Unpopular opinions

May 13, 2020, 4:32 PM · As the title says, what are your unpopular opinions about classical music, more specifically strings?

Mine is I don't think the Ysaye sonatas are that good...

Replies (197)

May 13, 2020, 4:44 PM · I can't stand the Bruch.
May 13, 2020, 4:49 PM · Jack I agree to an extent. I prefer his 2nd
May 13, 2020, 4:49 PM · I love the Bruch!

Even if I could play the Ysaye sonatas I don't think I would find beauty in them (maybe not even "music"). But that's just me! I admire anyone who can play them (in tune).

May 13, 2020, 4:53 PM · Andrew, I agree with Ysaye. There is no beauty there for me at all. It just sounds difficult for difficulty's sake
May 13, 2020, 5:19 PM · Can't stand the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. The third movement is irritating and ruins the whole concerto. (This is true of several other Tchaikovsky finales as well. His 5th Symphony comes readily to mind.)

I generally don't like the string quartet as an ensemble and feel it is lacking something. (I do love piano quartets and all types of quintets and sextets.)

May 13, 2020, 5:45 PM · Andrew, the Tchaik used to be my favourite violin concerto, but I think thats now Wieniawski 1
May 13, 2020, 6:09 PM · This list so far is pretty tame and predictable, with people bashing the virtuoso composers as always... I wanna see someone here spice it up and write something legitimately unpopular, like hating Beethoven op 131 or Bach Chaccone!
May 13, 2020, 6:39 PM · I don't think Schubert is particularly good at symphony writing. Never gotten into any of it
May 13, 2020, 7:08 PM · I'm totally sick of people playing the same pieces the same way, over and over and over again. I mean, there has to be more to this life than Mendelssohn and Paganini 5.
May 13, 2020, 7:11 PM · It's all downhill after the Napoleonic Wars, in my opinion.
May 13, 2020, 7:31 PM · Cotton, again, I agree. More repertoire out there than people explore
Edited: May 13, 2020, 7:36 PM · I have the opposite opinion from Paul Smith. Not a huge fan of anything composed between Bach's death and Beethoven's 3rd. There are a number of Mozart pieces I like, and a handful of things by other composers, but I don't love any of them.
Edited: May 13, 2020, 7:57 PM · I don't like Sarasate. It's all just way too trite. (Especially "Gypsy Errors.") If I had the chops for that kind of stuff I'd play Franck, Debussy, and Faure sonatas instead.
May 13, 2020, 8:08 PM · I find Sarasate's music to not be "serious", as in its music to just have fun with which I think is how I'd treat it when I play it
May 13, 2020, 8:24 PM · Great pieces of classical music that can really move you are almost all composed before the onset of romanticism.
May 13, 2020, 10:56 PM · I don't know if this is unpopular or not but I can't stand a lot of cliche classical music like Vivaldi spring or other overplayed baroque pieces. I also don't have a taste for Beethoven.
May 14, 2020, 12:23 AM · Mozart - so fey! And those corny cadences with the trill that he used time and again.
May 14, 2020, 12:36 AM · Ben I have to second you on Beethoven, esp. His early works
May 14, 2020, 1:27 AM · Coming back to this post I also can not stand the Monti Czardas. Anyone Else or is it just me?
Edited: May 14, 2020, 1:57 AM · Almost all violin concerto third movements take away more than they give.

"Knowing composer's intentions" or heeding stylistic traditions "because this is how it was originally played" is ridiculous, boring and kills creativity. The sheet music is enough: whatever the interpretation is, it just has to be convincing.

May 14, 2020, 2:17 AM · I like David Krakovich. Did you know he is still regularly churning out videos? Check out his YouTube channel.
Edited: May 14, 2020, 4:35 AM · Certainly the first Mozart concerto is a massive disappointment, but there are gems in the others, yet they were all composed in the same year, weren't they?

Ysaye I've only heard once and was massively underwhelmed.

Beethoven's music can be bitty.

The only opera CDs I ever buy are highlights. I have no Wagner - is that because he is all highlights or all lowlights?

I don't like the Romantics. I switch off after Mozart or Beethoven and switch on again with Debussy. And I haven't got the patience to listen to all those bloody Biedermeier Lieder.

And clearly my opinion of Suzuki is unpopular, lol!

May 14, 2020, 6:25 AM · The Walton viola concerto is not very nice to listen to.

Czardas is overrated.

The Four Seasons is played far too much on a British Radio station...

May 14, 2020, 8:05 AM · I'm not a big fan of Saint Saens violin concertos. I also think that Lalo symphonie espangnole is boring. Any thoughts?
Edited: May 14, 2020, 10:41 AM · I don't know if this opinion is unpopular or not: I feel that a lot of 20th century classical music that is still regularly programmed in the 21st century, was composed by men and not women, and by men alone without any collaborators; in other words, I suspect that much of the "modern" classical music programmed today is not fully representative of the musical contributions that men and women - working alone and collaborating - made in the 20th century.
May 14, 2020, 8:40 AM · Raymond I completely agree. Tyler I agree about Saint-Saens, though I love the Lalo. M Zilpah, I disagree. I think the Bartok is the one not nice to listen to. Gordon I'd say he's all lowlights for me. Did a workshop at RHUL, and we did a Wagner thing which has put me off. I believe the concertos were composed between 1773-1776. Jean that is quite possibly the most unpopular opinion full stop. J again I agree. A lot of 3rd movements don't seem to fit (Brahms concerto comes to mind). Ben I am also not a fan of Czardas
May 14, 2020, 9:04 AM · I think Vaughan Williams’ music is boring and sound like watching grass grow. Also I think The Lark Ascending doesn’t deserve 1st place in the Classic FM Hall of Fame two years in a row
May 14, 2020, 9:06 AM · Like Cotton, I hate it when I hear the exact same interpretation of the same old pieces, but I also hate the really out there interpretations, where the violinist takes too much artistic license. There's no pleasing some people :)

Also, I generally hate playing music written by pianists. All these 5 note runs. I only have 4 fingers, which means I'll have to make string crossings.

May 14, 2020, 9:14 AM · Jimin I agree. Never found hie music to be particularly special in anyway. Julie yes. Absolutely ^_^
May 14, 2020, 9:24 AM · What do you think of the Vaughan Williams art songs? "The House of Life", for example.
May 14, 2020, 9:32 AM · I hate Sibelius concerto. Guess it’s very unpopular opinion on v.com given how high it was ranked by our members in a poll by Laurie.

To me the first movement feels overly dramatic and pretentious - it serves very well as background music for some horror movie (something that is lacking of other popular concertos).

May 14, 2020, 10:21 AM · I think Elgar can actually be kinda charming and tuneful when he's not trying so hard (Wand of Youth), but his concertos are just empty melodrama - The cello concerto is godawful.

I love a lot of Beethoven, but could cut about 50% of his output, and I could cut about 75% of Shostakovitch.

I can't stand almost all of Heifetz's and Argerich's interpretations.

May 14, 2020, 10:32 AM · Matt, I agree with it being in a horror movie haha. Christian I agree, I am not a fan of Elgar's cello concerto. I also agree as to not being a fan of Heifetz in the slightest
May 14, 2020, 10:38 AM · I hadn't thought of the Bartok viola concerto. Agreed. Not tuneful at all.

Lark Ascending always seems to be the post popular piece on the classic FM hall of fame.

May 14, 2020, 10:47 AM · Stravinsky's opinions on Wagner: Wagner's best opera was Falstaff {by Verdi, for those who are puzzled} The ring cycle is one vast improvisation. There is more music in a single Verdi aria than an entire Wagner opera. Mark Twain's opinion; "Wagner's music is probably better than it sounds."
May 14, 2020, 11:34 AM · Wagner is far too aggressive and chromatic for me
May 14, 2020, 11:41 AM · I must confess that I am not a big Brahms fan. The main melody of Symph. 1-1st mvmnt. is ugly. The melody of Symph. 3 - 1st mvmnt is unsingable. He messes up the rhythm with piano -style background hemiola noodling. His major commercial success was the set of Hungarian Dances,- all borrowed from existing folk music being played in Budapest cafes.
May 14, 2020, 12:44 PM · Julie says: "Also, I generally hate playing music written by pianists."

Uh, pretty sure that's not an unpopular opinion. Except maybe among pianists.

May 14, 2020, 1:00 PM · I like Nigel Kennedy. Who else would use ponitcello in solo Bach?

All the best concertos were written by pianists. Symphonies too.

Edited: May 14, 2020, 1:05 PM · I would like to see more virtuoso violin pieces - Lalo, Paganini,Sarasate, Saint-Saens, Vieuxtemps, Viotti - included in symphony concerts. I checked the Boston Symphony archives and found the last time they programmed a Paganini violin concerto was in 1987 with Midori as soloist.
Edited: May 14, 2020, 1:21 PM · I think Brahms got some help from Joachim, who perhaps deserves a co-writing credit of some sort. Joachim was a pretty solid composer in his own right.
May 14, 2020, 1:29 PM · Raymond I agree completely
Edited: May 14, 2020, 1:51 PM · "Also, I generally hate playing music written by pianists."

I think that counts as an unpopular opinion. It includes (if counting composers who made a living on the organ, fortepiano, or other piano predecessors) Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Ravel, Schumann, Franck, Faure, and Mendelssohn.

May 14, 2020, 2:20 PM · Here's mine. I refuse to play Paganini, even if I could!
His music is pretty, but empty: icing sugar with the price-tag of caviar.
For a challenge, I would rather tackle Bartok's quartets, or the Brahms concerto.
May 14, 2020, 2:48 PM · Here's probably an unpopular opinion; any Bach S&P that's played too fast (for my taste at least). I play my Bach S&P, perhaps slower than more accomplished violinists for 2 reasons:

1.) I will definitely be playing it horribly, missing notes, and not in tune if I tried to emulate the faster tempo of the more accomplished violinists than myself.
2.) I just prefer it slower (not too slow, just right that I don't mess up), and just enjoy the music.

May 14, 2020, 3:43 PM · I have no issues with a pianist who is not a violinist composing for the violin provided they take the trouble to learn something about the instrument and to consult with a skilled violinist at some stage in the course of composition. I believe Brahms did this with his violin concerto.

I once played in an orchestra with a very fine young conductor who was a professional horn player and pianist. Needless to say, the brass and woodwind were kept on their toes and couldn't get away with anything but their best when he was in charge. He wasn't a string player, so there was a potential problem when handling the string sections. He dealt with this by spending every rehearsal break in discussing the strings and their problems with the CM. Later on, he took violin lessons from the CM, getting Grade 3 well within his first year. Doing this was a dramatic help to his orchestral conducting; he was now talking to the string sections at their level.

May 14, 2020, 3:52 PM · I can't stand the lark ascending or really much Vaughn Williams in general. To me, the piece sounds like a modal warmup routine without any real direction. Also Bartok has never done much for me.
May 14, 2020, 3:59 PM ·
Aiden, I enjoy Bartok in general, just not his viola concerto which is weird as a viola player haha
May 14, 2020, 4:05 PM · I would like to see more transcriptions performed. For example, the Adagio from Ravel's Piano Concerto would sound nice with violin and orchestra.

I also would like to hear more works composed by string players, pieces that were composed on stringed instruments. I feel that the violinist/composer was somewhat marginalized in the 20th century. I listened to the Schoenberg concerto again recently and it sounds like something that must have been a piano concerto at some point in its genesis. Did Heifetz say it was unplayable?

May 14, 2020, 4:42 PM · When I hear the Schoenberg concerto, it sounds like something that was composed originally in Excel.
May 14, 2020, 4:47 PM · Narrow minded string players that act like the violin police when anybody does something different. Generic classical violinists that you cannot tell apart.
May 14, 2020, 5:34 PM · Christopher I agree. It bothers me a lot
May 14, 2020, 5:57 PM · Continuous heavy vibrato.
May 14, 2020, 7:24 PM · "(if counting composers who made a living on the organ, fortepiano, or other piano predecessors) Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Ravel, Schumann, Franck, Faure, and Mendelssohn. "

Many of these composers were accomplished (or at least woke) violinists and understand the nature of the instrument.

I was actually specifically thinking of Bizet, who if I have a choice, I avoid.

Edited: May 15, 2020, 12:52 AM · When you think about it (I advise you don't) every viola makes a pretty ridiculous noise up top, the cello even worse. You could improve it by sawing off half the fingerboard
Edited: May 15, 2020, 2:26 AM · "Almost all violin concerto third movements TAKE AWAY more than they give."

You are talking about the chance of you ever being able to play the entire concerto? ;-)

May 15, 2020, 3:22 AM · Jean, I didn't think about that yet since I'm a violin noob, but you might be right! It's tough enough already to learn music I love... I can't imagine torturing myself technically AND musically.
Edited: May 15, 2020, 4:52 AM · Dislikes include:
Tchaikovsky concerto.
I'm not enthusiastic about Bruch either (1 or 2)
Almost anything written by Les Six - the words 'trivial' and 'banal' come to mind. There are exceptions but I can't recollect them just now.
I'm not wild about much of the virtuoso repertoire (inc Paganini and Sarasate) but I can accept it for what it is and enjoy it occasionally.
Much of Brahms, especially symphony no 3 and the second piano concerto - though I love the string sextets and the second symphony.
Several products of the most arid part of the 20th century - particularly the emanations of Darmstadt, IRCAM and their disciples.
Fortunately there's still plenty left to enjoy.
May 15, 2020, 4:56 AM · J I thanks for taking it lightly, indeed I was just joking around :-)
May 15, 2020, 4:58 AM · Baroque music is generally superior to romantic music (although there are some exceptions).

Opera is extremely boring.

Rachmaninoff should be considered among the five best composers of all time.

May 15, 2020, 5:26 AM · Miguel I agree with opera and Rachmaninov
May 15, 2020, 7:20 AM · The best thing about opera is that someone always dies of tuberculosis.
Edited: May 15, 2020, 12:33 PM · The variety of opinions here has led me to recall a New York Times piece 9 years ago by Anthony Tommasini, "The Greatest," in which he names those he considers the 10 greatest composers of all times:

I found it educational to consider his perspective and some favorite composers of mine that did not make his list.

The 81 years I have spent as an amateur musician playing alone and in ensembles of various sizes (71 years) music that I have loved (and not) have led me to expand my acceptance of what I hear and play (but not Ravel's Bolero).

Because I have a son who started writing "music" and songs in his early teens and still does it now (more than 40 years later) and a grandson who has made it a major part of his life I KNOW that those who write the music are doing it because it expresses something inside them that they are trying to communicate to the outside of them. So too, I reason, must have been the case for all known composers (except perhaps for those notes put on paper for pedagogical or experimental purposes). I think there is much to be gained bu trying to discern what that was/is.

Edited: May 15, 2020, 9:27 AM · Andrew - I couldn't get your link to work but I found a reference to Tommasini's list, now expanded to 17:
Monteverdi, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Puccini, Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Bartok.
No room for Ravel, Janacek, Mahler, Bruckner, Dvorak, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, but a place on the high table for Schoenberg and Puccini (!) who I'm sure would have had a great deal to talk to one another other about.
I hope we can all agree that it's fine to make lists of your greatest and worst, just as long as you don't believe you're RIGHT.
May 15, 2020, 9:36 AM · Every list of that kind is subjective. Although we can try to determine some ‘objective’ factors, comparisons are difficult, specially between composers of different eras and locations (would Bach have composed the same had he lived in the romantic period?).

We can judge the technical difficulty of a piece, the number of voices it has, the kind of harmonies it employs (and their complexity...), but music, as a form of art, is still subjective, and a piece that doesn’t ‘click’ my taste or sensitivity can bring other people to tears.

So that’s why I think I am not necessarily right on my lists... but I’m convinced everyone else is wrong! ;-)

Edited: May 15, 2020, 9:56 AM · Wagner operas, perhaps my least favorite musical genre - but then I am under no compulsion to go to or listen to a performance. As someone once rightly remarked, a Wagner opera consists of hours of gods and godlings shouting at each other, with only about 20 minutes of real music in the entire thing. And to be considered are the unfortunate musicians in the orchestra pit who have to endure it.
May 15, 2020, 10:22 AM · A lot of generalisations here.
And what are very much minority views.
Some years ago, I was in an orchestra that contrinuted largely to the BBC's "Homeward Bound" programme - short pieces designed to be listened to in the commute.
Some of them were by forgotten composers who proved WHY they were forgotten. Some others were unknown pieces by great composers, proving that they could have off days like the rest of us.
Others were gems, so it certainly wasn't all dross.
Let's just say very varied.
At least we didn't hang around on them - we'd do around 10 pieces in a rehearse / record session of three hours.
May 15, 2020, 11:24 AM · "And what are very much minority views."
In a thread titled Unpopular Opinions?
May 15, 2020, 11:56 AM · If you love opera then you're just never going to have a list without Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner. And you're not going to be an NYT music critic without adoring opera.

No opera!!! Blechhh!!

May 15, 2020, 2:50 PM · Just shows how everyone's different. I love 3rd movements of concertos. And I love Wagner operas. The rest of the opera world has been an acquired taste with much effort. I don't like recitative, arias, etc. I prefer the continuous music of Wagner, the leitmotifs, the ponderous themes, etc. I love the idea of sawing off the top of the fingerboard of a viola, though.

Now Tommasini did solicit input as I recall in creating his list.

But if I were to troll as some others seem to be doing: I love baroque with a LOT of vibrato playing way up on the strings. I LOVE extremely romantic era extremely virtuosic cadenzas for thing like Mozart concertos or even earlier. I understand but think HIP sucks big time.

Edited: May 15, 2020, 11:03 PM · I like operas influenced by Wagner, with more-or-less continuous music and relatively few set pieces. Puccini went in the same direction.

I just don't like the ones by Wagner himself.

Edited: May 16, 2020, 3:03 AM · "I like operas influenced by Wagner"
Hansel and Gretel!
May 15, 2020, 11:22 PM · From Raymond's comment about virtuoso things, I decided to email a number of orchestras here in the UK to find out when they last played a violin "showpiece"
May 15, 2020, 11:28 PM · I don't care for the concertos of Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky; I dislike Ysaye’s work for solo violin.
Edited: May 16, 2020, 12:16 PM · Jake and Raymond:

At one point, because I wanted to get a good idea of what orchestras were actually playing, I combined five years' worth of the annual League of American Orchestras repertoire report in a single spreadsheet, running from 2008-09 through 2012-13. (Each year's report contains the entire season's programming from a sampling of professional and high-level amateur orchestras in the US and Canada.) From there, I extracted a list of every piece that had 10 listed performances over 5 years (which based on the sample size roughly translates to 50 performances per year in the US and Canada).

Exactly four pieces that I would call violin showpieces have 10 or more listed performances in that five-year period: Ravel's Tzigane (17), Saint-Saens's Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso (16), Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen (13), and Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy (12). As compared to 25 violin concertos, not including double concertos.

Tzigane was the 18th most performed piece for violin and orchestra, behind the following: Brahms (63), Tchaikovsky (53), Mendelssohn (47), Beethoven (44), Sibelius (41), Bruch No. 1 (40), Barber (37), Vivaldi "Winter" (36), Mozart No. 5 (31), Vivaldi "Autumn" (29), Vivaldi "Spring" (28), Vivaldi "Summer" (27), Prokofiev No. 2 (25), Mozart No. 3 (19), Shostakovich No. 1 (19), Bruch Scottish Fantasy (19), and Korngold (18).

The Brahms Double Concerto, the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, and the Beethoven Triple Concerto, each including a violin soloist, also had more performances than Tzigane.

I suspect the problem with showpieces in general is that it is really hard to fit them into a program with a top-tier soloist, unless the soloist is playing the showpiece along with a relatively short concerto. (The same is true of Baroque concertos. The only reason the four Vivaldi concertos got on the list is that 25 of the performances of each of them were in fact performances of the entire Four Seasons in a single concert.)

May 16, 2020, 7:53 AM · Only once have I heard Ysaye's Op 27 for solo violin, when a local violinist, a 3rd-year student from RAM, performed all 6 from memory in a free lunchtime concert at a local church. She played with great aplomb and freedom, technical problems obviously not existing for her. I was mightily impressed, as were other local orchestral players in the audience, a couple of whom were retired professionals. I enjoyed the Ysaye Op 27 as music, but I have a feeling that it comes across better in a live performance than in the recording studio. Performance-wise it is, and always will be, beyond my capabilities.

Regarding opera, I'm generally not enthusiastic about the genre - with one exception: the Gilbert and Sullivan light operettas ("Mikado", "Gondoliers" etc), nearly all of which I've played in as cellist in semi-pro runs extending over several years. So I enjoyed seeing them for free (and getting paid for it) from my excellent vantage point in the pit. The unfortunate 2nd violins and violas, on the other hand, had their backs to the stage at all times :(

May 16, 2020, 8:27 AM · A lot of Vivaldi is just scales and arpeggios played fast! Could say the same of Paganini...
Edited: May 16, 2020, 8:30 AM · "Gilbert and Sullivan..., nearly all of which I've played in as cellist in semi-pro runs extending over several years. So I enjoyed seeing them for free (and getting paid for it) from my excellent vantage point in the pit. The unfortunate 2nd violins and violas, on the other hand, had their backs to the stage at all times"

I've played in half a dozen amateur ones as an oboist, and yes, they are fun, and I look forward to playing violin in some, but I don't much feel the need to watch one.

May 16, 2020, 11:16 AM · @Christopher Payne Paganini 5 am i right XD
May 16, 2020, 11:40 AM · I'd be just fine never hearing Tzigane again. It also seems like a particular waste of an orchestra to program it in that setting, when the piano version sounds fine. I find a lot of Ravel to be initially appealing, but not aging well, with most Rachmaninov being the same way, whereas I find Debussy gets better and better with more listens. There are exceptions.

I don't even get the point of Berlioz, Wagner, Mahler, and most romantic opera. I like Strauss's Don Juan, and maybe a few other things, but most of his music just sounds self-important. I went to "Ein Heldenleben" a few years ago, and it was torture. I don't know how unpopular all those opinions are, but I got 'em for days.

May 16, 2020, 2:14 PM · I don't like listening to pieces that I know I will never be able to play, which cuts out most of R. Strauss and a lot of concertos. If I were not a violinist my opinion might be different.
May 16, 2020, 4:10 PM · Joel I get that completely, I just don't subscribe to it ^_^
Edited: May 16, 2020, 5:42 PM · Interesting analysis Andrew. I didn't realize Mozart 5 was performed more than Mozart 3 (or 4 for that matter). And Dvorak, the concerto and the Romance, are not in your top 18.

If I recall correctly, I was familiar the Barber concerto and Dvorak Romance before I had listened to the Brahms, Beethoven, or Mendelssohn. I wonder if there was a revival of interest in Barber's music - at least in the United States - in part due to the Adagio's inclusion in the movie "Platoon".

I like Gilbert and Sullivan too. Any video recommendations?

May 16, 2020, 6:05 PM · Paganini caprices shouldn't be the first choice for "proof" of technical ability in auditions. They don't sound good except for a handful.

The baroque tradition of improvising and embellishment provides so much freedom to the music and more violinists should experiment with that in later era works.

Mozart's first violin concerto is underrated.

May 16, 2020, 6:10 PM · Tani I agree completely agree with your comment
May 16, 2020, 9:15 PM · I don't much care for any cello concertos. For the cello to be heard, either the orchestra has to drop out or the cello has to be in its screaming high range.

Beethoven's cello parts are garbage.

I can't stand the oboe.

Edited: May 17, 2020, 3:41 AM · Raymond:

The Dvorak concerto had 12 listed performances in those 5 years, making it a top-30 piece for violin and orchestra in US/Canada. The Dvorak Romance had just 5 listed performances.

I had actually never heard the Romance before I looked it up on YouTube tonight; it doesn't even sound vaguely familiar to me. I'm pretty sure I hadn't even heard of it, apart from maybe noticing that it existed when compiling the spreadsheet. For that matter, the first time I heard the Dvorak concerto was in 2016, when I was in the orchestra playing it. Until I saw it on the concert program, I wasn't even aware Dvorak had written a violin concerto even though I'd been a string player for 17 years and a regular classical radio listener for more than 20 years by that time.

For completeness, other than the above-mentioned concertos and the Dvorak, the other violin concertos with 10 or more listed performances were: Berg (14), Paganini No. 1 (13), Stravinsky (13), Mozart No. 4 (12), Glazunov (11), Ades "Concentric Paths" (10), Khachaturian (10), and Saint-Saens No. 3 (10).

Other pieces featuring at least one violin soloist with 10 or more listed performances: Brahms Double Concerto (24), Mozart Sinfonia Concertante (22), Beethoven Triple Concerto (19), Bach Double Concerto (12), and Bernstein Serenade (12).

May 17, 2020, 8:22 AM · Andrew thats kind of annoying that there is one for the US/Canada, but not ome for here in the UK. I found absolutely nothing. Be intrigued to find out
May 17, 2020, 2:56 PM · To be clear, it's not a full list of performances for the US and Canada. It's a sampling of orchestras, 50-60 orchestras each year for the most recent reports. Hence my estimate that 10 listed performances over 5 years equates to about 50 performances per year by professional and high-level amateur orchestras.

Also, they haven't published a report since 2013, or at least it's not available on the website.

May 17, 2020, 3:21 PM · Either way Andrew its more than I found haha
May 17, 2020, 5:36 PM · Jake that's because over there folks are minding the comings and goings of trains instead of paying attention to what orchestras are playing. Need to develop orchestra-spotting into a thing.
May 18, 2020, 11:26 AM · I want to get back to mentioning opinions that have at least a good chance to be unpopular. So here goes: I don't like Anne-Sophie Mutter. And I don't like Heifetz playing Mozart. If someone contradicts this I'll post my reasons.
May 18, 2020, 11:47 AM · Albrecht, what have you against Anne-Sophie? I'm fairly certain she was my first exposure to Mozart's concertos on YouTube
Edited: May 19, 2020, 12:59 AM · This thread led me to think about our conception of 'opinion' and to realize what an ambiguous and blurry word it is in our culture. It unites as a single unit of thought issues of taste and carefully considered judgments. Given that 'opinion' can include the latter, I tend to weight my understanding of the term in that direction, as I consider things like musical likes and dislikes to be more in the realm of personal preference. That was a bad strategy on my part for understanding what other people mean by the word, so I am grateful for this thread as it has led me to quarantine the word as ambiguous and unclear, and hence forward to be careful to test and isolate its meaning whenever I hear it.
Edited: May 18, 2020, 3:26 PM · A while back there was something of a rift when ASM apparently priced herself out of the British market.

I remember my daughter coming home from Kindergarten one day and telling us over dinner how her class had been discussing that day what "opinions" are and how one should be careful with them. Fascinating, but her teacher basically nailed it.

Edited: May 18, 2020, 3:39 PM · Ok, Jake.

First a confession: I am Swiss and we don't like the Germans very much. And Mutter is about as German (Germanic? Teutonic?) as they come. I just don't like her personality as it appears in interviews and writings. She comes across as pretentious and arrogant. If you don't believe me read her introduction to her recording of the Beethoven sonatas.

I heard her live only once. She was 11 years old at the time and played among other things a Beethoven sonata and Paganini caprice 24 (flawlessly). The whole performance was technically on the level of an excellent adult player and musically the work of a child.

Now to music:

I'll give an example: There is a recording of Beethoven's string trio op. 3* with Mutter playing the violin (I forget the other two). The second theme in the first movement of that piece is a marvel: the melody rises by a tenth in two measures, then takes a second start a fourth below the initial start and soars to even a second higher than before. It is a breathtaking moment in a piece that so far has had no real melody. But Mutter on that recording plays it as coldly as if it were from a Kreutzer study.

There is also her tendency to try too hard to be original--when she turns the middle movement of op. 30/3 into an adagio for example and pretends to find hitherto unknown depths in the music--when Beethoven titled it "tempo di minuetto ma molto moderato e grazioso", to my knowledge the most elaborate tempo marking in Beethoven's chamber music. The whole sonata is by far the wittiest of the set (most famously the unexpected--or shocking--a flat Major entry in the last movement) and the middle movement fits right in when the players begin to stutter once in a while.

Mutter is certainly a fabulous violinist, but--in my opinion--not such a great musician.

* If you don't know this trio I recommend you take the first chance you get to play it. It is well worth it.

May 18, 2020, 5:40 PM · Ah okay that makes sense. I personally enjoy her playing, but I've not seen enough interviews for her personality. I am not a fan of Joshua Bell or Hilary Hahn. I think Hilary seems really nice (from her TwoSet vids), but her playing just seems mechanical sort of like Heifetz. I would rather listen to her than him though
Edited: May 18, 2020, 7:28 PM · I think Mutter sometimes overdoes stuff and can kind of stretch things to their breaking point in terms of phrasing, vibrato and tone, like really testing the limits of expression. So sometimes I find her playing sort of hysterical, but rarely. But most of the time, she really fills every phrase in just right, with an incredible sound and polish.

I was listening to a performance of Mendelssohn that came on the radio late at night a few months ago, and I was lamenting that I couldn't find any contemporary players that played it tenderly and sensitively, as I heard James Ehnes live last summer give it a performance that I found lacking in any kind of nuance and I guess meant to thrill with its speed or something, and I was really amazed at what I was hearing on the radio with it's gorgeous sound, it's sensitive and beautiful phrasing, and just a sense of real tenderness and lyricism, and it was Anne Sophie Mutter.

I don't know if that was the same as this, but I'll just leave this here, as this performance really speaks to me as well (But in the end, I'm not trying to convince you, Albrecht):

Oh, and I guess you can add "James Ehnes - sterile player", to my list of unpopular opinions. But, but, but, maybe we're living in a world that needs as many sterile players as possible.

Edited: May 18, 2020, 11:41 PM · I like ASM. I think Christian is right that she pushes the envelope when it comes to certain aspects of expressiveness. Like some "no vibrato" passages -- such as 6:25 in the Mendelssohn video that you linked.

I don't find HH's playing cold at all. I find it tasteful and appropriate to the musical task at hand. She gets this "cold" reputation solely by appearing stiff and wooden on stage. Heifetz was cold on stage and aristocratic in his personality, but you can't argue he wasn't a soulful, romantic violin player.

But thanks for the trio recommendation, I'll check it out. My kids play violin and cello and I can manage some things on the piano. Hopefully Beethoven Op. 3 is not too much harder than Haydn. :)

May 19, 2020, 5:49 AM · Eh, Paul, Beethoven op. 3 is a string trio; no piano involved. If you can play the viola part you are all set though.

As to HH: I find her solo Bach very boring indeed. But in Mozart sonatas I find her very convincing, more so than just bout anybody else. The first thing I heard from her was her recording of the Shostakovich concerto. I liked it--until I heard the recording with the old master to whom it was dedicated. That set the record straight.

May 21, 2020, 7:31 PM · Albrecht -- Thanks! I might look at the viola part indeed. I went looking for my book of Beethoven piano trios today, anyway, and discovered that I left the piano score at a friend's house last time I was there for a play-in.
May 21, 2020, 8:27 PM · The asm/giurrana/Rostropovich Beethoven string trios are one of my all time favorite recordings. it has a youthful fire and unabashed passion that I can’t help but love.
May 21, 2020, 9:29 PM · Mark exactly the reason to love recordingsv
Edited: May 21, 2020, 9:38 PM · I've said it before, but I'll say it again:

When Alexander Markov plays Paganini's 24 caprices, they become music. In fact, they were my main introduction to the violin, and I must have listened to them all a hundred times over in the 9th grade.

Nobody else plays them like that. A lot of very prominent violinists' renditions of the caprices make me cringe, actually.

May 21, 2020, 10:08 PM · Classical music doesn't just smell funny, it's actually dead for the most part. Violinists and the classical music industry at large are effectively polishing gravestones and statues of the long gone. What is there that's new gets little attention other than ritualistic formal praise largely limited to premieres which are forgotten immediately after they are played if not during, so there is little to no new creation and vitality. And we in the audience are largely responsible for this state of affairs by failing to recognize, appreciate, develop and pay for modern voices, in a formal spectacle of appearance and self-assumed prestige fostering the celebration of the old. Conservatism saturates classical music, instruments, non-shoulder rests, musical tastes and development, to the extent where music education is normally done in institutions called 'conservatories' and teaching lineage which can be traced back centuries is considered a mark of distinction. And that the audience is not well-engaged and sufficiently paying for classical music or its further development is proof of both the shortcomings of the audience with respect to the requisite development of skill of musical perception, and that performances are relying on accolades of the past to carry them through instead of speaking with a musical voice that carries vitality and relevance to the living.
Edited: May 21, 2020, 10:33 PM · J Ray, I have a hunch that most classic music is more or less a money-laundering front for the rich, "philanthropy", you could call it, if you find nothing ironic in it. I mean it's pretty clear in the distortions in the instrument market, but I bet that a lot of financial support for classical music actually fosters societal inequality, and that a lot of that conservatism is part and parcel of that system.

I have some of my own conservative tendencies, which I'm pretty comfortable with, mainly because I find most contemporary classical music to be pretty whack. I think other genres are more in-tune with the times.

Edited: May 21, 2020, 10:35 PM · Well, I'm really tired of the fifty year old debate regarding who is on top and who isn't. It seems far too divisive and exhausting. Why people can't be completely accepting that they are simply different and not in competition really drives me crazy. I've even lost sleep about all this. Seriously, The Rolling Stones or The Beatles? One or the other? Really? Wait a second. . . .whoops. Wrong classic crowd. How embarrassing. Never mind.
May 21, 2020, 10:38 PM · My vote for Paganini Caprice 24 goes to James Ehnes.
May 21, 2020, 11:14 PM · Shlomo Mintz for me. He is my overall favourite violinist
May 21, 2020, 11:14 PM · And Michael, my vote goes to the Stones ;)
May 22, 2020, 1:08 AM · J Ray you've said a mouthful, and not just classical but western music in general. It's high time for the far-eastern musical invasion!
May 22, 2020, 3:22 AM · At the moment my classical radio station seems to be playing Philip Glass every morning. That's when I put on a CD instead.
30 years ago I did some art at night school and the teacher used to whistle Philip Glass. Only an asshole does that, surely?
May 22, 2020, 5:45 AM · Gordon, I think that's a popular opinion
May 22, 2020, 7:39 AM · The correct response is to whistle back to him the theme music from "Candy Crush."
May 22, 2020, 8:41 AM · J Ray,

I think I agree with everything you've said except the slight against shoulder-rest-less-ness.

I wonder how many centuries it will take before humanity can finally lay this conflict over violin *accesories*... to rest!

Edited: May 22, 2020, 8:54 AM · True story - in about 1965 I was on Brighton pier with my father and there were small groups of mods and rockers milling around, and maybe he had heard them talking, and he bent down to me and said, "son, promise me you'll never listen to the Rolling Stones." And I never did until about 25 years ago!
May 22, 2020, 1:17 PM · With some exceptions - the operas, the violin concertos, and a couple of the piano concertos, I find much of Mozart hard to enjoy. I know it's brilliant, but it leaves me cold and sometimes bored. I realise this is a great heresy, but i've tried, i really have.
May 22, 2020, 1:29 PM · Malcom I feel the same way about JS Bach a lot of the time
May 22, 2020, 1:31 PM · Malcolm, we (husband, child, and me) too find Mozart impossible to enjoy except for a few violin sonatas.
Edited: May 22, 2020, 2:20 PM · I personally dislike 5 string fiddles. An abomination.
Edited: May 22, 2020, 1:54 PM · A 5-string electric violin might be okay because you're really not asking the violin to produce a great sound on the C string, you're going to take care of that with processing. Worked okay for Jean-Luc Ponty, for example, for a while. His was even blue as I recall.
May 22, 2020, 2:08 PM · It might good for anyone else. I like JLP better
on 4 strings. I begrudgingly accept electric violins as an unfortunate necessity, but hate
a processed, unnatural sound. I personally find looping and all of that voodoo nauseating.
May 22, 2020, 3:00 PM · Some great, great provocative posts here. Among many I enjoyed J Ray and Albrecht of Mutter.
May 22, 2020, 5:30 PM · Jeff, agreed 100%. Well maybe 90%.
May 22, 2020, 5:46 PM · I realize this might offend people, but I actually really love the Oliv A string...despite it's unraveling and other problems :(
May 22, 2020, 6:02 PM · What a fun idea for a discussion!
I hate Paganini: just senseless feats of execution.
Listeing to Brahms is like drinking mud.
JS Bach has his moments, but can be stodgy. Give me Telemann or CPE Bach instead.

I note the anti-Vaughan Williams sentiment. He was a bit of a split personality: one the one hand theres the almost schmaltzy Lark Ascending and Fantasia on Greensleeves, but on the other hand some wonderfully dark stuff like "Job" and Symphonies 4, 6, 8 and 9.

May 23, 2020, 9:58 AM · "I think I agree with everything you've said except the slight against shoulder-rest-less-ness."

I trash-talk classical music and the whole industry around it, and the only objection I see is to a comment I threw in by the way about shoulder rests. I could probably formulate an unpopular opinion from that, but will stop and leave it as funny. Thanks!

May 23, 2020, 11:02 AM · Andrew, you're not the first person to find the Tchaik 5 finale disappointing: Brahms travelled to Leipzig to hear it, and was disappointed to be disappointed by it (I think he was also disappointed by much of Max Bruch, and I don't think he was pleased to be so). It's probably because victory in Tchaik's hands could never be convincing. Much like humour in Brahms - but we miss the point if we fail to perform it as trying to be funny when that's what it is.
Edited: May 25, 2020, 11:00 AM · I get puzzled why top quartets play those minor second discords in Britten's 1st string quartet as though they were great music.
I think Fauré is a greater composer than Debussy, and I think he even captures Maeterlinck's symbolism better than Debussy does.
May 23, 2020, 12:07 PM · John I love Fauré. Been getting into his music recently doing some sort of background listening while I am learning his Elegie on my viola ^_^
But I would agree I think. Not a fan of Debussy
May 23, 2020, 1:52 PM · I think Faure is too subtle for most people. I mean the 1st sonata is pretty obvious (I greatly prefer it to the Franck), but his real jewels are in his later output. His two piano quartets and two piano quintets, and string quartet (and the piano trio took a while to grow on me) are just genius. I can see Faure's e minor violin sonata pointing to Debussy's in its sparseness, although Faure alternates wide intervalic leaps with his preferred way of writing melodies (close intervalic relationships).
May 23, 2020, 1:59 PM · Ita funny Christian, cos they are exactly what I've listened to recently. The trio is great
Edited: May 23, 2020, 4:00 PM · Faure's relentless harmonic progressions in the string quartet and the piano trio drive me mad, and I know I'm not alone. The last time we tried to play the quartet one of my colleagues had a fit of the vapours and refused to continue.

But here's an unpopular opinion. Judging from a 2001 BBC documentary I watched tonight Stockhausen seems to have been an articulate, intelligent and unassuming guy. Yes, there was something a bit..? unusual about him, ranging from complete control-freakery in his electronic pieces to total chaotic abandonment in e.g. the Helicopter Quartet which should be in every self-respecting string quartet's repertoire. No, actually I don't believe that.

Edited: May 23, 2020, 5:57 PM · That's funny Steve. I guess it is a lot of harmonic quicksand! I like the contrast of the melody against all the unsettled emotional burbling, like they are really in tension with each other, and occasionally they coalesce. I feel like there is rarely just a single emotion being expressed at one time in Faure, but I wonder if it's not particularly gratifying for most string players to play, since there isn't really a ton of red meat for them, and I'm sure putting it together is a pain. I hope your colleague got some air!

Here's a curiosity for you - Faure was working on a violin concerto around the time of his first violin sonata, which he scrapped, and then reused themes for the string quartet, which was his very last opus. Judging by this, I'd say he made the right choice:

May 23, 2020, 7:33 PM · Debussy wrote some real gems for the piano.
May 23, 2020, 10:13 PM · As did Fauré
Edited: May 23, 2020, 11:03 PM · Christian - that's exemplifies what I'm talking about, from beginning to end. Nothing to do with there being no meat to gorge on, it just gives me a sense of being locked in a musical madhouse. And yes, I spotted some material from the string quartet. I think Fauré (thank you Jake for the é) tops my shortlist of "worst of the great composers" above Liszt, Bruckner, Berlioz, Chopin, Tchaik..., some of whom I paradoxically also love.

Have people been sneaking in amendments to their previous posts?

May 24, 2020, 6:38 AM · I doubt most people would would put Tchaikovsky or Chopin and even bruckner among the most worst of the greats.
May 24, 2020, 2:54 PM · I like Fauré and Bartok.
And The Lark Ascending!
Edited: May 25, 2020, 12:47 PM · Christian, I had heard some of that Fauré violin concerto on the radio earlier, and whilst it was clearly inferior to the quartet, it did sound better than what you have posted - I don't think I've ever heard a concerto that has suffered more from the effects of reduction for piano. Also composing monophonic music is not the easiest thing in the world.
I think Fauré was trying to find his feet harmonically at that time - He doesn't even use his patent cadence (Supertonic major to Mediant major. I remember tuning into a somewhat Wagnerian opera on the radio sung in French - I was at a loss to identify the composer until I heard one of the motifs ending in that cadence, then I knew the opera just had to be Pénélope. Some of the words then confirmed it), which he introduced after composing that incredibly beautiful Cantique de Jean Racine.
Edited: May 25, 2020, 12:13 PM · As regards unpopular opinions, here's another one of mine: I reckon Liszt is greater than Chopin, and I have quite an affection for his Faust Symphony. He may not belong quite up there with Brahms, but he's pretty close!
And Steve, if you agree to call me a person, the answer is yes.
May 25, 2020, 12:59 PM · John - I'm relieved to hear my memory wasn't playing me tricks!
May 25, 2020, 12:59 PM · And Paul Smith tells us the Missa Solennis and the Choral Symphony, etc. are downhill from Beethoven's earlier music? That opinion is certainly unpopular with me!
Another opinion of mine that may be unpopular: I prefer Bruckner to Mahler (though, unlike a cousin of the latter's, I don't dislike it).
Edited: May 25, 2020, 3:14 PM · I've never enjoyed doing pizzicato on the violin, which isn't really designed to be a plucked instrument, acoustically or ergonomically. However, having been a classical guitarist in a former life I find it easy and convenient in extended pizz passages in orchestra to use the first two fingers alternately, and even the third finger if it is appropriate to put the bow down for the duration. If I don't have the bow in my hand for such extended passages I would place my right thumb gently against the end of the fingerboard for extra stability.

My right-hand finger nails have long lost their classical guitarist length, now being the same length as those of the left hand. Not so good perhaps for playing classical guitar but would be ideal for the gut-strung lute if I ever return to that instrument (watch out Dowland, if I do!).

In the rare orchestral whole movement in pizzicato I have been known to hold the violin a la guitar for convenience. No-one has raised objections.

And as for left-hand pizz, it can sometimes be useful, when playable, if a composer does something silly like putting a lone pizzicato in the middle of a fast bowed section.

May 25, 2020, 3:05 PM · I do not prefer Mahler to Bruckner.
May 28, 2020, 3:49 AM · The majority of virtuosic showpieces are boring pieces of music. Can be fun to see live though.
Edited: May 28, 2020, 4:46 AM · John is definitely not alone in his opinion: I actually love Bruckner but hate Mahler.

Somehow, there are just certain composers I can't stand even though I love other composers whose work is in many ways similar.

May 28, 2020, 11:06 AM · But the orchestration you guys!

Nothing like Mahler's 6th symphony for orchestra, with chorus of epileptic tenors, an anvil, one of those rubber clown horns, ukelele, throwing a bunch of dishes down the stairs, a baby laughing and the resultant thumping into the podium from the conductor being scratched behind the ears.

See, it's evocative, nay, redolent, of the time that Mahler rode the chipmunk ride at the carnival at 11:37pm on May 5th, 1873, and he could hear the screams from the tilt-a-whirl blending with the squeezebox music down below. His symphonies truly are the WHOLE world. A regular tunesmith, him (although I actually have enjoyed stuff of his other than his symphonies, like the "Songs of Children Being Shot Out of Cannons").

May 30, 2020, 2:01 AM · An Iraqi friend and former colleague of mine's favourite piece of classical music was Scheherezade (It gets me a bit too) and he was an avid Liverpool fan, to boot (pun unforeseen) - Myself, I have a team, but if every Spurs "supporter" were like me, they'd have gone bust years ago; I've never even watched them play - but I did don a black bin bag (property of the NHS, final destination as intended by owner) round the left sleeve of my lab coat after reading that his team had beaten mine in the Cup Final!
Well, I once serenaded him with the first six bars to the words, "Liverpool are a load of rubbish, rubbish".
Now, THAT may be an unpopular opinion with SOME!
May 30, 2020, 6:30 AM · Mahler indeed was incredibly good at writing for an orchestra. With composers that have less connection with how an orchestra "lives", the conductor has to give a lot of extra instructions, like "alto's, you have mp there but make it mf, we can't hear you", or "cellos, turn that f down to p" etcetera. But I was told that if every part simply plays their part as written, it already sounds perfect with Mahler scores.
May 30, 2020, 6:44 AM · Quidditch is the only game more boring than football.
June 3, 2020, 9:53 AM · Gordon, how can you say? When were you last forced to try to play it?
Edited: June 3, 2020, 11:56 AM · I would rather a game of quidditch than a game of football or rugby
Edited: June 3, 2020, 10:28 PM · That's why baseball was great on the radio. The pace was slow enough that you could do something else while the game was on. Like practice the violin.
June 3, 2020, 12:00 PM · Thanks Paul
Edited: June 3, 2020, 12:51 PM · OMG if you think baseball is slow, try cricket. ( now there’s an unpopular opinion).
I walked in on evening TV one night, with cricket on, and thought I must have misjudged it. But no, it was just a compression of the days highlights.
And test matches go for Dayys.

It’s quite good on the radio as background, as the commentators fill the hours between something happening, with sometimes hilarious reminiscences of hi-jinks in Indian hotels etc., on past tours. Seagulls always get a mention too.

June 3, 2020, 12:51 PM · Rosemary you are absolutely right about cricket
June 3, 2020, 3:50 PM · Jake, if and when you get to music college, see if they have a Quidditch team. Its a rather hilarious sport to play on foot!
June 3, 2020, 8:25 PM · I think the Dvorak concerto is terrible.
June 3, 2020, 8:41 PM · Marty, which one? Cello or violin?
June 3, 2020, 9:10 PM · Sorry, violin concerto.
June 3, 2020, 11:57 PM · I agree to an extent. The first few bars of the opening I enjoy. After that it goes downhill. Dvorak's cello is one of my favourite pieces though
June 4, 2020, 4:03 PM · Here's my unpopular opinion: The Conus Violin Concerto is great music! Don't agree with me? Listen to recordings by Heifetz or Perlman. They, along with Fritz Kreisler who championed this concerto, would not have wasted their time or talents on mediocre music.
June 4, 2020, 6:11 PM · I really like that
June 7, 2020, 2:33 PM · The standard warhorse repertoire from the Classical and Romantic eras consists almost entirely of hackneyed drivel.

Bruch 1 is bland and uninspired (especially in comparison to his other two, which is an opinion shared by the composer himself). Wieniawski and Paganini both realized that their works had no musical substance whatsoever, so they tried making them as difficult as possible in order to impress the wider world. Mozart is extraordinarily predictable to my ear (even if it's some obscure kochel that isn't played ever, I guarantee that I could guess how the piece goes after a single phrase) and is considered the absolute zenith of music by the community for some reason. Mendelssohn, even if its opening WASN'T so often butchered by students, still sounds unbalanced and awkward throughout the entire work.

I've never found satisfaction in playing anything from this era, in comparison to my specialization - new music. I began tackling the Berio Sequenza last semester as a side project to my other repertoire and I've never had more fun digging into a piece.

June 7, 2020, 4:07 PM · I can't stand Vengerov's interpretations, and I think some of it has rubbed off in a negative way onto Ray Chen.

Here's the really unpopular one: I would rather sit through the Ysaye sonatas over the Bach sonatas. I don't really get the hate for the Ysaye sonatas on this board, they seem to be widely regarded as technical repertoire for music students and they are so very rarely performed.

June 7, 2020, 4:19 PM · I despise Ravel Tzigane, but Bolero even more. Louis, The Berio Sequenza is a difficult piece. I've got the music, but that's as far as I got :)

It's like the time I went to Frank Music in NYC when I was a student and asked for the part and score to Schoenberg Concerto. Mr. Frank was a one man business and knew virtually everything about all printed music.

He said as he handed me the music, "You know, it's easier to buy this music than to play it."

June 7, 2020, 6:07 PM · @Bruce

Are you sure he didn't mean "easier to buy this than to listen to it"?

Schoenberg is a notoriously difficult modern concerto.

June 7, 2020, 9:41 PM · James, I agree with you on Vengerov. Exquisitely bad taste.
June 7, 2020, 11:29 PM · Bruce I agree with Tzigane. Every time I hear it I think Bach D minor Allemande
Edited: June 8, 2020, 12:27 AM · I have a different opinion of the Tzigane, equally unpopular I hope. Ravel intended it for a great big piss-take and a "good" performance can really make me laugh
June 8, 2020, 10:22 AM · My God I love her. She brings a positivity to violin playing (joke)
June 8, 2020, 11:32 AM · Ravel's Tzigane? We don't expect the player to have muddy boots or to sound drunk! Just as we don't dance to a Bach gigue.

A pet hate hate of mine: opera singers: horrid screaming high notes, an a vibrato which destroys the music. Only half the cast sing remotely in tune.

Edited: June 9, 2020, 2:11 AM · Adrian - the satire is there in the notes and doesn't need to be exaggerated, but I think it's important for the player to be in on the joke. The contortions Ravel puts his player through are clearly sending up the Hungarian "gypsy" tradition which by 1924 had become a violin cliche. So he gives us pyrotechnics and circus tricks without music, for example how far up the G-string can you go before falling off, then leaping to your feat with a flourish as if that was what you intended to do all along? He wasn't above having a bit of fun with the "Blues" too, which is not to say he didn't blend humour with musical substance as Beethoven did so often.
June 9, 2020, 7:39 AM · Adrian the (very) wide vibrato in opera singing is to achieve better projection. These singers are great sensitive musicians and very well aware they vibrate almost a half tone up and down, but they simply must do it to achieve the necessary decibels. This is in the very dramatically intense passages where the orchestra is louder too, or where there is a choir, or a "duel" with another singer, or what have you.
June 9, 2020, 7:43 AM · The thread on projection has been discussing vibrato. An interesting cross-current has occurred here!
June 9, 2020, 8:44 AM · I once had a fabulous piece of vinyl of Heinz Holliger playing (I think) Vivaldi sonatas, and one of them ends in a very long crescendo on a held note. Holliger begins the crescendo without vibrato, then when he can't play any louder, he adds the vibrato and it sounds a lot louder. It's pretty mind-blowing. I can't find it on CD. Either that or it was an idiotic price if I did see it.
Edited: June 10, 2020, 2:38 PM · Jean, what you say is very true for a select few opera singers.
But many have a vibrato at least a whole tone either side of the note,
and if there was no accompaniment we wouldn't guess what the note was.
Many are simply out of tune as well.
And I'm referring to prestigious broadcast productions!
June 9, 2020, 4:04 PM · Adrian, I'm with you on this one. I find those extremely wide vibratos (as you said, at least a whole tone either side of the note) to be jarringly discordant. It's the main reason I have a hard time getting into opera.

Why is it that we violinists are told never to vibrate above the note, while singers apparently are exempt from this rule? Yes, I know about making oneself heard over the orchestra - but IMHO the cure is worse than the disease.

June 9, 2020, 5:07 PM · Charlie I second your point about strings vs singers
June 10, 2020, 9:47 PM · Steve,

Ravel didn’t write Tzigane as a joke. He was inspired to write the piece after listening to Jelly d’Aranyi improvise one evening. After writing the piece he dedicated it to her and she performed it almost immediately. He had thought his piece was so fiendishly difficult that it would test her virtuosity, but when she rose to the challenge without a struggle, he remarked, “If I’d known she would play it so easily, I would have tried to make it more difficult!”

June 10, 2020, 9:51 PM · I feel like a different composer had a similar anecdote but I can't remember who
June 10, 2020, 11:50 PM · There was one about the Barber violin concerto that turns out to be an urban myth.

Supposedly Iso Briselli, the violinist for whom it was commissioned, complained to Barber upon receiving the first two movements that they were not virtuosic enough and did not show off his technical prowess. According to the story, Barber responded by writing the fiendishly difficult moto perpetuo third movement, which Briselli found unplayable. In danger of losing his commission money, Barber found another violinist, a student at the Curtis Institute of Music, to learn the third movement on short notice and prove that it was playable, upon which the sponsor agreed to pay Barber the full commission fee and Briselli forfeited the right to premiere the piece.

Good story, but very little of it is actually true.

Edited: June 11, 2020, 1:13 AM · I love most violinistic works, whether they are deemed garbage by music-listening "experts" that do not actually play and only listen to what "they are supposed to", or students that regurgitate whatever they are taught without personal, critical thinking. Feel free to hate stuff because you really do, not because you are supposed to in order to become a "musician/music-lover of class and refinement." Much respect if you do dislike these "bad" works because you are actually familiar with them, and genuinely do not prefer these at all. Explore, and learn on your own.

For me Spohr, Viotti, Paganini, Vieuxtemps, Wieniawski, Ernst, Ysaye, et. al. are all worthy of being studied and performed. Now that's a "controversial" statement, and pretty unpopular everywhere.

I think liking the Bruch Gm is the minority view in our era. It is really good, however.

There was a comment above which was perhaps a joke-the Mendelssohn may be popular (and it is truly an extraordinary work), but how is the Paganini 5 in any way or shape or form "popular"? I bet most violinists do not know it exists.

In any case, the Mendelssohn is timeless, "perfect", and despite its status in the curriculum, not as often played in public as the Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Sibelius, etc.

I used to be much more of a contrarian as a younger player, but nowadays I have learned why the great works should be deemed as such. However, I am all for widening one's repertoire and musical horizons, believing "the classics" as defined by "experts" are not enough music to enrich my own lifetime.

June 11, 2020, 8:37 AM · Always on vibrato. However, if you like that you can always get one of these: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/VB2W--boss-vb-2w-waza-craft-vibrato-pedal
Edited: June 11, 2020, 10:23 AM · Ok, even though this is a thread devoted to unpopular opinions, I'm preparing to shield myself from the pitchforks:

I often opt to listen to Bach's cello suites played on viola instead.

There. I said it. Bring it on.

Edited: June 11, 2020, 11:20 AM · I'm perfectly happy to walk right into the broad sweep of Adalberto's generalizations. I like some "violinistic" works, but many of them I do find trite and unmusical. And strangely, that's not because I haven't studied the violin, but perhaps because I have. The operational definition of a "violinistic" piece is one that showcases the technical capabilities of the instrument. And if you've played enough studies, you've seen behind the curtain to know what those elements are. Was the composer especially clever to have woven several of them into his composition? Or was the composition written around them?

That leads me to my own unpopular opinion: I don't generally care for cadenzas. One notable exception is that I really like Joshua Bell's cadenza in the first movement of Mozart 3. If I am listening to a YouTube and the violinist starts into the Franko or Flesch cadenza, however, I'm more inclined to fast-forward to the second movement. At least that was written by Mozart.

June 11, 2020, 12:43 PM · Mr. Deck,

It is as broad a generalization as those who place all the old composer-violinists output in the trash bin, because they are not as "musically important" as Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms. In my sick world, I do not have to choose either or, but rather am able to enjoy the Chaconne along the other "musically vacuous" works that many generally like to dislike. In short, I have no need to prove I am a serious musician by rejecting everything else that did not make the "musical cut" of an imagined, "learned" classical elite. There is a place for musical depth, lightness, sorrow, and joy.

My view is unpopular everywhere as aformentioned, and I do not mind if it is rejected. Having explored many works of those "bad" composers, I have learned to appreciate their output. Many of them really knew how to sing with their violins, and despite most of them being treated with certain musical disdain by many modern listeners, they often wanted to make beautiful and inspired works, more than just showing off their skills. It is also quite fine to dislike this repertoire, especially if you know what they are about-many if not *most* pros see not much value in these "trite" works, as you put it.

One does not need to play the violin to appreciate its repertoire-my comment was more intended for those who are very arrogant and overly opinionated, but do not even know what they hate well-they just know the composers are "not important", so they can all be safely thrown in the same garbage bag without hearing/playing a single note. There are a few curious listeners that do like the overall violin-composer repertoire even if they may have never held a violin themselves.

(Hating cadenzas is fine, though I feel they are part of Mozart's-and other composers'-original intentions, and thus part of the work. Too many Frankos played, perhaps. Joachim and Kreisler are also used a lot in the popular workhorses. But I like them. Still, the modern recording artist in the last few decades is seemingly starting to compose and play in public with their own cadenzas.)

Feel free to like what you like, and think the way you do.

June 11, 2020, 12:47 PM · I personally have tried to get into Ysaye many times. Different recordings by different artists. It does nothing for me. However, he is the only violin composer who I don't enjoy I think
June 11, 2020, 1:01 PM · Mr. Watson,

When Ysaye was new to me, I also did not appreciate the Sonatas well (not saying you need "to grow"-you may never come to love them). I do not think it's "easy listening" for many-indeed, some other difficult works may be "easier on the ears". I think that was just his intention and style.

Edited: June 11, 2020, 7:21 PM · Usually, me playing a work ends with an appreciation for it, and it burrowing inside me, but I honestly have no idea what the Vieuxtemps 2 sounds like, after studying it a few years ago. I find his music rather flavorless, although I think it's worth studying.

Whereas I like almost all Wieniawski, and a fair amount of Ysaye and Paganini (although I find them more uneven).

Edited: June 11, 2020, 8:24 PM · Adalberto wrote, "my comment was more intended for those who are very arrogant and overly opinionated, but do not even know what they hate well-they just know the composers are 'not important,' so they can all be safely thrown in the same garbage bag without hearing/playing a single note."

I understand your point. Fortunately, I do not know anyone like that.

June 13, 2020, 6:15 AM · I'm listening to Zehetmair's Ysaye sonatas now for the second time. I have been told the critics have praised it to the skies. I suppose someone somewhere must have described it as postmodern Bach.
Am I impressed? Not really. Mostly it seems to be virtuosity masquerading as music. Having said that, track 6 is nice.
June 13, 2020, 6:29 AM · There is a lot of "postmodern Bach" in the piano repertoire. Any structured cycle of pieces, especially one that progresses through all of the keys, is assumed to be an homage to "The Well-Tempered Klavier." Any collection of Preludes is likewise assumed to be inspired by Chopin. And maybe so. It would be very hard for a modern composer to escape the influence of such masterworks.

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