June 22, 2008 at 1:45 PMI really miss having a teacher right now. Hah, v.com might as well be my teacher, for all I learn on here. As much as I can learn through careful practice, recording myself, reading books, and browsing this website, there really is nothing that can replace a great teacher. *Sigh* . . . just four weeks until Aspen. I can't wait. Let's just hope I'm ready for it.
Let's hope my Bach is ready for it, that is. Oh, Bach. How I love and hate you in the same breath. You reach to the depths of the soul in your eloquence as you frustrate with your difficulty. I can practice you for hours and feel like I have just scratched the surface. You evolve slowly but constantly, as I evolve with you. Your fugues organize my brain cells as my fingers try to organize their many voices. You croak under my inept bow more often than you sing at my caress. But you are worth it, of course. Muah.
Yesterday I recorded the Grave from the A minor sonata, which I'm starting over the summer. Needless to say, it still needs a lot of work. Intonation, obviously, but also better planning of the chords and bow distribution. Also, vibrato is leaving me in a quandary at the moment. I need to go through and decide how much and what kind I want throughout. So far I've just been kind of doing what feels natural, but given my inconsistent tendencies, default vibrato is not such a good idea. There are just so many ways to play Bach, sometimes it's hard for me to decide! I've been listening to everything from Grumiaux to Midori to Hadelich and I like aspects of them all. I have a framework for how I'd like to phrase the Grave, but it's things like vibrato and how 'romantic' to play it that leave me stumped. I like Bach that is simple, but not sterile, and finding that balance will be the challenge as I continue working on it.
Ruth, right now, at this very moment, you are a gifted musician. Right now, you are armed with a knowledge of violin technique. Right now, you understand the fundamental framework that governs how Bach is played in our day and age. Right now, as we speak, you have a violin, bow, and a Bach score. And almost three hundred years of violinists, historians, and other dramatis personae are yelling in your ear, trying to tell you how to use them. But the one certain, unquestionable fact about Bach unaccompanied works is that they are yours, and yours alone, if you would have them. Think less of right and wrong, and more of like and do-not-like. If vibrato sounds right to you, use it. If a tempo sits well with your internal rhythm, play it. Throw out what feels musically uncomfortable, and experiment to no end! As your technique flourishes, your decisions may change. Recordings will give you ideas, as will teachers and fellow musicians, but only you will decide which concepts ripple through the waters of your interpretation. Though there are many correct ways to play Bach, only some of them will be right for your taste, style, and personality. Granted, beating out the A minor on a sitar with a dead parrot while chanting in Gaelic may not connect with audiences. I hope only that you will make your own path, perhaps assisted by the beaten and overgrown trails of your predecessors. I think you will find that Bach's true beauty is that which can only be bestowed upon it by a skilled interpreter like yourself. Happy exploring.
I will also be heading to Aspen for the second session. Perhaps I'll hear an earth-shattering A minor pouring from a practice room nearby.
Somebody might do something that sounds abrupt, when a different emphasis yields a whoooole different thing, a thing which causes you to think that's probably what was intended to be there, and causes you think whoa, how did Bach or anybody else ever think of that :) There's also what seems to be his personality that comes through sometimes, like a peculiar magnetic personality.
So the question of vibrato isn't a question of how much or how little to use, or how romantic to make the piece. The question is how those things fit in among the multitude of other choices that you've made, either initially or by way of discovery. The discovery part relating to the title of your blog.
Now, professionally I can't tell you what to do. I have no idea what the critics want ;)) Those are just some artistic thoughts. But have fun. It's a gas.
You Go Girl!
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