Things you should not say to a violinist...

January 27, 2016 at 06:00 AM · I recently performed at a museum event as a *solo* violin act. Afterwards, someone close to me -- who shall not be named ;) -- told me I should learn some pop songs to perform. Or, if I needed to perform classical, why not play something more well known, like Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. :-/

end of rant


January 27, 2016 at 06:55 AM · Or perhaps we should all learn some Eminem songs on our fiddles :D

January 27, 2016 at 06:59 AM · My $500 Chinese violin sounds better than your old pile of junk!!

January 27, 2016 at 07:44 AM · Well, at least they knew the name of that classic music you always see played on posh occasions. ;)

January 27, 2016 at 08:57 AM · "Is that a small viola?"

January 27, 2016 at 10:24 AM · Before concert my aunt told me: "look! That woman brings a big violin on her back! "

"It's a cello... :("

My friend once said, "so, if the violin is too big, you put it on the ground with an antenna to support it?"


January 27, 2016 at 12:40 PM · What are Eminem songs?

January 27, 2016 at 12:43 PM · Hi Trevor - Eminem is an American rap artist.

January 27, 2016 at 12:46 PM · There are things here to be thankful for. The museum in which you played exists. And it has actual live patrons. And they listened to you. And, based on having seen videos of your playing in other threads, I bet you played very well.

What *did* you play, and how did you introduce this piece (these pieces) to your audience?

And, if you were playing during the daytime, you could have replied that you were saving the Nachtmusik for after hours ...

January 27, 2016 at 12:49 PM · Lady at a reception to John Dally, of the Guarneri Quartet: "Could you take out your violin and show it to me? I've never seen a second violin up close before!

An admirer(?) to Heifetz after a concert: "Your violin sounded great!" Replied the Great H, putting his case to his ear "Really? Funny, I hear nothing."

Some years back, as concertmaster of an Opera orchestra, after one of the acts I got ready to carefully exit to the backstage area amid all the hustle and bustle, without the protection of an actual pit. A nearby audience member noticed me carrying my violin - an Ed Maday - as protectively as I could and asked the question so many of us have been asked before and will be asked again: "Is that a Stradivarius?" "No", I deadpanned, "it's better; it's a Maday-us" "Oh!" said the guy, and seemed very impressed. I later told the story to ED, who laughed.

Many (too many!) years ago, an admiring young lady visiting my small rooming house room for the first time and noticing a framed photo of an Amati violin, front and back images: "I like your guitars" Me, rather wisely, "Thank you"

January 27, 2016 at 12:52 PM · Obviously very ignorant young lady, who doesn't know that those small guitars are called ukelele.

January 27, 2016 at 12:59 PM · Very ignorant - but very cute and sweet!

January 27, 2016 at 02:20 PM · "Is 'pop' the same thing as 'soda'?"

January 27, 2016 at 02:46 PM · "FREEBIRD!!!"

January 27, 2016 at 02:54 PM · Haha, some good ones here! There were two points I was trying to make -- 1) the average person's (including those closest to me) preference for pop music over classical, and 2) their lack of understanding for what isn't possible for solo violin (such as quartet music). It's not that I dislike Nachtmusik (quite the contrary!).

Paul -- I had a 15 minute timeslot, so I played my favorite, Bach Chaconne, trying my best to apply all the great advice I got here on (including from you and Frieda) a couple years ago. No introduction needed for this event, as there was a different performance being kicked off every 15 minutes across multiple wings of the museum, and people would wander to and from. I am fully appreciative and aware how fortunate I am to live in an area where there are plenty of opportunities to experience and share art!

January 27, 2016 at 05:33 PM · Many years ago my mother asked me: "What is that you are practising? It sounds difficult!"

January 27, 2016 at 06:02 PM · "Love the tuxedo.."

January 27, 2016 at 06:18 PM · "I dropped your violin."

January 27, 2016 at 06:31 PM · "Vanessa Mae is my favorite classical violinist".

January 27, 2016 at 06:51 PM · @Adrian - funny, the last orchestra gig I did a few weeks ago, I got 2 unexpected compliments on my appearance - but none about my playing. As many of us know, it's not unusual for audience members to ask musicians questions - often about something we just performed or when we think the concert will end, etc. And sometimes "You guys sound great!" (I never get tired of hearing that one!) We generally try to be gracious and helpful. When I wondered back onstage after intermission, as both the orchestra and audience were just starting to settle back in, a guy in front of the first row beckoned me to come closer to the edge of the stage. I obliged, expecting one of the typical questions or compliments. But he said "You have the best haircut in the whole orchestra!" I thanked him and told him where I went to get my hair cut. He said "Well, you better keep going back there." OK.

A minute later our 1st flutist approached me. She is the orchestra's self-appointed fashionista and in the past she has not hesitated to criticize me and others when we didn't come up to her standards. So I was pleasantly surprised but also knew she wasn't kidding when she said: "Raphael, I really like your new glasses!" I didn't like their look especially. They had a heavy black rim a la Buddy Holly. But all I cared about was that they helped me see the music better. "Really?" I asked "Really" she assured me. I couldn't resist pulling her leg for a moment and said "Thanks. They're very expensive." "Are they?" she asked. "Yes. They cost me $1 at the "Dollar Tree store!" Her very surprised look was priceless!

January 27, 2016 at 06:57 PM · "You should play with Charlie Daniels!"

January 27, 2016 at 06:58 PM · @Marty - I must say, I really like Vanessa May, too. For her playing? Well...

Once while rummaging in the violin section of a record store and considering some of the usual suspects - Mutter, Ehness, etc. etc. a lady came up to me and tried to persuade me to buy Andre Rieu CD's. "He's sooo good" she said. I didn't want to argue with her, but I kept rummaging.

January 27, 2016 at 09:04 PM · I'm thankful to Andrew Rieu's performance of "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's opera "Resulka" - introducing me to it years before our orchestra accompanied a soprano who sang it. Rieu was better! But then, so was I.


January 27, 2016 at 09:31 PM · Gene, I love the Chacconne too, but honestly, that's pretty challenging material for an informal audience. Did you introduce it? Explain what a Chacconne is, what they might be listening for? I wrote a blog here at about how the St. Lawrence String Quartet introduced their pieces and what a difference that made in the audience's enjoyment (including mine, but also acquaintances who do not have classical musical training). I think if we want to sustain classical music we have to be willing to meet our audiences at least partway.

January 27, 2016 at 10:27 PM · "Why are you holding it like that?" - Asked by someone who clearly had never seen how a violin is played.

January 28, 2016 at 02:29 AM · What's that? (and start reaching for their violin)

January 28, 2016 at 03:30 AM · > I think if we want to sustain classical music we have to be willing to meet our audiences at least partway.

Paul, you are ever the voice of reason on this forum! :) You are right, of course. I've already decided that if I were to have another opportunity to participate, I would perform something like Adam DeGraff's arrangement of Don't Stop Believin' (which is pretty awesome in its own way).

Btw, I did not introduce the piece, mainly because the format of that event was such that people were wandering in and out. I agree that if done properly, an introduction can have a positive effect on audience enjoyment.

January 28, 2016 at 05:00 AM · Once upon a time at a concert the soloist came on stage carrying his violin. Couple next to me, spying the bow: "Oh look, he's carrying a flute." They seemed to have enjoyed the concert nonetheless.

January 28, 2016 at 07:01 AM · Well at least they stopped to listen to you Gene, Joshua Bell had worse luck.

January 28, 2016 at 03:58 PM · What to never EVER say to a string player (that I have been asked several times, to boot):

"Isn't the violin easy to play?" ..... You BET is it, you crazy *******!!!


January 28, 2016 at 07:28 PM · Similar to the haircut comment although perhaps closer to being "on topic", my quartet was playing at a wedding reception in a courtyard of a fancy downtown hotel. One of the guests came up and said to me "I just have to say, that is the most beautiful violin I've ever seen". It was my viola, actually, which is of course hard to tell from a violin by most people. It just seemed strange!

January 28, 2016 at 09:27 PM · WHAT NEVER TO SAY TO MISCHA ELMAN

The budding young virtuoso, Michael Rabin had a meeting with the older master and played for him. Elman was very impressed and encouraging. "So what is your ultimate goal?" asked Elman. Without having to think for a moment, Rabin answered "to play as well as Jascha Heifetz". That was a huge faux pas. Like "what am I, chopped liver?", Elman might have thought. But beyond that, E. really hated Heifetz and was very jealous of him. He grew very icy and in fact stayed mad at Rabin for a long time.


Kreisler was once invited to an elegant dinner party. "I will attend with pleasure!" he said. "And of course, you'll bring your violin?" asked the host, expecting a free concert. "No" said K, "my violin doesn't dine!"


"You know Mr. Heifetz, you sounded wonderful and I was awed by your technical abilities, but I have met someone who plays better than you do!"

Heifetz: "And who might that be?"

You: "Why, Mr. Heifetz, who would it be but your good friend Mr. Elman!" *Smile*

Heifetz: *Signature icy stare*...

You: .................................................

January 29, 2016 at 06:01 AM · I was in a local underground train station one day and a busker was playing the Bach Chaconne. My 13 year old daughter, who appreciates classical music but isn't a musician herself, asked me for a few dollars so she could tip him. I hadn't said anything to her about the music--she was simply moved by his playing.

January 29, 2016 at 12:55 PM · WHAT MESSAGE NOT TO GIVE TO A VIOLINIST

I've heard this probably apochryphal story with different names but the story basically goes that Heifetz and Kreisler were having dinner in the Russian Tea room when someone gave a note to the Maitre d' addressed to "the world's greatest violinist". Whom to give it to? The Maitre d' came up to the esteemed violinists' table and carefully put it evenly between them. Heifetz looked at the heading and said "This must be for you, Fritz." Kreisler looked at and said "No, this must be for you, Jascha". This went back and forth a few times and Heifetz was finally prevailed upon to open it. The note began "Dear Nathan..."

January 29, 2016 at 02:14 PM · Love your stories, Raphael!

Francesca, your daughter has good taste!

January 29, 2016 at 05:16 PM · Thanks, Gene! Here are some more:


Leopold Auer taught Zimbalist, Elman, Heifetz, Seidel, Milstein, etc. etc. ( -also my first 2 teachers, Harry Fratkin and Vladimir Graffman). His students loved him but also feared him as he was very temperamental. I don’t remember every detail about the dramatis personae, the music or the exact nature of the heat-seeking missile involved. But once Auer was coaching some students, including Heifetz, in a piece of chamber music – or maybe the Bach double. A student complained to Auer “Jascha is playing too loud!” Auer told him to shut up and mind his own business. The student persisted – and Auer threw an ash tray at him!


When Heifetz made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1917, his reputation as a super prodigy preceded him and every musician who could get in was there – including Mischa Elman, who soon came to regret it. Heifetz played his opening number, the Vitali Chaconne, brilliantly and stunningly. Amid the uproarious applause, Elman turned to his friend sitting next to him, pianist Leopold Godowski, and complained “it’s really hot in here”. Quipped Godowski “Not for pianists!”

Years later, Elman attended the debut of David Oistrakh with another friend. Elman sat on his hands throughout the whole recital, hardly reacting. At the end his friend asked him “Well, Mischa, what do you think of this Oistrakh fellow?” “He’s alright”, allowed Elman “but even Jascha is better”. Even!

Another time a violinist saw Elman walking on the street and stopped him to say what a great admirer he was and that he had most of his records. “What do you mean MOST of my records?” snapped the incredulous Elman, “why don’t you have ALL of my records?”


I’ve heard of this reaction from a couple of sources, including one of my teachers who studied with him, Arturo Delmoni. Once after a master class Arturo approached the formidable master and said “Mr. Heifetz, I don’t have the words to express how much I love and admire your playing and what it means to me” Replied the Great H “That is YOUR problem”. Nice!


The first soloist I ever heard live was Yehudi Menhuin. I was a boy and my Dad took me. Afterward I came backstage, got his autograph – in both English and Hebrew! – and told him how I loved his playing. His reply? A simple and gracious “Thank you”. How about that?

January 29, 2016 at 05:57 PM · Things not to say to a violinist:

You know, we've got plenty of violins, but we could use another Violist or two.

If you are in a violin shop, and the owner/maker shows you his latest creation, after careful consideration, hand it back and say, "Nice Wood"!

January 30, 2016 at 12:44 AM · Paul Deck, "Pop" is like Santa Claus: It's your father really.

January 30, 2016 at 05:32 AM · Gene, the expression on that busker's face when my daughter gave him the tip was heart warming. I hope your museum visitors also showed their appreciation.

January 30, 2016 at 03:51 PM · Francesca, yes they did. Thanks for inquiring.

January 30, 2016 at 05:54 PM · Raphael, I had the privilege of playing in the orchestra when Mr. Menuhin came to Belfast and played the Beethoven. He was such a pleasure to work with, and such a lovely man - he seemed to have the attitude that we were all the same. Musicians working together.

Maybe I've been lucky, but the greatest musicians I've worked with have all been lovely people. It's the ones that AREN'T great who are a right PITA.

January 30, 2016 at 09:35 PM · I know what you mean, Malcome. And yet, we can't argue from this that Heifetz and Elman weren't great. With many artists, writers, scientists, scholars, etc. for better or for worse, the best part of them is in their work. If a lot of that carries over into what kind of human beings they are, great. But it's not necessarily to be expected. I've done so much research on Heifetz to get the sense that he was a complicated man - sometimes generous, sometimes mean, often much more vulnerable than he like to seem. His very formal way of carrying himself and dealing with most people was probably a defense mechanism. And he was obviously uncomfortable, as many are, taking a compliment. That's where Menuhin's example comes in. If we're proud of our performance we shouldn't crow about it. If we're disappointed in ourselves we shouldn't argue with a well-wisher or take it out on anybody. A simple and gracious "thank you" really does the trick.

Some people are so wrapped up in themselves to the point of narcissism. A couple more stories of this kind, starting with another Elman yarn: He was bending some poor woman's ear at a dinner party about his many triumphs. To his "credit" he finally caught himself and said: "But excuse me, I've been talking about myself too much. Tell me, how do YOU like my playing?"

Joseph Fuchs was an excellent violinist who lived to about 96 - and continued performing almost that long! After one of his later concerts the very distinguished pedagogue, Raphael Bronstein, came up to him to congratulate him, remarking how wonderful it was that Fuchs had kept up his playing, etc. Replied Fuchs, the "modest" maestro: "Bronstein, I gotta hand it to you - you know a great artist when you hear one!

January 31, 2016 at 02:23 AM · I don't think you get to the very highest levels of violin playing (or anything else) without some ego. To get there you first have to believe that it's at least possible.

January 31, 2016 at 02:50 AM · Yes, and Menuhin said as much, too. Ricci said "every violinist (referring to top players) thinks he's the greatest. If not, forget about him." But it's a question of degree.

But Ricci's statement reminds me of what not to say to Oistrakh: A friend asked him "David, among the great violinists, how would you rank yourself?" Replied O. "I'd say I'm number 2" Came the inevitable follow-up "Then who is number 1?" "Oh" said O., "there are so many!"

Another time a friend asked Oistrakh "what are the hardest pieces that you play" Said O. "I don't play the hardest pieces."

January 31, 2016 at 03:04 AM · And back to a more direct faux pas - to ANY violinist: "How much is your violin worth?" If it's worth very little, the owner might feel embarrassed. If it's worth a lot, the owner might be in fear of being mugged - which has happened. In any case, it's nobody's business unless the owner chooses to volunteer such info. Years ago on a tv interview, Perlman was asked that. He said "Let's put it this way: I only have one - OK?" More than once I've answered "That's between me and my insurance company"

January 31, 2016 at 10:30 PM · A few more stories come to mind…


Once K was performing the Kreutzer Sonata with Rachmaninov in Carnegie Hall. Performing by heart, K eventually had a memory slip. At first he successfully improvised a bit, but he soon ran out of ideas. Moving closer to R he whispered “For God’s sake, where are we?” Replied R “We’re in Carnegie Hall”!

Another time, K was recording the complete Beethoven sonatas. In one of them, he got to a certain passage that he kept flubbing. After a number of unsuccessful takes he said to his pianist: “I wish Jascha (Heifetz) was in town. Then maybe I could get him to come and record the passage and maybe no one would be the wiser. His pianist said “Well Mischa (Elman) is in town”. K got mad and said “I don’t need tone, I need technique. Tone, I have myself!”


H didn’t seem to enjoy interviews. Once he stopped a journalist before it really got started and said. “Let’s just keep this short: began lessons at 3, first concert at 7. I’ve been playing ever since.”

On the occasion of his 80th b-day, a reporter somehow got hold of his number and asked for an interview. “I have nothing to say”, said the venerable master. “But”, the reporter persisted, “the history of 20th century violin playing is YOUR history.” “I have nothing to say”, repeated the Great H – and hung up.

Well, perhaps I have nothing more that need be said!

February 3, 2016 at 02:06 AM · After a recital,

"Nice piece. Too bad about that last harmonic."


February 3, 2016 at 03:56 AM · OK, one more....


Shuppanzigh, first violinist of a quartet that usually first read through Beethoven's quartets, complained to B about how difficult and awkward many of the passages were. (Having recently read through, on Violin I, Op. 18 no.1 and Op. 59 no.1 at my recent chamber music party, I can painfully attest!) The immortal B shot back: "Do you think I care about your miserable fiddle when the Muses call to me?"

February 3, 2016 at 02:53 PM · On a similar theme, slightly off topic, but I read that the original cellist playing the first Razumovsky quartet (Romberg?) threw down the music and stamped on it after playing the opening of the second movement (repeated single note - B flat). Unfortunately what he said was not recorded - and one can only imagine Beethoven's response - might have been similar but with a few expletives..?

BTW I used to consider Op18/1 quite playable. Op59/1 - different story!

February 4, 2016 at 11:51 AM · They're all "playable" - depending on one's level, etc. but I was particularly talking about sight-readable. I had worked on op.18, no.1 in the past, but was totally reading op. 59, no.1. But even in terms of preparation, when the Guarneri Quartet first recorded the complete Beethoven quartets, they decided to tackle op. 18 last, because in terms of raw technique, they felt those to be the hardest.

February 4, 2016 at 05:59 PM · Raphael, I am rereading the Guarneri Quartet's technical book (written with David Blum) because I just started playing chamber music. I can understand how sight reading with a group would be much much more difficult than sight-reading one part separately.

February 5, 2016 at 02:59 AM · Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In a group, if I get off, I listen for the harmony and often can get back on track. And someone can call out a rehearsal letter or number.

Meanwhile, speaking of Beethoven and harmony, I'm reminded of another "what not to say to Beethoven" story:

B was already deaf, but for that reason posterity has been granted the gift of conversation (with visitors) notebooks that he left behind. In one conversation, a friend expressed surprise that in a certain composition (I don't remember which) B had written a passage that had parallel 5ths. (In writing parts in harmony and counterpoint, there are prescribed and proscribed procedures for the direction of the voices. Parallel 5ths were considered a no-no.) At first, B denied that he'd ever done that - but his friend quoted chapter and verse. "So" said B "who forbids them?" Replied his friend "Fux" (a standard textbook of counterpoint) and he listed some other authorities. "Well," said B. "I allow them!". Of course, B was right - he was bloody Beethoven. Who was Fux?

PS Yes, that Blum book is excellent!

February 5, 2016 at 12:33 PM · A century before B, JS Bach was not above using the very occasional parallel fifths; my harmony teacher pointed out one or two instances in the four-part chorales, and advised me that tribulations would be visited on me were I to perpetrate such a faux pas in an exam!

February 5, 2016 at 04:19 PM · "The buffet is out of chocolate cake"

February 5, 2016 at 04:46 PM · Maurice, that falls under the category of things you should not say to *anyone*.

February 24, 2016 at 03:27 AM · Thought I'd revisit this after hearing another priceless "Elmanism" (which may or may not be apocryphal).


Carl Flesch, the famous violinist and pedagogue, was doing research for his magnum opus, "The Art of Violin Playing". When he started on the section on tone production he figured he'd consult the colleague most celebrated for tone as such. "So, Mischa" said Flesch, "how would you define tone?" Replied Mischa "Carl, tone is something I got - and you AIN'T got!"

February 27, 2016 at 10:11 PM · OK, OK, you've twisted my arm! Another "Elman-ism" (In a way he was kind of the Yogi Bera of the violin!)


Early in his career, Aaron Rosand gave one of his many concerts in Europe. At the end, Mischa Elman came up to him very enthusiastically and said "You are the greatest violinist of your generation!" "Why thank you so much, Mr. Elman", replied Rosand. "But tell me," continued Elman, "who was your teacher?" "Well, Mr. Elman, I studied with a colleague of yours, Efram Zimbalist. In fact, we just celebrated his 75th birthday." "75th birthday?" asked Elman, a bit confused. "Oh, that's right, that's right. Zimbalist was always a year and a half older than me!" I guess Elman never caught up!

February 29, 2016 at 07:31 PM · Raphael, your stories are freakin awesome! I want more!

I read this recently while reading about "Slava" Rostropovich, in an interview by his daughter Olga:

When you were a teenager, your father came home unexpectedly and found you reading a book instead of practicing. What happened?

He had gone out for awhile. Thinking I had a few hours to myself, I decided to read a book instead of practice, since I didn't enjoy practicing all that much. As luck would have it, my father forgot something, or at least he pretended to forget something, and he returned home. When he opened the door, there I was lying on the sofa with my book. He became so furious that he grabbed my cello and started chasing me around the house with it, ordering me to stop running so that he could kill me. I quickly ran downstairs and out the front door, but that didn't stop him, so I ran along the circular road that surrounded our cluster of houses, and ran by Dimitry Shostakovich, who was taking his daily stroll, trying to concentrate on his composing. Shostakovich pleaded with my father as he ran by, still waving my cello in the air, "Slavachka, have a fear of a God! Have a fear of God!…" trying to calm him down. Needless to say, that was quite a scene.


March 2, 2016 at 03:49 AM · Thanks! OK, a few more now come to mind..


After a recital H. said to the audience: "For those who liked it, thanks. For those who din't, hope to catch you next time!" But there would be no next time. That turned out to be Heifetz' last recital.

Hmmm... let's lighten the mood a bit...


Once R played a concerto with orchestra. The ensemble went well until the final chord. Somehow the conductor and orchestra got behind him and echoed his chord. R quickly tired to come in again with them but then the conductor did the same thing. This went on a few times so that the concerto and with about 4 staggered chords instead of one and it finally ground to a halt. R turned to the audience and said, echoing an old Porky Pig cartoon "a de a de a de a that's all, folks!"


Once a soprano who often sings with us (in an orchestra I play with frequently) was set to go on and sing with us again. In the show biz tradition I wished her good luck by saying "break a leg". She sang beautifully as usual - but when she exited she twisted her ankle! Fortunately it wasn't too bad - but I said to her "I didn't mean for you to take me literally!"

More recently our concertmaster played a solo with us. Just to be safer I said to him "Break a bow hair!" - and as I recall, he did. But that wasn't so bad!

March 2, 2016 at 07:12 PM · Following routine performance in church.

"Wow, that's a nice violin."

March 2, 2016 at 07:13 PM ·

March 2, 2016 at 08:19 PM · To which you respond, "Yes, I traded in my husband for it."

March 2, 2016 at 09:19 PM · I did get a, "Wow, that's a terrific violin!" from one nice old gentleman who seemed very knowledgeable, after I performed in a lecture-recital. He said something nice about my playing, too, but apparently he really liked the violin.

i mean, in a way, I've spent a lot of money on the darn thing, so I should be glad people think it sounds nice. ;-)

March 3, 2016 at 11:14 PM · "You must have a nice violin" is on the lines of "That was a lovely meal. You must have a very good cooker"

March 4, 2016 at 01:51 AM · I am pretty sure that some nontrivial percentage of how I sound is attributable to the instrument though. ;-)

March 4, 2016 at 01:58 AM · I can easily see Lydia's point. I imagine she would not feel too terrific, having spent a tidy fortune on her violin, should someone say "You play so beautifully, maybe you should get a better violin."

March 4, 2016 at 09:45 AM · I like that 'nice cooker' comment.

Yeah, a nice violin is very confidence inspiring, but does not automatically confer virtuosity.

It is like an artist's palette and paint box, but the real thing is the poor overlooked bow.

That is where we really do the business, so spend spend spend, then treasure it and learn how to play.

Chosen carefully it is like a surgeons knife and can work wonders.

Watch the string section of a performing orchestra and the way the players handle the bow, with variations sometimes being from wooden movements of rigid arm to wonderfully fluid full flexibility of arm, wrist, hand and fingers.

Practise playing fast passages using only finger movement. Do that and you can save massive amounts of energy, and work wonders with your dexterity.

Just a thought.

March 4, 2016 at 09:53 PM · Yes, I've had similar comments. My wedding quartet was playing up in Santa Fe, and one of the guests came up afterwards and said "You guys sound really wonderful. Is it because you play on old instruments?" Surely he meant it as a compliment, and one of our musicians replied with "Some are old, some are new." which I thought was a great answer. Agreed: it is like the "you must have great cookware" comment. ;)

March 5, 2016 at 09:05 PM · I was going to suggest you could have played Adam DeGraff's "Violinists Don't Stop Believin'" but then I read in the earlier comments that you already thought of that. From having seen and heard your video, I know you would have sounded great!

The year of that contest, I performed it at my teacher's recital and after I was done, and went back to my seat, one of the other students tapped me on the shoulder and whispered "That was awesome!"

I also performed it in church as part of a service on introverts in church. Before playing, I spoke about introverts and performing. I mentioned how when I was a child and teen I'd been so paralyzed by performance anxiety I never performed at all, or if I did, it went badly and felt traumatic rather than enjoyable. I then mentioned how I had started to get over this as an adult, and played Violinists Don't Stop Believin'. This time several people complimented me afterwards, including an extrovert who said, approvingly, "well, *that* was a very extroverted piece!"

I think the classical/pop distinction that people try to make is really about a lot more than the classical/pop distinction. It's about connection.

March 8, 2016 at 09:38 AM · 1. About ego: Remember that fiddle player who, when committing suicide, said, "With me dies a great musician" (For all we know, he may have been)?

2. As for "hair comments", if you get them, don't worry, you're in good company. Remember that ditty:

"It's well worth a guinea

To see P-,

To see how he curls his hair"?

March 8, 2016 at 10:00 AM ·

March 9, 2016 at 02:04 PM · There is, of course, the story about a violist who came up to Brahms after the violist's chamber group played a Brahms quartet. The violist said to Brahms, "Did you like the tempo?" And Brahms replied, "Yes, especially yours."

And there is, of course, the famous story about Fritz Kreisler's return to the American concert stage just after WWI, during which Kreisler was a medic in the Austrian army. His recital got rave newspaper reviews, except for one reviewer who wrote that the only reason Kreisler sounded so good was that he was playing on a Stradivarius. The next night, Kreisler walked out onstage and played the first piece brilliantly. As the audience applauded, he raised his violin in the air and smashed it down on the stage, breaking it into pieces. To an aghast audience, he then said, "I will now play my Stradivarius."



March 9, 2016 at 02:15 PM · 'Let's have a go then...' *Holds out arms*

March 9, 2016 at 04:48 PM · "The next night, Kreisler walked out onstage and played the first piece brilliantly. As the audience applauded, he raised his violin in the air and smashed it down on the stage, breaking it into pieces. "

So, does anyone know the maker (or factory) of the violin that Kreisler smashed? :)

March 10, 2016 at 12:48 PM · I read this story about Kreisler decades ago, and I'm sorry to say that I do not recall if the violin maker whose violin he smashed was even mentioned. I think not, but it's a good point.


March 10, 2016 at 12:57 PM · There's the story* that a very young Menuhin, frustrated with the poor tone of his first violin, smashed it on the floor.

*Possibly a "story" in the sense of the "this is a true story" you see on the screen at the start of the "Fargo" TV series? :)

March 10, 2016 at 01:38 PM · I understood that what he "threw under the bed" was a toy violin!

March 11, 2016 at 04:27 PM · The perennial favorite ..... Mark Twain contemplates Wagner ...

His music is "not as bad as it sounds".

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