Sibelius 3rd mvt - Harder Than it looks??

June 13, 2010 at 11:46 PM ·

 I'm currently learning Sibelius v.c. and am actually surprised to realize that the 3rd mvt. is a lot harder than it looks! I've played Brahms v.c., Tchaik v.c., Shostakovich v.c. and all the 'virtuosic' pieces, but I don't think I've ever played something that's so uncomfortable for both my left and my right hand to perform at full speed,,,

Everyday I marvel at how Hilary Hahn plays it with 100% accuracy and still maintain the original tempo throughout,,,, inhuman....

Anybody else's thoughts about the difficulty of sibelius 3rd mvt???


June 14, 2010 at 12:30 AM ·

Yes I agree it's very hard.  Each of the parts doesn't seem too rough in isolation but when I try to connect them all things can get sloppy if I don't play it slow for now.  My teacher told me to start with the 3rd movement and go backwards toward the 1st.  I'm still playing it at a slow tempo and I'm a little nervous when I think about how fast it's going to have to be, but I'm glad I'm not the only one.

June 14, 2010 at 01:55 AM ·


actually you have the music upside down on the stand.

This often happens to people who don`t eat enough prunes,



June 14, 2010 at 04:54 AM ·

The third movement is hard for a number of reasons. In terms of the technical demands, if you can't handle rapid scalar passages in octaves, tenths, thirds, sixths, in complex, successive, combinations with one another, you're doomed. Endurance-wise, this movement is a knuckle-buster after you've already made it through approx. 21 minutes of the first two movements, which aren't a walk in the park either. The warning here is "conserve your energy!"

June 14, 2010 at 12:05 PM ·

As my teacher Landsman use to tell me (he was the best of Yankelevith students), the third movement is really difficult if you do it as clearly  indicated in the tempo marking. It is a polar bear polonaise... Ginette Neveu had the right tempo. It is more difficult because of the intensity  you have to maintain and the needed precision. When you play it to fast, you loose that feeling of rythm given by the orchestra and a certain effect of "grandeur". Playing faster gives the illusion of being better and more skillful. But slower and controlled tempi , that is the real challenge and more demanding, both musically and technically. Sibelius is the most tricky of all the concerti repertoire...

June 14, 2010 at 11:17 PM ·

Hey Peter,

I wish I could say that I feel bad for you, but the truth is I don't.  Do you know how many people here wish they had your problem?  So to answer your question, whether the 3rd movement of Sibelius is harder than it looks.  The answer is no, it looks impossible and it is -- at least for most of us.  Congrats on getting into Julliard.  Keep up the good work.

BTW, I know someone who has a similar problem.  They have too much money and don't know what to do with it.  I feel really bad for them.... NOT!


June 15, 2010 at 08:59 AM ·

oh cheer up Smiley.  Your angst is showing.  There are plenty of people on the board who can empathize with Peter's question I'm sure.  Back on topic I have to say that I think the tendency to find something more difficult than it looks is often a natural step in the learning process.

June 15, 2010 at 12:55 PM ·

It's a deadly movement. I was talking with Emanuel Borak (concert master of Dallas Symphony) and said that he had heard a number of well known soloists screw up the up and down bow stacatto passage in 3rds. He said that the simple solution is to play the passage separate bows. It's  a whole lot easier and sounds better.

June 15, 2010 at 02:07 PM ·

Of course, Heifetz is always the exception and Nate is right about his unique approach and testimony about this concerto. I much prefer his first version in the mid 30's when he was at his peak. That is of course being a personal opinion... And about the strong down bow staccato, I agree with Nate. Neveu displays it with clarity and "aplomb". Heifetz first and Neveu a few years later (1946) championned this concerto both in a very distinctive manner. Walter Ledgge commented about the studio recording of Neveu, saying that all the first takes were choosen. It is almost a live performance...Later the same day, she performed the Walton for Ledgge an other musicians with her brother Jean at the piano. Plans to record the Elgar, the Walton and the Beethoven were made with Karajan, but everyone knows about the sad events which occured and prevented such a realisation.

June 15, 2010 at 06:00 PM ·

Oh yes, I do remember enjoying Neveu's recording Marc.

Another striking recording of the Sibelius in my mind is the recording made by Yuval Yaron.  He won the Sibelius Competition in the 70's.

June 15, 2010 at 07:42 PM ·

Speaking again about Neveu, in her mother's book published after her death, it is mentionned that Carl Flesh owned the original score and individual parts of Sibelius final version of his concerto. Flesh was so impressed by Neveu's rendition that he gave her all the originals which she carried in tour while performing around the world. I always have wondered what happened to the material. Was it destroyed in the plane crash along with her Stradivarius and Guagdanini violins?  I have seen the original score of the Poulenc sonata with all her annotations in a library in Boston. The book written by her mother is still available on Amazone (Ronze Neveu: "Ginette Neveu, la fulgurante cariière d'une violoniste."

By the way, Nate, I have listened to your Gershwin on youtbe a few months ago: excellent!!!

June 15, 2010 at 09:57 PM ·


got a question for you.  Are you referring to the Neveu recording with Barbirolli?   Have I misremebered who she reocrded it with or dd she record it twice. Sorry,  too lazy to check.

The description of the recording sesison with Barb (?) which I think was her first recording was that they kept at it for 18 hours non stop until her fingers bled.   That is not entirely compatible with the point about using only first takes, in my opinion. If you are going to use only first takes then why keep going for 18 hours?  

Again , it is just my opinion, but actually I am not quite as keen on thta recording as I expeted to be.   In fatc a numbe rof people (including Ricci) who commented about this recoridng and heard her live have said that the studio version is actually disappointing compared to her on stage and i do get a sens eof thta when I listen, which would also tend to reflect too long spend making takes.   on the whole I think studio CDs are a poor reflection of Neveu.  I have one recording of her Brahms as a @recording` which again, only moderatley excites me and also a rather rare live recording which is so far off the planet in sheer explosive talent I actually can`t listen to it too often or I`d go nuts.   She really was an inhuman player live.



June 15, 2010 at 11:25 PM ·

Hi Stephen: there is only one recorded version of the Sibelius by Neveu and it is with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Walter Susskind. In the booklet Walter Leddge of the Abbey Road mentionned that they had only one day to make the recording. Neveu was practicing in between the takes and it is her neck that was bleeding a bit... It was completed in a relative short time... just 2 takes each movement of which the first ones  remained and the other destroyed. This was done a few months after the war ended and the recording material was rare in a devastatd Europe. You are right about Ricci and many others who testified that she was a phenomenon that had to be heard live in the concert hall. She was very intense and her playing was better suited for the grand concert hall... Just before she died, she went on tour with Barbirolli to perform both the Beethoven and the Sibelius and this was a uge success. Neveu did ask to have a very passionate orchestra with her, all involved in her "impressionnist" playing. Menuhin said that she was a hard worker and that she played like Eugene Ysaïe.

To conclude, I suggest to all of you refering about  David Oistrach comments concerning her playing, in the Video "Artist of the people". He wrote a letter to his wife Tara after he won the second prize at the historic Wieniawski competition saying" no one can dispute the first prize having been attributed to Ginette Neveu: she is immensely talented." Many said that the jury was antisemite in Warsaw trying afterwards to explain why Oistrach won second prize. I suspect these commentators to be discriminating because Neveu was a woman. Do not forget that she competed also against Josef Hassid and Boris Goldstein!! Two years later, in 1937, Oistrach won the first prize at the Queen Elizabeth. The panel was almost identical as in the Wieniawski contest. 

June 16, 2010 at 03:21 AM ·

Thank you Marc for your comments! 

Interesting to point out since she's also a Flesch pupil, Ida Haendal, is probably one of the last living links to Sibelius.  I read that she performed the concerto for Sibelius, and he supposedly was quite fond of her interpretation.  Also if you're studying the concerto, you should hear the alternate version recorded by Kavakos.

June 16, 2010 at 03:38 AM ·

 Here's a link to the video of Ida Haendel reading the letter that she received from Sibelius himself, in which he praised her for her playing.  Based on that I would trust her interpretation fully.  As I am learning to play this piece myself I have found her complete recording very valuable.

June 16, 2010 at 10:20 AM ·

Nate: I have learned that concerto when I was 15 and played it on tour with french conductor Pierre Dervaux many times...You make me feel young again!!! Today is my birthday and I am 54... well , I am still young. Now,I compose music and play chamber music. I do not play the Sibelius anymore... So go for it, it's all yours my friend and I am sure you will cope with ease with all the challenge of this wonderful piece.



June 16, 2010 at 10:51 AM ·

Nate and Michael: Now that you know my age, I heard Ida Haendel in the Sibelius during the early 70's and indeed,she played it very well..  Szeryng at the very end of his carreer played it in Montreal: slow tempi, but what a great projecting sound he could make with the Leduc Guarnerius del Gesù. I have Kavakos recordings, and he is amazing! But the best of all live performances I had the opportunity to listen to is James Ehnes. He played it twice over a period of 3 years in Ottawa and Montreal. Best sound, best technique, musicality, ease: everything is there. He is also the only violinist I know who takes Heifetz tempi in the last movement with great skill and excitement. In september,he will play it again with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and for sure, I wont miss it. Also a special mention concerning Benjamin Beilman,20,now studying at Curtis and winner of the first prize in the last Montreal International competition (June 2010); He is absolutely out of this world and gave a great performance of the Sibelius. Very impressive and already a great musician.

June 17, 2010 at 01:58 AM ·

I haven't heard Ehnes play Sibelius, but will definitely go check it out.  I love Szeryng.  He's one of my favorites.  Happy Birthday Marc! :)

June 17, 2010 at 08:56 AM ·

Thanks Nate!!!

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