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Karen Allendoerfer

Once a violinist . . .

January 3, 2008 at 12:25 PM

. . . Always a violinist? Apparently you can take the violin away from the player, but you can't keep the player away from the violin.

The community orchestra I joined is playing the William Tell Overture for the next concert. I've played the piece before, twice even: once in the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra (violin II) and once at Caltech (violin I). It's violin I especially that I remember as having been a blast, some of the most fun I've ever had playing in an orchestra. In the morning, going to work, I treated myself to a rousing concert of William Tell on the iPod. The weather is not great around here right now: it's cold, there is decaying snow on the ground, and it's time to go back to work after 11 days off. A little Rossini while waiting for the bus can only help. Hi-ho Silver! Away!

So, for rehearsal, I loaded up my new double case with my violin and viola because I had this crazy idea that maybe I could play the William Tell violin I part again. Last time there hadn't been very many 1st violins--only 6--and maybe they needed another one. When I got there, however, I kind of chickened out at first. I started getting my viola out of its case and tightening the bow. A friendly first violinist came over and started talking to me while I was rosining. He said he'd been playing first violin in this orchestra since 1982. He liked my pants (paisley and velour: a Christmas present). Then he said my double case looked like a nice coffin . . . for some reason that cheered me up a little bit. It was funny.

Then I found the lady in charge of the orchestra and told her about my past experiences and my desire to play violin I for the William Tell. Hmm, she said. We need violas too, but we really need first violins. You could play first violin if you're willing to play it for the whole concert, not just the one piece. She then went and asked the conductor what he thought, and came back with the first violin music, which she gave me while I moved to become first violin #7, right behind my new acquaintance. I went back to my "coffin" and switched instruments.

I was nervous again. Even though I have played the piece before, it's been 12 years. And the price I had to pay for the pleasure is sitting in my least favorite area of the orchestra: back of the firsts. And as my own little stand by myself back there (there was supposed to be another one, but she never showed up) I could hear myself extremely well, and felt rather exposed. By the end of the first run-through, I had something of a death grip in the left hand. And the right hand, making the ricochet a little too bouncy and out of control at first. And there is a deadly page turn before the hardest and most exposed 16th note passage--and I have no stand partner.

But, once I calmed down, was it as fun as I remembered? You bet! We are also playing the first movement of the Beethoven violin concerto with a 13-year-old soloist and several short Copland pieces, including "Buckaroo Holiday." I came home last night and still haven't stopped humming.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 3, 2008 at 7:17 PM
First violins are always in demand, as you no doubt noticed. And, it is a whole lot more interesting to play violin 1 in most pieces than violin 2 or viola. So, in my view, you should go with it and continue to play violin 1 in your orchestra. The deity is sending you a message. Continue with viola for other purposes but do not resist the temptation to go with violin 1 in orchestra.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 3, 2008 at 9:11 PM
Hah! "The Spot" in the WTO. Bleh. Try doing a Xerox/Cut/Tape job in the music, and that should eliminate the page turn.

Also, take "The Spot" along to your next lesson and get your teacher to put in some fingerings for you.

Welcome back to the Wonderful World Of Violin (insert smiley face here).

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on January 3, 2008 at 9:51 PM
Actually, I think I can play "the spot" reasonably well (or I did 12 years ago). I was in the front of the firsts for that performance and worked on it with my teacher at the time. I just have to remember the fingerings that my old teacher gave me and get it up to speed. But I almost had it up to speed already even last night (once I got the page turned).

I'm more concerned about some of the Copland (Corral Nocturne and Saturday Night Waltz, in addition to Buckaroo Holiday). He has written a lot of 8va stuff up in the stratosphere and I don't really know how to read/play that. Beyond 5 ledger lines or so it all looks the same to me and it's back to the Twilight Zone.

I just sight-read it in the lower octave last night, but I don't think that will cut it in the performance.

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