20th century violin technique

December 27, 2011 at 02:50 PM · The 19th century was characterized by radical innovations in the violin technique: ricochet, fingered octaves, left hand pizzicati,four octave arpeggios, etc. The current virtuoso repertoire soon incorporated all of them and thus the overall standards expanded a long way. What did the 20th century bring to us?

Replies (27)

December 27, 2011 at 05:01 PM · Heifetz.

December 27, 2011 at 06:32 PM · Krzysztof Penderecki's music brought many techniques like playing behind the bridge, and made use of other unconventional ones that had been used before, like plucking with the fingernail (I believe Bartok employed that before). More recently, in the 1990s, Mari Kimura introduced subharmonics, which allow the violin to play an octave below open g.

December 27, 2011 at 06:58 PM · Period performance in its violinistic incarnation.

December 27, 2011 at 08:26 PM · The shoulder rest

December 27, 2011 at 09:06 PM · I do think all the things and persons mentioned so far were a great positive step, except one: Period.

December 27, 2011 at 10:42 PM · I agree - Heifetz. And I believe his example changed not only the performance of classical music, but ANY music. Can you imagine any performer today in any music genre being acceptable playing or singing out of tune, or with a sloppy technique, or without any real conception of a musical line?

We tend to forget what the typical performance must have been like a hundred years ago. Did you know that Pablo Casals once said that Eugene Ysaye was the first violinist he ever heard play consistently in tune? The Heifetz example set a bar of excellence we're still grappling with, and that's whether or not you like his playing.

December 28, 2011 at 02:45 AM · It is also remarkable that people like Sevcik, Flesch, Suzuki, etc. developed new pedagogical approaches to cope with the new standards.

December 28, 2011 at 02:47 AM · Casals had an idiosyncratic view of tuning. His playing still seems out of tune. Listen to the old recordings of Casals. Maude Powell, Joachim, Quiroga, Thibaud etc. played well in tune at a standard we never hear any more.

The 20th century brought us equal temperament and the end of the performer composer.

A dear friend says that when he hears Heifetz praised he becomes skeptical and when he hears him criticized he becomes defensive. I consider him the last great violinist and the beginning of the end of violin playing. The imitation of Heifetz (by the ignorant to be sure) epitomizes all the horror of modern violinism.

December 28, 2011 at 03:12 AM · Can any of you play the violin behind your head like many rock guitarists? How about with your teeth? No?

I didn't think so. Not as advanced as you think you are, are you?

December 28, 2011 at 03:46 AM · well, I dunno about that Evelyn. I play some pretty decent lead guitar myself, and that stuff is pretty much show-boating imho. and not all that difficult to do with a neck full of frets and no necessity of a bow.

December 28, 2011 at 03:47 AM · Evelyn

You certainly don't want to break your violin on stage! LOL

December 28, 2011 at 04:09 AM · Dry humor (or lack thereof) is lost on some. lol

December 28, 2011 at 04:33 AM · I really disagree with the "imitation of Heifetz" angle. I wish more people would imitate Heifetz....

While that was clearly the case for at least one generation of violinists, I would say that the aesthetic of Heifetz and basically that entire generation is being outright rejected by many modern (foolish?) violinists, especially students.

case in point, but maybe less relevant considering the period performance movement

maybe more obvious

December 28, 2011 at 04:44 AM · Joseph if the alternative to Heifetz is "ersatz" period performance then carry on--imitate! But couldn't someone try to emulate Kreisler? Or Ysaye? Or Sarasate?

December 28, 2011 at 06:15 AM · ok Evelyn, you got me. good one! oh well, wouldn't be the fist time I've embarrassed myself on a discussion form. probably won't be the last.

December 28, 2011 at 10:23 AM · Or themselves perhaps Corwin? :)

And I want to see Evelyns youtube...

December 28, 2011 at 03:30 PM · Evelyn...

Here ya go:


December 28, 2011 at 03:54 PM · Evan

"Here ya go:"

Wow - and no shoulder rest!

Pity this didn't start a trend - imagine how much more exciting our concert halls would be...

December 28, 2011 at 04:25 PM · Nigel Kennedy tossing his bow in the air when his piece finishes. And catching it (well, so far, I believe).

December 28, 2011 at 06:09 PM · The Schoenberg Concerto, Ginastera´s and Penderecki´s concertos are propably the most groundbreaking of the 20:th century.

Extremely demanding for both the soloist and the orchestra.

Ginastera´s concerto paved the way for the new complexity works in many ways.

Bartok´s violinworks are brilliant too of course.

December 28, 2011 at 07:05 PM · Andreas - it seems to me your examples are not about technique, but rather about composing. I am not sure that is what the poster seeks.

December 29, 2011 at 08:56 AM · For anyone interested in how far the boundaries of technique have been pushed, I'd recommend this book.

December 29, 2011 at 09:03 AM · "Andreas - it seems to me your examples are not about technique, but rather about composing. I am not sure that is what the poster seeks."

The composer wrote violinparts that were considered almost impossible to play at the time, from a technical standpoint.(in Schoenberg and Ginastera´s concertos at least)

December 29, 2011 at 01:50 PM · Andreas - I do not know these concertos, but my question would be, if they were considered unplayable when written, what changes or advances in technique made them playable? Did some violinist invent a new bowing technique or way of doing string crossings? That is what I am trying to understand from your post.

December 29, 2011 at 02:44 PM · "Andreas - I do not know these concertos, but my question would be, if they were considered unplayable when written, what changes or advances in technique made them playable? Did some violinist invent a new bowing technique or way of doing string crossings? That is what I am trying to understand from your post. "

There are a couple of parts in the Schoenberg concerto where you have use bowing techniques never used before.

Check out the score and a performance here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcIP_18g9QY

December 29, 2011 at 03:06 PM · Thanks. I took a look at the link. However, since you cannot see the soloist, it is difficult for me to figure out not only where the bowing innovations were used or what exactly they were.

December 31, 2011 at 06:24 PM · Subharmonics were mentioned before, but they appeared first, to my knowledge, in George Crumb's Black Angels for Electric String Quartet. Other techniques introduced are the use of thimbles and glass rods to tap on the strings, holding the violins and viola like a viol and bowing behind the fingers (we cheated and used a heavy practice mute to get the same effect-this made intonation much easier.) It also calls on the 3 upper voices to bow on crystal glasses, for all members to count to 13 in Swahili, French, and russian, and for the cellist to bash on a tam-tam.I hated the part which called for counting to 13 in French, because my accent was so poor. But I really enjoyed yelling out KUMANITATU.We caused a bit of a stir in a department store when we showed up with a jug of water and asked if we could try out some of their crystal glasses. We heard later from George Crumb that we should use really cheap glasses. It turned out that a water glass with Pepsi inscribed on it had the best tone of any I used.

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