Superb Grieg Sonata Video

December 8, 2006 at 07:49 PM · I was just browsing through YouTube, when I found this video of somebody playing the Grieg Violin Sonata no. 3. As it turns out, it is one of our very own forum members (and the Violin Mastery video which frequently appears in our advertisements column on the forum), Clayton Haslop.

Now I must say, this is just first class playing, from all aspects. I have not enjoyed a performance so much in ages. Truly heart-felt and without hysterionics, this is the real deal. I would rather listen to this man playing than many of today's so-called first class violinists. I wanted to cry, listening to the second movement.

I encourage everybody to take a look and witness some truly great violin playing in the modern day era:

Grieg Sonata no. 3:

First Mov:

Second Mov:

Third Mov:

He has some more videos on YouTube but I haven't had an opportunity to view them yet.


Replies (22)

December 11, 2006 at 06:13 AM · Has anybody watched the video yet? I'm surprised this post hasn't received any responses.

December 11, 2006 at 06:47 AM · I'm not qualified to comment on his playing.

However, Haslop definitely wins the "extreme facial expressions during a performance" trophy. His expression just before he starts is priceless!

I love it.

(OK, his playing sounds good too, but then, what do I know?)

December 11, 2006 at 01:56 PM · Yep, he plays quite a bit like Milstein...

December 12, 2006 at 07:49 AM · Allan, I have to be honest and say that his facial expressions didn't bother me at all....Vengerov has held the "facial expressions" trophy now for quite some time, and I really don't think that Mr Haslop comes anywhere near to challenging him for it! Which is a good thing...

I thought Mr Haslop's playing was very heartfelt and honest.

December 13, 2006 at 12:32 AM · SHHH, It's unpc among some in this web site that he plays holding the violin with his left hand...

December 13, 2006 at 12:51 AM · Beautiful playing. I admire also that he is able to play with the violin held in the left hand and away from the shoulder at all times, as Milstein did. Also his neck muscles are relaxed and his head is very free as was Milstein's.

December 13, 2006 at 01:08 AM · Violin face looks like guitar face with low red cell count.

December 13, 2006 at 01:16 AM · the KGB have been notified

December 13, 2006 at 01:40 AM · .

December 13, 2006 at 01:59 AM · SSSHHH.

December 13, 2006 at 01:47 PM · His facial expression reminds me of George Bush

December 13, 2006 at 01:55 PM · once in a while i come across people's reaction to violinists' facial expression/body gestures during playing. i have to say,,,if it is coming from non players, i can understand. but if it is from other players, i find that hard to identify with. i can take it as a joke, but it is kinda immature, may be that is too strong a word.

good musicians totally lose themselves into the music and what we observe is a reflection of that visceral reaction. it is controlled by the autonomic nervous system and out of their control. some people are more physically sensitive than others.

as vengerov was telling a student about a phrase in a youtube masterclass, it is "electric"..."you turn on the switch..."

December 13, 2006 at 04:37 PM · Playing the violin requires such enormous concentration, focus, attention, energy, coordination, expertise, practice, and indeed emotion, that a certain amount of ancillary facial expression is understandable.

I believe, however, that if you are going to gain control over facial expressions and idiosyncratic body movements and consciously make them part of the performance, you have to practice them just as diligently as practicing the music and the instrumental techniques.

I think that the players who appear to have no facial expressions (even though everyone has at least a little) - players who range from Heifetz to Hahn - have had to work at it and have certainly considered their entire stage presence as part of their performance.

Personally, sometimes I find some of the grimaces and gestures crossing the line from genuine emotional expression into pure ham. When it seems genuine and does not distract my attention from the music, it is great. But generally, I prefer the minimal mugging and gesturing approach.

I think that any player at any level is more impressive and makes it easier to focus on the music if they can play without 1) making faces as if they are about to have a heart attack or an orgasm, 2) jumping around the stage like the prima ballerina in Swan Lake, or 3) drooling.


December 13, 2006 at 05:01 PM · Well said, Sandy. Everyone audience member has his own threshold for what's genuine. That goes for vibrato and other aural expressive devices, as well as visual manifestations. It's all part of the show. I haven't viewed the clip in question, but I agree that it's a valid area to criticize.

December 13, 2006 at 05:36 PM · i agree with sandy that if you are prone to be physically active/overactive on stage, it may take a lot to learn to restrain that.

however, i think it is speculative to say that people like heifeitz and hilary H worked on their stage presence. some are born that way,,with a more even manner.

while some people may have silent heart attacks, and that drooling may help rosin cleaning later, i did notice that vengerov is more liberated on stage now than when he was much younger. violinists should consider twice before taking dance classes?

December 13, 2006 at 05:37 PM · Maybe some enterprising musician can collect the drool, bottle it, and sell it as a special violin cleaning formula. No? Maybe Laurie can sell it along with the t-shirts.

:) Sandy

December 13, 2006 at 06:41 PM · Al, I'm afraid that your quote of Vengerov is completely misplaced here...

Vengerov was talking to a student about Tambourin Chinoise, about the spiccato up bows near the beginning, saying that the bow arm must be like it's got an electric shock, you turn on the electricity and the arm starts to twitch as if it's being shocked, causing the jumping bow stroke.

That has nothing to do with facial expressions or anything at all.

When I first saw Vengerov's extreme facial expressions I thought they were ridiculous. Now I have kindof gotten used to them, but I think that more moderate expressions would probably commplement his playing more (in my opinion) and possibly make his playing more musical and technically accurate (using all his energy to play violin rather than move around and pull faces).

The video is here:

December 13, 2006 at 07:48 PM · larry, you are absolutely right on the specifics. however, the point i am making is not in reference to bow or face per se but how he signals with his nervous system and that his facial expression, based around the mouth, a mere manifestation of the waves of charge within. (i can imagine his face will look similarly if he pushes his fingers into an outlet. please don't).

his facial contortions may be obnoxious and irritating to some, but i find them believable and part of his whole package of brilliance.

to be fair, though, i like the relatively sedated vadim as much.

there is a physiological basis to all these. of course you can fake it, but you've got to be one heck of an actor,,,for all your performing life. or simply be grandiose and show off every little part of you.

or, there is a term called disinhibition which is found in people after stroke or with brain trauma or under some mind altering influence. they start to show primitive reflexes lost since infancy. as we grow and mature (some never do:<, right here) we develop neural pathways to suppress those primitive and involuntary reflexes.

may be, with very high level violining, like in a deep trance, we see glimpeses of disinhibition, more evident with some individuals.

as sandy earlier said, to play at high level and at the same time to make an conscious effort to suppress those twitches will be some task to accomplish. not impossible with training, but it is like trying to stop a sneeze every single time!


PS. i think an interesting area for research is how to effectively or efficiently get into a deep trance during violin performance, something i suppose similar to the zone or tunnel vision in sports. if you can get into the trance fast and early, there is no time for stage fright in reality because you are gone...

December 13, 2006 at 09:14 PM · Indeed, depending on how you define it, trance is the right word. If you mean (as I think of it) an altered stated of ATTENTION (NOT an altered state of consciousness), then it makes sense. Your attention is shifted, and there may be natural facial expressions and gestures that rise out of the total involvement in the moment of performing. However, what I was trying to say that if it takes so much concentrated effort to practice and play precisely what you have practiced a thousand times and had intense lessons on, then can't you apply the same preparation to your stage presence? In fact, I don't really see how you can play without making some sort of faces, unless you've literally worked at it and practiced your stage presence. There is no question that Heifetz did that. He was meticulous in everything, not just the playing. According to what I've read, he even mixed cocktails for his houseguests by applying the same careful attention to detail and getting everything as "right" as possible. It stands to reason that he would not have ignored his stage presence, including facial expressions. Yet even with that, you can see on the videos of him that there are subtle changes in his expression at points in the performance. It's as if there is some sort of spontaneous emotional reaction that is trying to get out, but is kept in check. I think he really channeled it all in the music. I don't know about his playing "cold," but it is certainly passionate and vibrant. I believe he was one of those people who channeled much of his human emotion into his violin playing rather than into his relationships. On the other hand, as a psychologist, I shouldn't really be coming to conclusions on anybody I've never interviewed, and I never interviewed Heifetz (although I saw him play once).

Anyway, a real interesting discussion by everyone.

Cordially, Sandy

PS. Getting back to the subject of this discussion, I have not yet heard (or seen) the Haslop Grieg, but I still like the old Kreisler/Rachmaninoff performance.

December 13, 2006 at 09:24 PM · that is interesting. don't psychologists find behavior observation more powerful and reliable than an verbal interview? what if heifeitz pulls a i-don't-hear-anything on you?:)

December 13, 2006 at 09:34 PM · Hi Al: Yeah, what you say makes sense. But what I was referring to is the legal constraint on licensed clinical psychologists (which is what I am) and psychiatrists, that you can't "diagnose" anyone (in terms of most state mental health codes and laws), especially if you're going to recommend some kind of decision about them (like hospitalization), unless you have interviewed them IN PERSON. It makes you wonder about all these professionals who perform psychohistory on all of these famous people (living or deceased). Even Freud did it; he psychoanalyzed Michaelangelo from the historical record. (Naughty naughty, Sigmund.)

:) Sandy

December 13, 2006 at 10:23 PM · yes indeed. in golf, as you probably know of, psychologists are a big thing, especially when tiger woods came out and started to win everything in sight. people just started to wilt at the sight of him and all the top guys started to see sports psychologists. not mechanical problems, but mental blocks.

with all the pressure musicians face, i bet there is also a need. probably still a stigma to be kept in closet though.

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