Printer-friendly version
William Wolcott


May 14, 2009 at 12:20 AM

Why are opera singers given 'allowance' to slide, even slight glissandi in Mozart and violinists are not?

(she is amazing)

From Roy Sonne
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 12:26 AM

Violinists are indeed "allowed" to slide. (As if there was somebody who did the allowing.) Just listen to the great artists. They all slide in Mozart -- quite frequently. However it must be done with taste and with skill.

From William Wolcott
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 3:52 AM

"(as if there were somebody who did the allowing)"

 Thanks for the post, Roy. I have listened to quite a few of the great artists.  :-)  

However-   People talk these days about what is tasteful and what is not, baroque "rules", Mozart 'tasteful-ness', etc.  People talking about the 'tastelessness' or 'incorrectness' of Szeryng's Bach! About what is right or what is tasteful, etc.

And yet, often times it is those very people that say they listen to only the great artists of the past.  The ones, if they were playing today, would be vilified for their 'tasteless' playing by the very people that claim to admire their playing so... .

Do you know what I mean?  Perhaps it is difficult for me to explain. Or perhaps I'm just going off on a tangent.  

As far as the sliding...  please show me an [modern/recent] example (perhaps on Youtube) of a fiddle player sliding the way Kathleen Battle is sliding at various places in the Mozart.  I don't say as a challenge, rather only to talk about what I believe to be a very important topic.

From J. Garcia
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 7:57 AM

Maybe we string players are more respecful to Leopold Mozart advice on "good taste"  than singers, since his treatise  was basically written for us.  

From Roy Sonne
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 2:18 PM


Many thanks for your thoughtful response and the many important questions you raise -- definitely on a higher level than my rather glib post -- so let me try and give you my POV in more detail.

Actually the question of sliding, or connecting the notes like a singer is one that I have struggled with over time. My wife is a singer. I accompany singers on the piano. And I have listened to singers a lot. For a long time I tried to find a way to imitate the way singers connect the notes. I have finally come to the conclusion that a violin is a violin and the human voice is something else and there is only so far that we can go in imitating the voice. The voice allows certain types of expression such as sliding very well. The violin has other things that make it special, that the voice cannot do, such as greater dymamic range and flexibility of dynamics, different bow strokes and articulations, ability to play fast, ability to jump around and play large intervals easily. All of these things make singers turn green with envy. so let us grant them greater leeway for sliding.

That being said, I found Kathleen Battle's "De Vieni" to be exquisitely beautiful and very pure. She slides less than most great singers I have heard in that aria. You might try an experiment. Find a couple of phrases that you espeically like in her performance and try to recreate them on your violin exactly as she does them. I think what you will find  is  that you can imitate her to some extent -- making the slides in the same places, but you will have to slide less than she does -- that is to say, you will have to make your slides quicker and less prominent. If you slide exactly as she does it will sound grotesque and ugly -- simply because the violin is not identical to the human voice and vice versa.

So, ultimately it's just a question of what sounds convincing, rather than a question of what we are or aren't allowed to do.

From William Wolcott
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 2:56 PM

Excellent post, Roy.  

Yes, I picked up the fiddle last  night and did try to imitate.  In fact, this blog entry is a result of a lesson I was teaching last night. The E Major Adagio.  Anyway, my student and I looked up/listened to Battle during the lesson. (want to say god bless youtube here, but am thinking how much I miss turntables and great speakers! ;-)   

 But what you say is true, of course. Some slides can be done, some not as much, etc.   And your ultimate conclusion is accurate. They are indeed two different instruments. Nevertheless, food for thought for sure!  :-)

As per 'rules'.  I do think that there certainly are more 'rules' today.  And I do think that some of these restrictions are squandering the creative process of music making. 

If players of the past perhaps overindulged in expression of various kinds, ie, slides, vibrato, etc... I think the opposite is oft times the case today.  And we hear complaints today, such as: "Great technique, but cold."  "Everyone sounds the same," etc., etc.  

So I do think there is a sort of almost over-restriction going on today.   And I do think there needs to be a middle ground somewhere.  

Perhaps if violin playing was to indulgent before, it is too rigid now. 

Something to think about, anyway. 


From Nigel Keay
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 3:17 PM

I suspect that the way the voice can sustain a vibrato during a pitch shift, in using a different mechanism to a stringed instrument, has a lot to do with why the result is so different. Pitch shifting in strings has become less and less fashionable, so that what sounds convincing today is not what it was one hundred year's ago, one theory being that its decline has been caused by recording. Although subjected to this same influence, the voice has been perhaps less affected by it, coming back to the point that it is a different instrument. 

From Emily Grossman
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 8:02 PM

You know, I don't see why you shouldn't slide if you feel like it.  I agree with the notion that classical violinists are over-restricted.  It's why I would rather play jazz than classical.  When you play jazz, you go by your gut instinct, and no one can object; in fact, it's encouraged.  Classical music could use a little of that.

From Ray Randall
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 10:48 PM

I agree, Emily, Classical is viewed as overly stuffy now. They might be right.

From Roy Sonne
Posted on May 15, 2009 at 12:55 AM

I used to think Heifetz and Kreisler were the ultimate masters of the art of the slide. Then I started listening to Grappelli and Stuff Smith and discovered glorious new dimensions and possibilities. Check out this video of Grappelli playing St. Louis Blues.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on May 15, 2009 at 4:10 AM

 Search Youtube for Mozart Concerto in D Major with Fritz Kreisler. Ray Sonne posted it in his blog a few weeks ago. 

This is a fabulous recording perhaps the best recorded performance of anything ever. 

How to slide? For one thing I have a hard time conceiving how anyone can do it unless they support the violin with the left hand. I am not sure what a gratuitous "move the finger in a sliding motion" would sound like if there were no necessity in it.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on May 17, 2009 at 11:48 AM

I've been thinking about these issues for a blog I'm writing, so they're fresh in my mind.  I just got a CD by Joshua Bell called "Violin Favourites and Virtuoso Show Pieces," in which he plays many small gems, some transcribed by Fritz Kreisler.  It is interesting to compare Kreisler's Liebeslied as played by Bell and by Kreisler . Fritz Kreisler's performance is not "politically correct" by today's standards.  He uses beautiful slides and wide vibrato, while Bell uses few, if any, audible slides and a narrow vibrato.  Both performances are beautiful, but Kreisler's appeals more to my old fashioned, sentimental side.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Starling-DeLay Symposium
Starling-DeLay Symposium

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings

National Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

ARIA International Summer Academy

Borromeo Music Festival

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine