Was there one piece of music which inspired you to learn the violin ?

July 3, 2021, 6:55 AM · Forgive me if this has been asked before :

Was there one piece of music which inspired you to learn the violin ? How long did it take you to get to that level and did you still want to play that music once you did ?

Replies (39)

July 3, 2021, 7:39 AM · First time hearing Kavakos live back in 2004 and the encore was Paganini Caprice no.1

And I was absolutely hooked. After close to 20 years, I still can't play the piece in one go steadily...

Edited: July 3, 2021, 8:19 AM · The pinnacle of violinistic achievement at my middle school-- the Accolay.
July 3, 2021, 8:37 AM · Our middle school band teacher was also a violinist and local violin teacher. He was not a virtuoso by any description, but he was a nice guy and meant well. He used to go to the elementary schools and play a demonstration of the violin -- usually a simple piece like "Hearts and Flowers." And then he'd ask for a show of hands from any child who would like to learn to play the violin, and many hands would be raised. From this exercise he would score a few students a year typically. Nowadays that would be impossible because one would say he had unfair access as an employee of the school system, but the fact is that he was pretty much the only violin teacher in town. My parents had to drive 25 minutes back and forth to my lesson four suburbs away -- that was considered a long drive in those days. I wish they had looked for a Suzuki teacher with a group class. I would have done much better, I believe. But my guess is that Suzuki teachers were few and far-between in suburban Detroit in 1970.
July 3, 2021, 9:00 AM · The critical piece that kept me in lessons that lead to playing in a community, orchestra, studying more and eventually passing along my knowledge was "Vocalise."

I had accomplished my initial goal of being able to play the melody and descant lines of Episcopal Hymns in church and was quite satisfied till one morning, getting ready for work, WQXR's new nighttime host "Nimet" broadcast her sign-off tune and I was hooked. I called Patelson's in NYC that person knew what the song was and I bought a copy and brought it to my teacher and the rest is part of the story that most of you have read too many times already.

Edited: July 3, 2021, 10:46 AM · Was there one piece of music which inspired me to learn the violin? No.

In fact I believe it was the violins's reputation as the most difficult instrument that decided it for me at the age of 11. I did know some pieces, Bach and Mozart concertos or the Four Seasons for example, but I did not anticipate ever playing any of those.

July 3, 2021, 11:19 AM · Paul, You're probably right about Suzuki availability but the method began in the Okemos public schools in 1966. I was a member of that first class.
July 3, 2021, 12:49 PM · For me it was a movie with a gloomy British violinist as one of the protagonists. I forget the title.

There were many moments of virtuosic playing that looked very nice, and correspondingly made the violin look like a nice instrument.

I was inspired to get one (even with my modest budget), and learn to play. I already played the piano, so how hard could it really be?

It turns out that it's VERY hard. Even now, I am still miles away from the fancy stuff that attracted me in the first place.

Why didn't I watch a flautist movie instead?

July 3, 2021, 5:08 PM · Nope.
July 3, 2021, 5:44 PM · For me, there were 3 pieces that initially inspired me to learn the violin as a little boy - the violin concertos by Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. It took me months of begging my parents to let me take violin lessons, but they eventually (and gladly) relented. (I was about 9 years old). I never became a professional or advanced enough to work on any of those 3 pieces, but I never regretted learning the violin, and never lost my love for the music.
July 3, 2021, 6:19 PM · No single piece at the beginning level. But during the intermediate learning years what stands out the most in the memory was a live performance of the Prokofiev Concerto #2, played by Ricci. My dad then checked it out at the library. I was mystified. I didn't get past the first phrase.
July 3, 2021, 6:34 PM · My father was an amateur violinist who practiced every evening after returning home from work, so I heard violin playing essentially from birth. For my 4th birthday his father (my paternal grandfather) gave my a violin as a present. I started to "play" it immediately and after about 6 months my parents asked me if I wanted violin lessons and I answered "yes" immediately. So that's how it started - obviously my mother needed some aural relief!

In addition to my father's practicing I was also exposed to the music of his string quartet in our home about once a month (they practiced in other homes other weeks). I recall being taken to a Carnegie Hall concert when I was very young - too young - probably before my 4th birthday. But I really recall going to the Heifetz movie "They Shall Have Music" in 1939, shortly after my violin lessons began - and I was blown away!

My father practiced the Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky concertos - the same 4 Heifetz concerto performances we had on 78rpm disks. I didn't start to get into those in sheet music until I was about 14 (the Mendelssohn). Attending a performance of The Beethoven as my 16th birthday present got me started playing that one (actually about 4 months earlier 'so I would be ready'). I never could do justice to the latter two.

It wasn't until LPs (and later CDs) came along that I experienced enough other performances of other concertos to begin to realize an expanded range of possibilities. (I checked my Itunes the other day and found I have 36 recorded versions of The Beethoven!)

So it has been more than 82 years since my first violin lesson and I still try to do my best every day. I know that I will probably have to stop playing in ensembles soon - but then I my get a few more good years out of th cello, on which I started lessons when I was 14 - got to attend a Leonard Rose performance shortly after that - what impressed me most about that was that my cello teacher seemed to play as well, which was inspiring.

July 3, 2021, 7:14 PM · Mozart's Rondo in G Major arranged by Fritz Kreisler and Tchaikovsky's Valse from his Serenade for Strings arranged by Leopold Auer, both recorded by Jascha Heifetz. These pieces, along with Heifetz's recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, changed my life.
Edited: July 3, 2021, 7:48 PM · The Walton viola concerto, which I heard in a concert when I was in 8th grade; that was also the first time I ever saw or heard string instruments in person. Yes, I started learning the violin because I wanted to play the viola! I was able to get an old, long-unplayed violin for free through extended family, then switched to viola in college when I was able to get a viola on loan. I was motivated enough that, after being rejected by multiple teachers because I was "too old" in my teens, I taught myself for the first 16 years I played.

I started learning the Walton viola concerto in 2018, 19 years after I started playing. Unfortunately I had to put it aside when I was just able to play through the first movement (reasonably in tempo but not at all polished), as I injured my shoulder doing home repair work, and I have not been able to practice regularly since then because of a string of injuries.

July 3, 2021, 9:18 PM · No, but one violinist, Menuhin.
Edited: July 4, 2021, 4:08 AM · Was there a piece that motivated me to start learning the violin? No. I started learning violin when I was 6, and my parents decided to make me learn the violin. I wanted to learn the piano instead when I was a kid. I was really inspired by Tchaikovsky's 1st piano concerto when I heard it as a kid - being able to perform it is still a goal I hope to achieve in my life.

However, a few pieces inspired me to practice hard: Paganini's 24th Caprice, Ysaye Sonata No. 3, and Wieniawski Violin Concerto #1. The former two were the ones I considered as those cutoff pieces that distinguish professionals from amateurs, and the Wieniawski was what I wanted to perform when I graduated from college.

I rarely play them anymore after I learned them (except for a few variations from the 24th).

Edited: July 4, 2021, 5:44 AM · Andrew Hsieh - sorry to hear about your shoulder injury. I'm in a similar predicament, having torn a tendon. I'm having physio to strengthen muscles but it seems that only surgery will repair a tendon.

Returning to the main question: I wanted to play the piano but had had no luck in persuading my parents, when I heard the violin 'live' for the first time in a local music festival and was hooked by the sound. I have no idea what the music was and it probably was not very well performed, but that did not matter. It was the sound, and later the smell and glowing wood of the instrument that drew me.

At present I am practising the recorder and singing - neither of which need much input from tendons.

July 4, 2021, 6:39 AM · A short, lovely, anonymous violin solo on an LP of Haendel Organ concertos.

Later, my dad's rpm of Sammons & Tertis playing the Sinfonia Concertante.

Edited: July 4, 2021, 7:48 AM · I didn't think there was a piece: -
In the 70s I loved Herman van Veen and Hasson's Pag 1+Prok 2, but I never wanted to be a violinist.

Then 4 years ago when I saw how cheap Chinese violins were I started wanting to play Western Swing on the fiddle in a group.

Then just a minute ago I remembered that I had seen a movie a few years back and someone was playing Bach for pleasure (I can't remember which piece - I can guess the Sonata 1 prelude, so we'll say that's my piece). I thought, yeah, join an amateur orchestra again, why not. There are more opportunities for violinists than oboists.

July 4, 2021, 9:08 AM · I play the viola not the violin.

The ONE piece that inspired me into learning was the viola version of Wohlfahrt Op 45 No 1. I signed up a viola group class by total accident and wasn't planning to really learn an instrument seriously.

So the tipping point came when my teacher demonstrated Wohlfahrt #1 on my cheap viola in the group class after he assigned it to us for the week. I sat there awestruck;it's one of those rare moments that I felt inspired by music.

The whole incident was funny as I was quite familiar with the violin repertoire and had listened to quite a lot of violin music over the past decades: but I never had much exposure to those standard etudes as a fairly seasoned listener to classical music.

When I tried to explain to my piano-playing friends how weird that I got that moment from Wohlfahrt, my closest analogy would be someone knowing piano music really well got emotional over a performance of Hanon exercises played a fifth lower on a crappy piano.

July 4, 2021, 11:06 AM · Hmm, tempting though it could be to interpret my son as music who inspired me to take up the instrument, it's more appropriate to say that the seeds go farther back - starting from a school non-string music program that taught me to appreciate classical music, to the finding that I would often most appreciate the solo violin voice in recordings one would often come across - Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Prokofiev in particular to my memory, but also including the Handel Sonata à Cinque and others, once I'd noticed this.
July 4, 2021, 12:25 PM · Okemos, there's a place I haven't heard about in a long time. Next to East Lansing. When I attended Blue Lake my cabin-mate was from Okemos. Super nice guy. He's the only person I've ever met from there.
July 13, 2021, 2:49 AM · Saent Saens Rondò capriccioso
July 13, 2021, 4:43 AM · For me, no! I could never find out, why I really began, possibly my parents made me to and don't want to confess that.

I have always regarded the violin to be something like my voice - nothing you can really choose. I mean, an alto singer is just an alto singer, and could still prefer listening to soprano or male voices.
My absolute favorite instrument by far is the piano. I go to piano recitals for my love of the piano, to violin recitals more for professional reasons, I must admit.

Funny story about my son: When he was 5, he listened to Peter and the Wolf, and in our recording, they even introduced every single string part. He absolutely loved the accompanying part of the viola and thus started to play viola. Good thing, the first viola measure of that piece is so easy that you can play it after a few weeks. That was a great experience for him! He still loves the bass and middle voices of chamber or orchestral music - which I, playing second violin, finde adorable, of course.

Edited: July 13, 2021, 9:08 AM · This won't be a surprise - Biber's Passagalia was one of the 2 things that inspired me to return to the violin in November, 2018 after a 45 year hiatus.

As a child, who can say. I know they started us all out on the recorder in 1st grade, I have no memory on when/why the transition to violin occured. At that time all students were required by law to take a musical instrument through at least middle school - and the voice didn't count (if my memory is correct).

July 13, 2021, 2:55 PM ·
July 13, 2021, 2:55 PM · Donkey Doodle by William Kroll
Edited: July 14, 2021, 3:20 AM · There is no piece that made me start playing violin as I learned it as a child. There was a piece/person that kept me playing as a student: Alex Depue. It was this video https://youtu.be/c5h-Mt3Uw-s
I was not motivated any more, but when I watched this video I really wanted to learn to play like this too. Many years later I was his student and he made me play... scales and Kreutzer etudes haha. Didn't expect that. Still cant play the Michael Jackson but I am a much better violinist now ánd totally motivated and addicted to violin after his lessons:)
July 14, 2021, 3:59 AM · Bach double concerto in Dm and Bach concerto in E. Recordings by Yehudi Menuhin.
Edited: July 17, 2021, 1:03 AM · I started on piano as a kid, but I knew what a violin was because violin players used to visit us and play with my mother on the piano. Now and then my parents asked me what about playing the violin?

After a couple of years with piano lessons I shifted to violin. Then later on in high school we were 3 students playing the violin and a teacher wanted to create a string quartet, so he asked the three of us whether one of us would like to play the viola. At that point I had started composing music, a little string trio, and for that reason I had figured out what the alto clef was all about. Therefore I said to the teacher that it was probably easier for me than for the other two to take up the viola. Besides the other two didn't express any interest in playing the viola.

Thus I became a viola player, and a couple of years later I studied viola on the Royal Danish Music Conservatory.

July 14, 2021, 2:11 PM · I started playing violin at age 6, but about age 9 I watched this on VCD (remember those??) with my father and knew that I had to become a violinist. I remember being completely in awe of Perlman's effortless right hand, and how he happy he looked when playing. Back then I also called him 'Humpty Dumpty' lol... anyway this piece thus became something of a 'grail' piece for me, and I didn't attempt to play it until age 22.

July 14, 2021, 3:19 PM · Wow! Thanks for posting Perlman's Valse Scherzo video, James. His sautille is just about the best example of someone executing the stroke with the right hand fingers that I've ever seen.
July 14, 2021, 4:58 PM · Paul, I often wish we could have stayed in Okemos. Miss Kesler recently retired there. It was the only place I lived where I didn't stand out in school because there most of my classmates were children of university professors. There was no bullying at all there.
July 16, 2021, 10:55 AM · Beethoven spring sonata and Franck sonata
Edited: July 17, 2021, 5:28 AM · I saw Ruggiero Ricci on BBC2 TV in the early 1970s playing the Paganini caprices, and I was instantly hooked. Nowadays, for “exercise” I occasionally play through the easier parts of the caprices, but that is the only way in which the original inspiration lingers on.
July 17, 2021, 7:48 AM · Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!!
July 17, 2021, 8:16 AM · actually I never got good enough to play it, but my customers all can!
Edited: July 17, 2021, 8:40 AM · I first started getting more serious about playing violin after my older sister had suggested I look into Tartini's Devil's Trill sonata. I was kind of languishing and getting bored in the Suzuki books, and my teacher wasn't particularly helpful in pushing me. It was a challenge for me at the time but not at all insurmountable, and I thought to myself "Wow I can actually maybe play cool pieces with deliberate practice!" which is a seriously powerful motivator for a young person who doesn't have a ton of external pressure on them.

Towards the end of HS my teacher threw the Hindemith violin sonata in E at me, which I enjoyed for being comprehensible but different from other romantic/classical/baroque solo music I'd encountered before. He casually mentioned that Hindemith wrote a lot of his great music for viola, and also that a ton of the really interesting viola music started in the 20th century. That sealed the deal for me, since I'd been coyly considering starting to learn viola for a while and also felt far more engaged with 20th and 21st century music than I had with earlier music. So it was less the specific piece and more that the piece was the proverbial "final straw".

July 17, 2021, 9:52 AM · I'm actually a keyboard player, my dream piece was Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ, as a young teenager I got the piano transcription and managed to play it on piano, it was the start of a long love affair with Bach's music, my favourite is to play Bach's French Suites on clavichords I built.
July 17, 2021, 11:11 AM · I was in Rome near the vatican and A violinist busker was playing hallelujah.

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