September 2014

The Week in Reviews, Op. 50: Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg, Augustin Hadelich, James Ehnes in Concert

September 30, 2014 10:36

In an effort to promote the coverage of live music, each week brings you links to reviews of notable violin performances from around the world.

Augustin Hadelich substituted for Hilary Hahn and performed the Beethoven with the Dallas Symphony

  • TheaterJones: "He was profound without being pompous in the first movement, lyrical without sentimentality in the second, and playful without trivialization in the final rondo."
  • D Magazine: "Hadelich was substituting last night for an injured Hilary Hahn, and I did find myself mentally comparing his stoicism to her easy charisma, but he managed some extraordinarily beautiful moments in the piece’s last two movements. At his best, he drew a fantastic range of sounds from his instrument."
  • Dallas Morning News: "Hadelich took a moment to settle into the Beethoven, but thereafter he delivered as exquisite, as generously expressive a performance as you’ll hear anywhere. His 1723 “Ex-Kiesewetter” Stradivarius has an extraordinarily sweet but slender tone; Hadelich treats that as an asset, cultivating breathtaking pianissimos and finely polished passagework."

Nadja Salerno SonnenbergNadja Salerno-Sonnenberg performed Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto with the Oregon Symphony

  • The Oregonian: "...her playing was fierce and mercurial; one second she might seem as though howling at the moon, the second grabbing you by the lapels and whispering urgently in your ear. At the same time, her technical abilities have only deepened — the feeling of near-mayhem she expressed came from exquisite control."

James Ehnes performed the Korngold with the Baltimore Symphony

  • The Baltimore Sun: "The concerto's refined lyricism could not ask for a more eloquent advocate than James Ehnes. The violinist's seamless technique, sweetness of tone and poetic instincts had the music soaring and sighing to compelling effect."

Joshua Bell performed the Glazunov with the Pacific Symphony

  • Orange County Register: "Bell gave it a fine reading (the piece, he said, is relatively new to him), cogent and disciplined in his phrasing, secure and scintillating in his pyrotechnics."

Rachel Barton Pine started playing the Mendelssohn with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra. Then the power went out...

  • The Valdosta Daily Times: "'The audience was delighted when Rachel Barton Pine stepped out of the darkness with her violin, backlit by a few overhead emergency lights,' said Haley Hyatt of Valdosta, who was in the audience. 'She spoke to the crowd, and launched into an impromptu second concert which included a piece by Paganini and other selections. The audience cheered with delight.'"

Pinchas Zukerman performed and conducted Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 with the National Arts Centre Orchestra

  • Ottawa Citizen: "Zukerman seemed as comfortable and at ease as if he were in his own living room, and he set a mood that was all elegance and calm, unruffled refinement."
  • ConcertoNet: "Zukerman conducted and was violin soloist in a performance both interesting and imaginative but which didn’t quite work."

Tianwa Yang performed the Brahms with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

  • MusicOMH: "Upon entering the fray Tianwa Yang quickly established her presence through precision of attack, gainfully meeting the challenge of unifying the grand melodic gestures with the intricacies of passagework, often played with a graceful mezzo-piano tone that made one want to revel afresh in the concerto’s many details."

Lindsay Deutsch performed the Khachaturian with the Cape Symphony

  • The Barnstable Patriot: "Violinist Lindsay Deutsch played with such verve, passion and athletic skill that the audience broke into applause after the first movement."

Please support live music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 49: Joshua Bell, Midori, Pinchas Zukerman in concert

September 23, 2014 11:05

In an effort to promote the coverage of live music, each week brings you links to reviews of notable violin performances from around the world.

Joshua Bell performed the Bruch with the Richmond Symphony

  • Richmond Times-Dispatch: "He plays with an infectious passion that always serves the music and, even as he displayed his own fabulous technique, he was a true partner with the orchestra."

Christina Astrand performed the Gade with the Chicago Philharmonic

  • Chicago Tribune: "Gade's Violin Concerto (1880) makes no secret of its musical debt to the composer's mentor and colleague, Felix Mendelssohn, although this melodic, well-made piece also breathes the robust romanticism of Max Bruch. The soloist plays virtually nonstop, and the gifted Danish violinist Christina Astrand addressed its lyrical bravura with full-blooded dedication and sensitivity."
  • Chicago Classical Review: "Christina Åstrand has won plaudits for her recording of her countryman Gade’s concerto, yet the Danish violinist’s performance overall proved more competent than inspiring."

Pinchas Zukerman
Photo courtesy the artist

Pinchas Zukerman performed the Beethoven with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

  • Baltimore Sun: "The poker-faced Zukerman has a way of establishing musical authority right from the first notes. That he did here. He produced a big, even muscular tone that easily filled the space. There was occasional grittiness in that sound, but it never interfered with Zukerman’s communicative, seemingly spontaneous phrasing, his ability to bring out the concerto’s noble character."
  • The Washington Post: "... rather than coasting on the hum-along melodies, Zukerman offered an introspective reading, allying a sense of rapt concentration with innately musical phrasing. At times, the violinist’s inward approach and exploration of subtle nuances came at the cost of rhythmic tension and continuity. The rewards, however, were considerable, particularly in the poignant contrast between the playful and elegiac strains of the score."

Rachel Barton Pine performed the Barber with the West Virginia Symphony

  • The Charleston Gazette: "Barton Pine was excellent at balancing the romantic impulses of opulent melody with the modernist strokes that subvert them. She also had blazing technique in the fiery, yet opulently colored finale."

Midori performed the Brahms with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Democrat & Chronicle: "...the celebrated violinist Midori gave a performance that was completely devoid of ego and self-promotion, instead tapping into the inherent genius of the composer's engaging themes and mining the virtuosity that is so prevalent in the music itself. It was as if Midori had found a safe haven of creative expression within the voice of her violin and was able to communicate most honestly and earnestly."
  • Rochester City Newspaper: "Midori often seemed hardly like a star soloist at all, and in this work that's a compliment."

Alissa Margulis performed the Brahms with the Royal Northern Sinfonia

  • The Journal: "The piece kicked off as it meant to go on, full of fizz and fire, and Margulis delivered a performance full of energy and confidence."

Not every performance takes place in a concert hall. Augustin Hadelich performed "America the Beautiful" in Manhattan Federal Court last week, as he and 80 others were sworn in as U.S. citizens. Congratulations, Augustin!

  • Classicalite: "'Augustin's rendition was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes,' said Robert Katzmann, the U.S. Circuit Court judge who conducted the ceremony."

Finally, in case you missed it, editor Laurie Niles was in Indianapolis last week and reviewed all the final performances in the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, as well as a performance by 2010 IVCI Gold Medalist Clara-Jumi Kang:

Please support live music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 48: Janine Jansen and the Last Night at the Proms

September 16, 2014 16:59

In an effort to promote the coverage of live music, each week brings you links to reviews of notable violin performances from around the world.

Janine Jansen
Photo: Decca/Sara Wilson

Janine Jansen performed the Poème by Chausson at the Last Night at the Proms

  • The Arts Desk: "She drew the huge audience right in to her playing. She made the cavernous Royal Albert Hall feel like an intimate space. She tamed the crowd and (almost, briefly) silenced the bronchially challenged."
  • "Here, Janine Jansen was an impassioned, sensitive soloist, her sorrowful intensity matched by the elegiac strings and thoughtfully-phrased woodwind of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She returned later for a zingy rendition of Ravel’s gypsy-inspired Tzigane, and a giggle-inducing duet version of La Cucaracha with (conductor) Oramo, himself a violinist."
  • The Telegraph: "...Chausson’s Poème (was) played with lovely tender inwardness by star guest violinist Janine Jansen."
  • The Standard: "Jansen caught the melancholic ecstasy of Chausson’s Poème, returning later for an exquisite and exuberant account of Ravel’s Tzigane."
  • The Guardian: "The tone turned elegiac with Chausson’s nostalgic Poème - exquisitely played by Janine Jansen..."
  • The New York Times: "Chausson (the concerto-like “Poème” for violin-and-orchestra) (was) played with melancholic eloquence by the soloist Janine Jansens. [sic]"

Nicola Benedetti performed the Beethoven with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

  • The Sydney Morning Herald: "The recent darling of the British pop charts, Benedetti gave an eloquent and at times thrilling account of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, Op 61."

Itzhak Perlman performed the Bruch with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

  • D Magazine: "Perlman performed with his familiar warm, satisfying tone and charmingly engaging presence."
  • Dallas Morning News: "Superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman doubtless drew many people to the concert, and his big, gleaming tone was evident from his first notes in the Bruch G-minor Violin Concerto. At age 69, he occasionally plays a note not quite in tune, and lyric passages could have used more legato, a more vocal feeling for line. A slower, less intense vibrato would have softened the effect now and then.
    He dispatched some of the more virtuosic passages with still-impressive aplomb, though, and the audience leapt to its feet at the thrill of hearing a legend."

Anne-Sophie Mutter performed the Bruch with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

  • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "She offered a distinctive interpretation of Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. She shaped her first two solos with appealing freshness and thoughtfulness."

Augustin Hadelich performed the Shostakovich Violin Sonata with Boston's A Far Cry

  • Boston Globe: " Augustin Hadelich gave a magnificent account of the solo part, showing complete command over dynamics, phrasing, and tone color. He handled the treacherous runs in the scherzo with ease, and there was a terrific sense of give and take with the orchestra."

Gidon Kremer performed Gubaidulina’s “In tempus praesens” with the Dresden State Opera

  • Los Angeles Times: "The score is a spiritual response to Bach, and the performance was gripping, not only for Kremer’s transcendent concentration but also for Thielemann’s careful attention to sonic detail."

Please support live music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!

3 replies

Is classical music dying? Actually, it's finding new life online

September 14, 2014 10:03

Can classical music survive? The future seems grim, with so many record stores having closed and classical music labels cutting back their rosters and promotional budgets. Every year brings a new round of orchestras locked out or on strike, it seems, as pay for musicians in many surviving orchestras declines. And a drive to bring private-sector-style "competition" to public education is forcing districts to drop school music programs, despite music education's proven benefit in raising student test scores.

What terrible time to be a violinist, you might think.

I disagree. While the music business has descended into a period of great turmoil, that disruption also has provided an opportunity to build a better, more sustainable music business. For centuries, classical musicians have depended upon the whims of patrons. But under that system, while classical music lives by their largess, it dies by their indifference.

It's not necessary to go on living that way. The same economic challenges that have the potential to drive musicians apart also have the potential to bring musicians together. Technological change empowers musicians to build a music business that relies upon the support of musicians and music fans, instead of the tax write-offs of corporations and socialites, many who really couldn't tell Sibelius from Schumann.

Making connections on YouTube

No, young prodigies aren't going to find many lucrative recording contracts awaiting them on the other side of the competition circuit any more. But they have a global network of social media available to them — allowing artists to build an audience without ever having to go through a recording company A&R rep. Record stores might be closing, but fans now can buy music anywhere at any time, from a wider range of artists than ever available before.

This has created an unprecedented opportunity for entrepreneurial musicians. If you have the talent, and the ability to connect with an audience, you can begin your professional career right now. No need to wait for a "big break" — you can make that break happen, yourself.

Pop musicians are showing the way, such as violinist Lindsey Stirling, who built a wildly popular channel on YouTube into an emerging performing and recording career. If working the competition circuit and making connections with New York labels was the old template for a soloist's career, the new one is growing equally clear. Launch a YouTube channel. Connect with an audience. Raise money with a Kickstarter. Use that money to produce recordings, then sell them online.

Of course, that's easier written than done. Aspiring artists face the age-old chicken-or-the-egg dilemma in trying to attract attention on forums such as YouTube and Kickstarter. You can't get YouTube to suggest your videos to others if no one's watching them in the first place. And crowd-funding campaigns works great where you've already built a crowd of supportive fans. What do you do when you're just starting? What can you do to attract attention to your work when you don't have music label's PR department working on your behalf?

Well, that's where we come in, at We've already built a large, global audience of violinists and violin fans, and we would love to help aspiring world-class violinists to use this community to help launch their professional careers. I've written a post on this topic called How to get publicity on, and stand by its advice.

The TL/DR? Join our Performer Directory. Then start blogging on Use your blog here to introduce yourself and to embed your latest YouTube video. Treat the blog entry as previous generations would their album "liner notes" or a pre-concert audience talk. Tell us about yourself and the piece you are playing. Why this piece? And why should we care? Engage us with a story or two — get us excited about watching your work. When the time comes, tell us about your Kickstarter and how funding it will give us something that we will ultimately enjoy. Then tell us about your new music download for sale, and why it's worth our money to buy the piece.

When posting to — or anywhere else on the Internet — remember that your work should not just be about helping yourself. Everything you do as an artist — from recordings to performances to blog posts — should meet some need for your audience, instead. Be instructive. Be inspirational. But always give something back to your audience in return for your fans' time. If you work only to promote yourself, you'll remain forever in the margins, never building the community of fans that will bring you ad revenue on YouTube, donations on Kickstarter, and paid downloads on iTunes. Work instead to serve the classical community, in whatever way you can, and you will win the fans that your talent and skills allow you.

And, as fans, we ought to return the favor. Let's use forums such as this to spread the word about new artists we're discovering. Let's reward new talent now just with our time and attention, but with our recommendations to other fans, friends and family, as well.

That's the spirit of cooperation and service that we need to bring to music education, too. Laurie Niles,'s editor, has posted 12 Ways To Be a Supportive Teaching Colleague. It's essential reading for music educators — instructive in cultivating a supportive environment that can help us work together to promote the violin as a worthwhile activity for all.

Public schools don't have money or class time to introduce musical instruments such the violin to students en masse anymore, despite the growing evidence of music education's value, especially for low-income students. In addition to working together for the education of the students we have already, we must collaborate in developing community programs to introduce new generations of students to the violin, if we're to ensure its future. Perhaps we stage events that include the siblings and classmates of current students. Or we build our own in-school music programs. But we must do something, or else watch our beloved violin community wither without replacement.

A more collaborative spirit can save and revitalize live, professional music in our communities, as well. Perhaps that attitude might help repair the frayed relationships between orchestra boards and their musicians. When a love of music motivates board members, patrons and musicians alike, such as in Los Angeles, orchestras continue to do great things, thriving even in a challenging economy. But when anti-union fervor consumes board members, or when bloated organizations become more focused with debutante balls and home showcase tours than cultivating classical music, musicians need to work together with those patrons who do put music first and create new opportunities for live performance in their communities. Sometimes, the only way forward is to set aside that which holds us back.

One of those things, regrettably, is the world's largest music marketplace: iTunes. Apple's music download store provides a great opportunity for independent artists, as anyone can upload and sell music and media there. (Full disclosure: I have three eBooks for sale through iTunes' bookstore.) But Apple built iTunes around the song as its core musical format. While that's great for the pop genres, the song is far from the dominant format of classical music. Ever hit "shuffle" on your iPhone when you're on a classical playlist? You get individual movements from all your symphonies and concertos, blended together, with no option to simply shuffle the various whole compositions, keeping their movements together in their proper order.

We need an iTunes-like marketplace (and app) that supports the sale and playback of music in the multi-movement symphony and concerto formats, in addition to individual tracks such as songs. But this unmet need can't shake my optimism about the future of classical music. While iTunes might not be perfect for classical music, it's still a multi-billion dollar forum, open to all. So long as we work together, building and growing our community, we'll keep supporting violinists there. And, who knows? Maybe along the way we'll encourage some violinist with a knack for computer coding to build the online marketplace that can take digital classical music sales to the next level. (Maybe she or he will get a job with Apple, too!)

We don't need to pine for a financial savior. We don't need to long for the record labels to come back. We don't need to use gimmicks to win over donors who haven't developed a love for music first. With the Internet uniting the world in communication, we can build a violin community that can grow a sustain a classical music economy stronger than ever before. So let's do it.

The old classical music industry is dying. Long live the new classical music business.

5 replies

The Week in Reviews, Op. 47: Simone Porter, Maxim Vengerov in concert

September 9, 2014 13:59

In an effort to promote the coverage of live music, each week brings you links to reviews of notable violin performances from around the world.

Simone Porter
Photo: Philip Pirolo

Simone Porter performed the Barber with the Los Angeles Philharmonic

  • Los Angeles Times: "The remarkably mature Porter easily encompassed every aspect of this bipolar concerto. Her ripe tone quality sang directly and naturally throughout the first two movements, with a seamless legato, no forcing, and a sure grip of the overall line."

Maxim Vengerov performed the Butterfly Lovers' Violin Concerto with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra for the opening of its new hall

  • Financial Times: "The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, itself a celebratory mix of Shanghai’s Chinese stage traditions and Russian concert heritage, was an obvious choice, though violinist Maxim Vengerov (performing the piece for the first time) was clearly more comfortable with the Russian side of the equation."
  • CCTV: "This season will include over 100 concerts, either performed or organized by the orchestra. That’s a major step up from the 30 concerts it played a year ago. For Asia’s oldest orchestra, the new concert hall will be a new start."

James Ehnes performed in recital with pianist Andrew Armstrong

  • Montreal Gazette: "Listening to Ehnes alone onstage, I had the impression that we were witnessing a private conversation; with the violinist at his most fluid, the notes were poured, not played, and he moved between a slim tone in the Adagio to a plummy one for the fugue. Marvellous."

Joshua Bell peformed the Bruch with the Albany Symphony Orchestra

  • Times Union: " As soloist in the Concerto No. 1 of Max Bruch, Bell displayed the ample gifts that long ago brought him to the top ranks of the field. He gave both weight and grace to the sprightly opening theme and played the more sweeping passages with a breathless ease that was honey rich but never sweetly cloying either."

Please support live music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!

2 replies

The Week in Reviews, Op. 46: Vadim Repin and Midori in concert

September 2, 2014 14:06

In an effort to promote the coverage of live music, each week brings you links to reviews of notable violin performances from around the world. We're in the lull between the summer and "regular" seasons this week, so we'd like to remind artists and their representatives to keep sending us links to reviews of their performances during the year. And to remind all readers that you can review the concerts you attend by keeping a blog on the site, too!

Midori played a free late-night club show as part of the Lucerne Festival

  • The New York Times: "As with most things she undertakes, Midori did the club date on her own terms. She simply played one of the Bach partitas (BWV 1006, in E), but played it for all it was worth, with fire and intensity. There were no added frills, no talk."

Vadim Repin
Photo by Anastasia Chernyavsky

Vadim Repin performed Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

  • The Daily Telegraph: "Repin, like the finest of athletes, manages to combine speed, poetry and finesse with time to spare. This was a thoroughbred performance of a work that we hear too rarely performed live in Australia."

* * *

In memoriam: Jazz violinist John Blake Jr. has passed away

  • New York Amsterdam News: "Blake wasn’t a media magnet, but among his many fans and young musicians he inspired throughout the United States, Europe, Japan and South America, he is considered a master violinist and genius of the music. Those fortunate enough to have witnessed Blake in concert understand the concept of his genius and significant contribution to the world of jazz and beyond."

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