opening of khachaturian concerto

February 9, 2018, 3:32 PM · I'm learning the first movement of the khachaturian violin concerto and I think I'm doing pretty well with it so far. the only part that I'm not doing too well with is the very first few lines. they're all on the g string, mostly fast sixteenth notes, and it goes up to a c5. intonation is fine but the tone is yuck. part of it is because my bow desperately needs to be rehaired and it doesn't grip the strings well, but I still feel like there are things I could do to improve. thoughts?

Replies (7)

Edited: February 9, 2018, 3:57 PM · It could be your violin - have your teacher try it on the same violin.

On some violins this can be improved completely with different strings.

February 9, 2018, 5:01 PM · Have the bow rehaired, and use sufficient rosin. Also, make sure your violin is properly adjusted and the strings aren't too old.

Make sure that your arm level favors the left-hand side of the string, rather than being closer to D-string level. Use solid arm-weight, closer to the bridge.

That top C in the opening phrases is a wolf note on some violins. If it is on yours, angle the bow slightly to try to limit the wolfiness.

February 10, 2018, 5:38 AM · Hi,

Anna, what is it about your tone that you don't like? In teaching this piece in lessons or masterclasses, here are some of the things I have noticed and that you can investigate:

1- Uneven elbow height - many times people will drop the elbow on down-bows. Keeping the elbow a the same height during the strokes (one string, one level of elbow) and making sure that the strokes are lateral can be quite helpful. The principle symptom of a problem in this area is a kind of buzz on all down-bows.
2- Excess pressure - many times, people will tend to hold the bow too tightly. Releasing the fingers of the right hand (i.e. not pressing them into the bow) is important in this opening. The principle symptom of excess pressure of the right hand into the bow is scratching.
3- Contact point - often times, people will tend to play too close to the fingerboard. Moving away from the fingerboard towards the bridge can help add clarity to the sound. The principle symptom one hears for a problem in this regard, aside from lack of clarity is problems in intonation.
4- Raised shoulders - It is very important that the shoulders are open and sitting down. Many times, because of where in the bow this opening occurs, people lift the left shoulder (and the right) and bring the violin to the bow. If this is happening, you will hear that the tone sounds choked.
5- Over-spreading of the index of the right hand - Not to get into debate about bow holds, but an extended right hand index can create excess pressure and tension in the hand that can affect the clarity and quality of the sound. Bringing the index closer to the rest of the hand can release tension, excess pressure, and bring clarity. The symptom in the sound of an over-extended index is a slamming on down-bows and a kind of metallic like quality to the tone.

Hard to say anything without hearing you, but in my experience, the above things (aside from problems with the instrument, bow, strings) are the technical ones that most often come up with problems of tone in the opening of this concerto.

Hope this helps...


February 10, 2018, 1:11 PM · Hi Anna, you could try wearing a cheap set of 33 decibel noise reduction ear plugs when you practice as they cut out a lot of the unpleasant scratch from playing in higher positions and bowing closer to the bridge.

It is also my opinion that if your violin has not been played much in the higher positions that it will improve somewhat with more playing in time, but this is a very controversial subject and many or most may disagree with me.

February 13, 2018, 1:10 PM · Higher positions on the G string usually do not require as much force as we think (I sometimes practice passages on the D string for feel, and then transfer to the G string). Not too close to the bridge, closer to the fingerboard. Bow angle should be deep (ie higher arm, hair close to the imaginary C string). Finger strength and angle in the left hand can also make a big difference - fingers should be very curved and strong feeling but you don't have to press as hard as you think, particularly when the left hand shape is correct, reaching around the bout. Good luck - what a great concerto, btw :)
Edited: March 4, 2018, 3:50 AM · To Anna ~

Just 'tuned in' re Khachaturian Violin Concerto 1st movement opening theme on Sul G string ~

Having played this great Violin Concerto all my concert touring career, getting a healthy sound on the Sul G string in the 16th notes and doted sixteenth to less is a delicate balance of a brushed bow which many string players (violin, viola, violoncello, Basso) don't think of in mind or visualised thought perception.

Having studied with Jascha Heifetz & performed the Khachaturian V.C. 1st mov't in our Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Classes, USC - Khachaturian, JH-7, Elisabeth Matesky film, Russian version, ( Library of Congress Master Performers), please consider a trip to YouTube to watch & observe what I did at the time of our film. If one raises the bow arm slightly as the great wing of a jet airplane raises up if banking to the left, everything else should follow suit ... Your bowing must be close to the string yet Not attacked with a cut sound of the opening D (4th pos. on G string) at the Frog, but rather, a brushed on from the air just before opening D on the G string which will give the sound a spacious smoothness & to all notes following including the sixteenth's which will then be Brushed rather than hacked at which makes ugly sounds & falsifies the intonation. Vitally important: Go Slowly in your learning the opening theme of the first movement!Too fast too soon doesn't allow your thinking, i.e., brain, time to visualise the (call it) 'Oistrakh Sound' which is very broad. His bow never left the string in sixteenth passages and needn't do. Best not try to create spiccatto, please!! It will not work! Take a slow motion tempo and watch your fiddle lower a tiny bit to assist a slightly higher bow arm on the Sul G!! (Don't Strain!)

My instinct is that you are attempting to 'perform' the Khachaturian before learning it!! This is quite common, but 'short cuts' Never Work! Mr. Heifetz's first words to the 7 of us were:

"Pupil's, there are No Shortcuts"!! Quote, Jascha Heifetz

Please learn in slow motion with a slightly higher bow arm brushing all the notes in the opening theme & a slightly lowered fiddle to accommodate the slightly raised bow arm not strained, and your sound concerns w/ informed and Calm practise should dissolve scratch & an inner nervousness brought on by fears of not being yet able to play the opening theme plus sixteenth note passages following quickly enough ~ Key phrase: Slower is faster later

Rome wasn't built in a day; the Khachaturian is your Rome!! Easy as you go which demands great patience and Faith!! Build the tempo only when you have a broad brushed sound throughout the opening theme of the 1st movement. Now, start 'walking through' passages w/an easy metronome
moderato tempo minus!! Think Brushed Bow arm slightly raised on the Sul G String for the Opening. You need to develop true patience which will get you where you wish to go more solidly than approaching an almost-tempo but scratching & questionable intonation. Intonation is ruined by very faulty bowing. You are now advised/RX'd on to a 'brushed bow arm' programme ~

My 'other' mentor was the Master of Bowing, Nathan Milstein. Look him up if he is unfamiliar to you ~ Also, go to Kreutzer Etude #1 for sustained long whole notes & start the first A (2) on the D string then try transferring it to the Sul G String (4) & sway when brushing Down & on to the G String with your entire body, This will prepare you for a smooth sound & do play on the pads - the fatter part of your fingers on the left hand. Curved fingers tend to curl & fall off the fingerboard ...


Email my Artist Rep to make a report at: & state your name + contributor re Khachaturian - attention to, Elisabeth Matesky on Subject Line.

Sending you best musical greetings from America ~

Elisabeth Matesky *

* UTube: Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Classes, USC - Khachaturian, JH-7,
Elisabeth Matesky (Library of Congress Master Performers) Russian

March 4, 2018, 9:27 PM · Dear Miss Matesky, thank you so much for your generous tutorial on the Khachaturian!

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