Do etude books really help in building the ability to play Paganini's caprices

April 11, 2017 at 08:00 PM · For instance, Rode, Wohlfhart, and Kreutzer etudes are a must for every violin player coupled with technique books like Sevcik op 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, Josephine Trott double stops, Hrimaly scale studies, Schradieck school of violin technics and scale studies, Flesch scales, Fischer's books post standard violin repertoire like ABRSM, Suzuki, Trinity Guildhall, random beginner violin books etc.

IMHO, all the above studies will make you good at sight reading, intonation, shifting, double stops(thirds, tenths, fingered octaves etc), bowing techniques(spiccato, stacatto, ricochet, effective string crossing etc), tone production, ornaments etc.

Because no matter how many pieces, caprices or etudes you practice, Paganini's caprices are going to be much harder. In fact I read that even Paganini found his caprices hard that he worked on them for 15 hours a day. So is it worth going into all these following etudes and studies

Dont op 35

Fiorillo caprices

Kayser etudes

Gavinies etudes




and many more

In your opinion, what kind of studies, practices, techniques really helped you in achieving the ability to play challenging repertoire. Please share your thoughts.

Replies (59)

April 11, 2017 at 08:42 PM · hi Gautam, the Violin Etude Page is very informative and may answer some of your questions, as is the entire Westbury Park Strings website. A real treasure trove. It was offline for some time, happy that it is back on.

April 11, 2017 at 09:21 PM · I have worked on all the Paganini Caprices and found that the best way to approach them is to treat them as character pieces rather than technical exercises. Each has different challenges to overcome, some of which I have found to be unsurmountable, such as trilling in fingered octaves or a unison as in #3.

If you study them with musical effect in mind, you will get the most out of them from the performance aspect. Most aspiring artists can find musical solutions to the most demanding passages through subtle use of rubato,etc.

There certainly are those who can rattle through fast passage work flawlessly, but for those of us who wish to be able to express the best musically, these pieces provide an avenue to learning how to make the best interpretation given our limitations.

Remember that Paganini dedicated the caprices to "alli Artisti", the artists.

April 11, 2017 at 09:31 PM · Bruce, "alli artisti" translates to "y'all artists." And you've been in Texas how long? :)

April 11, 2017 at 09:35 PM · Kayser etudes are usually done before Kreutzer...they're not that hard.

It isn't necessary to play every etude in every etude book in the violin repertoire. But it's wise to work on etudes that cover all the technique that the player will need.

I agree with Bruce about approaching the Paganini caprices as character pieces.

April 11, 2017 at 09:43 PM · Besides character pieces, the caprices are made much harder by using modern technique.

If you use Paganini's low violin, consecutive fingers approach that puts the hand in 3rd pos and glides up and down, they suddenly become quite a bit easier (duh). :)

April 11, 2017 at 09:53 PM · In a sense, nothing will make you quite ready for Paganini.... except for a steady diet of scales. Some of the studies, played in real tempo, will bring you a step closer, but the real work begins with the actual ink of the master.

Read "Ricci on glissando" . There are some interesting insights about technique Paganini allegedly used.

April 11, 2017 at 09:53 PM · The Paganini Caprices are not all of equal difficulty, and they are not all much harder than, say, Dont op. 35. There's a gradation of difficulty in the etude books, too, and you will eventually discover personal technical strengths and weaknesses that will determine the level of effort you have to put into a given etude or piece of repertoire.

The technique you learn can be learned in many different ways, from exercises to etudes to repertoire. Typically, a teacher will help choose things that build appropriate technique, and then work specifically on strengthening weaknesses. I don't think that this can really be rushed per se -- some people will pick up technique faster than others, but there's a tremendous amount of subtle control necessary to really master the instrument.

So in terms of what I've done that's laid the foundation for challenging repertoire: Basically all of it. I can't point to any specific exercises, etudes, or repertoire; it's all been part of a process.

April 11, 2017 at 09:54 PM · Sigh, A.O., have you actually ever played a Paganini Caprice?

(Certainly if you have a massive hyperflexed hand, they do become easier, yes.)

April 11, 2017 at 10:07 PM · The other thing about the study books is that they overlap. The hardest Kaysers might be harder than the easiest Kreutzer.

April 12, 2017 at 10:21 AM · Bruce Berg, I am curious: Why have you found those things to be insurmountable? Is your hand not large enough for the stretches, maybe? What could you do to overcome those insurmountable obstacles?

April 12, 2017 at 10:57 AM · Dear Prof.Berg many thanks for your intervention, I am really interested in learning about some of the possible ways in which one might musically circumvent a trill in fingered octaves? many thanks.

April 12, 2017 at 11:50 AM · Well I can tell you how *I* circumvent a trill in fingered octaves. I don't try to play such things! There is plenty of gorgeous violin music, which is plenty hard enough to play well. If "skill at chess is the surest sign of a wasted childhood," surely skill at left-hand pizzicato comes in a close second. If even I were capable of all that fancy stuff I would surely prefer to spend my time polishing the Sonatas of Brahms, Franck, and Debussy, which are rich in musical content and bereft of parlor tricks.

April 12, 2017 at 04:12 PM · Yes. The graded sequence of etude books, combined with exercises, scales, is the classic way to learn the technique of the violin. Re-label the Paganini set as etudes and put it last on the list along side of Ernst, Ysaye. A lot of otherwise good, professional orchestra players cannot play those things. For me, it was one new etude per week for about five years. I got as far as Dont Op. 35 before hitting my technical wall, and my life took another direction. jq

April 12, 2017 at 04:33 PM · I'm afraid I misspoke concerning fingered octave trills. For instance in Paganini #8 The octave trills in the beginning are relatively easy to do for a normal sized hand, if you do not shift back after the the first octave, but remain in 5th position and extend back to the B trill. In the following 2 measures continue creeping back while maintaining contact with the upper bout of the violin with the wrist. This not only makes the trill on the final octave possible, but also prepares the return to the higher positions since the wrist is flexed inward.

In #3, however, I find it not worth the effort or possible injury to trill the B to C natural octave in measure 2. @Jean: so instead, I play a regular 1-4 octave and trill only the bottom note. The change is barely noticeable. The unison trills I find to be impossible.

I also deeply apologize for misspelling Agli as Y'alli. We are indeed fortunate in having Paul to correct this type of egregious error.

April 12, 2017 at 04:43 PM · Yes, the hardest Kayser etudes are more difficult than the easiest Kreutzer. There is no linear program of etude books as a whole since there is quite a bit of overlap.

We had a young soloist once who, after a brilliant performance of Sibelius, played an impeccable Paganini #5 as an encore. At the conclusion of her performance, I turned to my standpartner and said, "At no point in my life have I ever been able to do that." I suppose I could learn how to, if I invested the time and effort, but why? I don't need that kind of up- and down-bow staccato for anything I do professionally, and I don't have any students at that level.

I would be grateful if A.O. would post a video demonstrating how to make the Paganini caprices easier with a shift in technique.

April 12, 2017 at 04:56 PM · thank you Bruce

April 12, 2017 at 05:43 PM · I think you mean 15 rather than 5, Mary Ellen? (5 has the ricochet bowing.)

I suspect that A.O. isn't aware that he's (I assume) talking about a pivot shift -- when the hand is placed in a position central to the passage and essentially thrown backwards and/or forwards without moving the arm in order to get back and forth between positions more quickly. It's a perfectly normal modern technique and does not require you to hold the violin differently, not use a shoulder-rest, yadda yadda. FIngerings that use it are by no means exclusive to its utility in Paganini works.

Paul, LH pizz is actually fairly good practice for developing strength in the left-hand fingers. It is a parlor trick indeed, though.

A former teacher of mine labeled Paganini "The Olympics of the Violin".

April 12, 2017 at 05:53 PM · No, I mean 5. The part immediately after the introduction. It's a thrown stroke. Saltato--sorry, should have called it that.

April 12, 2017 at 05:56 PM · But Paganini's pivot shifts are from 1st to about 8th pos (rather big distance) and involve leaps between octaves/multiple octaves in doing so.

The modern pivot shift tends to be much smaller.

Also, the trademark "multiple notes/ a whole passage played with one finger" helps solve many spots that would, with modern fingering, be awkward/tricky (due to placement or very high register). :)

April 12, 2017 at 06:02 PM · @Mary ellen: The urtext has a saltato bowing written , 3 slurred folloed by 1 up, simile for all the passages.

The reason nobody does it is:

a) Doesn't project in a modern hall without producing more noise than it does note (Paganini's violin with gut and his tiny bridge need much less force to sound, so it is not obscured by bow noise) :)

b) The stroke in Paganini is written with the slow bounce of a Classical bow (specifically, his steel Vuillaume, which bounces extra delicately and slowly compared to a classical wood bow). The Tourte is too stiff, which makes dynamics very limited and the rebound much too fast (why else do you think he wrote 18 note saltato slurs elsewhere if he wouldn't be able to play them?)

Similarly, his steel bow with his tiny and somewhat flat bridge allows to easily sustain 3 and 4 note chords, which we nowadays break because we have to. They sound much more charming unbroken. :D

April 12, 2017 at 06:13 PM · This is nonsense. I play Paganini with pivot shifts, with completely modern technique and set-up. In fact, you'll find this fingering used in most modern editions, including the Henle urtext. Multiple uses of a single finger aren't unusual, either.

You're also completely wrong about the ricochet (saltato is a synonym) in 5. Not everyone does it, but some do and it projects fine. In fact, you can go to YouTube and see Alexander Markov's video, in a large hall, where he does that bowing with a modern set-up and modern technique. (YouTube has plenty of other Paganini 5 videos as well.) In fact, Mary Ellen's previous post seems to suggest that the player she's talking about was using the saltato bowing (rather than the spiccato that, say, Schlomo Mintz uses).

You frankly don't need any "force" for ricochet with a modern bow and synthetic strings, either. You can do both short and long ricochet slurs in, say, the concertos, projecting over an orchestra in a large hall, without any problem whatsoever, and players normally do so (go look at YouTube videos of Paganini No. 1 concerto for examples).

On the Tourte... I can't even. Sigh. You've clearly never actually tried a Tourte, never actually played Paganini, and certainly not done the two in conjunction, or you wouldn't be making this ridiculous statement.

Paganini, by the way, is thought to have owned a LaFleur and a Tourte, although we know that he praised Vuillaume's steel bows. We have no idea if he ever actually used a steel bow to perform with, though.

April 12, 2017 at 08:09 PM · I wonder if Paganini was influenced by Locatelli's 24 Caprices (i.e. the cadenzas from the 12 concertos Opus 3), which even today are challenging for the vast majority, inspiring him to compose his own set of 24 caprices.

Paganini's "15 hours" per day practice schedule was surely apocryphal! I'm fairly certain modern teachers would have something to say about that, starting with dividing the "15" by 4 or 5.

April 12, 2017 at 08:12 PM · @Lydia: Yes, Markov projects, but notice how you get more noise than pitch. This is what I meant by "less force" with the Vuillaume. Also notice how the bow forces excessive speed and loss of delicacy, and that a Tourte does not bounce enough to play 18 slurred richochets (unless excessively quick).

When I said Tourte, I meant the modern style of bow. Paganini was reported to use a swan-head (classical) in most of his concerts. Seeing as a modern bow does not allow for all of his playing (specifically held chords and long but slow bounced slurs), it stands to reason that he used his classical bow (which can do both much better and more naturally).

Regarding fingering, I see not a single performance using original fingerings in any large degree. Everybody just does quick shifts...

April 12, 2017 at 08:16 PM · @Trevor: Yes, one of his caprices copies Locatelli as homage, and there are records of him finding the music in a library as a young man. :)

April 12, 2017 at 08:17 PM · @Trevor: Yes, one of his caprices copies Locatelli as homage, and there are records of him finding the music in a library as a young man. :)

April 12, 2017 at 08:17 PM · @Trevor: Yes, one of his caprices copies Locatelli as homage, and there are records of him finding the music in a library as a young man. :)

April 12, 2017 at 08:18 PM · @Trevor: Yes, one of his caprices copies Locatelli as homage, and there are records of him finding the music in a library as a young man. :)

April 12, 2017 at 08:50 PM · The violinist I was referring to certainly was playing saltato and it was amazing. Clear as a bell and precisely even.

Beyond that, I may not yet be a grandmother but I am definitely feeling as if someone is trying to teach me to suck eggs.

April 12, 2017 at 10:27 PM · A.O., you're simply wrong about long saltatos, Tourtes, and moderns bows in general. (If you had ever actually tried a Tourte, you would also realize that it feels very different than a typical modern bow, but bounces just fine.)

It also took me all of five seconds to find an example on YouTube of a player using Paganini fingerings for pivot shifts; see Alexander Markov on Paganini #19.

April 12, 2017 at 10:46 PM · I've tried a Sartory, but no modern bow rebounds slow enough to play, at a moderate tempo, more than about 10 notes or so (Paganini has a slur of 18 in one caprice).

@Mary Ellen: No disrespect intended!

Everybody please just read this through:

And watch this:

To see what I mean.

April 13, 2017 at 02:40 AM · I'm just going to quote: "Sartory, very stiff, similar to Tourte".

You really have *zero* clue what a Tourte is like, apparently.

April 13, 2017 at 03:27 AM · Wow, is this thread full of mis-information or what?

Paganini did NOT write any caprices for the Vuillaume steel bow. In fact, most caprices (if not all) was written before Vuillaume was born and all where published befor he even tried the steel bow.

Paganini did NOT practice the caprices 15 hours a day. There is hardly no documentation of him practicing them at all.

There is a huge number of violinists that can play Paganini without any special "Paganini-technique", and Ricci himself did so most of his carrer. In fact, many of Ricci's discoveries where used by a lot of violinists besides him, like pivoting, and are not special at all.

April 13, 2017 at 04:38 AM · Mattias, to be fair, the flood of misinformation is all coming from one source.

April 13, 2017 at 05:20 AM · The plentitude of disjunct motions in Paganini's caprices will make one better at sight reading. When you suddenly switch to Mozart for instance, the piece is gonna look easy as a pie.

Unless a piece is simple enough, one will have to play it over and over so that the brain can absorb all the intricate contents. In that case, why waste your time going through all these bland etudes when all you want is to play Paganini.

For instance, I am stuck at the pizzicato section of the 24th caprice, and I suppose there aren't any etudes that can teach me to perform the same in a jiffy. I can play that section with my right hand but doing the LH pizzicato and making it sound great is a lot of work. What good is it gonna do if I think playing the other list of etudes will enable me in playing Paganini's caprices?As Rocky said, the real work begins with the actual ink of the master. A healthy diet of scales, double stops, intonation/sharp ear and bowing techniques (ricochet, sautille etc) is all you need. Correct me if I am wrong.

April 13, 2017 at 10:48 AM · Gautam - check out Sevcik opus 1 book 4 for LH pizz exercises.

April 13, 2017 at 12:09 PM · @Mary Ellen, I solve the continual-misinformation problem by being selective. I don't read Breitbart either; saves me a lot of time. :)

If I had to hazard a guess, I would guess that most if not all of our top soloists today have technical capabilities that equal or surpass Paganini's.

April 13, 2017 at 12:28 PM · I disagree that ignoring, for the most part, music that is not relatively practical to one's purposes is a futile exercise. Not the most productive use of one's time at it worst, perhaps.

I see violin playing as an art (actually, I feel most of you do too), and that these supposed "parlor tricks" are part of the art and worth exploring whenever the time comes. While this ideal time may never come for many, I wouldn't find any fault in someone honestly and in a labor of love attempts to master these generally difficult "patlor tricks" that some avoid. If you don't sacrifice the basic, great violin tone, I don't see what's so bad about about enjoying certain techniques here and there that are mostly niche and not needed for most players.

In short, I am not being critical of not finding any use for spending time in "parlor tricks" (some of which have other technical benefits beyond the actual results for the "regular" pieces, if done properly), but for finding fault with OTHERS for being curious and wanting to explore every corner of their beloved instrument. What you may think is a cheap, horrible sounding effect, and not worth the time spent on mastering, may indeed be a joy to someone else. The "parlor trick" term itself reminds me of musicians even in Spohr's era who found much of Paganini's music a charlatan's effort-an arrogant, "more musical than thou" effort that persists in some until this day.

Find your joy, enjoy it, but don't make it your mission to deride others for having pleasure in that which disgusts you. There's plenty of violin repertoire for all of us to enjoy. Plus there's no rule that states that appreciating "parlor tricks" makes you any less capable of appreciating "deeper music" anyway-one is not a "better musician" by merely refusing to put the effort in the more niche violin techniques.

I do believe and perhaps agree with most of you that many of these efforts are NOT needed to play the violin beautifully and masterfully, but that is not my point.

April 13, 2017 at 12:38 PM · There are some books with LH pizzicato studies, others with double harmonics, fingered octaves, etc. The now old Ricci book on left hand technique has a rather big section on LH pizzicato.

What etude books do is give you ample confidence to keep tackling technically diificult content with more ease, helping the brain find more parallels between past and present.

I feel most technique is tackled in Flesch's old scale book, if you want to be simplistic about it. Then you add other exercises and etudes, etc. to fill any possible few gaps left (LH pizz., more niche efforts.) Some of the Paganini, Ersnt, etc. requires studying it on its own, but if you master the basics, you won't find it that much of a leap or get stuck. You get better at scales of all sorts, you do get better at finding the more advanced repertoire relatively "easier" to play (which is not saying etude books are 100% not needed.)

April 13, 2017 at 01:38 PM · @Adalberto. Indeed. Flesch's scale system is an invaluable treasure for all violin players. Loved your post on chastising guys who think Paganini's caprices are nothing more than parlor tricks. You said it right. People sometimes think of Paganini's caprices as mere parlor trick exercises but in reality they are very musical. I seriously love Paganini more than Beethoven and Mozart. What's music without a lot of dissonances!

April 13, 2017 at 02:24 PM · A Tourte, stiff? Not unless it's been messed with (re-cambered), or it isn't really a Tourte.

April 13, 2017 at 04:30 PM · Also to be fair, even a non-steel Classical bow utilizes the slower bounces needed for the slurs in Paganini, so the use of a modern bow is historically incorrect for playing his works, since most illustrations by reliable sources show him with a swan-head bow in concert. :)

April 13, 2017 at 05:32 PM · I don't believe that transitional bows are readily available these days, and frankly no one really cares. I suppose it might be academically interesting to try it, but today, players have the technique to play Paganini on modern bows. (You have to remember that there are plenty of pre-teen prodigies that can do this, there's one commercial recording of the cycle by a 13-year-old, and basically anyone applying to a major conservatory is expected to be able to play them. This has gone from "one virtuoso doing something unique" to "mainstream expectation for all advanced violinists".)

I'm given to understand that you can more or less get the feel of a transitional bow by loosening the bow hair significantly.

April 13, 2017 at 06:42 PM · One cannot *read* and *talk* oneself into a competent violinist. Just saying.

April 13, 2017 at 07:45 PM · I mean no offense... I don't mind about HIP performance, but this type of dogmatism is why I am slightly allergic to it-especially dislike the zealotry by some.

Solo Bach and solo Paganini can be played perfectly well, "as written", with modern instruments and technique. OF COURSE it won't be "the same", but it's not intended to be a recreation of a period in history, but a musically honest performance that most likely the original composers would approve of.

(On a side subject... the 3 gut/2 gut strings+steel plus steel-not gut-E is ALSO a modern setup, IMHO.)

Anyone that practices diligently and with fairly decent equipment can make any caprice sound clean, even if the equipment is slightly different than that used by Paganini and his contemporaries. Saltato is fine... it's about the player (which doesn't mean I am being disrespectful to those who opt to not follow the original bowing, though I feel these are becoming less of the norm.) I don't know, it all sounds like a excuse if you say "I can't play these well due to my modern violin/bow/strings"-or maybe worse, a forcing of one's performance practice beliefs on others.

I am proud and happy to advocate with the type of playing I like, use, as well as strings, etc. but must admit that violin playing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. There's room for gut and synthetics, period bows and modern setups. Don't let human arrogance ruin music for yourself or others.

Again, I don't mean to be disrespectful-feel free to disagree, though one should also be accountable for the consequences of one's disagreements.

April 14, 2017 at 12:37 PM · Lydia, my local violin shop here in Bristol (England) has transitional bows. Apparently, customers have included members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

April 14, 2017 at 02:27 PM · Interesting. I occasionally see them listed in auction catalogs but I've never seen one at a shop. Some universities with period ensembles can lend baroque instruments and bows to their players; do any lend classical-era equipment?

April 14, 2017 at 02:53 PM · A.O - where are these "slower bounces needed for the slurs in Paganini" that can't be achieved with a modern bow?

April 14, 2017 at 03:13 PM · There are quite a few bowmakers making copies of transitional bows which are used by period instrument performers. Here is a list of them. . There was no standardization in bow making back then, so there is big a variety of copies available. The period instrument crowd look for bows which work well for them and the music they are performing, just as I would venture to say were violinists of the era looking for.

April 14, 2017 at 05:58 PM ·

April 14, 2017 at 06:30 PM · A.O., you're wasting your time here.

You should write the new and definite manual on violin technique, historical and contemporary.

You have got all the info and ideas, why wait? Do us all a favor and write that book now!

I have placed my advance order at Amazon for

A.O. "All You Need to Know about Violin Technique (with No Examples)"

April 14, 2017 at 06:54 PM · I am trying to avoid replying to A.O., but I was just too amused at his "discovery" to restrain myself.

There are two subtly different strokes, sautille and spiccato. The supposed Heifetz spiccato that A.O. is referring to is sautille. Heifetz, his contemporaries, and modern players use both strokes, depending on the music. (There are previous threads on about whether or not spiccato and sautille are really different strokes. The terms are sometimes interchanged freely in music and in discussion, too.)

April 14, 2017 at 07:53 PM · Edit: Staccatos of Paganini

Paganini's grand-student Francesco Sfilio (not me!) defines 3 staccatos as used by Paganini:

1- Picchetatto: The stroke is made via only tiny finger squeezes that propel the bow, often done in unorthodox ways because it is believed to be an innate talent (incorrectly played as stiff arm staccato- yes in Wieniawski, who actually produced it this way, but not Paganini). :) He says to learn it starting Adagio, or it will fail to work at speed.

2- Saltellato: Played at the balance point by using a small curve motion in the forearm and lifted pinky, it enables a controlled but natural bounce (essentially spiccato, the first bounce being passively started) via finger motion. Incorrectly played as ricochet, he says that the bow is NOT to be dropped and then propelled via the wrist, since it kills the tone and makes more noise than music.

3- Getatto: slurred form of above, incorrectly played as slurred ricochet. Pinky stays on to control rebound via fingers, NOT wrist (but this with Paganini grip, which doesn't use the wrist). Fingers throw bow, then sustain it via the motion for saltellato plus smooth arm motions used in normal legato. Bow speed determines dynamics. I guess the modern name would be "flying spiccato".

Sorry for confusion, hope this helps. :)

PS: Some of this might not work very well with the hold of today, since he keeps mentioning the Paganini grip as being conductive to all these strokes. :D

April 14, 2017 at 10:05 PM · Why do we care, other than perhaps the rare violinist who specializes in HIP of the Classical period?

April 14, 2017 at 10:56 PM · I don't have a horse in this race and quite frankly I've lost a lot of respect for this website over the years for a number of reasons.

But may I just address the individuals who have been piling on - often quite rudely, on the posts from A.O.? It's obvious that you want to be taken seriously as musicians and seen to be knowledgeable with the violin - and maybe you are quite good. But when you lower yourselves to attacking one individual you make a mockery of yourself and no one takes you seriously no matter how good you are. A true professional, high level amateur or even teacher doesn't ever go after another musician like that - even if the individuals suppositions are way off. Please take the high road people - there is nothing honorable about being a bully.

April 14, 2017 at 11:06 PM · Well, it might be because some people MIGHT want to play the composer's intentions as written, and rare information should he shared if you can.

I don't specialize in a period, but will purchase two baroque, a classical, and a Paganini bow besides my modern one, while playing on all gut.


For one, the equipment and research sometimes dramatically changes even a modern interpretation, great as a teaching tool.

Second, should we be satisfied with a modern compromise of a piece? Surely if we love music as a core component, our goal should be re-awakening the composer's spirit as we play their lovingly prepared (bar Shostakovich's propaganda music) as they wanted?

Otherwise, what's the point? Most everyone can read some books and buy a few more bows and adapt, so why not? :)

Lastly, certain compromises made in doing so cannot be bridged. In Paganini, the classical bow and flatter bridge allows holding the to be played as written 3 and 4 note chords.

Breaking them is ugly and ruins the operatic flow of the piece (esp the beautiful chords in caprice 4). :(

April 15, 2017 at 04:58 AM · A.O - Sfilio is not the best source for knowing how Paganini sounded or played. Sure, he was a student of Sivori, but that doesn't really say much about their playing styles. Compare that both Vecsey and Szigeti was a student of Hubay, or that both Igor and Kremer was a student of David Oistrakh, or who sounded closest to Joachim, Heifetz or Suzuki? Both were "grandchildren" to him?

My theory is that Sfilio learned his most valuable lesson in playing in Paganini's style while studeing that note where Paganini fingered a chromatic scale, this one:

But it must be remembered that there was not only one way that Paganini fingered that scale, and Sivori himself did not finger his chromatic scales in any way that would be considered different from any violinist of his era. ie open strings going up, fingered going down, use the same finger for 2 notes whenever possible.

And Sivori favored odd positions (1, 3, 5 etc) where Paganini favored even (2, 4 etc). Paganini favored stretches and Sivori favored contractions.

So Sivoris fingerings where also nothing like Paganinis, and Francescattis where nothing like Sivoris (or Paganinis).

To se how Paganini played his music Sfilio is not the best source, but Paganini is.

April 15, 2017 at 07:06 AM · To be fair, Sivori's fingerings were due to his small hands (he was a rather short man), and he lacked his teafher's superflexibility.

But, we have a fingered fopy of Waltz that Paganini fingered in for Sivori (from Ricci on Glissando), as well as Sfilio's written out chromatic pattern for scales (hand jump from 1/2 to 3rd, using 123-1234, then jump back down to next string- notes above 3rd pos E are 123, top is 1234-(4).

This conveniently gets you to the highest C on the violin written in Paganini (sharpened if you extend), and I have the written Waltz fingerings if anyone wants them. :)

April 15, 2017 at 11:01 AM · Mattias, I can't see any fingerings in the image you propose...

Bev, (and A.O,) I partly agree. I find very few advanced players have the time or the curiosity to discover, let alone try, HIP equipment and techniques. However, what is exasperating is personal hunches parading as facts.

It was dear John Cadd (banned for quite differnt reasons) who suggested that one should add a lot of "I find", "I have read that", or "maybe" to one's posts, especially when we can't find or remember the exact source of an idea.

Mattias and A.O, yes, the hand shape is a constant source of misunderstanding. My hands are fairly wide but with short fingers; some of my youg lady students have narrow hands with long fingers; my thumb is long in proportion to my hand. So our fingerings, shifts and general setup are very individual. As are the means of playing to the end of the fingerboard.. I have even set up my spare 15" viola as a violin (to give me "small" hands) so they can film me with those smartphone thingies.

April 15, 2017 at 02:39 PM · Over the last two decades, HIP has gone from being a sideline sometimes-controversial oddity, to being a mainstream alternative to contemporary performance practice. In turn, contemporary performance practice has begun to incorporate more historically-informed perspectives. Some older musicians don't bother at all, but musicians these days are much more likely to be informed about, and consider, the composer's intent.

However, I think it is now generally agreed upon that both HIP and contemporary interpretation can and should co-exist in the world -- that it is not disrespectful or wrong in any way for interpretation to be a living tradition. Similarly, even within HIP, you will find varying degrees of adherence to period practice; here too there is the acknowledgment that practices can and should be modified, as it's still a living tradition with musicians that need to appeal to contemporary audiences. We now usually talk about these things as preferences, rather than absolutes -- avoiding an air of religiosity about the topic. Students need their teachers to tell them the boundaries of what is acceptable in an audition situation, and typically students will now be taught interpretations that are contemporary but informed by the composer's intentions.

It's relatively difficult for students to gain access to historical instruments -- usually you need to be a university student in the university's HIP ensemble, which maintains a library of instruments to loan, or otherwise enrolled in a festival or some other kind of HIP program that loans instruments. A teacher can try to describe what, say, a Baroque bow feels like, and be moderately accurate, but it's not quite the same as actually trying one. (For me, imagining what a Baroque bow would feel like turned out to be both similar and different than the reality of trying one.)

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