outfit that will also be enjoyable for a young student to play -- leading to better learning. This is the local shop where I send my students for an outfit, and here is one that comes with everything you need: the violin, bow, case, shoulder rest, rosin and polishing cloth. Serafina DX violas and cellos are also available.
Los Angeles Violin Shop Owens & Parkley Violins
Ready to upgrade your violin? Here is something for the serious student who is bridging to the professional level: The Los Angeles Violin Shop's Owens & Parkley violins. Using high-quality tone woods from Europe, the instruments are largely made by LA Violin Shop luthiers and come in a price range suitable for the serious student or young professional. Now through December 26, 2020, Use code LAVSONLINE15 for 15% off LAVS's Black Label (pictured) and other Owens & Parkley violins, as well as all accessories at checkout.
Fine Italian Violin by Nicolò Gagliano, 1762
If your motto is "Go Big or Go Home" - try asking Santa for this: a 1762 Nicolò Gagliano, with a certificate by J. & A. Beare, offered by Corilon ($299,750.00). It is one beautiful and rare fine violin. Here is Corilon's description: "The provenance of Nicolò Gagliano’s finest violins remained concealed for the longest time: his works were thought to be authentic instruments by Antonio Stradivari and Nicolò Amati until the musical world discovered this brilliant Neapolitan master. The mature 1762 violin presented here represents his oeuvre in Corilon violins’ catalogue, inviting you to a Christmas story rich in the secrets of hand-selected antique violins, violas, celli and bows."
Musafia Momentum Z Violin Case
A gorgeous violin deserves a gorgeous case, and they don't get fancier than a Musafia case, made right in Cremona, Italy, the city where the great Stradivari made his legendary violins. The Musafia Momentum Z has all the bells and whistles: High Tensile™ 6-ply laminate construction; suspension system; waterproof cover with full-sized music pouch; lined interior with velvet plush, satin, and brocade; spring-loaded locking bow holders; hygrometer; blanket, string tube, bolted carrying straps and a padded leatherette handle.
One of the best albums of the year, and nominated for a 2021 Grammy, here is a truly fine violinist playing truly beautiful music. Violinist Augustin Hadelich performs Janácek’s Violin Sonata, Josef Suk’s Four Pieces, and Dvorák’s Humoresque with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Jakub Hruša.
Christmas with Hope
Daniel Hope, violin
Zurich Chamber Orchestra
Here are four violin-centric and beautiful arrangements of classic Christmas carols to add to your holiday playlist, with Daniel Hope perforing and leading the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. Selections include White Christmas, The Christmas Song, A Child is Born and Maybe This Christmas.
Here is one of the many tributes to Beethoven in this 250th anniversary year: the fantastically talented young violinist Daniel Lozakovich recorded Beethoven's Violin Concerto. The new recording was filmed live in Munich’s Gasteig Philharmonie in December 2019 -- just months before live performance became difficult and rare, with venues shut down and orchestras silenced due to the global pandemic. "There’s a particular magic about a live concert," Lozakovich said. "The audience creates a unique atmosphere, without which, in my opinion, it’s almost impossible to produce a performance that will stand the test of time."
For that young Suzuki student -- these new recordings of Books 1-3 are a "must have"! Just released this year, the new recordings by violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Natalie Zhu are a listening pleasure for students, parents and teachers alike.
What do Mozart's violin concertos sound like, on Mozart's own violin? Violinist Christoph Koncz recorded all five of Mozart's Violin Concertos on a Mittenwald violin from the beginning of the 18th century, probably by the Klotz family of luthiers, that Mozart used during his tenure as concertmaster of the Salzburg Hofkapelle between 1769 and 1780, when he also composed his five violin concertos. This is the first time the concertos have been recorded on this violin. The violin was carefully preserved after Mozart's death and has had minimal intervention, keeping it close to its original condition. Koncz, who gained recognition at the age of nine when he starred as the child prodigy Kaspar Weiss in the movie "The Red Violin," is principal second violinist of the Vienna Philharmonic.
"I wrote this lullaby for adults and for the child within every one of us," said composer Arvo Pärt, in dedicating his "Estonian Lullaby" to violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who is released the world premiere recording of the work last spring. "Having performed and recorded most of Arvo Pärt’s music written for violin, I was completely humbled and thrilled when he asked me to perform at the opening of his new Centre in Laulasmaa, Estonia in 2018," Meyers said.
This album is a fusion of the Lakatos Gypsy style with a Yiddish and Klezmer repertoire, with arrangements containing elements of Tango, Funk, Jazz and Waltz.
Following his recording of Bach's complete Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin in 2018, violinist Johnny Gandelsman presents Bach’s complete cello suites, transcribed for violin, plus the first-ever recording of the 6th suite on a 5-string violin. "Similar to the Sonatas and Partitas, living in the world of the cello suites feels like working in a scientist’s lab," Gandelsman said. "The compositions radiate with the joy of continuously finding new ways to expand the technical and emotional possibilities of the instrument, through the simple act of imagining the impossible, and then putting it down on paper. The pieces sound quite different on the violin, lighter and more dance-like.
What happens when four musicians are trapped together on an island during a global pandemic? In this case, they made a recording of quartet arrangements of songs by queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaii Kingdom. The album includes 15 of the queen's 165 known compositions and also features special guests Jake Shimabukuro (ukulele superstar), Benny Rietveld (bassist for Carlos Santana), and Greg Sardinha (steel guitar legend).
Nominated for a 2021 Grammy for their album Take the Stairs, the Florida-based classical-meets-hip-hop group Black Violin has created a holiday album unlike any other. "It’s not about Christmas or Hanukkah or Thanksgiving or New Year’s," Marcus said. "It’s about the idea of understanding this is the time of year when we’re thankful, and hopefully we set a soundscape for that season in a way that’s more vibey and something more unexpected, but still with a holiday push to it."
During the pandemic, Ray Chen found "Solace" in Bach - as did many of us. But unlike many of us, Ray built a top-notch professional recording studio in his own home, just so he could record it! The result was a recording of six movements from Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, including: the E major Preludio; G minor Fugue; D minor Sarabande; the last-movement Allegro from the A minor Sonata; Largo from the C Major Sonata; then circling back to the E major Partita, the Gavotte en Rondeau.
Last summer, superstar violinist Joshua Bell created an album (and a PBS special) from his home, where he performed with his wife, singer Larisa Martínez as well as pianists Jeremy Denk, Peter Dugan, and Kamal Khan. The album includes violin showpieces, arias and songs such as such as "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess; a West Side Story medley; Wieniawski's Polonaise de Concert in D; a movement from Beethoven's Sonata No. 5, Op. 24 and more.
American violinist William Hagen and pianist Albert Cano Smit perform some of the best-ever Russian ballet music - transcribed for violin and piano, including Stravinsky's Divertimento from the "Fairy's Kiss"; Suite Italienne; the Danse Russe from "Petrushka"; and the Russian Maiden's Song from "Mavra." Also on the album is Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94a.
You might also consider giving a gift from our previous guides:
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