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News and commentary about learning, playing and teaching the violin. weekend vote: Besides the violin, with what other instruments have you been reasonably proficient?

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:56:53 GMT

By Laurie Niles: People who seek to play the violin tend to be music-lovers, so it's not surprising that some violinists are also proficient in other instruments.
I'm curious about which instruments, besides the violin, that violinists tend to play. Is it another stringed instrument, such as the viola or guitar? Or is it the piano? Or something a little more outside the family, such as the trumpet? As for me, I've dabbled with the flute, mandolin and piano, but the only one I'd say I was moderately proficient in is piano. With that instrument, I can play what I know, but I don't have much depth when it comes to being able to sit down and read things with easy. How about you? Are you strictly a violinist, or do you have a second instrument? Or more than one? If you are proficient in a number of instruments in different categories, please just choose the one that you feel most proficient in, then describe the others in the comments below. src="" frameborder="0" height="310" scrolling="auto" width="450">

Which Performance Did NOT Happen?

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:27:34 GMT

By Laurie Niles: A game is going around Facebook, where you name concerts you've been to, but then one is a LIE, and everyone has to guess which one. I decided to do a variation, which was to list people I've performed with -- something that a lot of musicians can do, and quickly get a good list of 10. My goal: to make a list so strange that nearly everyone on the list seemed very unlikely. I felt I'd succeeded, when my friends guessed and guessed, and the last person they guessed was the "lie"! It was also a fun trip down memory lane. I'm posting it here, and I invite you to write your own silly list and post it in the comments (or on your FB page)! Sitting in the violin section, I've performed with these 10 people or groups, can you guess which one is a LIE? Joshua Bell The Moody Blues John Williams The Captain and Tennille Mstislav Rostropovich Bob from Sesame Street Eugene Fodor Gretchen Carlson Gustavo Dudamel Former Republican U.S. presidential candidate Herman Cain And people's guesses (I'm leaving out names:) JB: Rostropovich! Laurie: I was so lucky, got to play with him with the Pasadena Symphony! What was astounding to me was his sound, so recognizable, just like all the recordings. This was just about seven years before his death in 2007. BL: Herman Cain Laurie: You would think -- my friends from the Omaha Symphony will remember this debacle, when Herman Cain sang a bunch of Gospel tunes with us and also took the opportunity to proselytize - one violist nearly lost his job when he got into a heated argument with him after the concert! LKB: Moody Blues?? Laurie: Ahhh, "Knights in White Satin" -- actually I was disappointed that they did not sing my favorite, "The Voice." I was very tickled to get to play with the Moody Blues when they took their symphony tour to Omaha, back in my Omaha Symphony days! AR: Gretchen Carlson? Laurie: "Oh Gretchen, oh Gretchen!" the guys in the orchestra liked to say, for the remainder of that summer when I was in the Disney All-American College Orchestra. Gretchen, who was also then around college-age, had just won the Miss America Pageant and did a weekend of shows with us at EPCOT. She is also a violinist, so after playing a solo, she sat in the orchestra and played with us. She played Zigeunerweisen, and yes, she was a decent violinist. I can't say I'm a big fan of Fox News, though, lol! BP: Fodor Laurie: Eugene Fodor was a Denverite, as was I. I played with him only once, in a benefit concerto for the Aurora Symphony in Colorado, for which he played the Beethoven Concerto. One of Fodor's best friends was a violin maker named Rick Molzer, who was also conducting the orchestra. Rick is a dear friend who always worked on my violin and sold me my first nicer violin. Fodor would bring his Stradivari violins back to Denver for Rick to work on! I saw him play a number times, though, once when I was just nine years old, and then also just a few years before he died. I'm very sad Fodor is no longer here, his playing was like nothing I've ever seen or heard. (Some had not heard that Fodor had died; this is the tribute that I wrote, following his death in 2011.) S.S. Bob from Sesame Street Laurie: Bob McGrath from Sesame Street was so cool, he also performed with the Disney All-America College Orchestra at EPCOT and did a big long Q and A session with us about his career in music. The nicest person ever, and it was great fun to play all those Sesame Street songs! KB: It has to be the Captain and Tennille! Laurie: But it isn't! They also came to sing with the Disney All-American College Orchestra in Orlando -- most astonishing to all of us was the fact that they were still married. They gave us all white captain hats and we played "Muskrat Love." Alas, Love did not Keep Them Together, they are divorced now! LM: Then it's John Williams, by process of elimination Laurie: He came and conducted the Pasadena Symphony, dang that "Hedwig's Theme" fiddle part is hard! LM: Joshua ??? Laurie: How could I forget how Josh played golf with a bunch of the g[...]

For the Record, Op. 21: Mazas Etudes; Renaud Capucon Brahms + Glass/Bernstein

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:52:32 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Welcome to "For the Record,"'s weekly roundup of new releases of recordings by violinists, violists, cellists and other classical musicians. We hope it helps you keep track of your favorite artists, as well as find some new ones to add to your listening! Brahms-String Sextets Nos. 1 & 2 Renaud Capucon, violin Gautier Capucon, cello Christoph Koncz, violin Gerard Causse, viola Marie Chilemme, viola Clemens Hagen, cello
Here is a live performance of Brahms' String Sextets Nos. 1 and 2 from the Aix Easter Festival 2016, featuring brothers Renaud Capucon and Gautier Capucon as well as Gerard Causse of France; cellist Clemens Hagen, a member of the Hagen Quartet; French violist Marie Chilemme, and the Austrian violinist Christoph Koncz, a member of the Wiener Philharmoniker who first achieved fame in the role of a child prodigy in the 1998 feature film The Red Violin.
width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Mazas Etudes Spéciales, Opus 36: Book 1 for Violin Lisa McNiven, violin
Here's a new study aid for the Mazas etudes, a recording of the Op. 36 Etudes Spéciales for violin, performed by Idaho-based violinist Lisa McNiven. “One of my students asked me if a recording was available to help her prepare for All-State auditions,” McNiven said. “I told her there really wasn’t, and soon after decided to do a recording project to create the product and fill that gap in violin education.” To celebrate the release, McNiven is offering a 17% discount (through Aug. 31) to help students prepare for the 2017 auditions through her shop at, using the coupon code ALLSTATE17. McNiven plans to release a recording of the same set of etudes, for viola, in the fall.
width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Glass: Violin Concerto No.1; Bernstein: Serenade Renaud Capucon, violin Bruckner Orchester Linz, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.
Violinist Renaud Capucon performs two 20th-century concertos: the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Philip Glass (1987) and "Serenade after Plato's Symposium" by Leonard Bernstein (1954).
If you have a new recording you would like us to consider for inclusion in our Thursday "For the Record" feature, please e-mail Editor Laurie Niles. Be sure to include the name of your album, a link to it and a short description of what it includes.

2018 Menuhin Competition Geneva Now Accepting Applications

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:37:09 GMT

By Laurie Niles: The Menuhin Competition is now accepting applications for its next competition, which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland on April 12-22, 2018.
The competition is open to violinists younger than age 22 and has two age divisions: Junior and Senior. Junior candidates must be under 16 on April 22, 2018; and Senior candidates must under 22 on April 22, 2018. Those who are 15 on that date may enter in either category. The application deadline is noon GMT on Oct. 31, 2017. An international pre-selection jury panel will select 22 Junior and 22 Senior competitors from those entries. Click here to apply and find more information about the rules, application materials and 2018 repertoire. The jury for the 2018 competition will include: Pamela Frank (Chair, USA); Joji Hattori (Vice Chair, Japan/Austria); Itamar Golan (Lithuania/Israel); Ilya Gringolts (Russia/Switzerland); Henning Kraggerud (Norway); Lu Siqing (China); Josef Spacek (Czech Republic); Maxim Vengerov (Monaco) and Soyoung Yoon (South Korea). Jury members also will perform and give masterclasses to competitors. Other events during the competition include concerts with London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Julian Rachlin; the Orchestre de la Suisse romande conducted by Marin Alsop; and the Orchestre de Chambre de Genève conducted by Joji Hattori. width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> You might also like:

10 Ways to Avoid Excessive Student Debt

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:56:22 GMT

By Gerald Klickstein: As I write this, countless aspiring college and graduate students are mulling over financial aid offers from US schools. And a great many of those aid packages include sizable loans. Given that I've counseling numerous musicians who took on too much debt and then regretted their decisions, I want to share with the community some key guidelines to help students pursue their educational dreams without taking on disproportionate debt. What's a Reasonable Amount of Student Debt?A general rule, widely used by college and career advisers, is that students should not borrow, in total, more than they can expect to earn during their first year of post-graduation employment. Ideally, students would borrow less. (See the links at the end of this post to estimate salaries.) If students abide by that benchmark, after graduating, they can pay off their loans over a decade and have ample money for necessities, mortgages and cars as well as to fund retirement. When students incur disproportionate debt, they run the risk of being hamstrung for life. Here's an example: “During college I made an enormous mistake: I accumulated $83,786 in student loan debt, getting a Master of Music in opera performance... In my current circumstances, I cannot pay $1,000 or more per month. I know that I got myself into this situation, but it distresses me that my horrible judgment during one period of my life is likely to impact my life negatively forever.” -Survey Respondent No. 3Given that music degrees come with ample intrinsic but modest monetary value (1st-year earnings of master's degree graduates average about $30,000*), it's unwise for financially needy music students to rack up nearly $84,000 in debt. Even so, I regularly coach music graduates with almost double that amount of debt, and all of them could have obtained excellent educations without over-borrowing, if they had known how. 10 Ways to Avoid Excessive Student DebtThe following 10 strategies help students steer clear of crippling debt. I'm gearing them toward musicians, but the concepts apply generally to students in every discipline, so feel welcome to share them. 1. Just say "no" to big debt. If you don't get sufficient scholarship funds to attend a school without going heavily into debt, don't enroll. Work part time, study, and then reapply the following year. Your work experiences, professional recommendations, and ongoing study will make you more competitive for scholarship funds. 2. Attend a low-cost school, and then transfer. If you're a rising freshman and you're admitted to a low-cost school with a sizable scholarship but don't receive funding from top schools, attend the affordable school, earn stellar grades, and then apply to transfer as a sophomore. If you still don't receive much funding from your preferred schools, continue at the lower-cost school and apply to transfer again as a junior. You also might use your tuition savings to help fund summer study or to pursue a volunteer internship, whether in the music field or another area of interest. 3. Take advantage of in-state tuition. If there are high-quality, state-funded schools in your home state, apply to those - even a moderate amount of scholarship can cover much of your costs. Post-college students who lack satisfactory graduate programs in their home states can relocated to states with top-notch offerings and earn residency. Establishing residency may take 12 months, but students should check a state's current requirements. During the pre-residency period, individuals can work and build up additional qualifications for scholarship and assistantship awards. After becoming residents and gaining admission as in-state students, they save tens of thousands of dollars in tuition costs. 4. Do research and get feedback. Before applying either to undergraduate or graduate programs, research the higher education marketplace in your field and have your performance level ev[...]

Crescent Bow Path, Planes and String Crossings

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:53:29 GMT

By Drew Lecher: Hi Everyone — It has been a while……Please join this journey of violin/viola technique. It is my hope that all will benefit. This video lesson excerpt explains why, and how to accomplish perhaps the simplest of concepts to master your bow’s path, automatically gaining a more resonant tone with tremendous ease and fluidity of action: the Crescent Bow — or ‘banana’ or ‘smiley face’ bow. Think of the hand and bow becoming one and then focus on the upper arm and forearm — the joints of the shoulder, elbow and wrist are constantly proactive in the arm’s motions. The movement is similar to that of a bi-fold door — on the string at the tip of the bow, the door is closed; at the frog, the door is open. Accompany this action with well timed, flowing and beautiful string crossings and you are well on your way to sounding like a fine violinist or violist. Then mix in the proper proportion and balance for multiple strings — double-stops and chords. Voilà! With greater understanding, all works and flows better. Now apply and master throughout your technique and repertoire. Piece of cake:) width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> My full video series, "Violin Technique: The Manual" and "Viola Technique: The Manual" (VTTM) are now available for streaming, and my books are now available in eBook format. It is my hope that you will benefit greatly. God bless, Drew You might also like:

More on Ysaÿe...

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:00:40 GMT

By Nandor Szederkenyi: Actually, I wanted to reply to the blog Ysaÿe's transcription of Chopin's Ballade by Jacob Niederhoffer, but because I am new here I had to wait after registration for 48 hours for blog reply and in the meantime this blog has been archived, so now I am starting a new one: It is so great to see the appreciation for compositions and transcriptions by Eugene Ysaÿe - I was fortunate to hear about Ysaye's live performance in Kassa/Kosice, still in the "old" Hungary, perhaps in the 1930's, from my father, who had been a student of Jenö Hubay in Budapest. (image) Because of this, I also developed a great interest in the music by Ysaye and was probably the first to perform his Solo Sonatas in Hungary. Actually, when looking for the music, I found only one, the No. 6 in the library of Franz Liszt Academy (1974) and soon after we ordered all six, in those days still from outside the iron curtain. Later in Canada, I was the leader of a string trio and discovered his Trio "Le Chimay", available only as a facsimile of his handwritten parts. We performed this 1996-97 as premiere performances in Canada, playing from score and parts I had prepared with Finale. However, Schott Freres declined to publish this, since there was apparently no interest at the time. I still continued to work on other chamber pieces by Ysaÿe, performing works such as the "Exil" for string orchestra and the Sonata for two Violins, which I recorded and prepared good copies. I also found a manuscript copy of all three movements of the Trio "Le Londres" for two violins and viola, which he had based on the Duo Sonata. width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Around 2005, Schott had published my edited version of the string trio "Le Chimay" and was interested in publishing my edition of the trio "Le Londres", which I also recorded as a world premiere performance with principal players of the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg. Here is that recording: Ysaÿe Le Londres CD. I have now prepared a revised edited copy of the Trio "Le Chimay". Sheet music is available here: iStrings sheet music catalog.

The Week in Reviews, Op. 178: Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Anne Akiko Meyers

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:50:37 GMT

By Laurie Niles: In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world. Itzhak Perlman performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.Cincinnati Enquirer: "Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G Minor is a staple of every major artist. Yet, its beauty, as it unfolded in streams of melody, seemed tailor-made for Perlman’s sweet tone and rapturous phrasing." Itzhak Perlman. Photo by Lisa-Marie-Mazzucco. Joshua Bell performed the Tchaikovsky with Academy of the St Martin in the Fields.WA Today: "Beyond the fireworks, he and his ensemble fashion a deeply moving reading of Tchaikovsky's love letter. It's not always clear how the ensemble hang on, but they do, picking up Bell's leads like someone jumping onto a moving train. Breathless and breathtaking."The AU Review: "Virtuoso Bell is truly dazzling leading the orchestra." Anne Akiko Meyers performed in recital with pianist Akira Eguchi at Kaufmann Concert Hall in New "With its commissions and personal dedications, the concert felt like a family affair as well as a musical celebration. Both musicians are at the tops of their games." Robert Chen performed Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.Chicago Classical Review: "Chen gave the opening theme—meant to represent Geyer herself—elevated treatment and the extended wanderings of the opening Andante sostenuto had a beseeching quality, with delicate interplay between the soloist and his supportive colleagues."Chicago Tribune: "Chen deployed his silken tone and throbbing vibrato to tenderly expressive effect in the opening movement, where the love-struck Bartok opens his heart in floods of passionate lyricism. He then dug into the capricious second movement with more than enough vivacity to keep the music perking right up to the double bar." Isabelle Faust performed two Mozart concertos with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.The Guardian: "...a detailed performance from Faust that balanced grace with latent energy." Gil Shaham performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.The Columbus Dispatch: "There is nothing like observing a master at work, and Shaham’s performance of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 last night conveyed profound artistry and humanity." Sergey Khachatryan performed the Beethoven with the National Symphony Orchestra.The Washington Post: "I was feel that this particular performance of the Beethoven simply failed to connect." Daniel Hope performed works by Bach and Mendelssohn with the Basel Chamber Orchestra.The Guardian: "The teenage Mendelssohn was clearly influenced by 18th-century Sturm und Drang, although the D minor Concerto doesn’t quite warrant the hell-for-leather aggression with which Hope initially tore into it." Andrs Crdenas performed the Glazunov with the Sinfonia da Camera.The News-Gazette: "(Glazunov's) 1904 "Violin Concerto," Opus 82, is a short, modest, but highly rewarding virtuoso piece, especially with the energy and finesse of Andrs Crdenas." Please support music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can![...]

By Special Arrangement

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 10:57:57 GMT

By Dorian Bandy: A recent post on announced the rediscovery and publication of Eugène Ysaÿe's violin transcription of Chopin's First Ballade. Not long after, a Twitter discussion ensued in which the relative merits of such transcriptions were called into question. I contributed a tweet or two to the thread, but felt there was more to say about the topic than what I could condense into 140 characters. Image by Confession: I am an enthusiastic supporter -- and maker, and performer -- of transcriptions and arrangements. Speaking casually, I don't think there are any truly reasonable objections to playing and enjoying them. They can often shed new interpretive light on familiar works. (Think of Liszt's piano versions of Schubert and Schumann Lieder, all of which reinvent various structural aspects of the originals.) They can make familiar repertoire seem new, and even occasionally improve the balance or sound. (The various violin transcriptions that have been done from Bach's D-minor Harpsichord Concerto, BWV 1052, all seem like improvements to me. The same is true of an early 19th-century chamber arrangement of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto. I hadn't realized just how bombastic the orchestral brass can sound, particularly when played on modern instruments, until I heard the sleeker, slenderer string quintet arrangement.) More importantly, they make great repertoire available to anyone who wants to consume it. When a violinist has played Bach's Sonatas and Partitas, why should his flute or keyboard works not be the next frontier? Some excellent music has been written for the violin -- indeed, our repertoire is second in greatness only to keyboardists' -- but there's always room for more. If some pianists have been known to borrow the Beethoven Violin Concerto, should we feel bad about appropriating a Chopin Ballade? Not at all! This attitude is in line with what many of the great musical minds have practiced. Composers like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, performers like Paganini and Heifetz, all actively trafficked in transcriptions and arrangements. In Bach's output alone, we can find dozens of arrangements and transcriptions of his own works. His A-minor and E-major Violin Concertos exist as G-minor and D-major Harpsichord Concertos. He reworked the Preludio to the Unaccompanied Partita in E major as an organ concerto. The various double concertos (for violin and oboe, for two violins) all exist in versions for multiple harpsichords. Even the celebrated Toccata and Fugue in D minor seems to have been a transcription. (The supposed original is lost, so its key and instrumentation are unknown -- though some scholars and performers think it was for solo violin, in A minor.) It seems clear that, to Bach, a good piece was to be reused in as many ways as possible. Why not see how far the music could be stretched? (Bach probably had philosophical interests in transcriptions as well. His music is so structural, so Platonic in its formal perfection, that it has an element of what philosophers would call substrate-neutrality. The counterpoint can work on any instrument(s), so long as it remains structurally intact.) By the end of the 18th century, interests in transcription were more practical. Recordings and mass-production of miniature scores had yet to be invented, but a public full of concert- and operagoing music lovers wanted to listen to their favorite tunes in the comfort of their homes. The solution? Publish chamber or solo arrangements of nearly everything, from symphonies to ballets to operas. (Consider Salomon's arrangements of Haydn Symphonies for string quartet, flute and piano, or various four-hand piano arrangements of Mozart's operas.) Some works were even conceived to be instrumentally flexible. Mozart's Piano Concertos 11, 12, and 13 were written with orchestral w[...] weekend vote: How did you come to possess your current primary violin or viola?

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 17:24:31 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Procuring a violin can be tricky business.
This week on we've explored several different ways that people do it, from securing the loan of a 300-year-old fine instrument, to buying or commissioning a brand-new instrument, fresh off the bench of a luthier engaged in today's thriving art of violin-making. For most of us it is rather more simple: we buy it at a violin shop, or on the Internet, or borrow one from a friend or relative. Over four decades of playing, I've found violins a variety of ways, both simple and logistically complex. At first, I borrowed one from my elementary school, then eventually my parents bought me a little student fiddle. When my family realized I was getting serious about it, my grandparents drove across the country to bestow my grandmother's violin on me - it was a lot better than the one we had bought. Eventually I outgrew that, and I began to explore modern instruments, even traveling to a luthier's house, where I learned so many new things about that art. I did buy a modern, then years later fell in love with an antique fiddle that I bought from a shop (and spent years paying off!). What is the story of your current primary instrument? And what other options have you explored along the way? src="" frameborder="0" height="310" scrolling="auto" width="450"> Thank you to Morgan Watkins for sending me a bunch of vote ideas, including this one! I invite you to e-mail me with your ideas! You might also like: