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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Do you know the history of your current piece?

June 7, 2013 at 8:16 PM

As many of you know, I went to New York last week to attend a big gathering of violinists, where I attended many master classes and pedagogy classes. In one class, violinist and wonderful teacher Brian Lewis advised us to have our students write up short histories of the pieces they are playing. Knowing these histories connects them better with the music they are playing, and it also informs them about how to play it. And this is not just for students who are playing a Brahms Sonata or the Tchaikovsky Concerto, this goes for very young students. For example, did you know that "Witches Dance" really came from "Le Streghe," a very virtuoso piece by Paganini?

Also, violinists who are no longer officially "students" should still keep studying, seeking to know more about the pieces they play. It makes the whole endeavor much more fun! Do you know the history of your current piece?

From Rachel Neville
Posted on June 7, 2013 at 11:58 PM
I have a fun story about this! When I first started a few years ago I was on the Handel piece in Suzuki 2. The "Chorus from Judas Maccabaeus". I was looking up all the pieces then because I knew zilch about classical music. I was a bit annoyed to find out that this piece was written by Handel for the House of Hanover after the bloody battle of Culloden, which, as I understand it, was the end of any hope the Scots had for independence at that time.

But, at the same time, I was trying to learn "Skye Boat Song" from this Scottish fiddling book I'd gotten. And guess what "Skye Boat Song" was written about that very same battle! And I was living in Honolulu at the time. I thought, if both these tunes are being learnt at the same time out in the middle of the Pacific, maybe the House of Hanover didn't win as decisively as they thought since the music is still alive and still makes its way around the world here in the 21st century.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on June 8, 2013 at 1:25 AM
Yes, and I always get excited when I learn that the piece I'm working on was actually written for viola originally and not transposed. Its part of the reason I like urtext editions, you get a bit of the history in the prologue.
From Paul Deck
Posted on June 8, 2013 at 2:44 AM
I am working on the Spohr No. 2 Concerto, first movement. I looked up Spohr on Wikipedia and he seems to have been quite a remarkable fellow. But knowing something about Spohr is not really the same as knowing about his concerto.

I was not a Suzuki kid but I learned the "Judas Maccabaeus" tune early on. It was in an old German book of Christmastime tunes under the name "Tochter Zion," which just comes from the first line of lyrics, "Tochter Zion, freue dich! Jauchze, laut, Jerusalem!"

From Bart Meijer
Posted on June 8, 2013 at 10:22 AM
I'm playing Josef Suk's "Love Song", and I imagine the composer must have written it for Otylka, Antonin Dvorak's daughter, who would become his wife.
From Mark Roberts
Posted on June 8, 2013 at 1:39 PM
What a co-incidence, I am currently doing : Le Streghe op. 8 (Witches Dance) paganini, no idea of the story behind it....
From Kevin Keating
Posted on June 9, 2013 at 12:42 AM
No idea what the specific story is, but it's one of Vivaldi's many violin concertos and I do know a lot about Antonio Vivaldi himself. The piece I'm working on is the Violin Concerto in D Minor RV248. The CD recording I have is Shlomo Mintz with the Israel Chamber Orchestra titled the "Anna Maria Concertos" so it may have been one of the pieces written for Anna Maria dal Violin of the Ospedale de la Pieta. That's my guess anyway.

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