best intonation among players alive today?

August 16, 2007 at 03:31 PM · Who has got the best intonation, when playing high speed, among violinplayers active today as far as you know?

Replies (48)

August 16, 2007 at 03:47 PM · I don't think I've ever heard Hilary Hahn play a note remotely out of tune. It's almost scary how perfect she is.

August 16, 2007 at 04:21 PM · I listened to Bella Hristova play something live once and all I was thinking was that's just dead in tune. So she gave that impression, at that time.

August 16, 2007 at 04:52 PM · Gitlis, too.

August 16, 2007 at 05:16 PM · "Gitlis, too."

Huh?

I always thougt nobody sounded more charming and exciting when playing out of tune than he does.

Best,

Friedrich

August 16, 2007 at 05:33 PM · ^gitlis does not play out of tune in the VOX box set

"Art of Ivry Gitlis"

Out of today's active players, probably Joshua Bell

August 16, 2007 at 05:57 PM · Yeah, on those Gitlis performances from the 50's, it sounds to me like his intonation is dead on. And it's especially noticeable on the many notes and phrases where he uses no vibrato. You simply have to be dead on pitch to do that.

August 16, 2007 at 06:16 PM · It's amazing how he is able to play so passionately/wildly/differently from everyone else yet maintain everything in tune and play everything with a great amount of technical ease.

August 16, 2007 at 06:21 PM · Hilary Hahn is indeed erstklassig. Interesting, I've never thought of Joshua Bell's intonation but now that you mention it, I realize his is really good! I guess that goes to say something if it never stuck out to me =)

August 16, 2007 at 08:37 PM · Hilary Hahn

August 17, 2007 at 11:26 AM · Pablo Casals is reported to have said that Eugene Ysaye was the first violinist he ever heard who played in tune.

August 17, 2007 at 12:42 PM · I suppose that it tells more about who Casals heard before Ysaye than how violinsts before Ysaye played, since Ysaye was 18 years older than Casals.

August 17, 2007 at 01:18 PM · I don't play out of tune at all. My intonation is, um, well, creative.

August 17, 2007 at 01:18 PM · I don't play out of tune at all. My intonation is, um, well, creative.

August 17, 2007 at 01:30 PM · You could have saved space like this: ||: I don't play out of tune at all. My intonation is, um, well, creative. :||

Sorry, I'm in one of those goofy moods...

August 17, 2007 at 02:08 PM · Leonidas Kavakos has flawless intonation, as well.

August 17, 2007 at 07:31 PM · I would also have to say Hilary Hahn.

August 17, 2007 at 07:44 PM · Hilary and Julia Fischer

August 17, 2007 at 10:04 PM · Vanessa Mae

August 17, 2007 at 10:14 PM · Kogan has amazing technique and intonation at a high speed. I also do (SOMETIMES) lol only when I'm NOT having a lesson....

August 17, 2007 at 10:24 PM · Kogan is still alive...?

August 18, 2007 at 08:26 PM · Kevin, I must agree.

However, Zukerman always said that the most effective way of phrasing was to "color" the intonation, and some artists completely understand and utilize that concept, especially Anne-Sophie Mutter...higher leading tones, lower minor thirds, etc.

August 18, 2007 at 08:28 PM · Another vote for Hilary Hahn. I also want to put in a vote for James Ehnes...just heard him in a performance of Bartok 2 and the intonation was crazy-scary-good.

August 18, 2007 at 09:52 PM · What about "coloring" intonation using lower leading tones and higher minor thirds?

August 18, 2007 at 10:01 PM · I share exactly Marty's opinion (LOL, BTW!) and "can" even try to explain it: Coming out of the sea in a sunny beach w/ her (unfortunately wet, raw sea sometimes...) T-Shirt on, V.M. is perfectly "in tune" with the "nature" (since the word "marketure" isn't invented yet AFAIK.) of actual things...

And trying to be (even if life is too short for such experiments...) serious, about the "best" intonation I know only that it isn't mine... But the owner of the best vibrato is definitely Richter 7.9...

August 19, 2007 at 01:21 AM · Andrew does bring up an important point. Tempered intonation was only mastered by very few. Milstein was another who used intonation to color his notes. He often played notes flat, but not like how others did- it actually sounded great. Thibaud and Neveu were mentioned by Gitlis in the Art of Violin as masters of this technique.

August 19, 2007 at 02:15 AM · I think soloists have it easy when it comes to intonation. String quartet players can spend a long time working on the "right" intonation.

August 19, 2007 at 02:38 AM · I can smell the sea air from here.

August 19, 2007 at 03:44 AM · Vanessa Mae is the ne plus ultra of artistic expression and technical mastery.

August 19, 2007 at 04:45 AM · May I disagree w/ "non plus ultra", dear NathanGodIs? My Latin (or was it French...?) teacher told me it's "rien ne va plus"...

August 23, 2007 at 12:59 AM · Well, but which intonation are we using as a standard here? The great Irish champion Liz Carroll has an impeccable ear- watching her tune to the last cent was amazing. Then, the fiddler/musicologist Bruce Molsky matches to a T the rising and falling quartertone-ish intonations rom the recordings of the older generations he's studied. I have strong feelings that we've lost one huge expressive element by so many aiming towards the same, single version of scales/keys/modes. Sue

August 23, 2007 at 11:52 PM · "Well, but which intonation are we using as a standard here?"

The notes that are supposed to be played in the pieces.

Only counting players that can play the pieces as fast as the composers intended

August 24, 2007 at 04:24 AM · The notes that are supposed to be played in the pieces.

Andreas, you have a fascinating and confusing study ahead of you (at least, it confuses me). Start by searching the internet on the keyword set:

harmonic melodic intonation

August 25, 2007 at 08:03 PM · "Andreas, you have a fascinating and confusing study ahead of you (at least, it confuses me). Start by searching the internet on the keyword set:"

A tone has got a certain frequency (let´s say A) and if the note played doesn´t have that frequency instead it is a quarter step of pitch even though the violinist intended to hit an A then the violinist has got bad intonation

There are over- and undertones as well but a certain pitch should dominate.

August 28, 2007 at 03:48 PM · James Ehnes also

August 31, 2007 at 08:09 AM · This is kind of a ridiculous question. I've heard all of our great soloist live at this point... and they all messed up at one point or another... I guess it depends on what is a mess up... nobody is perfect... the most accurate live that I've seen and heard was probably Vengarov or Midori... but nevertheless this is stupid... to even consider... I would never say that one artist is greater than the other because he/she played more notes in tune on a given year... its so much more than that... if you listen carefully even the king of the violin played out of tune in his recordings...

August 31, 2007 at 10:04 AM · i would rather hear someone playing with expressive intonation than dead on intonation. Hilary Hahn has dead on intonation, but only dead on. Szeryng's for example was dead on but also expressive. Gitlis was never going for intonation, I'd like to think :)

August 31, 2007 at 12:44 PM · I wonder why no composer I know of ever wrote something like "Allegro e ben intonato" in front of a movement. Taking all known "classical" pieces together there is not a single case where the creator (composer) would worry about intonation at all. Seems intonation is left totally and exclusively to the performer. And these composers certainly knew about the different ways and abilities of players to play "in tune".

So who introduced the notion of "best or perfect intonation" and what for? Only instrument teachers could have done it, since it gave and gives them the "instrument" to draw more fees for more lesson from their customers, their students, to make them more dependent.

Rule: Never trust anybody 100% who makes his/her living on you that this somebody will guard and protect your interest at the the expense of his or hers.

FMF

August 31, 2007 at 02:58 PM · This is interesting -- or not, depending on how you look at it. Fellow V.commer Roelof has gone a long way towards a mathematical proof that playing in tune on a violin is _impossible_ . Anyhow, it's a target that keeps moving, wo why award prizes for intunity? (A word for a limerick.)

I once had a discussion with about not having resonance with the e-string while playing in C major. I maintained, and still do, that it would have been wrong to strive for that resonance: one either sacrifices the internal cohesion of the C major scale or resonance with g and d. Unless one is a Pythagorean, of course.

In A minor one does want resonance with a and e, therefore, strangely enough, a slightly higher intonation would be required than in C major.

It is probably the artist's job to make sure that the listener can enjoy the music without being disturbed by the inevitable inconsistencies in intunity.

My 21.50629 cents.

August 31, 2007 at 04:08 PM · Artists who succeed in making me forget about the mathematical impossibility of playing in tune: Frank Peter Zimmermann, Hillary Hahn, Julia Fischer, Itzhak Perlman ..

August 31, 2007 at 04:16 PM · James Ehnes is the name that instantly pops to mind when one asks about intonation. Hilary Hahn also has a very clean sound. I would disagree about Bell though based upon his live performances that I've heard.

September 1, 2007 at 12:49 PM · “A tone has got a certain frequency (let´s say A) and if the note played doesn´t have that frequency instead it is a quarter step of pitch even though the violinist intended to hit an A then the violinist has got bad intonation

uh… not exactly

Try playing E on the d-string (1st finger first position)

1) as a chord with the open g

2) as a chord with the open a

if you were to play the exact same E in both cases, one of those 2 chords would be out of tune

September 2, 2007 at 05:41 PM · I also agree about FPZ...I saw him perform the mozart concerti with Cleveland and the Beethoven with Philly and from a technical standpoint...wow...someone in the Cleveland orchestra dubbed him "perfect German efficiency." Like a Mercedes, no? There is a great youtube clip of him playing the God Save the King Variations.

I saw Hilary give a small recital at Peabody which was basically a run through of new music. It was supposed to be for the Elderhostel, but the news leaked out and many of the fiddlers from Peabody showed up. She played the Glazunov and the Schoenberg, by memory. Almost CD recording perfect. It was a little scary...(in a good way)

September 2, 2007 at 05:46 PM · FPZ..the best in the world

September 2, 2007 at 11:13 PM ·

September 2, 2007 at 11:27 PM ·

September 3, 2007 at 05:00 AM · Nate,

as Macchiavelli said: "For every complex problem there is simple solution which is ............ WRONG!"

One soloist once told me right after rehearsal (Saint-Saëns VC no 3) with a not so well known, not so expensive orchestra: "I have really no idea how to play in tune with this orchestra. Should I play in tune with the strings? Or rather with the woodwinds? Or rather just in tune?" What service to the piece and to the audience would it be to play your solo part in tune but out of tune with the orchestra sections then? Just to prove you know how to play "really in tune" no matter how the whole performance sounds? Is music something about proving your physical abilities? Really? If you think so, I am inclined to join the small but growing group of anti-classicalists declaring the death of the type of music we are talking about here in this forum.

The other fact disturbing your "simple solution", Nate: Ask ten violinists plus four professional reviewers who all attended the same live concert as listeners, whether the soloist-violinist played "in tune". The only tiny chance to get an unanimous verdict is: the soloist was a nobody, at least to these 14 listeners. Otherwise an almost eternal discussion will start. With no objective or just only clear result.

And now comes the even worse part: Through software analysis of digital or digitalized recordings (with computer tools at my disposal here in my office) I can tell with certainty, which players are not in tune most of the time. Extremely "bad" electronically are e.g. Grumiaux, Szeryng and Milstein, talking just about the past. Now, what does it tell me? That my computer is right and you violinists and experts are wrong in talking about these players as "world class"? Are you making music for PC "listeners"? If yes, then bad luck, you will never make a living on PCs "listening" to your performance.

As Christina C. explained here in this thread you may not even be able to play in tune in solo works.

Therefore a teacher can really only teach you how to play the right notes. However, with no real orchestra (or Music Minus One CD) around and only this strangely tuned studio piano available, how in the world can such teacher correct your intonation without just only pretending to do you a favour in your musical development?

What is "best intonation" then?

FMF

September 3, 2007 at 05:29 PM · Hi Frank, well I understand your friend's sentiments - not being able to play in tune with an orchestra that tunes to different A's :) I do not however agree with you on intonation being as subjective as you make it out to seem. I think if you asked those 10 professional musicians and 4 reviewers attending a Hilary Hahn concert whether or not she played in tune there would be a general consensus on how in tune she played. Just look at the boards here for example, have you ever really seen anyone suggest that vintage recordings of Hilary Hahn, Szeryng, or Heifetz are not in tune? No, because it is quite clear to musical ears that those artists play(ed) on such a high level that is not typical or ordinary.

Now in regard to your computer software analysis, which program is this? I'd assume (correct me if I'm wrong) that most programs like this subscribe to tempered (piano) intonation. In that case then all great artists would be "out of tune" according to such a program. Of course there are certain flaws even in a "perfectly" tuned violin - the G will be flat to the E. Or in the case of a string quartet - a group tuned to the same A will still not be perfectly in tune. Especially pieces in C-major where an open E will be noticeably higher than the open C of the viola. In some ways string players can do so much more with intonation! With that said, we have to do our best to play as in tune as we can in an imperfect world. I think most trained musicians can agree (looking past these imperfections) that there is still such a thing as playing in tune and playing out of tune.

September 4, 2007 at 03:43 AM · It does not really matter which computer program you use; they all just show the base frequency of a tone. And I am pretty sure there is no such thing like a tempered octave. So if e.g. the base tone of an octave played by soloist Charles has a frequency of 442 and its top tone 886 or 882 then his octave is out of tune, isn't it? And if soloist Camilla plays this octave with 442 and 884 then her octave should be considered in tune. Unless the orchestra plays the "same" octave "unisono" with 444 and 884 at the same time.

I'd still like to know what would "best intonation" be for the soloist when different orchestra sections are slightly differently tuned.

Does "in tune" mean towards an abstract inaudible scale or toward the actual scale other musicians produce while playing with you? In the first case any orchestra would just sound awful, in the second case some sense of cooperation might help the musical expression.

The best way to find out, what "best intonation" means in real life is to listen in when two "in tune" violinists rehearse violin duos. There is no way they could succeed intonationwise if the do not follow each other but an abstract in tune scale.

FMF

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