Books About Violin/Music?

July 8, 2019, 2:17 PM · Hello all,
I am currently looking for books about violin/music in general. Anything from violin making to violinists to chamber music or classical music in general. Just looking to expand my knowledge. All suggestions are welcome.

Replies (23)

Edited: July 8, 2019, 3:26 PM · Arnold Steinhardt's book, "Violin Dreams."
July 8, 2019, 4:08 PM · Christian,

A very interesting, albeit non-traditional format, book titled: "The Violin: A Social History"

It is organized by major topic and explores each topic in a non-linear history with the author jumping centuries and leaping over decades while explaining aspects of the violin.

In a sense he is the Dr. Who of the violin taking you back and forth in history in his violin shaped tardis. Once you get past the temporal whiplash it is a very interesting and informative read.

July 8, 2019, 4:28 PM · The Cambridge Companion to the Violin is good. Indivisible by Four is good. I also recommend Max Rostal's book about the Beethoven violin sonatas; even if you don't play them, it's informative (and amusing) to read Rostal's performance notes.
July 9, 2019, 5:21 PM · You might try Edward Dusinberre's 'Music for a Later Age'. He writes about how he joined the Takacs Quartet, how he learned to work with the other players, and about working on and playing repertoire, particularly but not exclusively Beethoven quartets. I'm far from a professional player but i found it readable, engaging, sometimes amusing, and informative about all aspects of playing in a quartet.
July 9, 2019, 6:14 PM · Christian, I see you are a student with an academic interest in the subject. So I assume your interest in books about violin, other string instruments and music in general are similar to mine, although your path is more angled toward the music profession than mine was. There are hundreds of books on these subjects and I don't know where to start (I am not going to make you a list). However, I've always found biographies of great players to be very informative. Books about makers and musicians looking for another violin can be interesting too.

I've been collecting non-fiction books on these subjects for 55 years so my library of the kinds of books you want covers 9 shelves (reduced by about one from its prior maximum). Any good book on the subject you find is bound to include references that will lead you to more.

July 9, 2019, 6:47 PM · I highly recommend “The Great Violinists” by Margaret Campbell, generously lent to me by my teacher. I’m about half way through it. It is full of interesting anecdotes and details of lives and personalities of violinists that were merely names to me before reading it. The graphical family tree of violin teacher-pupil relationships from Corelli to the present, early in the book, is particularly interesting, and possibly unique in literature on the subject.
July 10, 2019, 12:37 AM · It's out of print, but it's a fantastic read if you can get a used copy:

Ah Julian! A memoir of Julian Brodetsky by Leonard Wibberley.

July 10, 2019, 4:34 AM · George, you got me curious: "A very interesting, albeit non-traditional format, book titled: "The Violin: A Social History"

I found a very good condition used hard copy for $6. Hard to find new copies of the physical book - Kindle and Audible, no problem. Following thread with interest.

July 10, 2019, 3:21 PM · Stradivarius by Toby Faber is excellent.
July 10, 2019, 3:35 PM · "Violin Dreams", as mentioned by Paul Deck, is a great read. "The Violin Hunter" is an interesting book as well. Also, "Stradivari's Genius". One of my favorites is also "The Art of Quartet Playing" by David Blum.
July 10, 2019, 4:41 PM · "Violin Virtuosos from Paganini to the 21st Century," by Henry Roth, by gosh.
July 10, 2019, 5:02 PM · Wow thanks for all the recommendations. Are there any places I could possibly get these used? Sometimes amazon can be quite expensive for some books.
July 10, 2019, 8:07 PM · When buying older books, I always start with "Better World Books". Free postage, and often they have gems for a mere song.
July 10, 2019, 8:25 PM · Christian - I found the used copy of "The Violin: A Social History on Amazon. Good to know about Better World Books, didn't know about them!
July 12, 2019, 12:37 PM · Like Andrew I've hesitated to weigh in here, not knowing where to start. I have almost every book already recommended here and dozens more - and agree with their recommendations. But I'll mention the following which I don't think have been mentioned:

"Great Masters of the Violin" by Boris Schwartz - it's more comprehensive than Campbell

"The Glory of the Violin" by Joseph Wechsberg - a very good introduction

For music in general:

"Music in Western Civilization" by Paul Henry Lang Much better than typical dry textbooks on music history

"The Great Composers" by Harold Schonberg

July 12, 2019, 12:49 PM · Two of my favorites:

Great Masters of the Violin by Boris Schwarz is a classic.

Violin Mastery ed. Martens is a collection of interviews with the great violinists of the late 19th and early 20th century - a goldmine of information.

For general musical knowledge, "The Vintage Guide to Classical Music" is great, although the "recording library" section is a bit dated by now.

"How Music Works" by John Powell will surprise you at every turn and make you rethink a lot of things like dynamics, intonation, and tone quality. There is another book by the same name that I haven't read, by a different author, so double check!

July 13, 2019, 9:08 AM · On the fiction side, I highly recommend "An Equal Music" by Vikram Seth, a fabulous novel about a string quartet and the "Song of Names" by Norman Lebrecht. You will learn a good deal about music and string playing from these two novels.
Edited: July 13, 2019, 9:39 AM · "Under the Maestro's Hand: A Violinist's Dream"

Very good book. I bought the ebook on amazon for a dollar.

July 22, 2019, 11:42 PM · I didn't notice anyone mentioning "The Violin Maker" by John Marchese. Re David Blum: I love his books. I also have "Casals and the Art of Interpretation" and have read "Quintet: five journeys toward musical fulfillment" which includes Joseph Gingold and Yo-Yo Ma.
Edited: July 23, 2019, 3:06 AM · Try this free ebook about violin:

"Violin Mastery: Talks with Master Violinists and Teachers by Martens"

July 23, 2019, 10:26 AM · "The Way They Play", especially the first few volumes. Interviews with great violinists. Marvelous reading.
Edited: July 28, 2019, 1:47 AM · I hope it is not too late to offer a few ideas to this conversation!

I see the Edward Dusinberre quartet book and Vikram Seth's 'An Equal Music' already mentioned. These are both excellent and stand up to multiple re-readings.

I'd like to add four others. None of them is technical: they all add to the reader's humanity through music, and the order of the list is of no significance.

Howard Goodall: 'Big Bangs'.
Goodall narrates the stories of sudden changes in western music - paradigm shifts rather than evolutions. The book is based on his fascinating television documentary series on the same idea.

Tom Service: 'Music as Alchemy'
Each chapter is the study of a conductor and associated orchestra(s). Their stories are usually very inspiring, but the London Symphony Orchestra emerges as overworked and under-appreciated.

Alex Ross: 'The Rest is Noise'
A brilliant commentary on western politics and society through the music of the 20th century.

Robin Daniels: 'Conversations with Menuhin'
As the title suggests, these are conversation transcripts. The book is full of wonderful advice and observations on the violin, music, education, philosophy... .

Edited: July 28, 2019, 5:04 PM · I thought of two others:

"Musicophilia" by Oliver Sacks. It is an in-depth discussion of how the human brain processes music, with some fascinating case studies of people with neurologically altered or unique music perception, uncommon genius for music, perfect pitch, etc. It starts with a case of a physician whose telephone booth was struck by lightening, and it turned him into a musician (yes, really)!

The other is "This is your Brain on Music" by Daniel Levitin - Here also is a discussion of music as a neurological phenomenon. Also fascinating.

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