Welcome to our 13th annual Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide! 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 that you consider 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.
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 books and sheet music - there was an abundance of wonderful books related to the violin and to classical music that came out this year, so check it out.
The final section lists this year's top recordings by violinists, violists, cellists and other classical performers. This list may be helpful for giving, or for yourself, if you receive the gift of Spotify or an Apple or Amazon card, etc. and want to know what to load into your device! 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.)
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.
BUY GIFTS FROM OUR SPONSORS
Handmade Shar Music Gift Card
Shar Music is offering gift cards in denominations of $100, $250, and $500 - but these aren’t just any gift cards. Shar Music has created handmade bespoke cards, made of upcycled scraps of violin wood - solid flamed maple. "During the violin-making process, we end up with many pieces of wood that, due to small imperfections in the wood grain, are not usable as a full violin top or back. Rather than just toss them away, we’ve upcycled them into gift cards!" (And don’t worry, no actual violins were harmed in the making of these cards.) Handcrafted by Shar's luthiers, these gift cards delight with their appearance, not just their value.
Holstein 3-Star Pernambuco Baroque Violin Bow
Crafted from the same genuine pernambuco used for modern bows at Fiddlershop, the new Holstein 3-Star Pernambuco Baroque Violin Bow delivers clear and vivid sound production for historically informed performances. Bridging the gap in the Baroque bow market between low-quality snakewood bows and custom-made bows in the thousands of dollars, this is a high quality bow for advancing players at an affordable price. So give your Vivaldi Christmas Concerto, or Handel’s Messiah performance this holiday season that extra touch of authenticity with the Holstein 3-Star Pernambuco Baroque Violin Bow, available only at Fiddlershop.com.
Musafia Violin Case
Want the best-of-the-best luxury case for your instrument? Then ask for a Musafia! Made in Cremona, Italy, Musafia violin and viola cases are the top of the line, each with Dimitri Musafia's personal stamp. Since 1983, he and his assistants have been making cases used by prominent violinists such as Salvatore Accardo, Isaac Stern, Shlomo Mintz, Sarah Chang, Uto Ughi, the Emperor of Japan, the City of Cremona, the City of Genoa, and many concertmasters and players in orchestras across the world. Here is a link to Musafia cases offered by Metzler Violin Shop in the Los Angeles area.
Beethoven: The Complete Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violin (in 2 volumes)
Clive Brown’s ground-breaking edition combines a scholarly-critical approach with the provision of a wealth of information on historical performing practice. It is the first Urtext edition to include a complete Critical Commentary and a description of all relevant sources. This publication consists of a score and two individual parts for the violin: a “clean” Urtext and an annotated part with fingering and bowing by Clive Brown based on the thorough study of historical techniques and practices.
Evah Pirazzi strings and rosin
Give the special musician in your life a little green for the Holidays: Evah Pirazzi strings and rosin! Here is what violinist Augustin Hadelich has to say about his favorite strings: "The sound of Evah Pirazzi strings is powerful and round. I use them on the 1744 "Leduc" Guarneri del Gesù because I feel that they bring out its best qualities."
From Metzler Violin Shop: "Our favorite rosin for your favorite string-player!"
Previously called "Andrea" rosin, Cecilia rosin is made by Cremona in America and comes in four different formulas: Signature, Solo, A. Piacere and Sanctus. Available for violin, viola and cello. Endorsed by Glenn Dicterow, former Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic.
BOOKS and SHEET MUSIC
Violin Fingerboard Mastery: Contemporary Mapping Exercises and Improvisation Studies
Improvisation involves a lot more than just pulling music out of one's head - there is technique to learn. Here, jazz violinist and Berklee College of Music professor Jason Anick has assembled a series of short etudes designed to "forever change the way you look at the fingerboard," in order to integrate a concept of harmony and basic chord types. A wonderful tool for the jazz or pop violinist, as well as a bridge for the classical musician wishing to learn improvisation skills.
Suzuki: The Man and His Dream to Teach the Children of the World
"Suzuki's aim was never to turn out disciplined prodigies but rather to create a world where all children have the chance to develop, musically and otherwise." Japanese-born writer Eri Hotta has written a biography of Shinichi Suzuki, founder of what we know as the "Suzuki Method." This is both a comprehensive and well-researched account his life and an exploration of his teaching philosophy - and it makes for good reading!
Dvorak's Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music
In 1898, the composer Antonin Dvorak predicted that a "great and noble school" of classical music based on "negro melodies" would emerge and flourish in America. Author Joseph Horowitz uses Dvorak's prophesy as a starting point in an exploration of what went wrong and why black classical music did not flourish in America in the way Dvorak predicted. He also calls for a "new paradigm" of American classical music that integrates its diverse musical heritage - a sentiment many cultural institutions are exploring today.
With witty and intelligent writing by violinist Arianna Warsaw-Fan Rauch, here is a amusing and readable book that provides a personal look at a young person's journey into - and out of - the difficult world of classical music training and career-building. Though this book is marketed as a "low-key guide to the high-strung world of classical music" - it's more of a insider story than a guide. Still it contains some great explanations of classical music's various practices and traditions.
Music Practice Makeover: Strategies to Make Practice with Your Music Student as Painless and Efficient as Possible
Do you find "practice time" to be difficult? Suzuki violin and viola teacher Christine Goodner offers inspiration and ideas for parents working with young students - to motivate them to practice consistently and effectively.
Violin Music by Women Composer Coloring Books
Read biographies of women composers while adding color to their pictures - something for children of all ages! The coloring book is a companion to Cora Cooper's Violin Music by Women anthologies, a graded collection of music by women composers.
The Violin Conspiracy
This book by Brendan Slocumb is both a page-turner and a story that speaks to the racial self-examination that the classical music world is experiencing - "Ray McMillian is a Black classical musician on the rise—undeterred by the pressure and prejudice of the classical music world—when a shocking theft sends him on a desperate quest to recover his great-great-grandfather’s heirloom violin on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world."
Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons
"Pianist Jeremy Denk shares his musical coming-of-age – those awkward, sometimes painful, often exhilarating years between being a six-year-old who is prescribed piano lessons to fill 'a need to be occupied; and his starting out on what we all know will be a world-class career....We get to experience Denk falling in love with music," as well as many poignant observations about the difficult times. (From our review by Diana Skinner).
1 Teaches 2 Learn: Private Music Teaching and You
This book by longtime violin teacher Eloise Hellyer is full of inspiration and wisdom for private music teachers, told in highly readable stories and insightful observations. It also includes interviews with Gil Shaham, Ruggiero Ricci, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Salvatore Accardo, Viktoria Mullova, Uto Ughi and more.
It's the world premiere recording of John Williams’ Violin Concerto No. 2, written for and recorded by the composer’s friend and frequent collaborator, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. The album also includes three film themes, newly arranged by Williams for violin: the Theme from The Long Goodbye, "Han Solo and the Princess" from The Empire Strikes Back, and “Marion’s Theme” from the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
"For years, I’ve been thinking about how to tell the story of the Britten violin concerto," said violinist Augustin Hadelich. This album is an attempt to do so. The album also includes "Recuerdos de la Alhambra"; Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy"; and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.
"This recording tells stories I didn’t understand until I returned to the stage after a long hiatus: the elation of coming into one’s own, the declaration of an artistic identity, and what it means to regain your native language through music," said Hilary Hahn. The album features Hahn's first recordings of three major works: Dvorák’s Violin Concerto, Ginastera’s Violin Concerto and Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy.
Tom Poster and Elena Urioste perform works by Benjamin Britten, Amy Beach, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Florence Price, Aaron Copland, Paul Schoenfeld, and Frank Bridge.
Mozart's five violin concertos, written between 1773 and 1776 when the composer was in his late teens, have remained at the heart of the repertoire for violin ever since. The final three are programmed most often, but in this recording violinist Gil Shaham includes the lesser-heard first two as well. This album also includes the Rondo in C Major, K. 373.
In Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Midori's first album together, the longtime friends explore Beethoven's 10 sonatas, composed by Beethoven when he was between the ages of 26 and 41. "Beethoven, who lived a life of struggles, including self-doubts, was never deterred, writing music of incredible beauty and hopefulness. He shows me — he shows us — a path through our own challenges," Midori said.
Violinist Lisa Batiashvili performs late-Romantic literature, including Ernest Chausson’s "Poème" and Karol Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto. The album also includes Cesar Franck's Sonata for Violin and Piano with pianist Giorgi Gigashvili; as well as Claude Debussy's "Beau soir," played with Yannick Nézet-Séguin himself.
Superstar violinist David Garrett honors his classical side with this tribute to the legendary violinists he fell in love with as a child, such as Zino Francescatti, Arthur Grumiaux, Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler and Yehudi Menuhin. The album includes works by Bach, Dvorák, Gluck, Kreisler, Mendelssohn and Schumann, among many others. He also performs duet arrangements with his former teacher Itzhak Perlman, tenor Andrea Bocelli, flutist Cocomi, and trumpeter Till Brönner.
"The common themes throughout the music reflect on one’s relationship with nature, love, and poetry," Anne Akiko Meyers said, "And how in dark and challenging times, kindness profoundly affects our souls and opens infinite possibilities when living our lives." The album includes violin arrangements by Morten Lauridsen of his choral pieces "Sure on This Shining Night" and "Dirait-On"; as well as a special arrangement of Corelli's "La Folia" for violin and guitar by Andy Poxon; Bach's Air on G; Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango; and works by Paganini, Ponce, Villa-Lobos, Duke Ellington, Leo Brouwer and more.
The Chicago-based Black Oak Ensemble's recording, Avant l’orage ("Before the Storm") includes rarely-heard pieces that were written between the World Wars; with world-premiere recordings of Henri Tomasi’s "Trio à cordes en forme de divertissement," Robert Casadesus’s "Trio à cordes," and Gustave Samazeuilh’s "Suite en trio pour violon, alto et violoncelle." Also included are Jean Cras’s "Trio pour violon, alto et violoncelle"; Émile Goué’s "Trio pour violon, alto et violoncelle"; Jean Françaix’s "Trio," and Gabriel Pierné’s "Trio pieces en trio."
Violinist Leonidas Kavakos performs Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin on his 1734 "Willemotte" Stradivarius. "'Wir danken dir, Gott (We thank you, God)' is the title of Bach’s Cantata No. 29, the opening Sinfonia of which is a transcription for organ and orchestra of the Preludio from Partita No. 3," Kavakos said. "It could equally well serve as the title for all six sonatas and partitas."
"In thinking about ways one person could make a small difference, it occurred to me that amplifying the voices of others...is an essential part of being a Classical musician," said violinist Johnny Gandelsman. For this project, "I decided to commission new works for violin from American and U.S.-based composers, asking each one to reflect in some way on the time we were all living through. 22 new works were funded, written, and recorded; rising to the surface were themes like loss and uncertainty, but also joy, friendship, gratitude, and love." Read our interview with Gandelsman about this project here.
The New York City-based PUBLIQuartet's explores the resonance between contemporary, blues, jazz, free and rock-inflected music - all of which trace their roots back to the Black and Indigenous music that inspired Dvorak’s “American” String Quartet. The album features the world premiere recording of Roscoe Mitchell's CARDS 11-11-2020 as well as music by Vijay Iyer and Rhiannon Giddens; and reimaginings of works by Antonín Dvorák, Ornette Coleman, Tina Turner, Betty Davis, Alice Coltrane, Ida Cox, and Fats Waller.
Lara St John's latest album is part of her larger ongoing mission to fight for women's rights and historically marginalized groups. The album features 17 original solo violin compositions written by 12 composers, including Laurie Anderson, Valerie Coleman, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jessica Meyer, Jessie Montgomery, Milica Paranosic and more, including five world premiere recordings.
Violin Concertos by Black Composers Through the Centuries
Rachel Barton Pine, violin
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Jonathon Heyward conducting
Chicago-based violinist Rachel Barton Pine marks the 25th anniversary of her 1997 recording of violin concertos by Black composers of the 18th and 19th centuries with a special-edition reissue, which updates and expands the original program into the 20th century. The new recording includes Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2, composed in 1952.
String trio Time For Three (TF3), which includes violinists Nick Kendall and Charles Yang and bassist Ranaan Meyer, has recorded world premieres of two technically demanding and musically virtuosic concerti for trio and orchestra by two Pulitzer Prize-winning composers: Jennifer Higdon’s 2007 Concerto 4-3 and Kevin Puts’ new piece, "Contact."
This album juxtaposes Beethoven’s epic, lyrical violin concerto with Stravinsky’s compact violin concerto, which pays spiky tribute to 18th century models. The conductor is Pekka Kuusisto, himself an adventurous violinist.
French violinist Renaud Capuçon avoided Vivaldi's wildly popular "Four Seasons" for many years before a recent epiphany: "It's famous because it's amazing." He pairs it with two concertos composed in Paris in the 1770s by Chevalier de Saint-George (1745-1799), a classical composer of African descent whose considerable work is just beginning to be recognized. "He was an inspiration for Mozart," Capuçon said of Chevalier de Saint-George. "It's music that is very fresh, very straightforward and very full of light."
You might also consider giving a gift from our previous guides:
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