Five year old plays Mendelssohn Concerto

April 15, 2009 at 04:40 AM ·

Five year old plays Mendelssohn Violin Concerto Movement 3

I am stunned, and do not want eraborate, just want your opinion.  (But I still wonder if some child plays like this will s/he become professional soloist?)

Replies (89)

April 15, 2009 at 07:27 AM ·

Not everyone who does something well wants it to become their profession. :)

April 15, 2009 at 11:56 AM ·

I have talked about her in a recent post and no one replied!!!  Actually, I though when you read more carefully that she had 7 or 8 in this Mendelshon (which is totally totally admirable too!) but I really think it is very impressing.  This girl does amazing things and is technically very good. Even better in the fastest things than in the slower mvts! It's like her trademark. I just hope she will survive too all the pressure that can be put on her.  It must be tough to feel that you must always show off.  On the other hand, because of her age, if she would do a slight little little little mistake on intonation or anything else, everyone would forgive her because she is so young and it is so impressive to already do this.  I wish her the best and you can see many videos of her on youtube following her evolution from age 4 to 8!  The jump between what she does in one year and what she does the next year in terms of repertoire is huge. It's very interesting!


April 15, 2009 at 12:21 PM ·

So what took that 5 y.o. so long? When did lessons begin - in the womb? I'd better go home and practice - wait, I am home!

But seriously, as amazing - and honestly, annoying - as such a spectacle can be, it is not a forgone conclusion that even with intrinsic interest on the child's part, and the ideal parental support and teachers, etc. that an amazing prodidgy will develop into a marvelous artist. Like a rocket, some rise spectacularly, and then burn out. Others very qucikly get to a certain level and maintain it thereafter, w.o. growing too much.

One of the greatest and most successful prodigies of all time, Jascha Heifetz, said that 'child prodigism' was often a fatal disease. But then again, what did he know? He didn't publicly perform the Mendelssohn until the ripe old age of seven!


PS - the remarks above were general thoughts. I haven't seen/heard this child yet. I still drive a horse and buggy - i.e. I still have dial-up. What's her name? I'll eventually follw up on her.

But what's more heartening to me has been to hear from former students of Oistrakh and Milstein that those masters were continuing to improve to the end of their lives. So, ladies and gentleman, let's not break our fiddles over our knees just yet!

April 15, 2009 at 01:56 PM ·

Her name is Elli Choi or Ely Choi.  She is from California has a mother who is a Berlin though pianist and a father who is an Ingenior.  (they are from Corea) Maybe a futur Sarah Chang!

As for carrer issues:

From what Jasha Heifetz said and what I can hear from experienced people  there is often a debate on quantity vs quality (and yes I don't qualify to speak about this but can I just say this)  generally speaking I have the impression (maybe it is only my impression, though) that some similar kids could have an hard time to slow down things and return to the basics when needed to develop their soud, vibratos, intonation even better.  If you work so much on learning knew technical repertoire (fast one because this is what talent seekers want) how can you take the time to work the slower pieces, beeing aware of what type of vibrato you want, on the way dynamics works, on which fingering is the most logical, in listening many recordings, on intonation etc.  These are keys to succed as well in fast than slow repertoire.  I think such talented kids are forced to come out sooner nowadays. Maybe there is nothing wrong with this approch; I just hope they do not compromise their violinistic, psychological, physical health.  

However, this girl is already so good and have many time unfront of her so maybe it has alot of pros too to start doing such public apparences at such an early age.  Maybe it is just two different schools of thinking that give the same thing.  I don't know and don't want (couldn't) to take position.  I love her playing and am impress!!!


Raphael, about Oistrakh, I think he had 27 or 28 when he won the Queen Elizabeth and 16 when he made his first public big event.  Do you think something like this would steel be possible? I hope so.  well I'm going on another path so sorry.

April 15, 2009 at 01:47 PM ·

I can't comprehend how she has absorbed all of that technique and musicality in however many short years o_O. FML

Anybody know who her teacher is?

April 15, 2009 at 05:20 PM ·

Here she is playing Paganini Caprice, also at age 5.  Absolutely disgusting.  Makes me wonder why I even bother trying to play violin :-)

If you click on some of the other links, she has an amazing repertoire.  She must be able to hear something once and be able to memorize it.  It seems almost inconceivable that someone so young can memorize so many notes.


April 15, 2009 at 05:39 PM ·

I believe I know who her teacher is.  But not completely sure so I can tell you off site.

April 15, 2009 at 10:49 PM ·


Raphael,  I seem to recall reaidng in various places taht Heifetz actually played the Mendellsohn with the Odessa Symphony orchestra when he was five.  However,  given the standard practice of knocking a few years of the birtdate prevalent at that time that makes your age suggestion correct;)

Okey dokey,  here is my honest opinion for what it`s worth.   AS a performance of the Mendelssohn I dod not enjoy it much at all.  So is that a fair comment?  I mean this is an amazingly talented kid and to (sport of) get around the Mendelssohn cocnerto at that age is a fine achievement.  

First off she is not a prodigy at leats by my interpretation of the word. The greta prodigies of the past were distinguished by not only fantastic technique (in many ways perfetc) but also a kind of profound musicality and intensity of expression that was utterly incompatible with their age. Thats why audience members would actually try and just touch Menuhins clothes while he was onstage as a kid.   Or Midori could move artists liek Zuckerman to tears and then wande rof fand play with her dolls.  Irrespetive of the potential I did not find this a performance of great musicla depth or techncial security.  it wa spretty much what I woudl expect from a brilliant kid of seven.

In a more general senbse,  hoepully without demeaning the player,  I fjnd this kind of performance rather disturbing.   I have a quite storng personal creed that create works can wait while talented kids can work on works of cgreat merit that they probably won`t do so much later such as Spohr,  Wieniawski,  Vieuxtemps and so on coupled with things like most of the Handel sonatas and other more musicla repertoire. In this I follow the principles set out on repertoire by Auer in his book to some extent. 

Incidentally,  I also think this importnat physically.  I am not really sure but I felt that this child may well have techncial problems inthe futre cause dby unnecssary body moveemnt and an overstrong/tense use of her bow arm due to playing major works too soon. I really don`t like to see a child on stage playing a work she can almost paly technically and with little undertsanidng when so many other things could be done better.  And in doing these things better one develops a sense of whta it really means to learn a piece well and in depth.  Or put it anothe rway,  be given a space to grow as an artist and musician without fumbling major works that can be done later at the level they deserve. 

I feel in some ways all this is sypmtomatic of an age of playing in which apparent higher standrad of knowledge and teaching are pandering to a kind of hot house approach to music which ultimately becomes a race ot see who can play what cocnerot in public first and with which orchestra at the expense of letting kids mature at their own pace and developing a deep artistic sense.  The stro about Hilary Hahn not being allowed to play the Beethoven by her teacher at a quite advanced age when she had all the technique in the world (I suppose ;) is the reverse side of the coin for me.

As for whether she is going to be a profesisonal I can assure you taht prediction is impossible.  How people change physicvally and musically is so arbitrary aside formn the external factors involved.  If one wa sgoing on the relationship between performance abilty and age factor as an absolute then I can tell you i have sene a substantial number of player sof that age who are tehcncially vastly superior and I doubt in the currnet climate if they will go on to be soloists.  On the other hand she hasa huge talent so why not?



April 15, 2009 at 11:18 PM ·

Mr. Brivati, I completely agree with you.  Not out of jealousy, but because of the exact same reasons.  My definition of a prodigy is someone young whio plays with extreme technical skill and profound musicality....who I've seen.  Elli is a wonderful and talented player, but not a prodigy by my means.  However I was not able to play that well, or even close to that well, at that age.

I was at camp and saw her perform.  i did not enjoy it at all, either.  Keep in mind that I am not saying this at all out of jealousy.  I saw her and her parent, and her mom constantly pushes her, even going up and placing her feet on the stage.  Her mother makes images to her while performing, which, in the end, can only be hurtful.

I know Elli, and one of her teachers is Kimberly Fisher, principal second of the Philadelphia Orchestra (one of my teachers too), and she travels a few times a year.  As for her main teacher, I do not know.

But those are my two cents.  She is brilliant and highly technical (while a little bit stuck up), but is nowhere near a prodigy in my book because of the simple lack of muscality......I hear none.  But she is brilliant and will be far better than I could ever be.

April 16, 2009 at 01:38 AM ·

I didn't want to say it at first even if I kind of told it a little.  Of course, where you can see her age is a lot in the slow mvts.  It doesn't sound mature. But how could it be better at this age and how many of us played like this at 7?  Nevertheless It is maybe possible to have a great instinct at this age but to analyse scientifically everything in a slower passage (where intonations, bowings, vibratos etc show much more) is another story and generally require to be a little older.  But when you are use to such a repertoire, do you want to go back and practice studies, vibrato exercises, intonation exercises, do many boring easy and hard scales? Another thing, it is a little craz... to push a kid to travel like this. By always having to be ready for show off in a gig, she surely has to cut in other essential things to have 100 % solid basics.  I just hope they don't abuse of her  and ruin her psychological etc  But I didn't say this to complain at all (she has such good potential and couldn't ask for better from a such young kid!)and of course, is it possible to find a mature Heifetz and Oistrakh at 5 , probably not. 


April 16, 2009 at 12:57 AM ·

Buri you have summarized my feelings as well.  Talented child yes, undeniably, but not a true prodigy, i.e., not a virtuoso level of performance and musicality.

April 16, 2009 at 01:12 AM ·

Wow!  Surprising comments from Mr Buri and Mr Hong.  I'm not sure what more one would expect musically from a 5 year old.  Unlike you, I do hear musical expression in her playing, though not developed, I believe it is there in abundance considering her age.  I am the father of a 7 year old and have a pretty good idea of what a 5 year old is capable of, basically, not a whole heck of a lot.

Perhaps I have never heard a prodigy by your definition.  If you could kindly direct us to a recording of another 5 year old who DOES possess this musicality that is so lacking in Ms Choi's performance, then maybe it will help me grasp your point.


April 16, 2009 at 01:06 AM ·

It can't be THAT difficult, then, can it?

I mean - a five year old!

No more excuses, thank you.



April 16, 2009 at 01:25 AM ·

Anne- Marie, actually Ginnette Nuveau beat out Oistrakh for 1st place in the Queen Elizabeth! But I was recalling an old article in the Strad about a student of Oistrakh who said that even in his 70's, Oistrakh was still growing, and that's just what a student of Milstein said. Let's remember the story of the hair and the tortoise! Oscar Shumsky used to say "don't show me what you can do at 15; show me what you can do at 50."

Buri, I get your definition of a true prodigie. Maybe no one in relatively recent times exemplified this more than Menhuin. I have a recording of him at 12 playing Bloch with  maturity, organic flow, and natural wisdom that moves me to tears. But the sad thing is that I never heard him play better since that time. You just never know. Re Heifetz, this is his autobiography in one interview: "I began lessons at 3, gave my 1st concert at 7. I've been playing ever since."

I really don't believe in imposing my beliefs so take this with many grains of salt: how would I explain child prodigism? Reincarnation. There, I said it.

April 16, 2009 at 01:38 AM ·


Mr Smiley,  I greatly regret that you chose to respond to my comments with sarcasm.  I offered muy opinion as requested.  I also took considerable to trouble to be respectful and not demean anything about the perfromance in a destrcutive way.  Modesty aside,  I think my comments were fairly written and quitre precise.   One thing I did notice about this discussion was that perople are afraid to state what they honestly think and  feel  if it contains any element of doubt.  This seems to me part of a rather general fake millieu in which over rated , can do feel gooders try to elevate certain personal philosphies about personal satisfaction at the expense of truthful and honest communication.

I hope we can keep a reasonable standard of polite exchange.  To answer your comments as best I can .

> I'm not sure what more one would expect musically from a 5 year old. 

I think we have established thta is not her age.

>Unlike you, I do hear musical expression in her playing, though not developed,

Sorry.  It its not deveolped then its just msucial potential.  I didn`t say that wasn`t there.  TYoungsters are very imitative and it is often diffcult to look beyond physical appearences and the external indicators of apparent musicality in young people to see what is really there.

>Perhaps I have never heard a prodigy by your definition.  If you could kindly direct us to a recording of another 5 year old who DOES possess this musicality that is so lacking in Ms Choi's performance, then maybe it will help me grasp your point.

Since seven year olds don`t usually make recordings that is hardly likely.   Disucssion of prodigies usaully centers around a slightly higher age range.  The well known prodigies of the violin world and what they did at such and such an age are -very well known- in my experience (Elman,  Heifetz, Menuhin, Ida Haendel, Ricci, Neveu and Huberman).  If you wnat to see the realn thing in film then check out the Heifetz movie `They shall have music.`  The young piano player was a recogniczed prodigy in her day.  If you came to Japan or visited some of the hothouse conservatoire sin China you would find kids of the same age tehcnically light years away.  Personally I witnessed a seven year old Chinese kid at a Silverstein masterclass at the guildhall School of Music in London abour 30 years ago in which Ernst and the like was bombed through effortlessly. The look on Silverstyeins face wa spriceless.  He wryly confessed he could only talk a litlte in generla terms about more artistic use of vibt\rato,.  As far I no that kid did not end up as a famous soloist.




April 16, 2009 at 01:52 AM ·

Raphael (correct me if' I'm wrong) but since Oistrakh is my number one fan, I have read several several articles. He was beaten by Ginette Neveu at the Weiniawski competition (Poland) who was one year before his Queen Elisabeth award.  He died in 1974 and was born in 1908 so I have a hard time to believe he ever had 70 years old even if he lives forever in his fans heart :)

Well I keep this short since it is off topic!  I feel big respect in every comments,by the way!  I think true prodigies are so unfrequent that many of us don't really know how to qualify them.  A great master said it happens a couple times in 100 years, gee!


April 16, 2009 at 03:38 AM ·

Anne-Marie, you may be right. I came across a list of winners of the Queen Elizabeth in one of my many books, but now I can't find it. I presume that you mean that you are Oistrakh's #1 fan! That reminds me of a funny story. A friend asked Oistrakh, "David,among the world's great violinists, how would you rank yourself?" said O. "I'd rank myself #2" "OK, then who is #1? " "Oh", said Oistrakh, "there are so many!"

April 16, 2009 at 04:12 AM ·


>I really don't believe in imposing my beliefs so take this with many grains of salt: how would I explain child prodigism? Reincarnation. There, I said it.

Raphael,  why not?    I think Ida Haendel said somehting to this effect and then that briliant Italian dude who made the first (?) complete recording of the caprices who is not so well known these days says he was a reiincarnation of Paginini.



PS Nothing worse than a reincarnated prune.

April 16, 2009 at 05:59 AM ·

I have a question that I cannot get past....

How do you get that kind of sound from a 1/4 or 1/8 violin? WHen you ask about interpretation, I agree  there could be more, but how much is the limitation of the instrument?

April 16, 2009 at 09:04 AM ·

I think she's amazing.  That doesn't mean I particualrly enjoy the exprerience of listenting to her after the first few measures, and in fact it became kind of boring as there wans't a lot of variation.  But, Considering that she has only had a few years to develop technique, let alone musical expression (which has now, as per recent deiscussion, been confirmed as reliant on technique anyway), I don't feel its fair to jusdge her on lack of expression.  Nor on the fact that its not a virtuostic performance - prodigy and virtuoso are not synonymous terms.  Perhaps at 11 or 12 she will be considered a virtuoso.  For now, she has astounding memory, huge repertoire, and techinical skill for someone playing only a few years, so why isn't that prodigious?, and she hasn't stagnated yet so there is no reason to beleive that she won't go on to develop greater mastery.  Is there anything she is doing incorrectly that will hamper that development?  

Given the restriction of limited life experience (I mean, what can a less than 10 year old really think aboutwhen they wanting to give a certain expression to a pharase - how they felt when their friends didn't play hopscotch with them? the guinea pig died..I mean there just isn't a lot of scope for range in emotion at this age.  As Buri says, kids are great imitators, I don't see that as a demerit.  surely unless she starts by imitating musical expression, she wil never be able to take her own road?

Maybe she has already finished -technically- with the works that Buri mentioned - what is the teacher to do then?  I notice she has a video of Ten Have Allegro Brilliante, it sounds fun and very prificient, which would be a similar level to the Handels, thais in those lists of repertoire. If she hasn't yet got adequate musical expresion to please some of us, How do you keep her stimulated and playing while waiting for her emotional maturity to develop.  

Maybe in the practise room and teacher's studio, the errors that were seen here in performance where not so prevalent, so is she to be held back until performance is perfect, or allowed to continue on in the repertoire (these are not rhetorical questions, but the way, I really would like to know how a tecaher would approach this).    

April 16, 2009 at 09:54 AM ·

I remember when I first met this girl back in 2006. Back then I had just started my Book 1 Suzuki Teacher Training at a Suzuki Strings Camp called "Strings by the Sea," here in San Diego. I'm sure my friend Danielle Gomez, who's also a member of this site may remember her as well. Her name is Eli Choi and back then she was 4 years old in Book 4 just learning the Bach Double Violin Concerto. Since then she's made remarkable progress learning pieces such as Vitali Chaccone, Paganini Caprice 24, Bach E Major Concerto, Mendelssohn Concerto, and more. She may have performed the concerto at about 6 or 7 years old but I wouldn't be surprised if she started studying the piece much earlier. She has a wonderful Suzuki Teacher here in San Diego, her mother is a professional musician who help assists her practice sessions, and the little girl is obviously very talented. I don't know if she will become a professional musician...seems so many kids are learning these difficult pieces at an earlier age but what I have seen when I've observed her is that she does enjoy play and she does also have time to just be an ordinary kid.

April 16, 2009 at 12:00 PM ·

Buri - in a previous life I used to like reincarnated prunes. I thought they'd make my violin facility go faster. But unfortunately, it wasn't my violin facility that was affected. ;-)

OK - I really should not post so early in the morning!

April 16, 2009 at 12:38 PM ·

I hesitate responding to this thread. If I am allowed to speak honestly, I did not enjoy that performance, or some of her other performances on youtube. Actually if you have time to burn, you will find that there are a number of such kids on youtube - very young age, playing mature repertoire, with pages and pages of gushing comments.

But I do need to say that such kids are very very good, given their age. And most importantly, I recgonise the monetary investment (lessons are expensive, especially with famous teachers, and don't tell me it is only one 45 min lesson a week, camps, accompanists, travelling?), hard work (how many times, how long are the practice sesions), and family sacrifices (the entire family life will evolve around the violin kids' activities, even if it means moving to another city to get a "better" teacher). So  virtuosoic or not, I will give them credit.

Roland, yes, you are able to get that kind of sound out of a 1/4. Of course, it has to be a better violin to begin with. You just have to more careful with bow contact point, and bow pressure, especially the G/D strings.


April 16, 2009 at 02:20 PM ·

What an indicment on a 6 year old kid by meessr Buri and Hong on a rare occasion they agree that the kid is already a failure as musician. The kid learned all these pieces in a couple short years to play better than most nonprofessional grownups. Isn't that good enough? Where she'll go from here, no one knows but she is amazing. Don't we agree on that? If we do, why are we so sour?

April 16, 2009 at 03:02 PM ·

I don't understand why these teachers feel the need to push this difficult literature on a child this young. She plays the notes fairly well, though there are many other things in her playing that need to be worked on with more manageable literature, such as sound production and intonation. Such great (and heavy) literature is not meant to teach technique, rather one should have the technique already to do this music justice. I wonder how many Kreutzer etudes, Rode etudes, Dont etudes, etc. that she has mastered.


That being said, I think she's a very fine talent, I just don't want to see her fall apart before she turns 20.


April 16, 2009 at 04:08 PM ·

I would love to see a study that reports the status of child prodigies as adults.  By that I mean I would love to see what percentage 'make it' as muscial professionals (not necessarily soloists).

I know that of all the little pianists that I was in awe of when my daughter was doing recitials - I have seen none recently...

I suspect the majority of these children burn out very early...pity.


April 16, 2009 at 04:29 PM ·

Ihnsouk, how very insulting that post was.  Mr. Brivati and I wrote our posts in a very polite manner, only stating our opinion and backing it up with our beliefs.  What harm is there in that?  You have taken our words and twisted them beyond proportion.

"failure as a musician".  When did we EVER say that in our posts?  In fact, I strongly stated in my reply that she was brilliant and highly technical.  I say she is very very talented....and I also said that she is far better than I will ever be.  I am very intrigued as to how you read our posts and tookt he words and twisted them to your liking like that.

I agree with many people on the opinion that we hope that she does not burn out.  As far as I know, besides her mother managing her stage life, Elli does like to practice on her own initiative.  So I think that if she keeps it up she will definitely be a great musician.

However, I think there is still something to be said for skipping repertoire....

April 16, 2009 at 04:43 PM ·

Just curious. What is worse, skipping repertoire or skipping etudes?

April 16, 2009 at 05:30 PM ·

This is a facinating discussion I hope it continues.( With respect of course) I'm also interested in the developing technique vs burning through pieces idea. I  agree with someone up thread who said that Youtube is rampant with these videos of brilliant young kids doing things on the violin well beyond their years. I'm wondering how they have all this time to spend. I'm assuming most if not all of them are homeschooled.  I'm actually looking at the advertisment for Janine Jansen, who has done quite well. Biographically, unless I missed something in her bio, she seems to have hit success later than most I read about. I think this would be an example of what some are talking about. Where the assumption that going higher faster is not always an indication of future position in the music world.

April 16, 2009 at 05:36 PM ·

Hi Paul,

I was hoping you or someone else from San Diego would respond since you and others know her and her situation.  I'm glad to hear she has time to be a normal kid. :-)  Gee, my middle son was in book 3 (cello) at age 6 but, um, he's not quite on the same trajectory as Eli! LOL

My thought continues to be that one quality of a prodigy (not saying she is one since I really don't know what it means to be one, though I heard a definition that in essence says that by age 10, a child is performing on a professional adult level; in academics, a prodigy might be one by age 10 that is doing graduate level work in a field)  is the ability to do hard work for many hours a day at a very young age.  That one so young can practice for 2-5 hours a day (as I am guessing she does) is remarkable.

And I also want to know how a 1/4 (or 1/8) size instrument gets that kind of sound!

April 16, 2009 at 07:09 PM ·

Shall we assume her teacher knows what s/he is doing? Shall we also trust her parents has her best interest in their mind? Most kids do have a good teacher and well meaning parents after all. If her teacher or her parents do something out of ordinary, maybe there's a good reason for it. No?

April 16, 2009 at 08:46 PM ·


its a great shame you wrote such a careless,  rude and frankly silly response.  Obviously you had not bothered to read properly what I wrote let alone give it any thought.

Did I write her off as a future musician.  No.    Was I  destructively critical.  No.  Did I give an honest opinion of her playing (as asked)  and how it fits into the general scheme of things. Yes.

Pity you had to lower the tone of the discussion.  I don`t suppose some kind of apology is coming is it?

(As to whether she will be a profesisonal thta prediction is impossible  because.....but she has a huge talent so why not?)

The above is just a reminder to people who perhaps don`t want to scroll back and read what I said that I am not the kind odf person Inshouk has so unfortunately tried to paint me as.  One might also review the excellent comments by Marty. 


April 16, 2009 at 09:16 PM ·

Raphaël, you know me and what I said on many discussions here about how I admire Oistrakh's playing.  For sure I wrote this fast and mixed the word idol and fan.  He is my number one idol.  As for my number one fan, ... ??? my budgies and I don't think I will go beyong this one day!!! :(  The joke about the second place and many 1 st places is quite funny!


April 16, 2009 at 10:38 PM ·


My apologies if my response came across as sarcastic.  That was certainly not my intent.  However, in my limited experience, I have never witnessed someone at that age with her ability.  If you know of another recording of anyone at age 7 (or thereabouts) that you deem is a true prodigy by your definition, please share.  I would be most anxious to see or hear.  I don't make it over to the orient very often, so do not have the opportunity to witness first hand the young musicians you are speaking of.

While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, and many people on this board value your opinion highly (including myself), I feel that you and Mr Hong are being overly critical of this little girl.  Sure the performances are not especially pleasant if you compare them to grown up virtuoso players, but to be fair, one must take into consideration her age, and limited experience when making a judgement.  And while I'm sure her tiny little violin and bow are probably as good as money can buy, it must be very difficult if not impossible to make beautiful sounds on such a small instrument. 

April 16, 2009 at 10:49 PM ·


Hi Smiley.

>My apologies if my response came across as sarcastic.  That was certainly not my intent. 

No need to apologize.

>However, in my limited experience, I have never witnessed someone at that age with her ability. 

The thing is I have.  A lot.  It doesn`t diminish her achivements and abilty in anyway to say so.

>If you know of another recording of anyone at age 7 (or thereabouts) that you deem is a true prodigy by your definition, please share.  I would be most anxious to see or hear.

Aside from the Heifetz movie I emntion I don`tt know if there are any.   They don`t get recorded by record companies (see how old I am?) .  Sara Chang playing teh Paginin with the New York Phil at around the same age is probably on record. Ryu Goto is on youtube playing Paginin 1 with an orchestra.  Actually,  I am not too impressed with that one either in some senses;)  The difference between himand his sister illustartes the point well.  Midori was a prodigy who could bang out a beautiful Chaccone and then wnader off and play with her dolls.  Ryu is a fantastic player who has worked his butt off for a large part of his life and has awesome tehcnical chops and a well deserved career.  Is his playing a smoving or interesitng as his sisters.  Not even close !  Ginette Neveu at 7 was reachin the finals in the competitions previously discussed.   Prodigies are frankly,  instantly recognizable ,  whatever their developmental stage.  They are like blazing stars in the sky and touch you deeply from the moment they play.  They also often suffer and burn out.  Hassid was a classic example and you can hear a very few of his recordings.  The early Menuhin disc speak volumes.

It is no disrespect to this young lady to say she is a very talented and dedicated individual but not a prodigy.  

>I feel that you and Mr Hong are being overly critical of this little girl.  Sure the performances are not especially pleasant if you compare them to grown up virtuoso players, but to be fair, one must take into consideration her age, and limited experience when making a judgement. 

That is the crux of the issue.   As I implied in my my very open self questioniing of the original post,  is it fair?  Are we judging the performance of the Mendelssohn or the performance of the Mendelssohn by a seven yera old.  I chose the former to hopefully add some balance because it is all to easy to avoid perfectly reasonable questiosbn about what is being done and why if the focus is on how impressive it is that a seven  year old can negotiate the work in question..  There is absolutely no need to denigrate her achievements or fail to acknowledge her talent but it does bother me that it has become so difficult to comment relatively objectively without being either attacked or misrepresented by people who don`t wish to explore these issues.  (I don`t acucse you of this at all). 

>And while I'm sure her tiny little violin and bow are probably as good as money can buy, it must be very difficult if not impossible to make beautiful sounds on such a small instrument.

Actually,  that is often not the case with a very good small instrument although it is a point worth kepeing in mind.



April 17, 2009 at 12:16 AM ·

I have a question, something I observed while trawling through youtube videos of "prodigies". Nothing to do with the above video, so I hope noone gets uptight about it.

Is there something like a "memorized" musical expression or musicality? Sometimes, I watch videos and I can't help but cringe. But when I dissect it, the kid is doing everything right - cresendoing at the right place, the correct amount of bow was used, etc etc.. But somehow it does not sound natural, as if the kid memeorised all of that from someone (teacher/parent ?) . It is very different when it comes fom the child.

If what I've said so far makes sense, as a teacher, how do you encourage a child to explore musicality/phrasing, and how do you balance "dictating" how a child plays?

April 17, 2009 at 12:28 AM ·


it`s a very sensible and importnat question.   I think basically there are the follwing kinds of situations:

1)  A kid phrases naturally and beautifully from the word go. 

2)  A gifted kid doesn@t really think about these things but the teacher demonstartes and the youngster imitates well.  As times goes by this stimulation trigger the natural musical impules of the child who then produces them as above.

3)  A less artistic kid plays really well but basically spends their time copying other people and without that input plays in a boring manner.

4)   Has a kind of intellectual technique but no feeling or sense of phrase  or other aspects of expression.

Incidentally I don`tyt think one necessarily has to play ,  getting a kid to copy you in order to get them to play `musiclaly`.  I have a young kid of seven who has studied with me for two years and could play many beginner cocnertos (esp Seitz) with great accuracy and verve but not much contrast and sensitivity.  I eventually got though to him by asking him to vizualize colorsand energy while avoiding refernces todynamics which he couldn`t relate to.



April 17, 2009 at 01:20 AM ·

Some things are highly impressive. Some things are great music. Some things are none. Some things are both. Some things are something entirely different. What this is could be a subjective topic to discuss. I think it is highly impressive. That doesn't take away from what she's doing. I am a twenty year old dude and I still can't do some things she does, but I also know she can't do some things I can (or so I continue to tell myself :-P).

My hope is that her potential is nurtured and developed in a positive way, and that she is not promoted as some kind of circus act, which is what some parents and managers do with highly talented kids. I could only wish I were this talented and had started playing very young, but I don't think I would trade my childhood experience for what some of these kids get.

April 17, 2009 at 04:43 AM ·

Anne-Marie, I knew what you meant. I was just trying to be funny. But who knows, maybe I'll end up as your #1 fan!

Lye Yen - I know what you mean. But like Buri, I have observed this in some of my own students of all ages. They're trying to please me by trying to do what I've asked of them, but it's not convincing, because they don't yet believe in it, or they don't get it. I think that this relates to a broader question that was broached on a thread a long time ago viz what does it mean to be musical? To me, it's like someone with a basic talent for acting - to be able to bring a page of dialog to life. Someone who is musical has a certain spark - and there are degrees; it's not necessarily entirely present or absent - for bringing the music to life in a convincing, organic flow. I believe that this can be guided and nurtured, but not exactly taught step by step, the way you can teach many technical aspects. We can talk about various aspects of phrasing, harmony, overall interpretation, historical perspectives, etc. But there is a mysterious whole that transcends the sum of the parts - or fails to do so - that makes one performance, however imperfect, sound alive, and another sound stilted and still-born.  It's a process to guide this, and is different with each student as well as with the same student at different times and with different types of repertoire that they may have more or less of an affinity for. How often do we hear notes, but not music? When a kid has this along with an advanced technique, that is rare. I felt that from Sarah Chang at age 10. It's different today.

April 17, 2009 at 04:31 AM ·

"a work she can almost play technically and with little undertsanidng" 

I know that it is a joy to teach something and have your student give back to you what you have just taught them--A mirror image? A monkey? Do we teach and then expect that they understand musically--and at what age? When do they experience that which makes them understand the music? Do these small violin genius children get to experience anything equal to the depth of which they study their violin? 

April 17, 2009 at 05:30 AM ·

I'm just wondering what kind of violin that is! Awfully nice sound for a fractional-size.

April 17, 2009 at 09:32 AM ·

RE other players who have more touch / expression.  I can listen to Judy Kang very easily, and a 6 year old, she, to me at least, had really beautiful bow use and such a natural hand moevement for vibrato.  You tube     for her playing accoly.  Yes this is a'student 'concerto, but she doesn't look to have barely learnt it, and she has celarly got a lot of technique left over to apply elsewhere.

I think the thing I like about her is that she did play these 'encore' type pieces a lot obviously.  Well, That, and the Pag at 10 years of age.  

I haven't seen yet an answer to my question - what do you do if a really young kid has technically managed something like the Mendelssohn (for arguments sake) but is not emotianally mature enought to make much of it - where do you go if you have progressed through the student works and the encore works etc, and they have coped with them but can't yet bring them to life. Go back and revise something easier, keep moving sideways and wait until maturity / musicianship catches up, start doing chamber work? What is the best way to keep them stimulated without labouring through those warhorses?

April 17, 2009 at 10:55 AM ·


Sharelle, these are really problematic issues you raise.  I once accidently moved next door to a brillaint Japanese violinist called Akiko Hata who studied with both Galamina and Delay before coming a housewife....and violin teacher. I was kind of surprised ot hear the most astonsihing perfomance of the Bartok unaccompanied violin works coming in my bedroom window on my firts night. She introduced me ot one of her five yera old studnets who played the mendelssohn beautifully.  I culd only laugh and aks what on earth he wa sgoing to play in a couple of years.  She replied in all seriousness `I`m thinking about the Walton.`

I think the question of emotional maturity is perhaps just a label we use to try and classify what we hear.  I mean,  wa sMenuhin really emotionally mature at nine, ten or whatever in the cnventional sense.  Was Heifetz ever emotionally mature?;)  I think the art of violin playing is really a fluctuation between a highly creative state in whihc the mind is quiet and the body is a conduit for something universal and profound,  and a thinking state in which the mind is highly focused and analytical.  

Perhaps that puts a slightly differnet perspective on the idea of being emotionall mature enough to play a certain work.   But I also think the techncial menas of achieving a basic facade of expression can be taught and retaught until a student does begin to use these objective concepts to produce subjective effetcs.  Ther eis no reason why a violnist should run out of repertoire, as it were. However, I can`t help feeling a teacher who gives out major repertoire that a studnet does not have the resources ot express it,  be they internal or external is failing the student.  

Its also importnat to keep in mind,  I think, that  expressiveness is not the whole picturein terms of interpretation.  There are issues like the archtectural grasp of the whole score,  style and the abilty to integrate your interpetation into the whole.  Not to mention a knowledge of the composer, his  period in history and so forth.




April 17, 2009 at 11:28 AM ·

I stand in awe, truly.  Incredible.  And this is only the beginning!  I hope she grows up to be a balanced person, and does not burn out.  


April 18, 2009 at 12:21 AM ·

I think that it's possible in the case of a wunderkind - or an adult for that matter - to be mature, or at least sophisticated, in some respects, but not in others. I think that this, more than technique alone, is what blew many knowldgeable listeners away when they heard the young Heifetz and Menhuin. They seemed to have a natural and easy grasp of the overall archetecture, etc.of the music that Buri spoke of, which at least suggested the impression of musical maturity. We see this in other fields, too: the child geniuses who attend college, but still have emotional needs relative to their age; the young, isolated chess master*, etc. It can be a tricky and dangerous balance to maintain. When it works well, it's a joy and wonder to behold. Someone told me of hearing an astonshing performance by Hilary Hahn at about 10 or 11 of the Beethoven concerto. Afterwards he saw the charming scene of her running  down the hall, chewing gum, and chasing her sister, like any normal kid her age! She seems to have developed into a very nice, well-balanced young adult. Let's wish the same for this little girl under discussion.

As to repertoire to parse out inbetween the standard war-horses, there's no dearth, although much of it has gone out of fashion, even for study purposes. There's tons of stuff by Kreutzer and Rode (-I'm talking concertos-), Viotti (-he didn't begin or end with #22!-), Balliot, Spohr (-again, besides #8-), Spohr's student, Molique, Ernst, Vieuxtemps (-besides #4 and 5-) Joachim, etc., etc.

* re a chess prodigy, there's a very nice movie called "Searching for Bobby Fischer" which deals specifically with chess, but also highlights many issues relating to all prodigies.

Closer to home, a cautionary tale of child prodigism is the book, "Michael Rabin" by Anthony Feinstein

April 17, 2009 at 01:02 PM ·

In a video on Youtube Sarah Chang plays the Chopin/Milstein Nocturne, and Sir Yehudi says memorable things about adults, children and emotions.

I'm troubled by the Ellie Choi video. I'll leave making detailed comments to people with more experience in educating very young and very talented children, but to me the whole thing sounded as if she was under a lot of pressure.

April 17, 2009 at 01:27 PM ·

how did the appreciation of a superb, incredible young talent detour into a comparison with heifetz and mehunin? 

April 17, 2009 at 02:08 PM ·

Al - what could be more natural in considering a prodigy of today, and in trying to define one and give the subject perspective, than to consider the examples of super prodigies of the past? And surely our threads have detoured much farther afield than this - and in a much shorter span of posts! Sometimes I'll look into a thread for the first time that's been going on for a while, start with the most recent post and say "huh??". It can be amusing, though.

April 17, 2009 at 03:55 PM ·

Fine thread. Much to think about. Much to do. This has little to do with a particular student. No seriously, the video/music is all fine, cute child, hard work, very bright, intonation...etc.,  but I challenge what the promotional aspects of these types of videos says about us as parents, artists, teachers, and a society.Let the kid group up.That is how she will add more to this music. She is good and might do some great things. Why objectify her for our consumption and critique?

In my opinion the most interesting thing about the video is what it says about uus as consumers of these engineered spectacles and producers of these phoney events that abound as an endless stream of snapshots of life according to others. The whole U-Tube evironment is so pretentious in its calculation in so many cases. It would be funny if it were not so tragic. Marketing gone wild. How do videos like these shape how we think about art, children, work, and achievement? Everyones life turns into some kind of phoney commodity: The Truman Show.

Read Guy Debord (1967...I think) The Society of the Spectacle, and you will never watch a U-Tube video like this the same.way...

"The alienation of the spectator, which reinforces the contemplated objects that result from his own unconscious activity, works like this: The more he contemplates, the less he lives; the more he identifies with the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own life and his own desires. The spectacle’s estrangement from the acting subject is expressed by the fact that the individual’s gestures are no longer his own; they are the gestures of someone else who represents them to him. The spectator does not feel at home anywhere, because the spectacle is everywhere."

"The spectacle presents itself as a vast inaccessible reality that can never be questioned. Its sole message is: “What appears is good; what is good appears.” The passive acceptance it demands is already effectively imposed by its monopoly of appearances, its manner of appearing without allowing any reply."

April 17, 2009 at 04:38 PM ·

raphael, i look at this site and youtube as places where it is and can be for my kid's educational purposes, and perhaps for others' education as well through the process of give and take.  it is my job to sort things out and present to them accordingly.  since i cannot control how others want to express or present themselves, a concern put forth by j, essentially i do my thing my way, a style not unfamiliar to people on youtube and this site.

having said that, i don't think anyone in particular has "detoured" off topic here and really, who cares if we do!:)  just that we don't really know this kid, and to some degree, we really don't know heifetz/mehunin, esp their early, formative years in music.  a chapter here and there does  not do justice.  

i don't think it is proper to compare person A at age 7 playing piece X with person B at age 7 playing the same piece X, unless we have sufficient information to make the comparison comparable.  further, heifetz to many if not most here symbolizes the ultimate, the gold standard, the ideal.   although posters here have been very sensitive about not to denigrate her achievements, in a way, to line her up against those incompareble figures puts her at an impossible disadvantage.  darn it you do darn it you don't if you are compared to heifetz at any period of his life.   didn't even accomplished musicians/performers suffer the heifetz disease?   of course, if a teacher/parent uploads a  video on youtube and proclaims with a title: the next heifetz, my daughter the prodigy!  then i can see people getting a little worked up over it:)

i think there is a lot to be learned from the process that this kid has gone through.  as much as i would like to credit the teachers and the parents, the essential raw material is within the child imo and the process of cultivation is worth studying.    it is a living experiment, a resource book from which students, teachers and parents can learn a lot from.  i wish her parents or teachers feel comfortable to comment and answer some questions here. 

some of you may feel that the performances may be orchestrated or over-coached. i just wish people can appreciate a very young kid under the spotlight trying her best to deliver.  don't crush that spirit!

oddly, this comes to mind: )

April 17, 2009 at 04:57 PM ·

I think that to some extent, comparisons can be meaningful, and may be inevitable. We do it with instruments, too. But it doesn't necessarily have to be with the goal of deciding that A is better in all respects than B. But by looking into various cases, maybe some kind of context can be reached, with further understanding of this sort of phenomenon. I think that's a great idea to try to contact her parents and teacher, and ask if they'd care to comment!

April 17, 2009 at 05:22 PM ·

if someone more diplomatic can invite them, i will prepare some free trade chai:):):),,,sorry scott, too good to pass!

April 17, 2009 at 05:44 PM ·

There are very young geniousess (sp? or even a word?) in their single digit years that are precocious enough that they can grasp Logistics that most would have to be a gradstudent at 27 to grasp.  However, their emotional make up is at the milestone of their biological age!  some seem to transcend their age emotionaly and we call these young ones, "Young but with an 'old soul'".  Was not Mehndelsohn that way?  Look at what he composed by the age of 16?  And what about Wolfgang A. Mozart?


ps: Maestro Hong....... Excellent posts and defense!  Good Calls!  you too are an old soul, more than you are yet aware of, IMHO.

April 17, 2009 at 10:14 PM ·


Mr Kingston, your first paragraph sums up perfectly what I was trying to say.

Al,  I also agree with your perspective on things.  Its a very multifaceted issue;)  However,  I don`t think think its such a simple thing as people here looking at a young player and just making a direct comparison with Heifetz. That would be unfair,  menaingless and a little cruel.  The way I see it developed was that the original quetion was `Can she be a professional soloist?`  I thought the question was `dangerous`  (sorry the word is a bit too strong) botfor the potnetial destructive criticism that might come up,   for the questionner herself who might be mislead by the answers.  This latter situation might sound a bit odd but I think such a thing is possible because can err on the unrealistic side because of the constantly supportive atmosphere that most strive for at all time. Nothing wrong with that but it is serious when it is at the expense of abolsutley honest and opne opinions. This latter point was to some extent substantiated when I`opened the flood cat flap`  with my first post and a few people were perhaps then moremotivated to write instea dof just wandering off else where with a kind of throwing up hands gesture.

That,  I think, is the big picture of the thread.  As for the question (profesisonal solosit?),   it is basically unanswerable because it cocnerns not only issuew of probale musical/techncial development but all the intangibles of luck,  contacts,  competiton winning  and not breaking an arm or whatever.  However,  I think this kind of question is asking basically how is her talent relative to other violinsts of her age.   The simple answer is that there are a lot of equally talented youngsters around.  That doesn`t have much bearing on whetehr she will be a soloist.  Speed of development is , as you know, so completley variable anything could happen.  TEtzlaff for example was an incredbly late bloower who followed a rather rare path.

The issue of prodigism arose because of the quesion itslef. Profesisoanl soloists,  by which one means people who make a full time living at it are actually extremely rare and as  rule they demonstated a degree of prodigism.  Although its a litlte hard to define I think intuitively most of us undertsand the nature of prodigism.  It has much to do in my opinion  with presenting a finished artistic product of sorts at a young age.  If you really want to address the issue of the lady in question being a soloist then I think consideration of prodigism is necessary.  nd no, she isn`t a prodigy although her talent and development is prodigious.

The point to keep in mind is that that does notmean she won`t be a soilist.  That remains unanswerable ,  but on a spectrum of probability ranging from a drunk,  gay or not gay, pirate to a child prodigy playing major cocnertos a five she places pretty high.   The problem, at the end of the day is that so do a lot of other kids.  Most of the front desk players of the top orchestra in the world were probably playing at a simil;ar level at that age for example.  And we haven`t even mentioned the other issue of wethe rthis is an actuall worthwhile msuical goal.  In discusisng this with the tacit assumption that this is the be all and end alldoes perpetuate the myth thta being a solosit is somehow sperior to making music in an orchetsra,  more challenging than being firts violin in a quartet (or second for thatmatter).   Many ofthe best soloists in the world now seem to spend an awful lotof time teaching and doing masterclasses.

Don`t think I`ve got anything else to add.



April 17, 2009 at 10:43 PM ·

thanks buri for your thoughts.

understand where you are coming from and appreciate the balance in your perspectives.  i also see the dilemma faced by the viewers, trying to be honest but not too blunt. 

with music and with sports, as you know or can imagine, it is very much a parent/teacher driven culture where talent or not, interest or not, just do it.  to many parents, it is a way out for them as a life time personal coach when their kids head to a pro career.  we have seen a few successes with this approach and way too many unheard and unseen "failures" because eventually the kids simply fade away from others' dreams.  do the kids love the experiences as much as their parents/teachers? some probably do and some probably don't.   

somehow this approach will probably stay.  there will always be some special kids, getting the attention of those parents and teachers with special plans laid out for them.  as compared to last century, there is probably more of a commercial element built into the system to accompany the art development. 

April 17, 2009 at 11:45 PM ·

Laurie - should this girl's parents and teacher be on a future interview?

April 18, 2009 at 12:09 AM · Thank you mr. Faina. Obviously no apology is forthcoming from Ihnsouk. What a shame.

April 18, 2009 at 06:03 AM ·


A professional who knows something of this young violinist had this to say, which seems to concur with your original post:

She's obviously very talented.  She's been pushed.  He feels she plays off key too much.  He's not impressed as he knows there are many children like this around the country;  they're just not in the public eye.

I'll be impressed since I'm just a parent of average musicians. :-)

April 18, 2009 at 03:04 PM ·

I would like to take a different perspective and  suggest that perhaps what is more impressive is not how talented children  can play so well at such  young ages, with very supportive and attentive parents and teachers but how well those considered "average" do. Perhaps the more unusual and unsung players are those who, despite adversity and lack of proper training, turn things around or those, who would otherwise be considered unlikely to achieve, manage to do well. I know a teacher in our area who had the patience and determination and caring attitude to help a Downs syndrome child finish to the end of Suzuki Book III. Perhaps it's teachers and students like these that we should admire as much, if not more so, than those whose talent  would allow them to excel with any number of teachers and for whom learning to play the violin is a facile thing. I  also concur with the idea that musical expression of a very mature nature seen in young people is very rare. Menuhin is an example of someone who, as a child, seemed to have a maturity way beyond his young years and also incredible technical facility. That is very rare.

April 18, 2009 at 01:06 PM ·

Ronald, what a breath of fresh air! Thanks.

Thanks Buri and Raphael for wonderful insights on musicality and musical maturity. My kids are average players. But the last thing I want is for them to play with incredible techincal brilliance but in a forced and stilted manner -  "violin playing robots" ?  They wouldn't enjoy it, neither will the audience.

April 18, 2009 at 12:55 PM · What an outstanding thread this turned out to be! I have to say, that there is absolutely No Way that I could ever be able to pay for the education I get from here!

April 18, 2009 at 03:06 PM ·

"Why objectify her for our consumption and critique? "

I may be missing out something. Didn't the teacher or parents just post her playing on YouTube as million other parents/teachers do? Was there anything more than that here until someone pulled it up and posted on this site? If they put it up, do we all have to consume and criticize? 

Messrs Buri and Hong, explain very slowly to me What is there for me to apologize? I read your posts again, It still comes across as something about a clever monkey in a circus. She could very well be for all I know. What I am saying is that she is a young child too ear;ly to be labelled anything. Are we saying that she is a fair game since her video is made publc?

April 18, 2009 at 02:56 PM · Ihnsouk, we are asking for you to apologize because you so very callously took our words and rearranged them to sound like we were heartless, jealous people who like comparing people to animals, ie 'circus monkey'. I thought i explained very well before what we meant, although it was already clear in our original posts. I am suprised you are not able to realize your mistake since you sound like a very mature intelligent person.

April 21, 2009 at 03:07 AM ·

This thread has filled up very quickly - perhaps in record time. It seems to have hit a nerve. In my last post for a while I'll end with these thoughts which may relate to some of the above. Professionals respond to craft. Artists respond to artistry. Humane people respond to humanity. Many of us are admixtures of all the above in varying degrees, leading more with one or the other at different times and in different circumstances.

Quite frankly, when I hear a kid who's only been studying for several years, wiz through passages with apparrent ease, that still give me difficulty, the craftsman in me is not entirely immune to the 'charms' of the green-eyed monster. And if I hear little else in the performance, I might say "OK, a great little acrobat - or a grown one, for that matter - but not a musician'. But let a performer play with artistry and heart, and I am conquered. I am happily enthralled and soon a supportive fan. As Zimbalist once said of his students  - "in the end, all I wanted was a little beauty"

So long for now!


April 21, 2009 at 12:34 AM ·

Well said!  Have a nice break! What you said is true.  I personnally am more sensitive to tone beauty than to perfect mastery with nothing really special.  I prefer to ear some little scartches or buzz but BEAUTIFUL music the rest of the performance than not a scratch but not a special expression.  But I am talking generally and I've already said my comments and also admiration for this young student!  I did not even know what was a violin at her age so I am impressed by all these kids! Prodigy or not, perfect maturity or not



April 21, 2009 at 08:39 PM ·


Thank you for your insight.  I am the original questionner, and I totally agree with your point: "The way I see it developed was that the original quetion was `Can she be a professional soloist?`  I thought the question was `dangerous`  (sorry the word is a bit too strong) botfor the potnetial destructive criticism that might come up,   for the questionner herself who might be mislead by the answers."

I myself should know that there are many rewarding paths for aspiring violinists, not only soloist but also chamber players, orchestra members, and teachers, professors.  

My other question would be how many of the parents who encourage their very young children to play challenging pieces can understand such variety of career choice.  But that is for another thread sometime.

I appreciate that so many people participated in this discussion and tried to answer my question.   Thanks!



April 21, 2009 at 09:02 PM ·


Erika, that`s another interesting one.  I think the historical background can also be relevant to both thes e issues.   A lot of early 20th century violinists were Jewish and the violin was very much a tool for digging the family out of poverty and presumably the ghetto.   Parental pressure and ambition is certainly not a new thing ! (How about Mozart`s dad?)    I wonder how much this mind set has filtered down through the ages into issues like `respectable jobs for poor Asian families/women etc?



April 21, 2009 at 10:48 PM ·

Well, let me put my 2 pences in. I so often read here about Heifetz's Mendelsohn at 7, 6, 5 or whatever, that I think now it's time to make it clear at last.

We have here a new book about Heifetz. It appeared in 2006, freshly written. "Heifetz in Russia". It is pretty thick - about 600 pages. Its author, Galina Kopytova, made a good job in libraries and archives. It seems that she collected every line ever written. And she found that Heifetz played Mendelsohn for the first time on the 2nd of May 1909, in Kovno (now Kaunas). It is all fixed in the newspapers. It was his first concert tour (a kind of, at least). Besides, he played Sarasate's Faust. He got everybody's enthusiasm, and Ruvim, his father, a collection of advices (which, I think, he didn't ask for) - mainly "to teach the child and not to make profit on him".



April 22, 2009 at 06:36 AM ·

I apologize for jumping in late to this thread, especially since I'm not commenting on the original topic, but I was struck by something Raphael wrote:

"Someone told me of hearing an astonshing performance by Hilary Hahn at about 10 or 11 of the Beethoven concerto. Afterwards he saw the charming scene of her running  down the hall, chewing gum, and chasing her sister, like any normal kid her age!"

Hilary Hahn has a sister??  I had always thought she was an only child.  I absolutely love the visual, however!

April 22, 2009 at 12:06 PM ·

I'm pretty sure Hilary Hahn is an only child; she said so in an interview. But the girl might have been a friend or cousin.

April 22, 2009 at 04:24 PM ·

>Perhaps I have never heard a prodigy by your definition.  If you could kindly direct us to a recording of another 5 year old who DOES possess this musicality that is so lacking in Ms Choi's performance, then maybe it will help me grasp your point.

Smiley, here you go:

(Aimi Kobayashi, playing Chopin's Piano Nocturne no. 20 in C sharp minor. It's trippy to see such musicality on such a young kid, but I really, really do feel it with this girl. It's like she's channeling Chopin.)

April 22, 2009 at 04:47 PM ·

6 yr. old playing Mozart, jazz, and composing.  Wow...

April 22, 2009 at 04:56 PM ·

Oh, Dottie, that was WONDERFUL to watch. Brought tears to my eyes when she played the little piece she'd composed for her ailing piano teacher. What a great little segment to have on the evening news. (Or whenever it ran...) What a cute kid. 

April 23, 2009 at 03:03 AM ·


That is impressive indeed, but it is not clear how old she was when the video was taken.  She looks about 8-9 to me.  She truly does play with great feeling and it is clear she has a very bright future.

That said (pianists, don't crucify me here, just expressing my honest opinion), I believe that violin is much more difficult to master because there are more technical hurdles to overcome.  First of all, you have the impossibly difficult issue of intonation.  I consider myself a pretty proficient musician, have played quite a few years and even took classes at a music conservatory -- still can't play in tune.  Next, there are so many right hand techniques.  You can spend a lifetime and still not master them all.  Again, as an advanced amateur, I am still a beginner when it comes to advanced bowing techniques.  And you also have vibrato, an absolute must in order to create anything resembling "expressive" classical music.  I still cannot maintain a consistent and relaxed vibrato, especially in faster passages.  And 4th finger vibrato?  Forget about it.  I may as well wiggle my nose, I get about the same affect.

I'm not trying to start a war about which instrument is more difficult, but I believe that one must master the basics before truly being able to express ones musicality.  I believe that is much more difficult to do with violin than piano.  Or at least, it takes a lot more hours of practice.  Even now, I still struggle to express myself musically, because I struggle with intonation, a bouncing bow, or string crossings, double stops, you name it.  When you are expending so much effort to overcome the technical aspects, it makes it very difficult to express yourself musically.

So, while I respect the opinion that Buri has posted, and I have no reason to doubt the validity of his statement, I still have not seen it with my own eyes.  And as they say, seeing is believing.  I would still like to see (hear) a 7 year violinist that plays with great expression and technical ability. 


April 23, 2009 at 03:48 AM ·

> I believe that is much more difficult to do with violin than piano.

I'd agree with you here; I think there are a lot more examples of child prodigies on the piano (or at least YouTube examples). I think the just intonation issue makes a big difference; one less thing for the young pianist to worry about. And face it, it's an easier instrument to master (whoops, now I'd better start ducking in case I've offended a musician). Just love watching that little girl play the Chopin, though. (But if you read the YouTube comments beneath the footage, she has her own set of bashers and nay-sayers. Guess it comes with the gifted child territory.)

>I would still like to see (hear) a 7 year violinist that plays with great expression and technical ability. 

Me too!

April 23, 2009 at 07:19 PM ·

With respect to what becomes of prodigies as they age.  I remember seeing A marvelous violinist--student of Gingold--named Carol Sindell(sp?) when she was 9 or 10 years old.  I was then about 11 and was so blown away that my response was to wonder why I ever had the chutzpah to think I might become a violinist.  That aside...I always wondered what happened to her and then about 10 years ago in NYC I stumbled into a concert where she was the concertmistress of a small pickup orchestra.  When I spoke to her she was very charming and told me that though she has continued playing she much preferred to be a wife and mother than to be out on the road most of her life.  I listened to her play and her sound was very individual and distinctive--not to mention beautiful.  I could never have understood her choice when I was a kid--now I do, having met a fair number of people who, if not prodigies, had prodigeous gifts that showed themselves at an early age.  They had fabulous gifts as children though many of them learned to hate the very thing that made them so special.

BTW--Oistrakh whom I adore as one of the very greatest of violinists was not a prodigy--rather he worked very hard to become what he was,  He continued to experiment with different bow techniques until he discovered that enormous dark sound.  And from recordings you can discover that he was not fully formed --in terms of the sound we all remember-- until approximately 1945 or so.  Oistrakh was not like Heifetz--prodigious at 7.  It took him years of hard work to develop.


April 23, 2009 at 08:26 PM ·


that`s agreta story Jay. As for Oistrakh I sort of agree but I don`t think it is necessarily that simple.  For example in his autobiagraphy Milstein describes how he ,  Oistrakh and a few others at the Stoliarsky school used to play the Allegro Assai from the c major sonata tgether as fast as possible.  I suppose one could work out Oistraks age at te time if one wished..but that does suggets a rather advanced technique for so young an age.  It salso possible some of the things said and written about Oistrakh are designed ot reflect the old (?) soviet propaganda machine.  IE in the workers republic everyone is free to ejoy the fruits of the great soviet machine if they work hard for the glory of all blah blah blah.  I note that Stoliarsky did not say Oistrakh was a prodigy but rtaher that he wss showing geta depth of musicanship from a young age.  Prodigism interms of an apparently mature facilty doesn`t seem to have menat much to Stoliarsky.  One other facotr I also find intersting is the role of opera a sa musical catalyst.Oistraks sound certainly changed veyr dramatically when he got older as he imported the FrancoBelgian approach into Russia. 

Incidentally  Kogan wasn`t exactly rated as a prodigy either.  Although he wa splayign very advanced works around eleven or 12.




April 24, 2009 at 05:11 AM ·

About this: "what can a less than 10 year old really think aboutwhen they wanting to give a certain expression to a pharase - how they felt when their friends didn't play hopscotch with them? the guinea pig died..I mean there just isn't a lot of scope for range in emotion at this age."

Thinking back on my inner life as a small child, and that described by many authors I've read over the years, I'm not sure that this is really true.  While some experiences might seem small in hindsight, they have an enormous impact at the time, and isn't that the relevant part? 

I remember giving up violin for a long time early in life not because of my lack of musicality (I hope), but because the thing made horrible noises that refused to express my musical desires!  So if a child has the technical skills, can't a really strong, emotional performance be quite naturally achieved?

April 24, 2009 at 06:24 AM ·

I agree Susan...I think that a young performer can express (or inspire) a wide range of emotions in the listener without necessarily having experienced everything. After all, how do actors act? Not everyone has gone through a huge tragedy in their life.

I don't need to see my best friend shoved in front of a moving bus and become a pancake to appreciate the gift of life, and be able to emote about things.

April 24, 2009 at 09:04 AM ·

Children have the capacity to understand simple truth, and they have the ability to connect with this same element of music.  In some ways, they connect with it in a more untainted way than adults, which is why I feel that some of the most powerful experiences I've had with music came through the vehicle of a small child. 

April 24, 2009 at 10:37 AM ·


I find this a really interesting area.  I am not convinced that what we produce one the instrument is actually as simple as `more life experience good,  less life experience bad.`  in a sort of parody of Orwell.   I also believe that we are a conduit for music as a force that both exists in us and comes through us.  What I have seen  demonstrated time and time again in Alexander workshops is that most musicians don`t allow this music to flow freely and naturally.  In order to do so the ego has to let go which is something it will fight virtually to the death not to do because to let go is its own death.  But we are kind of like pressure cooker sand the music has to come out somewhere so the ego hangs onto it and controls it and we manufacture what can often be an incredibly musical facade in the same way that we wear our many masks in the world.  When one experiences good AT we can no longer allow the ego any role and the music flows through us.  And yet the performer is often shocked  and angered because they thought their sound had turned cold and boring.  In actual fact they had just experience d being disconnected from their habitual misuse of emotions in creating music which is experienced as loss.

But the players loss is the listeners gain as I have seen so often is audiences moved to tears by the new music flooding through the person.  In this sense,  having more experiences,  IE living in the past and holding on to ever increasing reserves of pain may actually have the reverse effect on our ability to evoke emotions at times.

That@s my story and I`m sticking to it.


April 24, 2009 at 12:59 PM ·

the last several posts are interesting in the context of trying to understand these excellent young performers.  gene wrote.."I think that a young performer can express (or inspire) a wide range of emotions in the listener without necessarily having experienced everything."

imo the label " a young performer" may be better defined when considering a wide range of inborn potentials and after- birth experiences.  to master violin physically and technically (at a level that wows which is clearly the case with this little girl) is very very difficult, to the point that it is simply not  thinkable.  to be able to put phrase after phrase together on stage, very convincingly, (not necessarily touchingly or movingly to some tough customers here:) is years beyond her physiological years.  on top of that, to incorporate the understanding of musical emotions into techniques, to allow emotions to flow from techniques, to allow techniques to create the feeling of certain emotions that can be identified by listeners, simply takes work under guidance.   with many seemingly very talented kids, it is simply a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT of work.  in other words, equivalents of 10000 hrs have already been reached.   because of very significant parental and teacher involvement very early on,  these kids have reached 10000 hrs before they reach 10000 hrs.   these kids are also products of less time wasting detours in the educational process when a master teachers can provide timely navigational corrections while keeping in mind a clear picture the kids' potential and progress.   so the right kids at the right place at the right time, bla bla bla.   worked hard and worked smart.  if people want to label that as prodigy, so be it.  

concur that the depth and range of emotion intrinsic to and experienced by kids are limited as comparing to adults.  yet we see many adults, having experienced all flavors of emotion known to earth, walk around the planet like bozos.  what gives i think is simply teaching and learning about the emotions early on before the emotions find the kids.   make them aware, allow them to try to feel, encourage to imagine, dare them to come up with something different. cultivate.  music scores don't have notations that specify the type of passion; it does not have to be a special kinda  love between 2 adult persons.  it is up for interpretation, in playing and in listening.  as performers, some chosen ones tend to connect better than others even though they probably all have similar skills and feel similarly.  often charisma or presence set us apart from great performers.  yet,   they have to be as good as they are lucky because they have no control over the listeners who come to listen, critique, adore with a range of issues of their own.    the youtube message board is in fact a good indication of the human pathology out there:).

April 24, 2009 at 08:16 PM ·


indeed al,  I feel that oyu tube actually has two componet parts:  the youtube bit where one experiences the highest levels of art possible and the "#$%youtoobe   part underneath provides a perfect cosmic balance.



April 25, 2009 at 07:18 PM ·

It is also important to remember that the composer himself or herself is not divorced from the ego either.  That is, the composers and the music they write are not always filled with  the purest and most sincere of intentions and free of egoistic concerns. Some composers, as mentioned in Alex Ross's excellent book about modern music, The Rest is Noise, did not necessarily always write free of ego- some were concerned that they sound "modern" enough or that the audience appreciated their music so that they would adjust or adapt the music they were hearing in their heads. It was not necessarily the result of total inspiration or from a belief in something greater than oneself. So that brings up an interesting question which is whether or not a performer can take a piece of music and in recreating it in performance lose the concern with self that created it. That put out there, there is also the question of the universality of music. Some people feel closer to certain kinds of music than others and feel they have something more special to offer in their interpretation than someone who is outside a particular culture or nationality or ethnicity. Is this then also a flaw of the ego or is it possible that a person's devotion to their heritage and their kinship with it falls outside an ego-centered mindset?

    As I recall, Menuhin  was asked how he could express music as a child in a way that many listeners felt showed a maturity way beyond his years and his answer was that a child feels what he feels just as deeply as he can imagine and for the child, those emotions are just as strong and powerful as adult emotions. As Al said, everything takes a lot of work and there are many factors and variables that create "ideal" conditions for rapid growth. I would like to believe that human beings are wired for music and that we all are capabable of expressing our deepest feelings in music in a way that is natural, unforced, and free of  self -congratulation and arrogance. It is curious though that not everyone  "reads" a performance the same way. Where some find  a disingenuous performance others feel as though they have heard the composer himself/herself speaking through the performer. I wonder why that is- is it possible not everyone can tell when the ego has trumped a sincere expression of the soul? Is it possible that the visual element can distract or confuse the listener such that they believe they heard something heartfelt and expressed with total sincerity when in fact it was a bit of an act?


April 25, 2009 at 11:48 PM ·

Trying to work through what is being discussed now - 

To summarise what is being suggested, is that a kid - aged 8 or under - does have that full range of emotion and can feel and express, so then aren't you then saying (those that didn't appreciate her for lack of expression and depth) that this child does NOT have the gift of musical expression - because she should be able to express now as well as she ever will ?

As far as the Menuhin observation, I think there is a huge difference between 10 -12 year olds and 6 - 9 year olds.  I haven't heard Menhuhin as a a 6 or 8 year old, but I bet that anyone watching him would have been influenced by his age as they watched, and it is very hard to isolate that aspect of the performer. I'd wonder if his quote was from older childhood, not younger.  

April 26, 2009 at 01:42 AM ·

Some kids, especially those raised in musical families/context are also really good at imitation and we can't hide it...  human often learn things by imitation before really understanding them!  Also the same emotion is different. I could take the typical experience of love.  A young often sees his violin like a favorite toy and adults see it as a partner!  (even give it a gender.  Check a discussion on this here).  Yes if the kid express his joy of playing with his favorite toy, the result could be similar and the result could also be similar if his mom had put it at sleep each night with some Menuhin, Oistrakh or Heifetz. (inconscious imitation skills)

But what (in %) is imitation of the adults, what is real emotions and what is the talent of hearing the perfect pitch (some kids have a really good ear) or apply the dynamics given by the teacher.  Well, how much in % of all these elements in the prodigy children? We will probably never know... But I am almost sure (as many of us here) that it must be a mix of all that with a few of these elements really develop for one's young age. 

I like these theories of emotions and life experiences but I also think some things like imitation, perfect ear etc can play a big big role in children prodigies!  Can also be a huge memorizing capacity in this...  (If one can memorize so well the notes, one can surely memorize all the effects, dynamics, articulations of master(s) x... or at least those of the traditional way of playing concerto x IMOH All this inconsciously)  This is surely a part in % of their musical maturity.  At these ages, you've got to have examples even more than when you grow older and can figure out/invent more things.  

Only my two cents and no more!


Can not talk about music but when me and my siblings were young (3 +) our mom has never thrown us at a daycare center.  Only adults were around us, no other kids as neigbours.  We grown up talking to adults that came often to our house talking of adult things.  The result, everyone said we had such a nice maturity, culture and adult way/vocabulary of talking!  If Susuki is right with his "mother's tongue" method.  Then I could see a strong link with imitation/imersion for this maturity! :)

May 4, 2009 at 02:28 PM ·

I just wanted to let everyone know that this amazing virtuoso and alumni of the Strings International Music Festival will be appearing on the Bonnie Hunt Show on Tuesday, May 5th.

May 4, 2009 at 04:18 PM ·

Oh dear me, I feel for this young girl...........totally embarrassing..........both Mendelssohn and Paganini must be turning in their graves.................I do so hope the young thing is left alone to grow..........but  the answer will be no, she will be exploited as sure as eggs are eggs.

May 4, 2009 at 10:14 PM ·


I just wonder if we call this an `amazing virtuouso` what do we call Mr Vengerov.  The rather odd hyperbole seems to be creating a need for a totally new language.



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