prodigies

February 9, 2007 at 06:38 AM · Prodigies. What exactly is the definition of prodigy? Dictionary.com defines this as:

a person, esp. a child or young person, having extraordinary talent or ability: a musical prodigy.

But in the violin scene, this prodigy label is given to a select few: the youngsters who debut with a professional orchestra. But by using this definition, it would seem as if many more youngsters would be deserving of such a title. There are so many great players (under the age of 18) who have a tremoundous amount of talent...but are they or aren't they considered prodigies? Most of them have never soloed with a professional orchestra (except a few who win concerto competitions) and so, how would we define them?

There is also the cliche of how difficult it is to transition from a prodigy to a mature artist sucessfully...but imo, there are so many prodigies out there who have made it to the international circuit. Bell, Hahn, Midori, Mutter, Vengerov, Shaham, and of course, probably the most famouse, chang.

In my honest opinion, being a prodigy actually gives you an easier time getting yourself established and allows you some leeway in terms of pleasing critics and audiences. Of course, if you are established as an international soloist at a young age, then you already have that fan-base and orchestral ties (with maestros, players, etc) to help you in your adult life.

But then again, how many prodigies DON'T actually make the international circuit?

Replies (100)

February 8, 2007 at 06:54 AM · *by most famous, i meant chang was the most well-known prodigy

February 9, 2007 at 08:43 AM · Prodigy is the name given to people with a huge amount of RAW talent at any age I guess. That's it, if you don't convert --- you don't do well. Ie. there are way more prodigies, than there will ever be professional musicians who were prodigies - that's obvious.

Chang is most well known yes - started at 4, played for 30 minutes to an hour a day - taught by daddy who was once Delay's student. by 7 she was playing Bruch - auditioned on that, entered Juilliard. Youngest person to enter any major conservatory. At 9 recorded, released when she was 13 -- on a quarter size violin (most notable are her performances for Carm. Fantasy, Elgar's La Capr., and the Gershwin, though not major competition winning stuff - that's the point, raw talent). Youngest to win Avery Fisher Career Grant, youngest to win Avery Fisher Prize (only like 60 musicians in a century have every gotten it) - one of three first women to do so, at 9 played with Philly and NYPhil, Menuhin loved her, Teachers are astounded at how she is able to reinterpret music, flawless technique by 14, youngest ever to get a major recording deal with one of the big three, EMI CLassics, DG, and Sony Classics, Delay matches her at 9 to Heifetz when he was 11 in terms of ability, but even a little better, the list goes on, Played with every major orchestra by the time she was in her early teens.

Though prodigy seems kind of lame nowadays, the true effect is in real life. You will know you're in the presence of a prodigy, when one does come up to you. They are crazy inquisitive.

V

February 9, 2007 at 02:58 PM · i do not know sarah chang enough to comment on nurture vs nature, but, from v's chronology on chang, it is clear that nurture has a lot to do with it. IF chang's father were a prof golfer who studied under jack nicholas, may be sarah will be a dominant force on LGPA right now. really, nuts don't fall far from the tree---there is some truth to that, or at least some convenient explanations.

outside music, bill gates comes to mind for his prodigious ability in software development and licensing software as a commodity. his parents certainly did not encourage him; in fact, they preferred to have him finish college which he did not. in the purest sense, that is one of the highest level of prodiginess imo. yet, since he did not blossom as well as wither early, may be he's no prodigy after all:)

if we can push aside the age barrier, i would put n paganini on the similar ground--to be able to break away from tradition and create a new paradigm with seemingly much more nature than nurture. may be both the nature and nurture come within.

February 9, 2007 at 03:28 PM · Gates might be the supreme example for the nurture argument. The key thing was he went to a high school where he was exposed to software development.

That was absolutely unheard of in high schools at the time.

February 9, 2007 at 03:35 PM · true, jim. yet, i bet those high schoolers ended up working for him (not a bad thing) because they knew HOW and bill gates knew WHY:)

February 9, 2007 at 03:42 PM · I don't know if he was a visionary, but he was a hell of a businessman, and as a very young man.

February 9, 2007 at 06:12 PM · The golf theory is not completely true - Hilary Hahn's father is a mathmatician or something along those lines and he spent hours practicing with her, even at ENCORE. My old teacher told me when she recorded the Beethoven with Baltimore and David Zinman, her father was in the recording booth listening to takes and writing down the two wrong notes(!) she played during the whole session.

February 9, 2007 at 03:58 PM · As Ruggiero Ricci said in "Musical Prodigies: Perilous Jaurneys, Remarkable Lives" by Claude Kenneson:

"Believe me, when you find a prodigy, you find an ambitious parent in the background".

February 9, 2007 at 03:57 PM · Many prodigies in different areas have a strong father figure from an early age plus natural talent. But how many show discipline and continue to improve when they reach maturity.Do they strive even though they`ve achieved money and fame at an early age.

February 9, 2007 at 04:15 PM · kevin, nothing from me is completely true:) it is a matter of perspective.

we can always find exceptions to everything to make a point. the point i am making is that nurture and nature have to work together to a varying degree for each little sucker. for argument sake, let's say sarah's father is a violinist and is sick of it and WANTS her kid to be a golfer instead, things can happen down that road. the math father obviously is interested in music enough to practice along, instead of going to play golf on his own or punch in calculators.

in terms of mastering violin playing, you show me a prodigy coming out of the woods with no parental support, i will make a statue out of him/her and we the whole family will worship it.

ann, right on.

February 9, 2007 at 04:32 PM · al -

I got ya. :)

back to the original question, I know many serious violinists who were proteges of the top teachers and now they are nowhere to be found. I feel that some just burn out - like what Perlman says, "its hard to keep up." The pressures and expectations are ridiculously high and some people, no matter how talented , are not cut out for it. Take Michael Rabin for example. He had serious issues, a lot from his overbearing father and his career ended tragically short.

You would be surprised how many just give up. It's harder to be almost to the top than not being anywhere near that level.

February 9, 2007 at 05:00 PM · kevin, with your toddler to come or already in existence, what do you think will be the first extracurricular activity to try?

please don't say piano or golf just to be different:)

somehow i can see the bewildered face of your kid plucking the strings on your violin at 6 months... and before you know it, your wife will be surfing the net and looking for that good sounding 1/32th:)

in terms of the seemingly impossible transition from prodigy into legend, i agree the odds is against anyone. you have to prove yourself every single day and with classical music, it is tough to coast because you are very much in the public eye and ear from day one.

friedrich wilhelm nietzsche: strong hope is a much greater stimulant of life than any single realized joy could be.

to many highly trained and qualified violinists (esp the young ones) the future is uncertain. beyond money, power and sex, they crave for acknowledgement of their achievement and the dear price they have paid. it is difficult to go on if there is too much blow to pride and self esteem.

to play it safe in this field, you need to really love music.

February 9, 2007 at 04:37 PM · The most well known violin prodigy of my childhood (the 70s) gave up. Sadly, there's a lot more to it than that.

I think Heifetz said something like "child prodigism is a disease that is often fatal." Given, what I've heard about some people, his choice of the word "fatal" was not an instance of hyperbole.

Kevin

February 9, 2007 at 04:53 PM · For a child with talent to see that talent fully blossom and be widely recognized for it at an early age requires (as Yehudi Menuhin thought) a number of factors to come together in just the right way at just the right time - Innate talent, the right teacher(s), the right parents, the right opportunities, luck, etc.

It is indeed unsual for all those things come together at just the right time in the right way. It's kind of like being struck by lightening.

Sandy

February 9, 2007 at 05:48 PM · Mark Salzman wrote a wonderful book, The Soloist, I think was the name of it. It's about a former child prodigy who reached a point as a young adult where he grew hyper-conscious of his intonation to the point that it completely debilitated him and he stopped performing. Great book, in general (set in the present when he's a 30 year old cello instructor in a CA university) and I love the flashbacks into the mind of a child prodigy.

I've heard it said that what a young prodigy can play unself-consciously can become difficult during the teen years, because for most of us, that's where intense self-consciousness and self-scrutiny really take over.

February 9, 2007 at 06:11 PM · This is a rat hole type of subject. Since - believe it or not - I know so called "prodigies" whose career has little or nothing to do with ambitions but with falling in love with making music at very early age already.

And about "writing down the two wrong notes ...": there are prodigies who hear substantially more "wrong" notes than any of their parents would ever notice, also at very young age.

From the couple of "prodigies" I supported and followed in the past I have developed such theory: Those "prodigies" who do not strive for eliminating "wrong" notes at the expense of soul reaching musical expression have a fairly good chance to make it later on.

FMF

February 9, 2007 at 06:18 PM · Al -

I'm not even married yet so I haven't thought too much about that...my father did not push to do music, actually he did the opposite - he discouraged me to do music. I had to prove to my parents that I loved playing. Knowing how hard the business is, I doubt I would make my kid into a violinist.

February 10, 2007 at 06:18 PM · Frank-Michael, great point, and beautifully put. And you have a very intimate perspective here, raising such a wonderfully prodigious daughter. How is she doing, BTW? When is she coming to San Francisco? I've heard such good things about her playing.

February 10, 2007 at 06:52 PM · But, imo, isn't it easier for a prodigy to make his or herself to make it in the industry?

For chang and midori, they really didn't have to do anything other than keep on playing the violin, because they had that established foundation (record label, fanbase, money, etc). On the contrary, if we were to look at someone who was trying to make it as a soloist with none of those luxories as chang/midori/hahn (someone who is past the age of 20 or so)...than the advantage of making it in their adult solo careers sucessful would have to go to these prodigies...no?

February 10, 2007 at 07:51 PM · Chang and Midori didn't have to do anything other than play the violin???

If only it were that easy :)

February 10, 2007 at 08:59 PM · Andrew, that was a generalization...I mean when they were turning into adults, they had a lot of the business aspect taken care of by their "team" but if you compare those prodigies vs. a 35year old unknown trying to make their adult life as a international soloist (who has just as much talent as those prodigies) that 35year old has to do so much more work to "make it".

February 10, 2007 at 09:11 PM · Terez, latest news on the "subject" from Cincinnati today:

http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070210/ENT/702100389

http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070210/LIFE/702100349

FMF

February 10, 2007 at 09:23 PM · Oh, everyone, you HAVE to take a look at this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer about Frank-Michael's daughter, Julia, which is on this very subject.

First lines of the article: "The world is full of prodigiously talented young violinists these days. But every so often, one comes along who simply takes your breath away."

How's that for cool, and so on-topic! Frank-Michael, you must be busting with pride. Let’s see if I can make the link live. Cincinnati Enquirer article Now off I go to read the second article.

February 11, 2007 at 09:02 AM · btw one will be able to listen to this performance online on WGUC (on March 18, 2007):

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra broadcast schedule

FMF

February 11, 2007 at 05:28 PM · Thanks for the info, Frank-Michael!

February 11, 2007 at 09:21 PM · As I see it, the very gifted child who is able to operate within the standards set forth by major orchestras, etc. has the opportunity to have a very interesting childhood. A very rich one, at that. Whether or not it is a healthy one largely depends on the child, their parenting, their teaching and a large dose of restraint and wisdom from those involved in "launching" their careers.

Having said that, I believe the biggest advantage these children have is being able to spend more years living with the repertoire, thinking about what works in certain performance situations, and generally developing the values they will bring to music the rest of their days. They will have more time with musicians who will guide and shape their outlook on their art, their career and their life.

I think the idea of a prodigous talent being a "finished" product by supernatural means is really a mistaken one. If they are presented as such, it may very well spell disaster for their future.Perhaps a healthier approach is to realize that their path in life will continue to grow them and change them as the years progress.Their gifts will ease the way, and provide opportunities, but the "long-term" approach to their education in these matters is the single most crucial thing for their health and longevity as artists (and people), in my opinion. To address the talented person in this way is naturally in opposition to the temptation to exploit them for their novelty or for "teacher glory"--both of which can depress and kill the spirit of these children. It also respects the human being who is underneath all that talent. This is (of course) the MOST important consideration. Sadly, it is often the most violated as well.

All in all, it is a wonderful thing to encounter such gifted kids. It is an enormous responsibility to guide them safely through. But to do so, makes us all the richer for the experience.

February 11, 2007 at 11:01 PM · wow.

February 11, 2007 at 11:38 PM · Bravo @ David!

February 12, 2007 at 01:15 AM · I find the idea of "prodigyism" to be very unhealthy. It often leads to extremely unhealthy results and psycological scarring. For some, such as the case of Micheal Rabin, it leads to such an extreme depression that ends in suicide. Even for some of the longer lived and more succesful soloists, such as Heifetz, it lead to scarring that lasted until he died. In his youth, practically the only thing he ever heard his mother say to him was; "Jaschinki, it's not good enough!" A few exceptions to this exploitation are Itzhak Perlman, and the great Isaac Stern, who chose to work through all the rigors of becomeing a performing artist becaus they found it enjoyable and fun, and not because of parental exploitation. Many prodigies also end up with a sort of superiority complex, bordering on narcisism.

The other major major problem is that in this day there is an ideoligy that nobody other than a prodigy can become a soloist. (this may sound selfish) That makes it extremely difficult for people like me who work towards that goal and have to fight every inch of the way to try and escape that ideology. I've been told probably a hundred times "you'll never be a soloist, you're to old." Of course I'm to stubborn to listen to these people, but the whole theory of "only prodigies can become soloists" is all wrong.

February 12, 2007 at 01:55 AM · I saw Julia play Beethoven with Chautauqua Symphony. It was okay.

But what I loved the most was the simple Bach encore - the slow movement of the C solo Sonata. Very mature, moving... Nice work FMF.

V

February 12, 2007 at 01:58 AM · If you try and give it your best, it is true that you may not succeed. But if you don't try, it is 100% predictable that you will fail.

- Sandy

(and that's about as much profundity as my brain can handle on a Sunday night)

February 12, 2007 at 04:20 AM · Vince, according to my records, Julia never played with the Chautauqua Symphony. When did it happen? If it did happen I am pretty sure it was her only performance when someone would call her Beethoven concerto "ok".

Tanja Becker-Bender as Juilliard student performed this concerto on July 12, 2003, at the Chautauqua Institution, with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Uriel Segal and played the Bach encore you mentioned.

FMF

February 12, 2007 at 01:30 PM · WMNR is playing Julia Fischer right as we speak. And she is reportedly good at math, too, according to John Zeck.

February 12, 2007 at 01:38 PM · She will be in Philadelphia at the end of April. We have tickets to her concert at Kimmel and hope she has a good time while in Philadelphia.

Ihnsouk

February 12, 2007 at 03:42 PM · My Father was a piano and Organ prodigy. He told me once that after graduating from The Damrosch (sp) Institute (Juilliard) he was lucky and grew out of it.

February 13, 2007 at 04:35 AM · FMF, I'm sure her Beethoven is good stuff.

I guess it wasn't her -- well the Beethoven was still good and the Bach still beautiful.

I guess now it makes sense, cause when I listened to Julia's recording of the C major fugue, it didn't have the same mature and intuitive feel. I guess that explains it.

Still, good job on her.

V

February 13, 2007 at 04:51 AM · "She will be in Philadelphia at the end of April. "

What is the date at in April, Ihnsouk? Is she playing with the orchestra, or in a recital? (Maybe we can make it, too.)

February 13, 2007 at 04:59 AM · April 27-May 1, 2007

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

Julia Fischer, violin

Verizon Hall

Symphonie fantastique

BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto

BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique

Friday, April 27 8:00 pm

Saturday, April 28 8:00 pm

Sunday, April 29 2:00 pm

Tuesday, May 1 8:00 pm

FMF

February 13, 2007 at 10:36 AM · Thank you! We might be able to attend the May 1 concert (I'm sure her Beethoven won't be "just okay".)

February 13, 2007 at 11:39 AM · Elizabeth - I am sure it will be far better than "Just OK". The Saturday performance is almost sold out. Where is the best seat at Kimmel? I find the sound from the main floor not satisfactory.

Ihnsouk

February 13, 2007 at 07:29 PM · Ihnsouk, that was a joke-- read up further in the thread for the cased of mistaken identity.

I like to buy seats high up on the sides. The view is excellent and the acoustics are good enough. Also, it's less expensive. Alice has to play concerts on Friday and Saturday night so we must go to Tuesday's concert if we go at all...

February 13, 2007 at 07:37 PM · If you like reading along with the musicians, you can always get seats behind the orchestra. It's also good if you like to see the conductor.

I haven't ever been on the floor anywhere in a large hall, except once when I saw the Nutcracker at the Academy, and I was in the right up front seats. That sucked, 'cause I couldn't see the ballerinas' twisted feet.

February 13, 2007 at 07:48 PM · I do not understand why Midori and Chang were considered prodigies...playing Paganini at 12 does not mean anything, in my book...it has to go beyond technical challenges , which are always explanable, and reach the unexplicable, in terms of musicality...Martha Argerich and Menuhin had it at "the supreme degree..."But listening to Chang at 8 or Midori is not a mystical and unforgottable experience for me...A true prodigie of the violin should be able to play Beethoven and Brahms concerti with a musical level that goes beyond anything that can be explain...

February 13, 2007 at 08:19 PM · I have to agree to a point on that one, about little kids playing Paganini. Hearing some tiny little 8-year-old kid flying flawlessly through the Sauret cadenza as if it were the easiest thing in the world only ever serves to put me in an exceedingly grouchy mood, cursing my clumsy mediocrity, getting jealous and mad at the little pyrotechnic prodigy, and seriously considering throwing my violin (if not myself) into the Danube.

On the other hand, if I hear a kid of the same age playing some "deep", "profound" work with complete understanding, sensitivity and expression, I am only awed. To me, the baby-Paganini, technique prodigy, look-how-many-notes-I-can-play types often have the unpleasant appearance of a performing circus animal. A real prodigy is the one who is a real ARTIST at a very young age, and one of those comes along maybe once a generation.

February 13, 2007 at 09:40 PM · I think many many people have the ability to excel early. I don't think they do.. And over a lifetime, prodigy can be spread out.

I think this is what Suzuki saw and was trying to get at with the mother tounge notions. Does this make a prodigy? I don't know. Could it make excellence--I think so.

Prodigy as in this discussion makes me think more of those with autism or something, where one skill or another becomes phenomonally magnifified, without particular environment, opportunity, or beyond average expectations in place.

Maura--I think you're a prodigy... If you insist on trashing your screech box, please send it to me.

February 13, 2007 at 09:49 PM · There's a Danube in Tulsa? I had no idea.

February 13, 2007 at 10:28 PM · Yep. And a London Bridge in Texas, too. And a Thames in Connecticut.

February 13, 2007 at 11:37 PM · I might agree with Midori, though she had crazy technique - check out her Ernst Carnegie debut performance... live.

But with Chang, I think you don't hear it or something. Maybe you don't -- but a lot of stuff I hear from her is more than musical, it adds dimension and new things that 1) a lot of violinists can't do and 2) a lot of violinists miss from the score. Just because it's perfect doesn't mean it's not good -- and that's the way violinists are nowadays, they all sound somewhat the same.

But concerning prodigy -- they are prodigies because they did all that with little effort. A prodigy doesn't mean they are the "shiznitz" but rather that they have a gift that none of us probably will ever possess but at an extremely young age.

I know no one here is seriously jealous of them, but hating on them adds to the unnecessary pressure we already put, culturally on those types of people.

V

February 13, 2007 at 11:37 PM · "they are prodigies because they did all that with little effort." that is also my biggest thing with prodigies,,,except unless someone really knows what chang went through as a child, it is tough to pinpoint the level of effort.

practice, practice, practice. even for heifeitz.

February 13, 2007 at 11:51 PM · Heifetz was a prodigy by the way...

And you don't get it.

Even if you practiced and played your butt off everyday, 5 hours a day!... Beethoven Brahms by the time you're 10? and you started when you were 4?

With little effort.

February 14, 2007 at 12:26 AM · with the way you sound off on this board, lets not forget you being a prodigy, v.

February 14, 2007 at 12:34 AM · Hmmm... I excelled extremely fast as a musician sure but I know so many violinists who excelled just as fast or even faster so... but obviously I'm not a prodigy. I wouldn't dare claim that rite of passage.

But feel free to say what you want... seems like that's the case even when your statements aren't true.

V

February 14, 2007 at 12:39 AM · are you a lawyer or a law school student? nyu or columbia?

don't be so paranoid when talking to me. just saw your bio. your musical development on paper (since i never heard you play) is really quite impressive for 5 years.

February 14, 2007 at 01:19 AM · Albert, wait until you've heard me, then you might want to reconsider. :)

Marty--no, I meant the real Danube. It's THE river for flinging things or selves into in fits of dark despair. :)

February 14, 2007 at 03:42 AM · Maura, don't despair, after all, you had one of the same teachers I had, so you must be pretty good!

February 14, 2007 at 04:33 AM · unless Marty destroyed his/her will to live...

February 14, 2007 at 04:54 AM · I may have done that!

February 14, 2007 at 05:28 AM · Yeah sure Maura, that's what Nicoli and Wolfy said.

February 14, 2007 at 07:14 AM · Maura... stop fishing for compliments... it's so unnattractive.

February 14, 2007 at 09:01 AM · Pieter, I'm going to have to defend Maura's honor in this--I'm fishing for her screech box, even if I have to swim the Danube by the way of the Rhine.

February 14, 2007 at 09:27 AM · Maura, I'm trying to picture it, but all I see is you flinging your fiddle into the murky brown of the Arkansas, as the herons and egrets look on.

February 14, 2007 at 02:52 PM · Albert--yes, and Jóska too.

Pieter, just what exactly is your problem with me? :)

Emily, ugh. Back to reality. The Arkansas is the ugliest river I've ever seen. (Wait...you mean you can't picture me in Budapest?)

February 14, 2007 at 03:44 PM · I can't picture you at all.

February 14, 2007 at 04:37 PM · Vince: I have the complete recordings of Heifetz at 10 and 11...it is not as good as Menuhin when he was the same age...Menuhin accomplished " musical miracles" even in salon pieces that noone plays anymore . Listen to his first recordings with first teacher Louis Persinger at the piano, when Menuhin was 11 years old ( Ries, La Capricieuse ) and many other encore pieces...When Menuhin played the 3 Bs ( Bach ,Beethoven and Brahms ) in Berlin in 1927, Einstein, Kreisler and many others were in the concert hall and everyone testified about something unexplicable that happenned, musically speaking...This was not the case about Midori ,Chang or Rabin...and not even Heifetz. This occurs once in a century and may never happened anymore...

February 14, 2007 at 06:50 PM · Marc:

I'm not arguing with you, but your last response prompts an amused reaction. Here is a quote about the person from the 70s I referenced above (it's on the internet):

"Another time at a Young Musicians' Foundation Finals in Los Angeles, the jury of a dozen eminent musicians, including Gregor Piatigorsky, Raphael Druian, George Neikrug, Kurt Herbert Adler, Richard Lert, were stunned when a girl about 15 but dressed by mama to look 11 or 12 (knee socks, hair ribbon. pleated little skirt) came out and played Mozart, Piston and Bach splendidly. The judges were saying things like "When Yehudi was 16 he didn't phrase like that!" Well, Lilit Gampel never got anywhere. A few years later, she eloped to Israel, married (it was said that this was rebellion against her mother) and settled down. She dropped completely out of sight and hearing for a long time."

Of course, maybe they were wrong.

Kevin

February 14, 2007 at 06:57 PM · Apropos of Ricci's comment that there is always an ambitious parent behind every prodigy--my mother went to Juilliard and was made enormously unhappy by her experience and the result was that both of my parents were determined to keep me out of music professionally this despite my starting out of the starting gate with a bang. So I go with the nurture aspect of prodigies. When you have the artistic gifts you also need the full support of those behind you--if they don't nurture and they don't encourage and even adamantly stand in the way it's doubtful any prodigy can develop regardless of talent.

February 14, 2007 at 07:57 PM · ...I think they were...Many get amazed to easily by skillful young pianists or violinists...at 16, you are no longer a prodigy anyways. Sergio Tiempo made his debut at 13 at the Concertgebow and could be considered in the same category as Freire, Argerich and Menuhin...He actually plays spendidly at 30...but guess who has the big career rigth now: Lang Lang !!! A magistral technician but with no distinctive sound and very poor musicality...But the big machine is behind him.

Marc

February 14, 2007 at 08:19 PM · Jay, I agree with you about parents...you need love and great understanding around to be able to get to maturity...Mine were fighting all the time and I had to leave home at 18 before getting completely mad...and stop playing the violin at the same period...Now I practice as a lawyer and also compose music just to please myself...

Marc

February 15, 2007 at 02:44 AM · Marc, imo, a prodigy is a young child with an extraordinary talent that is (usually) unobtainable and not reached for a normal person (in a lifetime). Chang, midori, rabin, heifetz, were all prodigies in my opinion...and yes, menuhin was arguably the greatest prodigy of all, but that shouldn't take away from these other artists.

If you listen to chang on her first album (debut recorded at the age of 9) you hear a very mature and musical understanding of the carmen fantasie, gershwin it ain't necessarily so, etc. ANd if you listen to midori's dvorak album, you really hear her mastery of dvorak's complex musicality...

Have you seen the pbs document that was filmed when chang was 11? It shows her playing lots of encore pieces ending with sarasate's carmen...and i could definetely hear a mature sound and mature musical interpretation. It even shows clips of menuhin with her and interacting with each other (and showing that famous line "she's the most ideal, wonderful perfect violinist..." that he said about her)

So in a way, i disagree that you can only be a prodigy if you perform the beethoven/brahms at 10 with the understanding and maturity as menuhin.

I mean...heifetz, chang, midori probably all learned these concertos at a young age...

February 15, 2007 at 04:17 AM · No problems... just some advice.

February 15, 2007 at 03:12 PM · Patrick: Midori and Chang do not have extraordinary musical gifts, like Menuhin , Neveu, Hassid, Heifetz, Kreisler, Oistrach, Hahn, Ehnes , Mutter and a few others had or have...Sorry, but they are very famous because of Delay and the big machine behind... I have Chang recording when aged 9.I have seen her on tv and heard her Paganini with Dutoit when she was 13...Big , big,talent...but exceptional and profound musician, I will never buy that. I think that they are both quite conventional with the typical undistinctive sound we have heard for a few decades...I do not like, except few exceptions, the "Galamian" sound in general...Ehnes, who studied with Sally Thomas, Hilary Hahn and Gringolts are three marvellous examples of the new generation in America that is avoiding Galamian's influence in sound production...Even Perlman made drastic changes with his bowing technique during the early 80s and improved his tone magnificently.

Marc

February 15, 2007 at 05:45 PM · What did Perlman change with his bowing?

February 15, 2007 at 06:24 PM · marc, somehow, i still have to disagree with you. Chang and Midori are extrodinary musicians (imo) or else they would not have gotten to where they are now. Sure there are a lot of variables in their successes, we really can't say that they're just famous because of the "delay machine". If that was the case, chang's career would have ended 6 or 7 years ago (she started performing at the age of 8...)

And for me personally, I think Chang and Midori have distinctive tones and sounds. For instance, i was listening to npr the other night and they played a recording of Carmen Fantasie with Orchestra...and after hearing the first movement, i was sure that it was chang. and of course, i was right (i had never heard that recording before).

You have your opinions and I have mine. And although I disagree with you about chang and midori, i do agree that menuhin was the ultimate prodigy who had the best musical touch at an early age. (loved his beethoven).

cheers!

February 15, 2007 at 07:02 PM · Ray: it has to do with lightness of the bow and natural weight of the right arm versus bow pressure and forcing the tone...and finger stroke...low arm instead of high...

February 15, 2007 at 07:03 PM · Carmen fantaisie: do not need to be a great musician to play it...I would like to hear great and moving performances of Bach solo works, Brahms and Beethoven concerti ect. to be convinced, or a Chausson Poeme as moving as Neveu's...which is something that never happenned yet in their case. Yes ,you are entitled to your opinion and I respect that.

Marc

February 15, 2007 at 07:24 PM · I gotta say, your BBB elitism is kind of off-setting. When did it become fashionable to stick to the BBBs and sort of equate musical genius to being able to interpret and play the BBBs?

V

February 15, 2007 at 07:33 PM · BBB is B.

What about M?

February 15, 2007 at 07:38 PM · I think Ida Haendal deserves to be credited as one of the great prodigies. Unlike many of them who become irrelevant after 18, she has remained relevant, and retained her godlike abilities well into her 70s, unlike Menuhin whose playing quite unfortunately deteriorated.

She placed very well at the Wienawski competition at the age of 8, when it was won by Ginette Neveu, and Oistrakh comming in 2nd.

February 15, 2007 at 07:40 PM · Vince--

First of all, there are FOUR B's, not three as is commonly presumed. Second of all, since when is it "elitist" to recognize Beethoven as a greater composer than Sarasate?

February 15, 2007 at 07:41 PM · Marc,

You cannot be more wrong about Midori. I try to avoid this subject right now because I want to be in her studio and don't want to sound like a suckup, but really, you have no idea what you're on about. Usually I have a lot of respect for your opinions.

I spent 2 hours just on the first movement of the Strauss sonata with Prof. Goto. To say that she has no musical gifts is mind boggeling. You should see the amount of depth and detail, from looking at the piano part and considering phrasing etc... to arrive at a conclusion about how she will play something. Her technique is so solid that she doesn't have to phrase things in ways to mask difficiencies in her playing. I can tell you for a fact that she is indeed a very emotionally invested performer with a superior musical gift, not just a mechanical one.

I think a great example is her Chopin Nocturne c#- that she played at Carnegie. Most people just play a lot of nice notes and milk everything with their vibrato, but she knows all about restraint and not giving everything up too quickly.

As for Chang, I definately agree with you in some respects. I just don't think you're looking closely enough to see the fine details. Also, I've never heard an unmusical person play Carmen well. It always end up being boring and technical. It takes a titan of an artist to play ANYTHING well. Don't be so dogmatic about things.

February 15, 2007 at 08:16 PM · But Pieter, if the discussion is about prodigies, then surely it is more about having *outstanding* gifts, and demonstrating them at an age when most people are still fighting over not wanting jam sandwiches again today. It is not saying that others aren't highly skilled and musical, and its not saying that they can't teach those skills, just that there are excellent musicians and then there are prodigious musicians.

February 15, 2007 at 08:30 PM · sharelle... we're getting into a very murky rhetorical swamp here, and the fact is, I think that Midori, a child prodigy, has strongly surpassed some others in the department of musiciality, such that she holds her own with even the greatest of company.

February 15, 2007 at 10:03 PM · Maura... Pieter has your answer and Pieter is so right in using the word "murky".

It is all relative, and subjective, but I don't think there has ever been a violinist who came along and sounded like Sarah. I've even heard her upclose and he playing is so crazy good -- I don't know where you guys are getting this.

She plays a certain way, but then everyone does - how can you rank one over the other. It is okay to say, I don't like this and that... I mean I think a lot of Hilary Hahn's playing is just technical and cold, even if she doesn't mean to be. Or Perlman's is imperfect and kind of harsh... or even Heifetz, Overly gestury. But it doesn't stop me from enjoying their playing -- I think you all are asking for too much, out of people who are basically human, like you...

V

P.S. Maura, I was referring to the BBB concertos Menuhin played, who someone made an example out of. Last B is Bartok right?

February 15, 2007 at 10:55 PM · Greetings,

pieter, one of the most musical and technically flawless recitals I have ever heard was by Midori playing Beethoven , Bach and looney pieces. She warmed up the proceedings by starting with Sarasate Taranteela thingummyjig . Her performance of the Ernst Schubert knuckle breaker was jaw dropping. And no, she didn`t force the sound as she is said to do. it just floated out and embraced us. I was walking round with a goofy grin on my face for days after that.

Cheer,s

Buri

February 15, 2007 at 11:56 PM · Midori and Sarah Chang's bow techniques aren't even remotely comparable.

February 16, 2007 at 12:12 AM · Marc,

I think it would be news to Sally Thomas that James Ehnes is "avoiding" the "Galamian influence" in his bowing technique. She teaches Mr. Galamian's principals very strongly. As for Hilary Hahn, her very dear teacher, Jascha Brodsky personally bemoaned to me the fact that he did not study his dear friend and immensely respected colleague Mr. Galamian's bowing principles as a student. He felt they were far superior to everything else out there.He certainly adopted the style as the years progressed. I know how he taught Hilary. I watched her playing from a very early age, so I could not more strongly disagree with your observation and your remark. You of course, have a right to your opinion, but I'm curious what you are basing it on?

By the way, "Principles" are not "rules". They allow for individual differences which can be heard in all the great students of Mr. Galamian. If there is something you dislike in a violinist's sound, please consider that it might be due to an unusual concept of sound on their part, or good old-fashioned poor taste. It is not necessarily the result of faulty bowing principles, values or teaching.

February 16, 2007 at 04:20 AM · Oh my, I just read what Marc wrote.

I agree that Galamian's technique is far superior.

I saw Hilary Hahn just right now at Carnegie and I noticed (through my binoculars) that she draws the sound out almost exactly the way Midori does.

And I heard Midori made a huge splash with Beethoven in AZ... so I don't know where all this these guys are sucking, falling star, new generation rhetoric is coming from.

V

February 16, 2007 at 04:40 PM · Peter, nothing is coming out in Midori's interpretation of the Strauss Sonata...or Chopin Nocturne...I recommand that you hear the same repertoire played by 19 years old Ginette Neveu... It is available on Emi along with Debussy sonate, Ravel Tzigane and Chausson Poème... Please listen to those recordings and come back to me after...

Marc

February 16, 2007 at 04:46 PM · David: Ehnes is a truly individual and his superb bow technique is unique... he never forces the tone... and fills any hall with ease...

February 16, 2007 at 07:42 PM · Marc, we all, well the hardcore ones have listened to Neveu's CD... so don't assume we don't know what we or you are talking about.

V

February 16, 2007 at 08:23 PM · Marc,

I have a number of Neveu's recordings, including her Brahms/Sibelius.

I don't agree with you about Midori, so there's no point in arguing the point. I will say though, the recording you're criticizing is one of the most celebrated of recent times, so I think you're in the minority in saying that "nothing comes out".

February 16, 2007 at 09:21 PM · Yes,I understand that in no way we can critize the incredible Midori or any other products of miss Delay...I maintain my point of view: that Carnegie Hall Debut recording you are refering to is not historical, the performance is dull, and the music colorless...In no way you can compare Neveu to Midori or Chang...sorry. Neveu is in the category of the greatest performers on the violin in the history with a complete distinctive sound and a short , but highly fulgurant career.Neveu is a very powerful figure and her interpretations, musically speaking, are decisive.Who can play Tzigane , Chausson Poeme, or the Brahms concerto with such conviction today?

Do not forget that Neveu won the most prestigious violin competition of all times in 1935, leaving Oistrach, Hassid, Odnoposoff, Hendel and many others all behind because , mainly, of her strong presence on stage and her outstanding musical gifts...Neveu did not need to impress with artifices such as "Carmen" or the "Last Rose". She won because of the way she played the Bach "Chaconne" and Ravel's Tzigane, a new piece in 1935, and also, because she was one of the only contestant who performed the F sharp Concerto by Wieniawski, a dramatic and highly poetic rendition of the piece as it was said and written at the time...Oistrach wrote to his wife about the violinist, saying that "she did not rubbed the first prize",in other words, conceding that she deserved it...

Now, musicality and ability on the instrument should not be mixed...In a sense, yes, Midori and Chang have enormous dispositions and skills on the instrument...But the expression, "musical genius" should be applied only in a few cases. Kreisler, Hassid, Heifetz, Neveu, Menuhin, Ysaïe are among the few elected...and , as I mentionned in previous posts, there is a new emergence of exceptional and HIGHLY MUSICALLY GIFTED violinists in the circuit right now... and they have something in common : each in their own way, can play Bach splendidly with profound understanding of the music...That is the first and most important test...Paganini comes in second...

Marc

February 16, 2007 at 10:45 PM · Marc,

Who are you to say that someone like Midori or Sarah Chang do not play with conviction? I'm pretty sure that they're both quite convinced of their own musical ideas. I think we have different ideas of conviction. Also, trying to classify what was the great violin competition of all time is pretty meaningless, not to mention that winning competitions is not always evidence of a superior musical spirit. I can think of one guy who certainly cleaned up at a bunch of competitions who is like the most boring violinist of all time.

I have no idea where you get the idea that Bach and then Paganini is like the ultimate barometer of violin musicianship.

Also, I don't understand why you equate Dorothy Delay with Satan. Midori, Cho Liang Lin, Anne Sophie Mutter and Gil Shaham, are just 4 examples of vastly different musicians. It isn't like all Delay students sounded the same.

February 17, 2007 at 01:21 AM · I don't think Mutter studied with Delay. In any sense, I think you're being narrow minded Marc -- it's elitism and obviously, it is a minority view. That, I am glad of.

V

February 17, 2007 at 02:56 AM · you're probably right. I think I'm confusing myself. In any case, people epitomize Dorothy Delay's teaching with Sarah Chang... you can't compare her sound to Cho Liang Lin, for instance.

February 17, 2007 at 04:45 AM · Greetings,

ASM studied with a German lady calledsomethign like Stubel (sorry I don`t quite remember and I couldn`t spell it anyway). She was a pupil of Flesch. Szeryng recommedend that ASM go to her.

Cheers,

Buri

February 17, 2007 at 06:23 AM · ASM's last and long term teacher was Aida Stucki, pupil of Flesch, a Swiss lady in Winterthur (Switzerland).

FMF

February 17, 2007 at 09:10 AM · I still don't get why you are coming to all these conclusions, Mark...and by the way, musical genius is a different term than prodigy (and this thread is titled...prodigies).

I agree that neveu was an amazing violinist, but that being said, i can say the same thing about midori, asm, chang, ehnes, etc. (in this case, present-tense).

I really don't see why, (just because you believe neveu is a musical genius) you are taking something away from...(almost to the point of bashing) midori or chang.

February 17, 2007 at 07:45 PM · He said Ehnes was good. I saw him play and it kind of sucked... So I'm lost as to what he's talking about... making a bunch of mistakes musical genius, or making your violin sound like barn yard animals music genius, or finger and fake through a part of a concerto musical genius.

Feel like I'm living in bizzaro world.

V

February 17, 2007 at 08:11 PM · James Ehnes is one of the best violinists in the world. I've never heard anyone say anything but the greatest things about him. Him faking? His 24 Caprices are ridiculous and every other recording he has is prestine. Also, for a guy like you who loves grand Bach interpretations, you'll probably like his Bach more than Hahn's.

I saw him play Paganini 1 when he was 18... it was one of the most perfect performances I've ever witnessed, and there are almost no "famous" violinists who I have not seen in concert, so I feel safe in comparing him to any violinist in the world.

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