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Pauline Lerner

March 12, 2005 at 4:31 AM

It’s been a rather gloomy, gray, rainy day, and I’m feeling kind of blah. When I was little, on days like today, I’d stay inside and color. Today and tonight I’m just going to read, write, listen to music, and play my violin. I started feeling better as soon as I made this decision.

Under the influence of some of my friends on violinist.com, I’ve been getting and listening to CDs of virtuoso violinists, particularly legendary violinists of the past. I’m listening to them on my new portable CD player because the quality of sound is so good. In fact, since I bought this player, I’ve hardly listened to music any other way. I walk around my home with my headphones on and carrying the player. I feel like a like a fetus attached to its mother by a placenta or an astronaut attached to a spacecraft by a cable. I’m happily surrounded now by piles of CDs. I just finished listening to Masters of the Strings, which is absolutely astounding. The two CDs of this set are remastered from old recordings, and the quality of sound of the orchestras is not always very good. Fortunately, the violin parts sound wonderful. First is Menuhin playing the Paganini Concerto #1. I think this is the most exciting performance on this CD set. I started listening to it a while before I had to leave home to meet some friends, and I almost didn’t keep my appointment because I couldn’t bear to stop listening. Menuhin’s cadenzas just blew me away. I know they’re very, very difficult but they seem to flow out from his violin effortlessly. I kept shaking my head and muttering, “Wow!” Every time he did a few quick notes pizz in the middle of some astounding bowing, I laughed out loud in amazement. Absolutely brilliant fireworks! Next is Kreisler playing the Beethoven Concerto. I don’t think I’ve heard recordings of Kreisler before, and this one was a revelation of beauty. Following that is David Oistrakh playing the Dvorak concerto. His playing is so warm and brilliant that I could almost see the music. The last piece on the second CD is the Tchaik Concerto played by Nathan Milstein. It reminded me again that Milstein is one of my heroes. It was difficult to resist the temptation to listen to these CDs again and again, but I have other CDs to listen to. When I finish, or sooner if I feel like it, I’ll go back to these two CDs and listen to them over and over.

I also bought a 4 CD set of music by Brahms, called “Brahms, A Portrait.”. I bought these and Masters of the Strings on ebay, so I haven’t gone bankrupt yet. Not every piece on the Brahms CDs features a solo violin, but I’m listening and enjoying them anyway. I just finished listening to Brahms’s German Requiem. I remembered it as a “big” piece, but when I listened to it, it didn’t sound big in the sense of heavy, but rather full and rich. The female vocal soloist is Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and her voice is rich and beautiful. The second CD has Brahms’s Symphonies #2 and #3, with Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony, respectively. The third CD has Brahms’s Piano Concerto #2, with Horowitz as the soloist, and the Violin Concerto with Menuhin as the soloist. I’m overcome by riches at this point, but there is one more CD in this set. It has the Quartet #1 with Artur Rubinstein and members of the Pro Arte String Quartet and the Sonata #2 for cello and piano with Casals and Horszowski. Wow! I feel like I’m almost blinded by all these stars.

Next is a 5 CD set called “The Art of Ruggiero Ricci” with another mind boggling lineup. Disc #1: Concerti by Bruch, Goldmark, and Sibelius. Disc #2: Brahms Double and concert fantasies by Wienawski, Sarasate, Ernst, and Paganini. Disc #3: Violin Concerto and other pieces by Lalo. Disc #4: Ysaye’s Sonatas, Sarasate’s Ziegeunerweisen, and works by Sinding and Novacek. Disc #5: Bach’s Sonata #2, works by Hindemith and Paganini, and various virtuoso encores.

I feel like I’m going to pig out on virtuosity.

On the level of mere mortals, I heard a concert by champion Irish fiddler Martin Hayes with guitarist Dennis Cahill earlier this week, and tomorrow I’m going to a workshop by Alasdair Fraser, one of the greatest living Scottish fiddlers. I’m really excited about Alasdair’s (that’s the name he goes by) workshop. I’ve heard him play both live and on CD, and I’ve heard him talk about Scottish fiddling. Just hearing him talk opened new doors for me. I’m excited about the workshop.

Now I’ll go and play some Scottish fiddle music in preparation for tomorrow.

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