Jokes about violins and violinists

September 18, 2005 at 06:47 AM · I haven't seen a "jokes" thread (that is, jokes about violins and violinists). True or made up, just as long as they are clean and without undue rancor, I'm sure we've all heard at least a few. What are your favorites?

Sandy Marcus

Replies (101)

September 18, 2005 at 02:56 PM · This is a true story.

I had a teacher who was a jerk about having clean instruments. If you had even one fingerprint visible, she wouldn't let you play until you polished your entire violin.

One day, i was singled out for having a "dirty" violin and so I was banished to the back to polish it.

A friend walked in late and asked me why i wasn't playing and I told her "because i have fingerprints on my violin."

She heard "because i have fingers paint on my violin."

She asked me why I did that, that that was stupid and that I shouldn't have a violin if I was going to let that happen.

It went back and forth like that until we finally figured out that something had been skewed. We still joke about finger painting.

September 18, 2005 at 05:24 PM · Good one. Years ago, one of my teachers told me that Nathan Milstein once came to play with some symphony orchestra. At the rehearsal, after the orchestra tuned up, the conductor signalled to the oboe player to give an "A" for Milstein. He tuned, and obviously tuned a semi-tone sharp from the rest of the orchestra. He signalled to the conductor that he was ready. The conductor allegedly said something like, "But, Maestro, the orchestra has tuned below your pitch."

Milstein is supposed to have replied, "Don't worry. They'll come up."

I'd like to think that story is true. It sounds like something Milstein would do.

Sandy Marcus

September 18, 2005 at 05:34 PM · i know a story bout Heifetz.there's so many i mean but i like this one particulary:

Heifetz came to rehearse Beethoven Concerto. the Orchestra was still playing the Tutti from teh beggining, when right in the middle of it,Heifetz started his Octaves...

the oncductor and musicians looked atonished, and said: know... you should have started a little bit after...

and Heifetz replied:

in MY tempo,i should have started already now !!!!

i think thats so cool :)

September 18, 2005 at 05:43 PM · Years ago, I heard a wonderful performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in Chicago. The violinist (whose name I won't mention) was -- shall we say -- noticeably overweight. When he came out on stage, in addition to the applause, I heard someone behind me say, "Which chin is he going to put it under?"

Sandy Marcus

September 18, 2005 at 06:15 PM · Sorry about another one here, but I guess I'm on a roll. Years ago one of my teachers told me another story, this one about Mischa Elman. Apparently, before a performance of the Mendellsohn Concerto, a student came up to him and asked him his fingering and bowing of a certain passage. Elman told the student that he only discussed such things with his own students. That night at the concert, Elman walked out on stage and noticed that this student was sitting in the first row right in front of him, pencil and musical score in hand. When Elman got to the passage in question, he turned away from the audience and faced the orchestra so that the student could not see his fingering and bowing.

Sandy Marcus

September 18, 2005 at 06:22 PM · Once and admirer came up to Heifetz and said:

"Maestro, your instrument is so magnificent.

It has such a wonderful voice."

Heifetz put his ear to the violin as if to listen for something, turned around and said;

" Funny...I don't hear anything at all?!"

September 18, 2005 at 06:30 PM · Ok, here's one I just now stole. I'll just attribute it to anonymous. "What's the difference between a bull and the London Symphony Orchestra?"

September 18, 2005 at 06:53 PM · The London Symphony puts it's horns in back....?

September 18, 2005 at 06:48 PM · In what way are a violinist and a glass of beer alike?

Answer: They both eventually go flat.

September 18, 2005 at 06:58 PM · Well, Sarah, that's only the clean half of it.

September 18, 2005 at 07:04 PM · I DID say keep it clean. Nice job, Sarah

September 18, 2005 at 09:05 PM · Once at Perlman's recital, a college student had a chance to go back stage and talked to him. He asked her "How long have you been playing violin?", "15 years." she replied. Then he said "I'm sorry."

September 18, 2005 at 11:06 PM · When I was in college, a famous cellist -- and a typical New Yorker -- gave a recital at the college. One of the things he played was a Prokofiev cello sonata, which of course few in the audience were familiar with. When it ended, there was dead silence; no one knew it was over. The cellist announced, "Dat's de end uh da piece."

[Sorry, that was about a cellist]

September 19, 2005 at 06:59 AM · nice stories going on here !!! :)

i have 1000 jokes about violists,but they are so meen :) ok one of them:

in a beautiful shop,a viola Stradivarius is put in the vitrine, for someone to buy it. theres a little paper just near the viola:

cost .....$,length, blablabla... and then at the end:

from the second position absolutely new


September 19, 2005 at 11:46 PM · Well, OK, I can't resist. Here's another one, and it's always been a favorite (and I believe it may actually be true). A string quartet played a Brahms quartet at a concert, and Brahms was in the audience. It was, I think, the second violinist in the quartet (maybe the violist) who came up to Brahms after the concert and began trying to ingratiate himself to the great composer, not realizing that Brahms not only could be very, very sarcastic, but he hated that kind of attention. When the violinist finally asked Brahms, "Did you like the tempo?" Brahms replied, "Yes, especially yours."

September 20, 2005 at 04:21 AM · Jokes about violins and violinists:

This was told to me by my former teacher who was concertmaster of a French orchestra in the 1930s.

Fritz Kreisler was violin soloist one evening and he came onstage and tuned. The conductor brought the orchestra to attention with his baton.

Just as the orchestra was about to begin the opening tutti, Kreisler tapped the conductor on the shoulder with his bow. The startled conductor turned around at looked at Kreisler who uttered the following:

"Which concerto is it tonight?"

Ted Kruzich

September 20, 2005 at 07:41 AM · hahaha with Kreisler its sooo good !! heres another one:

3 great conductors are sitting in a café,and one of them is Karajan.

the 1rst one says: "oh you know what, theres this really great critic that said that i was the best conductor of all times."

the second one says: "oh thats nothing,GOD told me i was the best one"

and Karajan says: "really? when did i says that?"


September 20, 2005 at 08:00 AM · Ok, here's a Kreisler joke just for you. A haughty society matron invited Fritz Kreisler to play at her upcoming house party. He set a fee of $1,000. The grand dame agreed, but told him "You will not mingle with my guests." "In that case," Kreisler said, "My fee will only be $500." Haaaa.

September 20, 2005 at 07:29 PM · Fritz Kreisler and Serge Rachmaninoff were part of a well known recital team. Rachmaninoff would always be conscientious about perfection at a performance and loved to rehearse. On Monday day they began a new piece which went quite well for the first time.

On Tuesday it didn’t go so well. Rachmaninoff wanted a third rehearsal for Wednesday to which Kreisler uttered:

“Serge, can you imagine how awful it would sound with a third rehearsal”

September 20, 2005 at 08:22 PM · Kreisler and Rachmaninoff were in a parking lot trying to unlock the door of their car with a coat hanger. Kreisler said, I can't get this door unlocked! Rachmaninoff said, Well, you'd better hurry up and try harder! it's starting to rain, and the top is down!

September 21, 2005 at 01:41 AM · Q: How many violinists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: 10. One to do the job, and nine more to stand around saying, "I can do it better than that!"


September 21, 2005 at 11:21 AM · How does a soprano soloist screw in a lightbulb?

Ans: She holds it up to the socket and lets the world revolve around her.

Ted K

September 21, 2005 at 03:11 PM · Fritz Kreisler and Serge Rachmaninoff were in the midst of a performance while suddenly Kreisler got lost in the music. He turned to Rachmaninoff and asked,"Where are we?" Rachmaninoff replied "At Carnegie Hall".

September 21, 2005 at 03:14 PM · I think I read this here a while ago:

A tourist was asking someone for direction to Carnegie Hall, "how can I get to Carnegie Hall?" The guy replied, "practice, practice and practice."

September 21, 2005 at 04:22 PM · theres a joke about violists:

1rst tour: play...second tour: count.

a guy who comes to the 2ond round is asked by the conductor:

how much is 2 + 2? the guy says: 5. and all the violists who didnt come to the final say: "please give him anouther chance!please give him anouther chance!

the conductor says: okok....

how much is 2+ 1 ? 3,says the guy.

and the other violists: please give him another chance !!!


September 21, 2005 at 10:41 PM · There is a story in a book called "Beecham Stories" about a rehearsal that Sir Thomas Beecham was conducting. He signalled to the oboist to play an "A" so that everyone could tune up. This particular oboist had a very, very wide vibrato. Beecham looked around at his orchestra and said, "Gentlemen, take your pick."

September 22, 2005 at 12:25 AM · Haaa. First round, play. Second round, count.

September 22, 2005 at 09:06 PM · A violist and a percussionist were walking in a park. The percussionist saw a dead crow and said to the violist, "Look, a dead crow."

The violist looked up and asked, "Where?"

September 23, 2005 at 07:34 PM · What do you call a chord made out of 20 different quarter-tones?

Answer: The violin sections tuning their A strings.

September 23, 2005 at 09:00 PM · Joke:

Three notes walk into a bar; a C, an Eb, and a G. The bartender says, "sorry, we don't serve minors here".


September 23, 2005 at 09:11 PM · Hey, Marty! Have you seen the rest of that bartender story? It's great! Check it out here...

September 24, 2005 at 09:36 AM · No. Here's the rest of the story.

September 24, 2005 at 12:46 PM · a conductor joke: his whole life,a guy, before a rehearsal or a concert,always looks down at a little papper,and no one knows whats written there. the conductor is really really good,and everytimes concerts are fantastic one day musicians go and look what written on the papper,when he goes away for a coffee... :

Violin:left, Chellos: right


does anyone has jokes about Heifetz or Karajan?

September 24, 2005 at 01:29 PM · I heard another version of Ted's Kreisler story - he walks onto the stage, signals to the conductor he's ready, and waits for the opening of the Bruch. But when instead of converging woodwind chords he hears an E minor string ostinato, he just manages to slam his fiddle under his chin and start the Mendelssohn!

September 24, 2005 at 01:50 PM · There's also an excellent Heifetz story [a href=""]here[/a]

September 24, 2005 at 05:41 PM · This isn't exactly about violinists, but I saw Sir Thomas Beecham conduct about a year before he died, so it must have been 1959 or 1960. Anyway, it was the Chicago Symphony, and it was a concert of basically encore pieces. Beecham was old and frail at the time, and he sat on a stool and conducted. After each piece, the audience would applaud wildly, and Beecham would motion the orchestra to stand. Then he would stand, turn, and take a modest little bow to the audience. After about the 4th encore, Beecham motioned the orchestra to stand, but they refused. Instead, the orchestra motioned Beecham to stand and take a bow, which he did, to thunderous applause (well deserved, I might add). Beecham then quieted the audience, and from this frail body came a booming voice with the most delightful British accent you could ever imagine:

"You know, you have a wonderful orchestra here in Chicago. But there is one thing they haven't learned.....OBEDIENCE."

September 26, 2005 at 04:15 PM · Three violin shops have all done business for years on the exact same block in the small town of Cremona, Italy.

After years of a peaceful co-existence, the Mostardini shop decided to put a sign in the window saying: "We make the best violins in Italy." The Pessaro shop soon followed suit, and put a sign in their window saying: "We make the best violins in the world."

Finally, the Bianco family put a sign out at their shop saying: "We make the best violins on the block."

Ted K

September 26, 2005 at 09:43 PM · nice one ted :)

i have one really nasty one about violists: why do violists never have aids? because the virus also has its pride.

actually this is really not funny but i still wrote it in case someone here understands black humour :-/

September 27, 2005 at 06:24 AM · ok, the shortest violists joke: " a violist goes to a Masterclass..."

September 27, 2005 at 01:11 PM · I think it was Pablo Casals who said that Eugene Ysaye was the first violinist he ever heard play in tune.

September 27, 2005 at 09:00 PM · OK, I just hate to see this thread sink to the bottom.

Question: What do you call 212-tone music?

Answer: An orchestra's string sections all tuned up.

September 27, 2005 at 11:21 PM · (Heard during intermission at a concert a while ago)

"Yeah, Itzakh Schmitzak. I still like Lawrence Welk."

September 28, 2005 at 04:40 AM · From the Devil's Dictionary:

"Violin - n. an instrument for the tickling of the human ear by the friction of a horse's tail on the entrails of a cat."

Or, as happened to me in Israel, during my second visit. I was to play the Paganini Campanella with a pickup orchestra of pros, semi-pros (retired, former pros), amateurs and students. It went under the name of the Hebrew Hillel University Orchestra.

So after one rehearsal, the principal French Horn is driving me back to the hotel. We start chatting, and he asks me what I do for a living.

Me: (pause, digest the question) Er...well, this, really. I go places to play the violin and people pay me.

French Horn: Well, I know. But I mean, what do you do to make a regular income? I mean, me, I'm a plumber during the day...

(Oh, the full rep was Pag Campanella (original version) and Mozart 3 (or was it 5?). I suddenly practiced a WHOLE lot that evening.)

September 28, 2005 at 07:06 AM · This is a true dream a friend of mine had. She had just finished the last note of her concerto for a performance, and afterward, the accompanist got off her bench and started shuffling around, making scooping motions at the floor. "What are you doing?" she asked the accompanist. "I'm picking up all the notes you missed," she replied.

September 28, 2005 at 07:30 AM · oh my god,this accompagnist is crazy !! :)))

i have a new joke about violists:

the konzertmaster of the Violist group got the mad-cow illness. - they had to kill all the heard.

thats pretty mean but i still like it :)

September 28, 2005 at 03:37 PM · Just heard this one:

Why are a violinist's fingers like lightening bolts?

Answer: Because they never strike in the same place twice.

September 28, 2005 at 10:05 PM · Alexandra, you are so cruel. If violists could read then you would be in big trouble!

September 29, 2005 at 07:53 AM · sorry John. :( i didnt meant to be mean you know. this is all just jokes. i actually have really big respekt from violists. i never undertood why THEY are always the ones about who the jokes are made. but never mind. i hope no one on is mad at me !!! sorry if i said something bad. i'm only 16,and i'm not a cruel person :)

September 29, 2005 at 05:57 PM · Hahaha, re-read what he said Alexandra...

September 30, 2005 at 12:45 AM · Maybe Alexandra is a closeted violist!

September 30, 2005 at 12:58 AM · I just heard one about two violists who sat next to each other in the orchestra. One of them was appointed conductor of the orchestra for a few weeks while the regular conductor recovered from an illness. When the regular conductor returned, the violist/conductor returned to his seat in the viola section. His partner greeted him by saying, "Hey, nice to see you. Where have you been?"

September 30, 2005 at 01:05 AM · So at a convention of string players, the afterdinner entertainment is a ventriloquist who starts telling violist jokes. After several, a guy in the audience stands up and says,

"That's disgraceful. I'm a violist, and I'm sick of violist jokes. Violists are no less intelligent and talented than violinists or anyone else. You ought to get a new act."

The ventriloquist says, "I'm sorry, buddy. I'm just trying to entertain people. I'm not trying to offend anybody."

The violist says, "I'm not talking to you, you idiot -- I'm talking to that little guy sitting on your knee."

September 30, 2005 at 07:20 AM · hahaha true... i a re-read it.i'm such an idiot !!!:). perhaps i was a violist in my previous life??? ;) i will be careful next time,promise ! :)))

September 30, 2005 at 12:32 PM · Alexandra: We have ALL been violists in a previous life. That's why we find these jokes so funny. If I had a nickle for every dumb thing I've ever done or said with a violin in my hand....well.

Have a nice day.

Sandy Marcus

September 30, 2005 at 02:11 PM · thanks Sander :) by the way i have a new joke about condoctors.thats definitively black humour.

the story is about a poor conductor who never had the chance to conductor even "ok" Orchestras. he's really sad he didnt manage anything in his life,exept of having the image of an amateur conductor. once he comes home in the evening, and an angel is coming:

-i have 2 news for you, one good and one bad.wich one do you want to listen first?

- to the good one,says the conductor.

- ok. when you will die, you'll come to Heaven, and you'll play with the best violinist of the world, Paganini,'ll conduct the best orchestras, and you'll be the best conductor in all Heaven.

-wouaou !!! and whats the bad news?

-tomorrow is the first rehreasal at


September 30, 2005 at 02:40 PM · That is a good one!

September 30, 2005 at 10:16 PM · here are a few, stolen from the following website:

What's the difference between a violin and a viola?

There is no difference. The violin just looks smaller because the violinist's head is so much bigger.

What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle?

A fiddle is fun to listen to.

Why are viola jokes so short?

So violinists can understand them.

How do you tell the difference between a violinist and a dog?

The dog knows when to stop scratching.

How do you keep your violin from getting stolen?

Put it in a viola case.

What do a violin and a lawsuit have in common?

Everyone is happy when the case is closed.

How do you get two violinists to play in unison?

Shoot one.


September 30, 2005 at 10:18 PM · oh, I forgot to add a story about Thibaud - he had just finished doing a concert and was busy signing autographs. Someone handed him a program to sign, and Thibaud asked what he should write. A violinist on the side of him said, "how about your repertoire?"

September 30, 2005 at 11:31 PM · Here's a good one, though it's somewhat long.

Mozart effect is a fraud?

A new report now says that the Mozart effect is a fraud.However, one wonders that if playing Mozart sonatas could boost chilren's intelligence, what would happen if other composers were played in their developmental time?

LISZT EFFECT: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never really says anything important.

BRUCKNER EFFECT: Child speaks very slowly and repeats himself frequently. Gains reputation for profundity.

WAGNER EFFECT: Child becomes a megalomaniac. May eventually marry his sister.

MAHLER EFFECT: Child continually screams - at great length and volume - that he's dying.

SCHOENBERG EFFECT: Child never repeats a word until he's used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talks backwards. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child blames them for their inability to understand him.

BABBITT EFFECT: Child gibbers nonsense all the time. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child doesn't care because all his playmates think he's cool.

IVES EFFECT: the child develops a remarkable ability to carry on several separate conversations at once.

GLASS EFFECT: the child tends to repeat himself over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

STRAVINSKY EFFECT: the child is prone to savage, guttural and profane outbursts that often lead to fighting and pandemonium in the preschool.

BRAHMS EFFECT: the child is able to speak beautifully as long as his sentences contain a multiple of three words (3, 6, 9, 12, etc). However, his sentences containing 4 or 8 words are strangely uninspired.


September 30, 2005 at 11:39 PM · Ok, I couldn't resist just one more.

-my last, I promise-


Great Moments In Musical History

Here is a list of quotes from grade school essays on classical music.

"J.S. Bach died from 1750 to the present"

"Agnus Dei was a woman composer famous for her church music."

"Refrain means don't do it. A refrain in music is the part you better not try to sing."

"Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was rather large."

"Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling him. I guess he could not hear so good. Beethoved expired in 1827 and later died from this."

"Henry Purcell is a well-known composer few people have ever heard of."

"An opera is a song of bigly size."

"A harp is a nude piano."

"Aaron Copland is one of our most famous contemporary composers. It is unusual to be contemporary. Most composers do not live until they are dead."

"A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals."

"Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel."

"I know what a sextet is but I'd rather not say."

"Most authorities agree that music of antiquity was written long ago."

"My favorite composer is opus."

"Probably the most marvelous fugue was between the Hatfields and the McCoys."

"My very best liked piece is the bronze lullaby."

October 1, 2005 at 02:02 AM · Hi, Danielle:

I see you're inspired. Such productivity should not go unrewarded.

The Erik Satie Effect: The child says silly...

The Ernst Chausson Effect: [Just make sure you don't teach the child to ride a bicycle]

The Sussmeyer Effect: The child finishes everyone else's sentences.

The Vivaldi Effect: The child says the same thing 600 times.

The Alban Berg Effect: The child learns how to tune the violin...but that's all.

The Ferruccio Busoni Effect: The child is never heard from again.

Cordially, Sandy

October 1, 2005 at 02:20 AM · Then there's the violinist who purposely played out of tune because the audience wanted to hear "Err on the G-String."

Or the giraffe who was playing the violin and broke his foot when his chin rest fell off.

October 1, 2005 at 04:50 AM · the shortest violin joke in the world is...

...isaac stern.

*badoom chinnnng!*

October 1, 2005 at 11:20 AM · i didnt get the last one !:) neither the Chausson effect. could someone explain please?? thanks !!! :-D

October 1, 2005 at 01:52 PM · i have a new one with actually two.

1) whats the difference between a prostitute and a violist?

ans: the prostitude should at least know more than one position.

2) whats the difference between a prostitute and a violist?

ans: the prostitute has a better feeling for rythm.

enjoy ! ;)

October 1, 2005 at 06:10 PM · Alexandra: Ernest Chausson had an accident while riding on his bike and died of his injuries... One of my favourite composers...(sniff)

A little story: Isaac Stern was having a concert for a very packed hall. A part of the public had to sit behind him on stage. Stern apologised for the situation, saying: "Sorry that you'll have to watch my back." He turned his face to the rest of the public and said: "Sorry that you'll have to watch my belly."

October 1, 2005 at 07:20 PM · Wasn't there a violinist/composer who was murdered? I think it was LeClaire. It is a case that was never solved. I've always thought it was a music critic who did it.

October 2, 2005 at 12:22 AM · What are the only 3 pieces a fish can play on a violin?


1. Handel's Water Music

2. Debussy's La Mer

3. Scales

October 2, 2005 at 03:58 AM · I dunno if this is already up somewhere...but...

A string quartet dies in a car crash, and goes to heaven. St. Peter says to them "What did you do with your life?"

The Cellist says "I taught people the beauty of music" and he is allowed to enter

The violist says "I taught people the joy of music" and he is allowed to enter

The pianist says "I taught people the value of music" and he is allowed to enter

The violinist says "I was a concertmaster...and I believe you're in my seat"


October 3, 2005 at 07:32 AM · Problem is with that joke... what's a pianist doing in a string quartet?

October 3, 2005 at 11:22 AM · A piano has strings.

October 3, 2005 at 01:09 PM · The joke has better delivery and is clearly understood using piano rather than violin 1 and violin 2. Otherwise, you have to specify which violin thinks he is God, and there may not actually be a distiction among the violinists to begin with... :)

October 3, 2005 at 05:48 PM · >>what's a pianist doing in a string quartet?<<

A pianist makes all quartet play in tune:)

October 3, 2005 at 10:22 PM · Come on folks..the pianist was trying to get into heaven...

October 4, 2005 at 03:06 AM · Ahh, piano quartet? As in...Brahms Piano quartet? Violin, viola, cello, and piano. ^_^

Maybe I should have been more specific...

October 4, 2005 at 07:24 AM · There once was a guy who had no musicality so they gave him two sticks to play percussion. Then he lost one, so he became a conductor.

October 4, 2005 at 08:46 AM · Daniel - you've got it all wrong.

What do you do with a violinist that can't play? Take his violin off him, give him a larger one and call him a violist.

What do you do with a violist that can't play? Take the viola off him, give him two sticks, put him up the back of the orchestra and call him a percussionist.

What do you do with a percussionist that can't play?

Take one stick away from him, put him at the front of the orchestra and call him a conductor.

What do you with a conductor that can't conduct?

A) Who cares? Everyone follows the first violins anyway.

B) Take his stick away and call him an Orchestral Manager.

October 4, 2005 at 04:40 PM · Along similar lines, here's one that's been circulating as an email forward for a while:

DUET FOR THREE by John Klemm

It was intermission at an all-Brahms concert, part of the symphony's regular subscription series. In a quiet part of the lobby, a yuppie-aged couple sat down with their coffee at the table next to mine, and their conversation soon

became much more interesting to me than the program notes for the second half.

"I wish we heard more Brahms at these concerts," he said, shifting about in the metal chair.

"We've heard all the symphonies now," she returned. "Even that 5th Symphony."

"He only wrote 4."

"I know, but-"

"You're confused because his First was supposed to be Beethoven's Tenth."

"No, well, maybe, but somebody said that piece we heard that Schoenberg arranged could have been Brahms's Fifth Symphony," she said. "I guess maybe it was Schoenberg who said it."

"I remember the piece; I did like it. What was the original Brahms piece?"

"A piano quartet."

"Maybe we should try to find that at Tower. I'd like to know how 4 pianos sound."

"No, that's not- oh, well, actually you do know. We have that lovely record of the Bach Concerto for 4 keyboards after Vivaldi."

"Of course he was after Vivaldi. You don't have to talk to me like I'm an idiot." His chastisement wasn't particularly serious.

"No, I mean, it's the concerto Bach wrote for 4 pianos based on one Vivaldi wrote for 4 violins."

"Pianos?" He was pretty sure he knew better on this one.

"No, not pianos. Harpsichords I guess. That German politician plays it on piano on our record. With other people too."

"I never thought that was as exciting as it should be. It always sounded like about one-and-a-half pianos to me instead of 4."

She took a slow, thoughtful sip of coffee, looked up at him, took a quick but deep breath and went on. "But actually, the Brahms Piano Quartet isn't for four pianos. It's for a piano with some string players."

"Really?" He took a sip too. She took that as a good sign and continued.

"Yes, I think it's for a piano, and a violin, and a viola and cello."

"Uh huh. Well, what's a piano duet for then?"

"What?" She didn't understand his question.

"Who plays in a piano duet? How many string players?"

"A piano duet?" She threw a curve. "Oh, like those Brahms Haydn variations?"

"What?" Now he was confused.

"The variations Brahms wrote on a theme by Haydn."

"No, no. That's not a duet. There's dozens of string players in that."

"Not the original. He wrote it first for two pianos."

"Oh, okay. You were trying to confuse me."

"Well, maybe," she said with a smile. He smiled back, and she drank some more coffee. He suddenly frowned.

"So- so what about the piano duet?"

"OK," she said, "it's for two pianos."

"And a piano solo?"

"One piano, of course."

"A piano trio?"

"A piano and two string players, I think," she answered without hesitation.

"So why is that?"

"I don't know. It's just the way it is. Who'd want to hear 3 or 4 pianos?"

"I guess Bach did," he said.

"Maybe. But then, he didn't even bother to write original music for them!"

They thought about that for a moment as they toyed with their coffees.

"So, getting back to Brahms," he said.

"Yes," she replied, "I guess we should be."

"We have a couple more minutes. They haven't rung the chimes yet. So

Brahms wrote a piano sonata, right?"

"I think so," she replied cautiously.

"Those guys all did. So it's for one piano, right?"


"And he wrote a violin sonata, right?"

"Yes, but it's for-"

"A violin and a piano, I know. Does that make sense to you?" he asked.

"He also wrote a clarinet sonata."

"For clarinet and piano?"

She tossed in, "Or viola and piano."

"A clarinet sonata for viola and piano. Ok, sure. I don't think I want to hear any of them. So a piano sonata is for one instrument, but a violin sonata is for two. Does that make any sense?"

"Well, how about the Bach violin sonatas?"

"What about them? Do I want to hear them? Violin and piano- er, harpsichord."

"Some of them," she agreed. "But some of them are just for violin alone."

"How do you know which are which?"

"I guess you watch how many people come out on stage."

"And see what they're carrying," he added.

"You know, there are some Bach TRIO sonatas."

"Hmmm, and how many people play in them?"

"Either 4 or 1."

He snorted. "4 or 1. But not 3?"

"No, 4 if it's for more than one instrument, like two violins, and a cello and a harpsichord. One if it's just for the organ."

"So..." he decided not to pursue that; perhaps he didn't want to know any more than he already did about organ music. "So what made Brahms do his quartet for piano and violin and whatever?"

"I'm not sure what you mean."

"The Brahms quartet is for those instruments, right?"

She couldn't tell what his next target was, but she headed him off. "The Brahms PIANO quartet is."

"Right. That's what I meant."

"Well, ok, but you just said 'Brahms Quartet'. A Brahms Quartet would be just for string instruments. That's what people usually mean."


"Well, when you talk about a Brahms Quartet, or a Beethoven Quartet, or a Borodin Quartet, that means a string quartet."

"When _I_ do?"

"Well, maybe when you do in the future," she laughed.

"Of course," he said thoughtfully, "pianos are string instruments."

"Forget that! You're not going anywhere with that!"

"So, so what about- what about a BRASS quartet?"

"What about it?"

"What does that have in it?" he asked.

"I'm not sure that's a normal group. It's usually a brass quintet."

"And what does that have in it?"

"Um, a trumpet- two trumpets, a horn player, a trombone, two- no, one >trombone and a tuba."

"And a woodwind quartet?"

"Same thing -- woodwinds don't come in quartets. They come in quintets. Let's see, that has a flute, and an oboe, a clarinet, a bassoon and a horn."

"Oh, another horn? Wasn't that in the brass quintet a second ago?" He beamed in triumph, though it wasn't clear what he had won.

"Hmmmmm." She paused to finish her coffee.

He leapt ahead. "And what about the Brahms clarinet quintet?"

"A clarinet plus a string quartet. You don't really want to hear 5 clarinets, do you?"

While he thought about that, the chimes signalling the end of the intermission rang. She started to get up.

"Speaking of Brahms, are you ready now?" she said.

"So what about harps? Didn't Beethoven write a harp quartet? How many harps?"

"Oh no," she moaned as they moved away. "And that one doesn't even have a harp in it. I think it's one of his Rasumovsky Quartets."

"Well, then how many Rasumovskys?" he joked.

"Three," she quickly replied, to his surprise.

"Hmmmmmmm." I couldn't tell if he got that one or not.

October 4, 2005 at 05:03 PM · That is a heck of an email. Do you think it's true?

October 4, 2005 at 09:37 PM · I think this is true. LOL

When I worked in one music college (I will not name it), our double-bass teacher was involved to temporarily teach string quartet class because he didn't have enough students. So he asked our coordinator(educated musician) to give him students to form quartet. But she said, "You have four students, so make a quartet from them..."

October 7, 2005 at 11:50 AM · This isn't about violinists, but Sir Thomas Beecham once told a trombonist at a rehearsal, "Would you now apply that antique drainage system to your face."

October 8, 2005 at 04:02 PM · Since nobody but me seems interested in continuing this "discussion," I'll just keep going until I run out of ideas (Actually, they are supposed to run out of me.).

Not to brag too much, but a couple of weeks ago I won the only contest I have ever won in my life. It was sponsored by the classical music radio station in Chicago, WFMT. They wanted original limericks related to classical music. I offered the following "gem" (if that is the right word. Or should it be "gum"?), and the first prize was dinner for two for my wife and me at a real good Chicago restaurant. I offer this limerick for your amusement and groans (which is the proper response to a good limerick):

The Emperor liked to go ridin',

And his music was good, I'm confidin'.

But he's never returned,

And I've always yearned

To find out if Franz Josef was hidin'.


Sandy Marcus

October 8, 2005 at 07:50 PM · A dog, a Lutheran minister, and a violinist are on a fishing boat...

October 8, 2005 at 09:47 PM · I was trying to think up a musical limerick the other day:

My girlfriend is always a-ruin'

The fact I play so out of tune;

It's because my old fiddle

Plays flat in the middle,

And I gave that Yehudi Menuhin ...

(In the UK there was a children's TV programme called 'Crackerjack', and each episode invariably had a joke along the lines - "Why are you using that old xxx" - "Because I gave Yehudi Menuhin.")

October 9, 2005 at 11:27 AM · Love it.

October 10, 2005 at 12:12 AM · How about this one:

On the fiddle we all want to flower,

But it's Heifetz who has all the power.

If considering quitting,

It's much more fitting

To blame it on Leopold Auer.

October 10, 2005 at 12:59 AM · OK, I've got another one. But my brain can't do any more of these tonight:

If the music reviews start to faze you,

The advice that I have will amaze you:

Ignore all the static,

Store your violin in the attic,

And buy a Guarneri del Jesu.

October 12, 2005 at 11:41 AM · As long as my limericks keep getting your fantastic responses (I hear crickets and the sound of the trees rustling in the wind), here are a few more:

To play the Concerto Tchaikovsky

Demands violin skills like Wieniewski.

You can't be weak,

You need schmaltz plus technique

To play it just good enoughsky.

If you like violin neverending,

A piece with a coda still pending,

Then I'll swear, to the letter,

You can't do any better

Than Vaughn Williams' "The Lark Ascending."

October 12, 2005 at 08:28 PM · Hahaha! Those are great, Sander!

October 12, 2005 at 08:29 PM · I love the "enoughsky"!

October 12, 2005 at 09:31 PM · Pratik: Thank you so much. To receive laughter instead of groans for a limerick is indeed satisfying. In fact, the most challenging thing in the world is to write a limerick that is actually clean.

Cordially, Sandy Marcus

October 12, 2005 at 11:35 PM · I wish I could rhyme. Then, when I insult people, I can do it in an uninsulting way.

October 13, 2005 at 12:29 AM · Hi, Danielle: Well, you can certainly learn. It's like playing the violin. You learn specific skills and then put them all together for an overall purpose.

1. The key to writing a limerick (or certainly doggeral poetry, which is a lot less complicated than a limerick) is to start with the last word. If you want to make up a poem for a guy who, for example, is a jerk, start with the key word in the insult. That should be the last word of the poem (or poem-ette). Let's say the guy is always late. So the last word should be "late" or "tardy."

2. Now look for words that rhyme with "tardy." I don't use them, but you can get a rhyming dictionary very inexpensively. Make a list of words that rhyme.

3. Now make up some sentences ending in the words you like that rhyme. Don't worry about rhythm, meter, or length; just the the idea. For example:

Alex always thinks he's a smarty.

Then why is he always tardy?

4. Now "noodle" the wording so that it has the right rhythm. This is where being a musician is an advantage. Listen for the beat and the accents on the words. Even if you don't get the correct words right off the bat, get the rhythm right:

In Alex's mind, he's a smarty.

Why then is the guy always tardy?

5. Now just fiddle around for the smoothest words that carry the meaning:

In Alex's mind, he's a smarty.

He's so smart that he's always tardy.

And there you have it. Instant Shakespeare.

Cordially, Sandy Marcus

October 13, 2005 at 12:50 AM · Uninsulting? Not at all!

Just look in a bathroom stall:

Poets heckle and rhyme,

"For a really good time,

Give Expletive Harry a call..."

A better way to hide an insult is with sarcasm. The only problem with sarcasm is that you must find the balance between subtlety and making the point understood. Sometimes you have to hit people in the head with brick-like sarcasm. Then it's not very subtle at all, and therefore pointless.

I suppose the best thing to do would be not to insult at all, and be generous and kind always, with only the most uplifting and positive compliments rolling from the tongue. Just follow my shining example...

(note sarcasm)

October 13, 2005 at 12:52 AM · Yes, of course. For no reason at all, this reminds me of the conductor in my high school orchestra (That was a long, long time ago. I think the conductor was Haydn). He got so frustrated with us that he said, "If I conducted like you play, it would look like this!" And he then wiggled all his fingers like a bunch of writhing worms.

(It seemed funny at the time, even though it was certainly sarcastic).

October 13, 2005 at 12:59 AM · Sander, here's my pathetic attempt at poetry:

There once was a fellow named Paganini

Who loved to do tricks that were cheeky.

With a stroke from his bow,

He started to go,

And suddenly vanished like Houdini!

October 13, 2005 at 01:03 AM · There you go. The point is to have fun with it.

October 13, 2005 at 01:02 AM · Very good - like 'em!

Here's another:

There was a violinist called Kogan

Who made it his personal slogan,

Never raise your bow arm

'Cos it's sure to bring harm -

Dann bestimmt ist der Bogen geflogen*

*The bow's sure to take off

It's probably cheating to do the last line in German but I couldn't think of anything better - and it's relevant, too.

October 13, 2005 at 01:28 AM · Come to think of it, I've always thought that there's a lot of humor in some of the greatest classical music. Of course, the obvious examples are Haydn's Surprise Symphony, Mozart's Musical Joke, and the howling winter wind and tramping through the snow in Vivaldi's "Winter" concerto. But there are other things. Beethoven's 8th Symphony, the 3rd movement, where he satirizes his friend Maelzel's metronome and then makes the metronome go haywire. And I've always thought that the (I forgot which) movement of the Bartok 5th string quartet has that devistatingly funny parody of Mozart and Haydn quartets (based on the simplification of the movement's theme and the solo violin going a half-tone out of tune). Now THAT'S humor. If you think about, I'll bet you can find an element of humor in at least half of the last movements of the great violin concerti. No? What about the the Mozart 4th, or the Mendelssohn, or even the Beethoven?

I rest my case.

October 13, 2005 at 01:25 AM · Aha! German limericks. Well, folks, I think it's time for an old codger like me to hit the hay. In my experience, violinists are some of the cleverest people on earth. And when they start applying that cleverness to humor....look out. Nite all. See you later.

October 13, 2005 at 10:29 AM · As I look at the listing I pucker

My lips when I see one more sucker

Is playing yet again

The piece that's the bane

Of my life - the blasted Max Bruch-er.

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