October 30, 2006 at 11:01 PM · Please share any favorite quotes regarding the violin, or music in general. They can be from musicians, literary sources, serious, humorous, inspirational, etc.

Replies (53)

October 31, 2006 at 06:13 AM · Well, I'll start. One of my favorite musical quotes from one of my not favorite Shakespeare plays:

"Here will we sit and let the sounds of music

Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night

Become the touches of sweet harmony."

- The Merchant of Venice, Act V, scene I

"The violinist...must follow the call of a siren voice - the voice of the magic piece of wood that dominates his destiny."

- Fritz Kreisler (Quoted in L. Lochner's bio, p.349

[The violinist]...is an animal shackled to a treadmill of his own devising...Given that most of mankind wear out their days on one treadmill or another, for lesser reward or none, the violinist is, finally, privileged."

Yehudi Menhuin "Unfinished Journey" p.300

"At every concert at least one person should enjoy himself. And it might as well be me!"

- Isaac Stern

"Isaac leaves no tone un-Sterned!"

- Yo Yo Ma

(To a critic who savaged one of his compositions:)

"My dear (so and so ): I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. Your review is before me. Soon it will be behind me."

- Max Reger

"Raphael is the same man as Mozart"

-Georges Bizet

(You can't blame me for quoting that one!)

October 31, 2006 at 01:40 AM · Bach gave us God's word. Mozart gave us God's laughter. Beethoven gave us God's fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words. (found outside an old opera house). the signature of associate concertmaster over at VMC....

Mine is: I live my life in terms of music. (Albert Einstein)

October 31, 2006 at 03:38 PM · This one's been quoted elsewhere on this website, but it's still one of my favorites:

"Music is not illusion. It is rather revelation. It's triumphant power is that it reveals to us beauties we find nowhere else, and that the apprehension of them is not transitory, but a perpetual reconcilement of life."

- Tchaikovsky

October 31, 2006 at 04:12 PM · This one I found on the wall of a practice room at Florida State:

"I don't care about humanity's nature - it won't change, souls are imaginary, and I have the music that makes everything worth it."

October 31, 2006 at 05:06 PM · It's Greek to me.- Casca

(Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 2)

Ha ha only joking. I get it, do you?

October 31, 2006 at 05:09 PM · "Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,

That if I then had wak'd after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open, and show riches

Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak'd

I cried to dream again."

-Caliban, from "The Tempest" by Shakespeare

Raphael, now I will go listen to "Serenade to Music" (and have a good cry).

October 31, 2006 at 06:31 PM · "I hate music; especially when it's played."

- Jimmy Durante

October 31, 2006 at 09:37 PM · "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

-attributed variously

November 1, 2006 at 05:16 AM · "Wives are people who feel they don't dance enough. "

Groucho Marx

November 2, 2006 at 02:34 PM · A few more ditties...

"If nobody wants to come [to a concert] you can't stop them."

- Sol Hurok, Impressario

"Wagner's music is better than it sounds"

-Mark Twain

"We do not play music as we write it"

- Couperin

"Competition is for horses, not artists"

- Bartok

"The violin is probably the most hellish invention ever conceived by man - a beautiful and treacherous work of art that demands our constant attention, but can never be completely dominated. We must adapt to her individual characteristics, and hope that she will respond with a gracious nod to OUR own uniqueness."

- Ruggiero Ricci, Forward to "The Great Violinists" by Campbell

November 4, 2006 at 04:57 PM · "Always play late as possible, but in time." - Leon Fleisher

"Rhythm is like real estate - location, location, location." - James DePriest

"Go home and PRACTICE!" - Ivan Galamian

November 4, 2006 at 05:08 PM · These are great! : )

November 4, 2006 at 05:38 PM · Another one from Ricci -

After giving some suggestions for testing out an instrument he ended with "The rest is up to you - not Stradivarius."

November 4, 2006 at 08:06 PM · Guess who?...Sir Thomas Beecham: "The English may not like music but they absolutely love the noise it makes."

(heard once at a rehearsal): "You think this ending is too long? Have you ever heard a Beethoven coda?"

November 4, 2006 at 08:24 PM · One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.

- Bob Marley

Music is the silence between the notes.

- Claude Debussy

Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.

- Frank Zappa

Which is more musical: a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?

- John Cage

When I open my eyes, I can only sigh, for what I see is contrary to my creed: and I must despise the world for not perceiving that music is a higher revelation than any wisdom or philosophy. It is the wine that inspires new creations, and I am the Bacchus, who presses out this wine for men, and makes them spiritually drunk; when they are sober they bring to shore all kinds of things which they have caught. God is nearer to me than to others. I approach him without fear, I have always known him. Neither am I anxious about my music, which no adverse fate can overtake, and which will free him who understands it from the misery which afflicts others.

- Ludwig Von Beethoven

November 4, 2006 at 09:36 PM · "Doo Bee Doo Bee Doo"

-Frank Sinatra

November 4, 2006 at 09:41 PM · To Be Is To Do ( Camus )

To Do Is To Be ( Sartre )

Do Be Do Be Do (Sinatra )


November 4, 2006 at 10:00 PM · ...............................Look out Below!

November 4, 2006 at 09:56 PM · ToDo is to Be as ToDo is To Do....Do Whapa Do Whapa Do Be Do Be DO!!!! (Filimonov)

November 4, 2006 at 10:14 PM · And Lamech proceeded to take two wives for himself. The name of the first was Adah and the name of the second was Zillah. In time Adah gave birth to Jabal. He proved to be the founder of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. And the name of his brother was Jubal. He proved to be the founder of all those who handle the harp and the pipe.

(quote from Genesis 4:19-21)

Cheers, Haj

November 4, 2006 at 10:17 PM · Give me a laundry list and I'll set it to music

- Rossini

November 4, 2006 at 10:21 PM · OK, this one has nothing to do with music, but a LOT to do with these forums:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

November 4, 2006 at 10:49 PM · A Mind is a terrible thing?! :) ..................

November 4, 2006 at 10:57 PM · Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.

- Groucho Marx

November 5, 2006 at 06:28 PM · "I occasionally play works by contemporary composers...for two reasons. First to discourage the composer from writing any more, and second to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven." -Jascha Heifetz

November 5, 2006 at 11:28 PM · Speaking of not specifically music, but relevant to these forums:

"The courage of one's convictions - that's a common misconception. What one really needs courage for is an assault on one's convictions!"

- Leo Tolstoy

November 5, 2006 at 11:47 PM · This is my favorite:

"If you take a violin, you can make it sound 50 different ways. Not just pizzicato and played by the bow, but ponticello, and harmonics, and tremolos. If you take an oboe and play it, there's about one way you can make it sound: like an oboe."

John Corigliano

November 6, 2006 at 08:11 PM · "People whose sensibility is destroyed by music in trains, airports, lifts, cannot concentrate on a Beethoven Quartet."

-- Witold Lutoslawski

November 13, 2006 at 10:29 AM · "They say that when the angels play before God, they are playing Bach, but for each other, they are playing Mozart." [Isaiah Berlin]

"Without Bach, god would be a complete second rate figure." [E.M. Cioran]

"Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto gives us for the first time the hideous notion that there can be music that stinks to the ear."

[Eduard Hanslick, maybe the most influential music critic of the 19th century in Austria]

November 13, 2006 at 12:22 PM · "Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words?"

Marcel Marceau

November 13, 2006 at 03:51 PM · My teacher has an excellent way with words. The most recent example I can remember is, she described the 2nd mvt of the Ravel violin-cello duo as "sort of a dysfunctional scherzo." :)

July 24, 2007 at 04:38 AM · "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that."

- Steve Earle.

"I know Bob Dylan and I don't think Steve could get anywhere near his coffee table."

- Townes Van Zandt.


July 24, 2007 at 05:12 AM · "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

(Florence Foster Jenkins)

July 24, 2007 at 05:26 AM · "I'm far from always being in tune... I just fix it faster than anyone else"


July 24, 2007 at 08:06 AM · Two quotes from my teacher, Josef Hampl:

"You will play as an individual, but first you have to play in tune, in rhythm, and respect the composer's wishes."

"Just think of your girlfriend who is over the mountains." (about Brahms, second movement)

July 24, 2007 at 01:47 PM · "When Jack Benny plays the violin, it sounds as if the strings are back in the cat." - Fred Allen

[substitute for "Jack Benny" the name of a violinist you don't like]

July 24, 2007 at 03:06 PM · "Ah...music. A magic beyond all we do here!" Albus Dumbledore

July 24, 2007 at 04:03 PM · Sir Thomas Beecham to a female cellist whose playing was driving him nuts: "Madam, you have between your legs an instrument that can give pleasure to thousands, and all you can do is scratch on it."

Puccini about Wagner's Parsifal: "The performance began at 5:30, and when I looked at my watch three hours later it said 5:45."

Beecham, during an opera rehearsal that was going poorly, when a horse which was part of the production answered nature's call in the middle of the stage: "Abominable manners, but aaahh, what a critic."

Artur Schnabel to Albert Einstein when, during a movement of a Mozart violin sonata, Einstein got lost: "Albert, can't you count?"

July 24, 2007 at 04:58 PM · Another Schnabel story:

Artur Schnabel was once approached by an excitable manufacturer of "player pianos" (where you stick the paper roll in a weird little mechanism and the piano plays itself.) He wanted Schnabel to record some piano rolls for his latest model, and asserted "This new model is state of the art! I have developed a system that allows me to capture fully SIXTEEN different types of nuances and shadings!"

Whereupon Schnabel smiled ruefully and shook his head. "My dear boy," he said, "I'm afraid that will be a problem. You see, my playing has...seventeen."

July 24, 2007 at 05:17 PM · "Mathematics is music for the mind; music is mathematics for the soul."


July 24, 2007 at 05:49 PM · If we were all determined to play the first violin we should never have an ensemble. therefore, respect every musician in his proper place.

Robert Schumann

July 24, 2007 at 06:46 PM · Someone said:

"Competition is for horses, not artists"

- Bartok


July 24, 2007 at 07:17 PM · I don't remember if I added this one, but it's one of my favorites:

"I hate music, especially when it's played." - Jimmy Durante

July 24, 2007 at 08:09 PM · "To sing is to pray twice" - St. Augustine

"There are only two kinds of music: Good music and bad music." - Louis Armstrong

This one isn't really about music, but about life:

"I should rather the strings of my lyre be in discord with itself than for my life to be in discord with the world." - some famous dead Greek guy philosopher

July 24, 2007 at 08:48 PM · "I know canned music makes chickens produce more eggs, and factory workers produce more; but how much more can they get out of you on an elevator?" - Victor Borge

July 24, 2007 at 09:31 PM · The indefatigable pursuit of an unattainable perfection, even though it consists in nothing more than the pounding of an old piano, is what alone gives meaning to our life on this unavailing star.

-- Logan Pearsall Smith

July 24, 2007 at 10:52 PM · "With practice, chores become habits, and habits become joys."

Saw this quote in a friend's violin case, or something like that.

July 25, 2007 at 07:43 PM · "Be as nervous as you want, play well anyway." - Oliver Steiner

July 29, 2007 at 01:45 PM · If you want to destroy a violin you have to burn it.

I can't recall which violinmaker said that.

July 29, 2007 at 04:27 PM · "I know I played every note"


July 29, 2007 at 06:27 PM · "You don't need to know what the stuffy musicologists say about Mozart any more than you need to know what the hip critics say about Sting." Anonymous

“Congratulate yourselves if you have done something

strange and extravagant and broken the monotony of a decorous age.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

July 29, 2007 at 06:34 PM · We consider that any man who can fiddle all through one of those Virginia Reels without losing his grip, may be depended upon in any kind of musical emergency.

- Mark Twain

I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.

- Elvis Presley (1935-1977)

July 29, 2007 at 06:46 PM · Speaking of Emerson,

"What are you doing in jail, Thoreau?" - Emerson

"What are you doing not in jail, Emerson?" - Thoreau.

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