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News and commentary about learning, playing and teaching the violin.



 



The Week in Reviews, Op. 210: Janine Jansen; Tim Fain; Benjamin Beilman

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 21:36:32 GMT

By Laurie Niles: In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world. Janine Jansen performed works by Bartók, Szymanowski and Messiaen in concert at Carnegie Hall.The New York Times: "Her focus and silvery tone, the way she sustains the musical line beyond what you thought possible, renders even passages of haziness fundamentally lucid." Janine Jansen. Tim Fain performed Glass' Violin Concerto No. 2 with the American Composers Orchestra.The New York Times: "The string writing that accompanied this digital swirl was most memorable when it jumped between stasis and sudden glissando surges. For most of its 10 minutes, 'GAMA XVI' recalled the electroacoustic mystery of Pauline Oliveros. But near the end, firmer pulsations were clearer reminders of Mr. Glass, as was a cameo appearance by the violinist Tim Fain, a Glass specialist."New York Classical Review: "GAMA XVI was more than just a novelty. This concerto for human had the unobtrusively fascinating sound of the finest ambient music. But then it turned, oddly, into something else entirely. Sasaki left the stage and was replaced by violinist Tim Fain, who played what was indeed a mini-concerto, full of Glassian repetition." Benjamin Beilman performed the Barber with the Sarasota Orchestra.Sarasota Herald-Tribune: "There could be no doubt that this still-young man pulled the music directly from his heart with extraordinary artistry. From the first lofty, wide-ranging dreamer’s tune to the wrenching melancholy in the second movement, I was entranced by the purity and emotional expanse of Beilman’s unique tone quality." Augustin Hadelich performed the Beethoven with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.The Epoch Times: "Even before he began playing in the violin concerto, one could sense the orchestral music coursing through his veins. His playing was gorgeous throughout." Elina Vahala performed Jaakko Kuusisto's Violin Concerto with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.The Straits Times: "Vahala's playing was top rate throughout the concerto, even if the unfamiliarity of the work might have made it less evident for listeners. Her tone, expressiveness and fluency were second to none. Kuusisto's Violin Concerto may never achieve the widespread popularity of Sibelius' concerto, but it was intense, refreshing and a worthy complement to the rest of the programme." Clara-Jumi Kang performed Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto No. 3 with the Naples Philharmonic.Naples Daily News: "Kang coaxed a rich soliloquy from her Stradivarius on the low tones of the second movement, a reading that said she wasn't hoarding her emotional payload for the flashy final movement. When it came, however, she gave it the fervor it deserves." Christian Tetzlaff performed works by Brahms in recital with pianist Lars Vogt.Independent: "No other violinist so steadfastly abjures the seductive capacities of their instrument, its luxurious warmth and potential range of colour. Tetzlaff goes for absolute clarity of detail and purity of intonation, and as a result Brahms’s dramatic and melodic richness here shone very brightly." Alena Baeva performed Bacewicz's Violin Concerto No. 7 with the American Symphony Orchestra.New York Classical Review: "Baeva was a magnetic presence, and the sound of her instrument, the fullness of tone, and her marvelously precise intonation were admirable and beautiful in and of themselves. Her strength and fire made the concerto sound like a masterpiece." Keir GoGwilt performed the Adès with the La Jolla Symphony.The San Diego Union-Tribune: "Violinist Keir GoGwilt vanquished the technical challenges of Adès’ concerto with simultaneous economy of effort and finger-busting virtuosity. He also displayed a beautiful, singing tone — when he was audible." [...]



V.com weekend vote: Have you tried using beta-blockers for performance nerves?

Sat, 09 Dec 2017 00:48:08 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Stage fright can become a huge problem for a musician, especially if it keeps that person from performing.
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What is the solution? Of course, good preparation can help one feel secure, and then there are other mind-relaxing practices such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation. But for some, these solutions don't help, and a sizable percentage of musicians have found help in using beta-blockers, that is, drugs such as Inderol, which reduce overall heart rate and temper that fight-or-flight response. People can get judgmental about "using drugs," but if you've ever been on stage, in the spotlight and then felt the full effect of a harrowing panic attack, you're likely more sympathetic. For some people, beta blockers have simply helped on an occasional basis: getting through a tough audition or even just getting through a period of heightened stress. For some, it's simply something they use whenever they perform. Others have tried it and not liked the effect, and yet others have never used it at all. Have you used beta blockers to help with performance nerves? Did you find it helpful? What other strategies have helped you either cope with or avoid performance nerves? Please share your thoughts in the comments section after voting. src="http://www.violinist.com/poll.cfm?question=348" frameborder="0" height="310" scrolling="auto" width="450"> You might also like:



For the Record, Op. 38: New York Phil Historic Broadcasts; Christian Howes Jazz

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 22:03:37 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Welcome to "For the Record," Violinist.com'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! New York Philharmonic’s 175th Birthday Celebration releases
In celebration of its 175th birthday today, the New York Philharmonic is releasing all of its 19th-century archival material through the New York Phil Leon Levy Digital Archives. Highlights include 5,500 pages of handwritten minutes; nearly 800 scores and 8,000 orchestra parts; as well as letters from Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Berlioz. On Friday, almost 100 historic performances will be released for streaming for the first time. They will be available on Apple Music and Google Play. In addition, the New York Philharmonic’s 175th birthday concerts, led by former Music Director Alan Gilbert, take place this week, featuring music performed on the Orchestra’s inaugural concert in 1842 and spotlighting Philharmonic Principal musicians.
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NY Phil archives include 19th c. programs and more. Image courtesy NY Phil.
Christian Howes + Bobby Floyd (live): Jazz Violin and Piano Duets Christian Howes, violin Bobby Floyd, piano
This series of four duets is the result of more than 20 years of collaboration. The pieces included in the series are Nature Boy (ballad), This Little Light of Mine (traditional/gospel), Equinox (medium swing), and Sweet Lorraine (medium swing and stride). BELOW: Christian Howes and Bobby Floyd perform "Sweet Lorraine">
width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/q8-JdaFhSh4?list=PL6By1KZHRO2Jr2G5PMLK68TsYBPG-xf8m" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> 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. You might also like:



New LA Orchestra Fellowship aims to bridge gaps between orchestras and their communities

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 03:39:20 GMT

By Laurie Niles: As recently as a few decades ago, the roster of just about any major symphony orchestra consisted almost solely of white male musicians. While the classical music world has made strides in diversity since that time, much work remains for orchestras to achieve the kind of diversity that reflects their home communities. In fact, a 2016 report on diversity issued by the League of American Orchestras found that less than five percent of orchestra musicians are African American, Hispanic or Native American. That is one reason for the development of a new fellowship in Los Angeles called the LA Orchestra Fellowship, which currently is accepting applications for a two-year fellowship designed to help top-tier string musicians from underrepresented communities get established as professionals in the classical world. (Click here for the application, due Dec. 31.) The fellowship is the brainchild of Scott Harrison, director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO), and Charles Dickerson, director of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLAS/ICYOLSA), in partnership with the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. Four musicians -- two violinists, a violist and a cellist, will be chosen for full-time fellowships that will begin in August 2018. The fellowships are designed for young musicians who already have completed a bachelor’s degree in music. Each fellow will be enrolled in USC Thornton's Graduate Certificate Program and will be expected to perform and rehearse with LACO, ICYOLA and USC orchestras. They will coach ICYOLAS/ICYOLSA students; perform outreach concerts as a quartet; and receive audition coaching from LACO. In return, they will receive about $140,000 in benefits, including actual fees for performances, audition travel stipends, housing, and USC tuition. The program is primarily funded by grants totaling $700,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. "It's for each individual to decide if they fit the criteria of the program: which is that they belong to a community that is traditionally underrepresented in American orchestras," Harrison said. LACO is working with organizations like the Sphinx Organization, the Gateway Festival, the Color of Music Festival and conservatories around the country to recruit applicants. To understand why these kinds of fellowships are needed, it helps to understand some history behind the movement for diversity in classical music. One could argue that it began in Detroit, the same city where Harrison spent five years as vice president of advancement and external relations at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. "Being in Detroit was seminal, in terms of my own personal journey of understanding the real importance of diversity and equity work to an orchestra and to an arts organization," Harrison said a phone conversation last week. The issue gained nationwide attention long before Harrison came to Detroit - in 1989. That was when a number of Michigan state legislators "withheld nearly $1.3 million in state aid and threatened to boycott and picket the orchestra's concerts if the orchestra did not hire more blacks," according to the New York Times. In a city that was nearly 60 percent black, the Detroit Symphony had just one black musician. Auditions were held behind a screen, but that was not yielding a diverse group of musicians. Clearly, there was a shortage of black classical musicians auditioning, but solving that problem would require long-term solutions. The DSO started its own Fellowship Program - the first of its kind - in 1990, after the controversy. The idea was - and still is - "to enhance the career development of African-American orchestral musicians and the diversity of professional orchestras." Seven years after that, Aaron Dworkin started the Sphinx Competition, now part of the Sphinx Organization, built on the premise that talent needed to be encouraged and cultivated and other barriers needed to be addressed in order to a[...]



Wishing You a Baroque and Klezmer Holiday Season!

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 02:40:00 GMT

By Scott Slapin: Happy Holidays from the Slapin-Solomon Duo! Having arranged more than fifty standard works for viola duo and violin-viola duo (and having written seven albums of string-centered chamber music myself), we thought we'd add our voices to the holiday season. For anyone attempting their own arrangements, one piece of advice we have is: working the arrangements out on the keyboard isn't enough! Often the voicing of chords that sounds fine on the keyboard doesn't sound that great for strings, and the reverse is even more true. String color is an important factor, and if possible, you should always check out your arrangements on the actual instruments that will be playing them.
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I'll add that it has always been our goal not to just remind the listener nostalgically (and perhaps in a thin-sounding version) of the original piece, but rather to create arrangements that sound to the uninitiated listener as if the composer could have originally intended the work for viola duo or violin-viola duo. This means a lot of (occasionally) awkward doublestops, but ultimately a much more satisfying experience for the audience. And finally, once you have a great arrangement for one ensemble, you can't just simply transpose that up a fifth or down an octave and assume it will sound as good. It won't. Almost always, we've had to redo quite a bit to make it work. We hope you enjoy excerpts from our Baroque and Klezmer Holiday Concert! We're planning down the road to prepare sheet music as we have for our past arrangements, but for now we hope you'll just enjoy the video: width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GJ_G7vBAPJw" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> (Excerpts from Handel's Messiah, Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Corelli's Christmas Concerto, Bach's Third Partita for Solo Violin, as well as great Klezmer tunes by Lev Zhurbin and George Gianopoulos.) Best, Scott Slapin



On Visibility and Invisibility: How Music Mirrors our Human Experience

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 17:57:54 GMT

By christian howes: There are many reasons why I advocate for expanding classical music education to include the study of music from traditions beyond the European canon. In this post I will focus on just one. Things unfamiliar to our personal experience, upbringing, or education often remain invisible to us. This inconvenient truth is practically screaming at us in conversations related to how people with different backgrounds and experiences interpret the same events. This is also true in Music. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/in0s0RYuefk" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> For classically trained musicians, the idea of pulse, groove, or clavé is largely invisible. Any groove-based music remains mostly invisible to many conservatory musicians, as it was to me before I ventured out beyond my training, because these styles are not taught or recognized in the classical canon. For example, Black American music, Latin music, Appalachian music, African music, and Indian music all rely on groove, pulse, or clavé. My aim here is not to denigrate classical music, which I love, but rather to inspire classical musicians to discover more by listening deeper. In the same way, when we listen deeper to the experiences of peoples who are different than ourselves, we can't help but become enriched. The difficulty of many political conversations around us currently has to do in part with how uncomfortable people feel about listening deeper. Because the need to listen deeper threatens us to our core through the implication that maybe there's something we've been missing or that we are in fact missing. That maybe we need to reexamine some deeply ingrained assumptions. And maybe we don’t have it all figured out. I am humbled by the realization that MANY things are invisible to me. At the same time, I feel empowered by believing that these things will become more visible if I listen deeper. Since my classical training, my musical journey has included a series of eye-opening introductions to music from people with different experiences, backgrounds, and educations. These include introductions to Black American music, Appalachian music, Cuban music, and Spanish Flamenco. I may have condescended certain styles at first listen, because of my own ignorance and training that told me there was a “right” way or a “wrong” way. It was only once I stood IN THE ROOM with musicians from other traditions that I was able to start to appreciate the music, and then, over time, come to have deep respect for it, and begin to partly understand it, by listening deeply. That's what I wish for all classically trained musicians. Because a more broadly informed view of music, or of the human experience in general, is a better view. And besides, it will only improve their classical playing and teaching! This is a core value of Creative Strings, which we attempt to present through our workshops, online training, free videos and free podcast series. It’s part of why I will continue advocating for broader inclusion within the culture of classical musicians. Our latest episode of the Creative Strings Podcast features a Spanish musician informed by intersections between Classical, Jazz and Flamenco. Among other topics we discuss, >- Clavé as a mantra >- Overcoming fear in classical music >- The academizing of jazz Subscribe to get ALL 25 episodes free on Stitcher, iTunes, or Google Play and look for more great episodes coming soon.[...]



Handel's 'Messiah' Unites Musicians from 108 Churches across Southern California

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 22:26:52 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Musicians across the world will perform Handel's "Messiah" this holiday season - for many it's a deeply spiritual experience and cherished tradition. Certainly, it is a testament to music's power to unite people. Looking up from my music stand during a performance of Handel's "Messiah" last weekend, I noticed something unusual about the choir: each person wore a completely different color and style of choir robe. Why? Because this wasn't just one choir. It was a collection of singers from 108 different congregations, each clad in the robes of their "home" church. In a tradition that has endured for 50 years, nearly 200 singers from churches across Southern California came together to take part in a production that their home congregations could not stage on their own. A choir of 189 spilled across front and down the sides of St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Hacienda Heights, Calif, forming the rainbow sea of singers dressed in robes from churches spanning the liberal-conservative spectrum: Episcopal, Seventh Day Adventist, Mennonite, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Catholic, Church of God, Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ, Lutheran and more. (Unitarian and Jewish, too, if you count us in the orchestra!) The orchestra included both professionals and community members, all coming together for the cause of making music. My stand partner, Louise Bansmer, had participated for nine years - five as a singer and four in the orchestra. Next to her, Rich Kozak was playing violin for his 25th "Messiah" with the group. Laurie, with Louise Bansmer. At the rehearsal before the first performance, music director John Lamkin asked various members of the choir and orchestra how long they had been participating. For some, it was their first time, but many had been singing in the annual "Messiah" for decades. One soprano, Doris Sachs, had participated all 50 years! Many even traveled from across the country to keep the tradition. Concertmaster Isabelle LaForet Senger, who had led the orchestra for 15 years, came in from Bend, Oregon for the occasion. Isabelle LaForet Senger and Conductor John Lamkin. The group is called the Richard M. Riggs Memorial Choir and Chamber Orchestra, after the late choir director who started this tradition back in 1967. Lamkin - who retired as director of music at St. Matthew’s in 1991 - has conducted for 28 years and decided to step down after this year. Behind the scenes, chairman Linda Hall organized the considerable logistics and fundraising. Lamkin announced that they will hand the ball to "some young whipper snapper," and that the production will move next year to St. Dennis Catholic Church in Diamond Bar, Calif. It's interesting to think about the individual experiences that grow from one powerful tradition. Families come to see relatives and friends sing in the choir. Choristers return year after year for this reunion. Friendships evolve. Even the orchestra members have developed a tradition of going together to the same Korean restaurant between the rehearsal and concert every year. But none of this happens without the music — the Handel masterwork that inspired people of different backgrounds, in different congregations, from different and far-flung neighborhoods in this traffic-choked city, to put all that aside and to come together to make music. Hallelujah, indeed. You might also like:The Handel and Haydn Society: 200 years of the 'Messiah' in AmericaHoliday Handel HappinessThe 2017 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide[...]



The Week in Reviews, Op. 209: Leonidas Kavakos; Hilary Hahn; Gil Shaham; Lisa Batiashvili

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:14:19 GMT

By Laurie Niles: In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world. Leonidas Kavakos performed Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.[...]



Review: Hilary Hahn Performs Bernstein Serenade with LA Phil

Sun, 03 Dec 2017 07:02:12 GMT

By Laurie Niles: 'Tis the season - for Leonard Bernstein. This subscription season, orchestras around the country are celebrating the centennial of the birth (Aug. 25, 1918) of Bernstein, the great 20th century American composer, conductor, pianist and all-around advocate for our art. As such, this anniversary has brought more attention to a violin concerto that deserves wider recognition: Bernstein's "Serenade (after Plato's Symposium)." On Friday Bernstein's "Serenade" took center stage at Disney Hall, with violinist Hilary Hahn performing the work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a performance that will be repeated Sunday. This was the second performance of the piece that I'd seen this fall; the first was when Joshua Bell played it with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in September. Hilary Hahn. Photo © Michael Patrick O'Leary. On Friday, the LA Phil was led by conductor Jonathon Heyward, filling in for Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who was ill. Heyward is part of the LA Phil's Dudamel Conducting Fellowship and is currently Assistant Conductor of The Hallé. As soon as Hahn appeared on stage, she launched straight into the work, which begins with an extended solo passage. Each of the concerto's five movement are named after seven ancient Greeks who appear in Plato's Symposium: Phaedrus & Pausanias; Aristophanes; Erixymathus; Agathon; Socrates & Alcibiades, though the LA Phil's program notes acknowledged that Bernstein said "there is no literal program for this Serenade. The music, like Plato’s dialogue, is a series of related statements in praise of love." Still, each movement has a distinct character, and on Friday the outline of those characters was a little murky at first but grew clearer as the work progressed. Hahn's technique was brilliant, and the LA Phil is a satisfyingly tight band, but the balance between soloist and orchestra took some time to achieve. During the first movement the orchestra occasionally overpowered the soloist. The second movement, with its interplay between soloist and violin soli, felt like it needed more clarity in its musical direction - what should dominate and when? The speedy passages in the third movement were wicked-accurate and amazing to behold in both soloist and orchestra. The fifth movement was where everyone hit their stride. With its rapidity, constantly changing meter and sheer volume, this movement sounds like a strangely thrilling cross between a runaway train and an elephant dancing. The audience rose in a standing ovation at the conclusion of the piece. With no intermission in this Friday program, Hahn did not play an encore. The last part of the program featured Stravinsky's "Firebird" (originally it was to have featured Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 3). This work brought about a more decisive conducting style from Heyward as well as assured playing from the orchestra. Thought this piece was written in more than a century ago and my introduction to it is well in the past, I had to marvel anew at the way it feels like a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of orchestral sound. A line can pass from piano to piccolo to tuba, and somehow it's seamless music. What a brilliant piece, and beautiful work by the woodwind section of the LA Phil. You might also like:Hilary Hahn on A Prairie Home Companion: A Win for Classical MusicReview: Joshua Bell Performs Bernstein 'Serenade' with Los Angeles Chamber OrchestraInterview with Anne Akiko Meyers: Love, and Bernstein's 'Serenade'[...]



The 2017 Violinist.com Holiday Gift Guide

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 19:08:30 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Gift-giving is one of the great joys of the holiday season, and each year we compile a list of some of the year's best new offerings from violinists for you to consider in your holiday gift-giving, gift-asking — and loading of the smartphone, computer or other device. We hope this allows you to consider a music-related gift. We also would suggest considering supporting your local live music scene by purchasing tickets to local music events or simply making a year-end donation to a musical non-profit of your choice. I've tried to be inclusive, but I'm sure I have missed some ideas, so please feel free add your suggestions in the comments section. And yes, in this case, you are allowed to toot your own horn and recommend your own CD or book or product! You may also wish to refer to our gift-giving guides from previous years; I've listed links to those at the end of this blog. Also, please consider purchasing a gift from one of our Violinist.com sponsors, which you can find in our Directory of Shops and Services or on the right-hand side of this page. Many of the recordings below are linked to Amazon.com. Note that if you follow these links and make a purchase from Amazon, a portion of that will go to support Violinist.com. (If you would like to give a donation to support Violinist.com, click here.) I've also listed the artists' names in italics, and sometimes those are linked to stories we have written this year about them and their work. And whenever you buy any of these selections, from any source, you'll be helping to support the musicians and other artists who created them. RECORDINGS Joshua Bell - The Classical Collection Joshua Bell If you are a fan of violinist Joshua Bell, here is a very big collection, with 20 years' worth of his recordings for Sony Classical. The 14-album set includes favorites by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Gershwin, Ravel, and Sibelius. It also has complete albums such as Bell's Bach (2014); Romance of the Violin (2003); and Voice of the Violin (2006). Other highlights include British composer Nicholas Maw’s Grammy Award-winning Violin Concerto, written for Bell in 1993; The Red Violin Concerto, based on themes from John Corigliano’s score to the film The Red Violin; and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite. Bell also is featured in his role as Music Director (since 2011) of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with performances of Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh Symphonies. Joshua Bell. Bel Canto Paganini Rachel Barton Pine For Rachel Barton Pine, Nicolò Paganini's 24 Caprices are not just a set of virtuoso works that exist in their own universe, but they are very much grounded in the operatic style of the composer's time and place. This recording includes Paganini's 24 Caprices as well as his "Duet for One," Op. 6; "Caprice d'adieu" Op. 68; and a work by Rachel Barton Pine called "Introduction, Theme and Variations on "God Defend New Zealand," inspired by Paganini. It also includes a booklet with program notes written by Pine. Read more in our Interview with Rachel Barton Pine. Rachel Barton Pine. Beethoven: Violin Concerto James Ehnes For Canadian violinist James Ehnes' first recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, he has teamed up with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, led by fellow violinist/conductor Andrew Manze. The recording also includes Beethoven's "Romances" for violin; and Schubert's "Rondo." James Ehnes. Ella: Accentuate the Positive Regina Carter American violinist Regina Carter's homage to Ella Fitzgerald is a collection of nine of the singer's "B-side" hits, reimagined for jazz violin. "There was a period when I would wake up every morning and put on Ella: Ella and coffee, that's what I needed to get through the day," Carter told The Chicago Tribune. It's a beau[...]