Criticism for Saint Saens Violin Concerto No. 3

October 5, 2022, 8:07 PM · Hello everyone!

I am a teenage girl currently studying violin at a Japanese music conservatory. I have some performances coming up and recently I have been playing a lot of showpieces, so my violin teacher suggested that I could pick up one of my older pieces, and it is the 3rd movement of the Saint Saens Violin Concerto No.3 (it is the movement that I played the best). I played this Concerto at a competition a few years ago and I would definitely like to improve for my upcoming performance which is in about 3 months so I was wondering if you guys could please comment on this video below, feel free to suggest any changes that could be made, I hope you enjoy it too!

https://youtu.be/a1_J7Sn-x_M

Thank you so much,
Marina

Replies (23)

October 5, 2022, 8:16 PM · Wow, hello there Marina!

I really love this performance and I am definitely lost for words, it’s so perfect that I can’t even critique it! Do I have your permission to call you a child prodigy? You are really expressive and your phrasing is really convincing, I believe your intonation is 100%! I like how you actually are engaged with the music and you smile which shows the audience that you are really having fun with it, and this way I’m sure that the audience also enjoyed watching you.

I feel like I’m not even professional enough to critique on anything here, because your performance is so amazing and you look so confident as well. Maybe you could also seek your violin teacher for some help, or hopefully others will respond soon. More people should definitely watch your performance!

Best wishes,
Jina (Jialin)

Edited: October 5, 2022, 8:44 PM · WOW!

I really enjoyed the clarity and detail, the full sound, the rhythmic precision. It's completely your piece at this point, so I think the question is for you: Is there anything more that you want to convey anywhere in the piece that you think you haven't?

If I could play like this, I might be completely satisfied, but your own artistic goals are entirely yours to explore, and you get to decide all the little nuances of your own voice as an artist.

Thanks for sharing, Marina, and I'm sure you will blow the judges away at your competition!

I gotta go practice!

Edited: October 5, 2022, 9:56 PM · Great job! I know to some people the following will seem like nitpicking, but you're a soloist, so details matter:

1. The intonation at 1:29 is wobbly. Make sure your intervals are in tune relative to one another.

2. At 2:04, the lengths of your quarter notes are too short. They don't sound any different from your eighth notes in the same passage. At 3:01, your quarter note triplets are uneven, with the first two notes too long and the last one too short.

3. At 3:11, if you push the tempo faster during the sixteenth note runs, we lose clarity and not all of the notes come through. The last D-natural and C-sharp before the top E sound like they're missing.

4. The contour of your melodic passage at 3:30 is very clear, but I think you're overdoing it dynamically to the point of the tone becoming harsh. If you can keep the bow motion continuous when you change direction the passage will come through more smoothly and you won't have to force it.

5. At 3:51, I know it says fortissimo in the part, but you have to hold it back a bit at the start of the quarter not sequence so your high D at the top has maximum impact.

6. This is the biggest issue to me: in the dolcissimo at 5:19, your starting/stopping of the vibrato is very noticeable. You might want to try a less wide vibrato here, and keep it continuous so it doesn't stop when you change notes.

7. Consequently, the dolce at 9:13 with the same theme should be different somehow. There's probably an opportunity here to release some of the musical tension. You get to the sempre dolce...but you play it louder? What does "sempre dolce" mean to you?

8. At 10:30, I think you get into the crescendo too early...stay in the piano and only start it when the cresc. is marked.

9. Your arpeggios at the end are awesome! I think this is where you shine the most. It can have much greater impact if your lyrical sections can contrast it more.

October 5, 2022, 11:16 PM · Who is the maker of your violin, Marina?
Edited: October 6, 2022, 12:22 PM · Marina hope to see you in Brussels in 2024 for the Queen Elisabeth Competition!

EDIT: or 2028, or both

October 6, 2022, 3:10 AM · I really enjoyed this Marina: there is so much energy and style in Saint-Saën's music and you really make the most of it!
October 6, 2022, 5:58 AM · Fantastic.
You are so talented. For me, there are two things to think about a little:
1)The best Vibrato is not random on and off. You may not want tp play that way, but take a look at the constant and subtle vibration of players like Kreisler and Heifetz. If you want to change the color do it intentionally.
2) Your mind sometimes jumps ahead and you don’t quite finish the last notes of a section. They are sometimes just slightly truncated whereas it might be an idea to pay super attention to the note as though it were a full stop.Make it as singing and beautiful as possible. Its a moment to take a breather for both you and the audience. Then you jump in with the next round of brilliant flourishes.

Anyway,
wonderful playing,
Buri

October 6, 2022, 6:10 AM · Gene - wow. Remind me to skip orchestra when you are in the audience!
October 6, 2022, 10:21 AM · Elise, part of my day job now involves helping aspiring young soloists in this kind of detail work, in a setting where they can experiment and make adjustments playing in front of a small and supportive audience of their peers before showing up to their conservatory pre-college programs in NYC and Boston on the weekends.

I can turn off "teacher mode" when I go to concerts, but I know for a number of my colleagues, their enjoyment of musical performances suffers because they have a hard time not over-analyzing every little detail.

Edited: October 6, 2022, 2:39 PM · The OP asked for criticism and many of us -- myself included -- are at a loss to provide it because the soloist's skill exceeds our own by such a wide margin. So I'm glad for folks like Gene who are at least capable of identifying areas for improvement. My guess is that a master class from someone like Janine Jansen or Maxim Vengerov would find even more.

But I can't resist making the following two comments:
No fair being able to play so well at such a young age, and
Certainly no fair actually enjoying yourself on stage.

October 6, 2022, 1:35 PM · Beautiful playing!

I concur with Gene’s comments and with Buri’s.

In my opinion one of the real differences between a soloist caliber player and an “ordinary professional” is how they use their vibrato.

October 6, 2022, 3:18 PM · Mary, I agree: vibrato is sort of like the "fingerprint" of each player. You can usually tell the most famous soloists apart just by listening to that (this is especially the case because many of the bow-driven color changes seem to be eaten up by the recording process, but for some reason, vibrato retains more of its original fidelity).
October 6, 2022, 5:41 PM · In my opinion a great living player to listen to for variations in vibrato is Anne-Sophie Mutter.
October 6, 2022, 5:43 PM · Hi Marina, from the language of your post I am assuming the video is not recent. If so, I am curious as to how much your playing has improved. I’m not at all qualified to provide critical feedback as the other posters. But I would like to tell you how much I appreciated the performance. Your musical and technical proficiency is outstanding. But your joyful personality and audience engagement is truly special. I think you are a superstar! Thank you so much for sharing.
October 6, 2022, 5:48 PM · In my opinion a great living player to listen to for variations in vibrato is Anne-Sophie Mutter.
Edited: October 7, 2022, 12:53 PM · A translation of the notes on the YouTube video:

“Special Concert by Winners of the 20th Japan Musicians Competition -Co-starring with Orchestra- Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor Yu Kumakura August 19, 2019 Minatomirai Hall Main Hall Japan Musicians Competition”

I cannot add to the comments already made, apart from bowing my head in the greatest respect for such a performance.

(Note: the above text replaces that which I initially submitted today)

Edited: October 9, 2022, 1:41 PM · Bravissima!!! Wonderful playing! I enjoyed listening and watching you very much. You exuded the exuberant joy of this 3rd movement. Next time, don't forget to shake the hand of the conductor and the concertmaster after the performance.
October 9, 2022, 6:14 PM · Thank you so much for all the comments, feedback everyone!
Erik, for this competition I hired a really beautiful Guadagnini violin from the Nippon Foundation, which I think produces a more of a brighter tone and now I am using a different Guadagnini violin which produces a more dark and resonant tone.
October 9, 2022, 6:15 PM · Alexander, thanks for reminding me! I guess I was too ignorant about that haha afterwards, I'm really glad that I could still have made more improvements to this recording
October 9, 2022, 6:35 PM · A pleasure to listen to.

My take: if you smile or react with cheer when the music is serious and important, it twists with the composer. Some people even like that; humor is among friends.

October 10, 2022, 1:23 PM · Ah, a Guadagnini! A very nice sounding violin.

October 16, 2022, 12:38 AM · Wow Guadagninis are always so beautiful!
October 27, 2022, 11:05 PM · I would definitely agree, that was a very nice violin. I miss it now that the competition is over, but I guess there are many more chances in the future!

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