Ricci on Glissando

June 5, 2010 at 04:24 AM ·


 Anyone read Ruggiero Ricci's new book yet? Thoughts?

Replies (22)

June 5, 2010 at 04:27 AM ·

Hi Gene,

This interview with Ricci includes some discussion about his book, hope that is helpful!


June 8, 2010 at 02:01 PM ·

Ricci demonstrated much of this in discs 4 and 5 of his "Maestro Tuggiero Ricci, The Violin Virtuoso of the 20th Century" a DVD serie that included a master class that was sponsored by The Stradivari Society and Bein and Fushi (2004).


June 8, 2010 at 04:28 PM ·

From Sander Marcus
Posted on November 10, 2007 at 03:28 AM

I just got the new book by Ricci,
And he turns out to be quite a teachie.
Your left hand's the holder,
Which frees up your shoulder.
Now isn't that just simply peachie?

Though you may hate about what he is talking,
It's a revolution that Ricci is stalking -
Keep your hand in one place,
And it acts like a brace;
Let your fingers do all the walking. [EDIT] [Flag?]

June 8, 2010 at 04:49 PM ·

Sander: you are funnnnnnnnnnny!


And if your tired of gliding with Mr. Ricci

Drop your fiddle , than go and eat a big cookie!

After take a glass of milk,

And you will for sure glide on silk!


Not so good...

June 8, 2010 at 10:10 PM ·

the following is a "repost" of a previous post I did on the subject of Mr. Ricci's book several years ago:

I came to the same conclusion as Mr. Ricci several years before his book came out, although I do not profess to any genius in this idea. As he says in his book, the enemy of the violinist is the shift. Shifting as I define it is moving the entire arm as one unit. Therefore, most players must shift going from 1st to 3rd position. After that though, they can "crawl" to upper positions, or extend back to lower positions using the wrist. Depending on the flexibility of one's hand you can extend back or forward through a number of positions. I like to think of having three positions, rather than a bunch of them. There is the lower position which is 1st and second, the middle position which is 2nd through up to 5th depending on your hand flexibility and size, and then the upper positions.

The historical basis of my conclusion is that in earlier playing Baroque and Classical before the invention of the chinrest and the shoulder pad, the instrument was supported by the hand. In fact in my playing in the historical instrument field, I found that I had to find a different way of shifting. Since Paganini had no chin rest or shoulder pad, he must have, similarly found a way to get around the technical difficulties by devising a special technique.


Leopold Mozart, by the way in his book on violin playing does not advocate  holding the violin with the palm of the hand. He subscribes to the more "contemporary" way of holding the violin with the left hand.

If you closely exam Itzahk Perlman's technique, he goes more towards the Paganini approach. Due to the fact that he has great extension possibility and a large hand, he simply stays pretty much in one position (middle position) and moves his hand back and forth.

What this all comes down to is that there is no right way to play the violin. A flexible approach which works for each individual student is best. Bruce

June 8, 2010 at 10:41 PM ·

Paganini had average hands. In the "Notice physiologique on Paganini" by docteur Francesco Bennati, you will be surprised to acknowledge this fact." His fingers and hands are not larger or longer than they should be". Paganini was not a tall person, so he must had rather small hands. Bennati describes an extraordinary motion of Paganini's fingers back and forward which is obviously a continuous vibrato in his playing... Bennatti was practicing in Vienna. But he was born in Mantoue,Italy.

I would add that often, players do not trust the natural extention of their hands. What I mean is that they exagerate the motion of the left arm when they do change strings or play on G solely. The arm is sometimes to active in that sense and not loose enough as it should be. Paganini was able to reach any position with ease. Watching Ehnes left arm is just a joy. It is almost immobile. His fingers and hand are always ready to reach any note,double-stop or chord in the most natural manner...without swinging the arm!

June 8, 2010 at 11:01 PM ·

Do we know for sure that just because they didn't have mounted chinrests that the violinists of the time didn't just fold up a rag on the things and clamp them down with their chins anyway?  Could we tell that from analysis of surviving instruments?

June 8, 2010 at 11:12 PM ·

Janis: they had heavy and soft clothing around the neck... both men and women. Stern who seemed to play without a shoulder pad had always a big sponge inside his jacket. It is Spohr who invented the chin-rest. Paganini was wearing lots of clothing around the shoulder and neck area. It is easy to observe this fact from the numrous drawings and lithograph of him.

June 9, 2010 at 12:18 AM · I have read this, but it's not exactly new. Publishing date 2007. Unless there's another??

June 9, 2010 at 12:52 AM ·

Sue,what do you mean exactly? About the reading...

June 9, 2010 at 04:56 PM ·

Hi,Marc, You're right, I didn't make myself clear at all. I meant that the book isn't new, since it came out in 2007. I have plans to read mine again. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order. The premise is an interesting one. I'm always fascinated by folks' thoughts and bits that are discovered out of history about  technique as used or understood by 17, 18, 19th century players & applied to the music of their times. There are some very skilled fiddlers who look rather like the photos/description. I often wonder if some of those isolated mountain folks recorded & photographed in the early 1900's had a fairly direct connection to baroque technique from France & the British Isles.  We'll never know. I tried copying the position shown in the photos, and lasted about 2 minutes before I had bad pain & cramping in my palm & thumb base. I like the scale on one finger idea, and have been practicing that. I suspect I could practice the rest of my life & not master the set of studies included. I don't have a DVD player so I haven't studied the bowing CD yet. Sue

June 9, 2010 at 06:16 PM ·

I think I just got whiplash.

On the same day this topic began I started a discussion in the Technique area titled: "Wrist action and rapid shifts; The shifting technique I have learned focuses on finger actions - but what of the wrist?"  It seemed the general consensus over on that planet that the wrist should remain fixed during shifts with all the action in the forarm.  Then I finally get to read this one and find that some players keep the foram fixed and do as much shifting as possible through the wrist.  Am I missing something critical??


June 9, 2010 at 07:37 PM ·


yes, you are confusing `shifting` with the ability to play in a number of positions without changing the basic position of the hand.

In my opinion one should have a good generla mastery of the former before working on the latter,  a form of tehcnique which should certinaly be understood and used to some extent.

Don`t forget that every position actualy contains three settings of the hand anyway. if you are playing b#,c# , d#, e#, are you in firts or second?

But as Brahms once said to Freud:  ` a shift is just a shift.`   



June 9, 2010 at 07:43 PM ·

Elise: in shifting , the wrist is like the thumb. Just keep it relax and active in the same time... Follow the glide of the finger in the most natural way without blocking any other part of your hand. Being stiff often comes in when focusing on one movement and forgetting about the interaction of the rest. Violinists have a tendancy to forget that everything is acting as a whole. This applies to vibrato . There is no segmentation. Usually, you should be able to have a continuous vibrato even when you are shifting. When you watch Oistrach,he is maybe vibrating at the same time he makes the shift and it gives you the illusion he is using it in the motion of gliding If not, it is just because the wrist is loose... and it must be loose all the time.

June 9, 2010 at 07:46 PM ·

Ah, Buri that was going to be my next question - far as I can see there really are no 'positions' at all, just notes that are in tune or not.  This might be herresy but perhaps 'positions' are a useful teaching tool that is over rated?  I'm only an intermediate player, but sometimes I can get into the grove where my finger just hits the note - I really have no idea what position its in.  In my head I have a mental image of the separation of fingers for the particular scale but where my first finger is depends on the note I am after, not the position my hand should occupy...

OK, you can all shoot me now....

June 9, 2010 at 07:58 PM ·

Marc: thats what I am working on now - loose fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder waist, hips, knees ankles and big toe :D  Actually, thats only partially in jest - I'm learning as you all must know so well, that any tension anywhere, from finger contact to the string through the body leads to cramping of actions and the opposite of what your brain thinks its trying to achieve.  I'm even starting to let my body flow with the violin (er, in the privacy of my house!!).  In all this I think my dance training is really helping (there it is essential to have no body tension evenwhen you are doing a complex step sequence in someone elses arms at 15 miles an hour).  The loose wrist is intrinsic to the way I was discussing shifting in the other topic (I'm not really hijacking here - it is the same issue right?) and I'm trying reconcile the discussion there with the loose wrist shifting here - but maybe the difference is the point you raised about short and long shifts.... back to the drawing/finger board :)

June 9, 2010 at 09:16 PM ·

In the context of this conversation, I find it confusing that the first interpretation offered of the "extraordinary forward and backward motion" of Paganini's left hand would be continuous vibrato. It's fairly clear that forward and backward motion of his hand was absolutely integral to his left hand technique; as he made unprecedentedly liberal use of all areas of the fingerboard and jumps between them, the /extent/ of his left hand motion was certainly unusual. Isn't that a simpler and likelier explanation for the phrase quoted?

June 9, 2010 at 11:18 PM ·

Bennati was specifically refering to the last phalanx of the left-hand fingers and a rapid flexion or oscilation...he probably did not know the meaning of the word vibrato. No one knew about it at the time. Carl Guhr was speaking about the "Tremulant" sound of Paganini which confused his colleagues and the listener because they thought he was still playing fast even in the adagios. The illusion of the quick motion of the hand mislead a great number of specialists. Vibrato was not well accepted in France and Germany for a long time. Spohr and Joachim obviously never understood the true mechanism of vibrato. Vieuxtemps disliked it. Ysaïe had an impulsive  and sporadic one. We had to wait the event of Kreisler according to Flesh and so many others before truly hear the continuous vibrato. It was in use for a long time in Italy even before Paganini. There are numerous references about how to achieve it in the works of Tartini and Geminiani who both recommanded to use it as often as possibe.

June 9, 2010 at 11:28 PM ·

Elise: ...do not forget about the neck...tension comes often from a stiff neck.

June 9, 2010 at 11:37 PM ·


>Ah, Buri that was going to be my next question - far as I can see there really are no 'positions' at all, just notes that are in tune or not.

You may leave the temple.



June 10, 2010 at 02:27 AM ·

Marc,  I take your first point. That does sound like vibrato.

Regarding Tartini's advice, it's my view that "as often as possible" with neither chin rest nor shoulder rest is not the same as continuous.

Of course, I've never met anyone who's seriously attempted continuous vibrato in a historical setup. I have doubts about the feasibility, though if anyone would be an exception to that, it would be Paganini. 

June 10, 2010 at 11:34 AM ·

Hi Jude: I play without a shoulder pad. I did try to play for a while without the chin-rest and it is possible to use modern vibrato without it... It feels weird at the beginning,but you get use to it after a while. The sound projection is different. You feel all the vibration on the table. Continuous means for Flesh (speaking about Kreisler) even in some fast passages ( a short impulse...) Ref: Carl Flesh,the art of violin playing: section about vibrato and great violinists of the past.

But I agree that "often as possible" does not mean continuous like Kreisler or Heifetz or most probably, Paganini. Geminiani published "the Art Of Violin Playing" in London,1751. He describes the technique of vibrato exactly as we know it today ( Galamian-Stoliarski-Yankelevitch) and  he is the one who advocates to make use of it as often as possible. This was typical of the italian school and originates as far as Corelli and Vivaldi. The German school did not like excentricities, and vibrato was considered as such by Spohr and Joachim, or even Auer, who complains in his book that is own students did not follow his advices on the subject.. Now, I sometimes wonder if the Brahms and Mendelssohn should not be played almost senza vibrato, and the baroque music, with vibrato??? Henryk Szeryng played beautifully and in what ever he played, he never used the continuous vibrato. Milstein the same as opposed to Oistrach, Heifetz, Seidel, Kreisler or Neveu. I just believe that a perfect vibrato is something difficult to achieve and Spohr and Joachim would be in a state of shock if they could hear today Anne-Sophie Mutter...

Well now, I am not very nice and respectful to have directed the subject on vibrato. Lets go back to glissando!

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