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


The Week in Reviews, Op. 154: Janine Jansen, Stefan Jackiw, Baiba Skride

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 18:55:10 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. Janine Jansen performed the Sibelius with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.Herald Scotland: "...everything stopped, including, time, my regular breathing and heartbeat, at the spell-binding performance by Janine Jansen of Sibelius' Violin Concerto.... It was heart-moving, beyond words and into tears." Janine Jansen. Stefan Jackiw performed the Mendelssohn with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.Vancouver Sun: "Jackiw is the epitome of agility, wonderfully effective in Mendelssohn’s light, febrile outer movements. Rather than the stodgy sentimentality often on offer in the piece, this interpretation was fresh and electrifying." Baiba Skride performed Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Cleveland Orchestra.The Plain Dealer: "Her concerto, while somewhat less overtly showy than others, was if anything more challenging than most, and Skride nailed it with poise, polish, and tremendous heat." Rachel Podger performed the Vivaldi with Juilliard415.New York Classical Review: "With Rachel Podger, a celebrity baroque violinist if there ever was one, leading Juilliard415, an accomplished historical performance ensemble, in a program of early Italian concerti, a strong concert should have been in the cards. What stood out, though, was a surprising lack of polish–messy articulation, sour intonation, and roughness of sound marred their playing throughout the early-evening concert." Dover Quartet performed Mozart and Beethoven at Northwestern University.Chicago on the Aisle: "Displaying a maturity that belies the age of its members, the group plays with uncommon intelligence and finesse and a pleasing, well-blended sound. Perhaps most impressive is how comfortable they seem with each other and with this music." Vilde Frang performed the Korngold with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.Nottingham Post: "It would be easy for a work with cinematic origins to become a vehicle for solo histrionics, but Vilde Frang showed restraint, allowing the lush tunes of the opening movement to breathe and speak for themselves." Caroline Goulding performed the Beethoven with the Boise Philharmonic.Idaho Statesman: "A true prodigy, Goulding first came to Boise in 2010 when she was 17. Now 23, she again showed her virtuosity, attacking the piece with precise technique and soulful depth." Robert McDuffie and REM bassist Mike Mills performed Mills' Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra.South Florida Classical Review: "The opening and closing sections (titled 'Play It Like You Mean It' and 'You Can Go Home Again') found McDuffie prancing about the stage like a real rocker and imitating the sound of the electric guitars and basses in an exciting manner. Is McDuffie the only artist who has ever played rock on a Guarneri? He really caught Mills’ bass groove and Chen and his string players threw themselves into the musical mashup." Tianwa Yang performed Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 with the Hong Kong Philharmonic.South China Morning Post: "Soloist Tianwa Yang matched perfectly the HKPhil’s rhythmic clarity and Van Zweden’s conception of the work’s structure." Sayaka Shoji performed the Tchaikovsky with CityMusic Cleveland.The Plain Dealer: "Where many artists apply layer after layer of emotional lacquer to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, she allowed the music to speak for itself and wisely focused instead on technical matters, on tone, articulation, and dynamics." Please support music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can![...]

Veriko Tchumburidze Wins First Prize in the 2016 Wieniawski International Violin Competition

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 06:12:20 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Prize winners were announced Saturday in the 2016 Wieniawski International Violin Competition in Poznan, Poland. They are:
  • First Prize (€30,000): Veriko Tchumburidze, 20, of Georgia/Turkey
  • Second Prize (€20,000): Bomsori Kim, 25, of South Korea
  • Second Prize (€20,000): Seiji Okamoto, 22, of Japan
  • Fourth Prize (€10,000): Luke Hsu, 26, of the United States
  • Fifth Prize (€10,000): Richard Lin, 25, of Taiwan/United States
  • Sixth Prize (€5,000): Maria Wloszczowska, 25, of Poland
  • Seventh Prize (€5,000): Ryosuke Suho, 21, of Japan
Here is Veriko Tchumburidze's prize-winning performance of Henryk Wieniawski's Violin Concerto no. 2 in D minor, Op. 22, with the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra. She plays on a 1756 Giambattista Guadagnini violin. (Find other performances here.) width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Jury members are Maxim Vengerov (Chair), Vera Tsu Wei-Ling, Mayumi Seiler, Marios Papadopoulos, Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, Robert Kabara, Ilya Gringolts, Bartosz Bryla, Zakhar Bron, Alena Baeva, Kyoko Takezawa, Song-Suk Kang, Akiko Tatsumi, Peter Zazofsky and Krzysztof Penderecki. weekend vote: How long have you been playing your current instrument?

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:34:16 GMT

By Laurie Niles: How long have you been in a relationship with your current instrument? And I'm not asking how long you have played, but how long you have played the instrument that you play now. There is a difference!
I was impressed with the story of Scott Slapin's 30th anniversary with his modern viola, a Hiroshi Iizuka. Now that is a long time! Taking on a new instrument is actually a pretty big deal, some might even compare it to a marriage! You make a commitment to that instrument, and then you keep it at your side. You work together, you take care of it, you create some beautiful moments together. There is a certain kind of ceremony to this union, and for me it's been different with each of the four major violins I've had. Early on, my grandmother gave me the "Strad," literally from her attic, an old German factory violin that had been in the family. It was a huge deal; she and my Grandfather personally drove it from Cleveland to Denver to put it in my hands (well, and just to visit us!). Still, the occasion had weight, and that violin was my partner in college and beyond. My next violin, a lovely modern instrument by David Scroggin, came from a local luthier. It had been made for someone else, and had amber crystals in the varnish, some funny stuff! This was a step up, and we also had many adventures together, until I fell head over heels with the violin I have now, a Gagliano brothers from the mid 19th c. A complicated marriage, there, involving the sale of my old instrument, a loan to be paid over years, etc. A huge commitment to a violin that I loved and still do. How long have you been with your current instrument? And what is the story behind it? src="" frameborder="0" height="310" scrolling="auto" width="450">

Thirty-Year Anniversary with My Modern Viola by Hiroshi Iizuka

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 20:13:41 GMT

By Scott Slapin:
The beginning of this month marked the thirtieth anniversary for me and my viola made by Hiroshi Iizuka. Earlier this year I also acquired an Iizuka violin made out of bird's eye maple. Both are in the picture above. I was really fortunate to get such an instrument at the age of twelve! My viola teacher, Emanuel Vardi, had recently gotten one of Iizuka's instruments and recommended I get one, too. To celebrate our anniversary, I offered to play any of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas (on the viola, of course!) before our already-planned duo recital on the 16th. Twenty-one years earlier-- and on my twenty-first birthday-- I had performed the complete set of Sonatas and Partitas from memory, so this seemed like the right unaccompanied music with which to celebrate this occasion. We held an online vote the week before, and the audience really put me to the test! I ended up playing the Prelude and Fugue from the Third Sonata and the Chaconne from the Second Partita. If you missed our concert, here is part of the live and unedited performance: width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Hiroshi Iizuka was born in Maebashi, Japan on July 21, 1945. He apprenticed in Tokyo under Soroku Murata, Geigenbaumeister, from 1971 to 1973. From 1973 to 1977, Iizuka apprenticed under and worked for Josef Kantuscher, Geigenbaumeister, in Mittenwald, Germany. He acquired a Journeyman’s diploma from the German Chamber of Handwork in 1974, with a prize for the violin made for the examination. Iizuka established his own shop in Pennsylvania in the United States in 1977. Since then, he has worked predominantly in the building of new instruments. Besides the traditional style of violin-family instruments, he developed his own model of a “viola d’amore” style viola in 1979, and the “rubenesque” model in 1992. Iizuka has made more than 380 instruments that are being played worldwide, over half of which are violas. He has made 7 celli to date. His instruments are played by many well-known soloists and chamber musicians, as well as in leading orchestras worldwide. You might also like:

For the Record, Op. 5: New Recordings by Dover Quartet, Alina Ibragimova

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 18:37:12 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! Dover Quartet Plays Mozart Dover Quartet Making its recording debut, the Dover Quartet pays tribute to its mentors, the Guarneri String Quartet, with an all-Mozart program that includes two late quartets, K. 589 and K 590, as well as the Quintet in C minor, K. 406, featuring guest violist Michael Tree. Formed in 2008 while its members were students at The Curtis Institute, the quartet includes violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-Van de Stadt and cellist Camden Shaw. The group, which won Grand Prize in the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, currently serves as ensemble-in-residence at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music. The Dover Quartet performs movement 4 from Mozart Quartet K. 590: width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Mozart: Violin Sonatas Vol.2 Alina Ibragimova, violin Cédric Tiberghien, piano Violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien present a second volume in their series of recordings of Mozart's complete violin sonatas. The earliest music here, the Violin Sonata in C major, dates from when Mozart was just six years old. The latest, the Violin Sonata in A major, was written during his first years as a freelance composer resident in Vienna. Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien perform an excerpt from Mozart's Sonata K. 296: width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" 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:

Interview with Philippe Quint: the Glazunov and Khachaturian Concertos, and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 19:02:34 GMT

By Laurie Niles: "There is no question that this is the music I grew up on," said Russian-born violinist Philippe Quint of his most recent recording of the Khachaturian and Glazunov violin concertos. "Glazunov was introduced to me by Jascha Heifetz, and Khachaturian was introduced to me by David Oistrakh -- not in person, but both in those records that my family had. You can't just help but instantly fall in love with this music." Philippe Quint. Photo by Kirill Bashkirov. For Quint, this was his second installment of Russian recordings, the first one being Tchaikovsky and Arensky. While the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto was always on that list of must-learn, must-play pieces, neither the Glazunov nor the Khachaturian quite fell into that same category. "It took me a while to get to both concerti, I think I was in my late 20s," Quint said. "Both were not on the priority list in Ms. DeLay's studio (at Juilliard), they were sort of pushed aside in favor of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Mendelssohn, Bruch....Glazunov was lurking here and there but was never a piece that you must absolutely study." The fact that both are lesser-played makes them all the more appealing to Quint. Glazunov wrote his violin concerto around the turn of the 20th century, for Leopold Auer -- the very same violinist who allegedly declared the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto "unplayable" upon first receiving it. "By the time Glazunov completed the score, he was dreading the idea of showing it to Auer," Quint said. "He knew what Auer had done with the Tchaikovsky violin concerto!" For a time, Auer's judgment hung over the Tchaikovsky concerto like a wet blanket. What if he called Glazunov's piece "unplayable" or "unviolinistic"? Fortunately for Glazunov, he didn't. "To his great surprise, Auer came to Glazunov's home and basically sight-read the piece, with the composer at the piano," Quint said. Auer assured the composer that his piece posed no great difficulties. Later, however, Auer revised his opinion, remarking on the concerto's "daunting virtuosity." Quint agrees with that part. In fact, Quint has no problem saying what Auer wouldn't: "Glazunov is a short piece, only 22 minutes, and because of its density, this piece presents a lot of technical difficulties. It's awkwardly written, it's uncomfortable, it's tricky, it's twisty, it's not as violinistic as we would want a violin concerto to be." Also, he loves it. "It remains one of the great concertos in the Russian repertoire," Quint said. "Glazunov wrote this concerto in 1905, and this was a very interesting time in the development of Western music. You had Brahms, you had young Schoenberg -- the second Viennese School was about to pick up around that time. And you had the death of Mikhail Glinka, who was the father of Russia's nationalist movement, which was picked by Tchaikovsky, who was also still working at the time when Glazunov was around. I think a lot of composers felt pressure over which way to go: Do we go with the traditional, nationalist movement of exploring Russian folklore, Russian folk melodies, like Tchaikovsky and Glinka? Or do we try to come up with something else and perhaps use Western influences from Wagner, Brahms? Glazunov's music is a bit of a hybrid. I think he successfully was able to implement the German Romantic school with Russian folklore; especially in the violin concerto. It's all over, you hear the lush, Wagnerian sound; there are certain parts that are over-the-top, German-Romantic. And then, suddenly you get to the last movement, and it's this very simple, very familiar Russian folk melody." Khachaturian's Violin Concerto in D minor, written decades later in 1940, is another story. Aram Khachaturian was a Soviet composer. Born in eastern Georgia of Armenian descent, he lived most of his life in Moscow. "Khachaturian was one of those composers who had to answer to Stalin," said Quint. "It was important to capture the Sov[...]

Finalists announced in the 2016 Wieniawski International Violin Competition

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 04:13:17 GMT

By Laurie Niles: Finalists were announced Tuesday in the 2016 Wieniawski International Violin Competition, in Poznan, Poland. They are:
  • Luke Hsu, 26, of the U.S.
  • Bomsori Kim, 26, of South Korea
  • Richard Lin, 25, of Taiwan/U.S.
  • Seiji Okamoto, 22, of Japan
  • Ryosuke Suho, 21, of Japan
  • Veriko Tchumburidze, 20, of Georgia/Turkey
  • Maria Wloszczowska, 25, of Poland
BELOW: Richard Lin of the U.S. performs Kreisler's Caprice Viennois; Fauré's Apres un reve; and Brahms: Sonata No. 3, earlier in the competition: width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Finals are Oct. 20-22; find the schedule here and find the live stream and archived performances here. The competition, which began on October 10, will conclude Oct. 23 with prizes and a gala concert with winners playing with the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio, at the Adam Mickiewicz University Auditoriam in Poznán, Poland. Find more about the history of the Wieniawski Competition here. Jury members include Maxim Vengerov (Chair), Vera Tsu Wei-Ling, Mayumi Seiler, Marios Papadopoulos, Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, Robert Kabara, Ilya Gringolts, Bartosz Bryla, Zakhar Bron, Alena Baeva, Kyoko Takezawa, Song-Suk Kang, Akiko Tatsumi, Peter Zazofsky and Krzysztof Penderecki. Previous prize winners include Ginette Neveu, David Oistrakh, Henry Temianka, Boris Goldstein, Ida Haendel, and Igor Oistrakh.

The paradox of the endless bow (VIDEO)

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 20:44:50 GMT

By Nathan Cole:
Achilles and the Tortoise have reached the end of the bow...or have they?
The violin bow has a problem: it ends. And with it, so does the phrase. But what if the bow didn't have to end? Step into a parallel reality with me, one where no matter how long you draw a bow, you never reach its limit! Zeno the Greek In the fifth century BCE, Zeno (despite not owning a violin, as far as we know) thought about this very problem. He devised a series of "paradoxes" that challenged his listeners to perceive time and space in new ways. In particular, he proposed that: Motion is nothing but an illusion! One of his most famous paradoxes features Achilles and a tortoise. And it holds the key to an endless bow, which in turn will give you endless phrases. So if you've ever been frustrated by bow changes, watch my video and discover a brand new practice technique: width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> What did you think of Zeno's paradox? And how are your bow changes? Let me know in the comments below.

Multiple Stops, Multiple Headaches

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 21:48:37 GMT

By Paul Stein: The harmonic world of the violin doesn’t come easy. Chords in first position require an advanced technique of blended intonation and blended sound. While wind players breathe, blow and create air cavities, string players make strings spin and create as little friction as possible. When the bow glides over two strings, and then switches to two other strings, the unique angles and planes must be observed and mastered. Chords invite us into the world of movement, planes, and unlimited possibilities. Multiple-stops -- chords played on two, three and even four strings -- are usually performed in the lower half of the bow, and the bottom part of the chord is often played slightly before the beat. Typically, the two parts of the chord get short-changed, with the pick-up too short and the down beat not prepared adequately. To correct this rhythmic distortion, figure how much excess speed you used to play the pick-up, then slow it down by the same amount. Also, subdivide the two parts of the chord. A divided chord has a similar type of "rhythmic nuance" as grace notes, in which the even pulse is finessed to "fold" in the extra notes. Handy Tips The ideal bow movement for multiple stops is as unobtrusive as possible. To discover the magical qualities of the bow flying and gliding through the air, visualize the actual movement of the bow, then simply let the hand and arm go for the ride. Don’t micro-manage the bow hand technique. Instead, follow the motion. Following the motion has several benefits:No unwanted finger or wrist pressure will crush the strings.The bow will find the correct height above the strings, likely much higher than you would expect. Remind yourself how much lower the hair is below the hand. The bow will even be higher to allow the hair to spin the strings, and to allow the fact that the strings are rotating up and down, in constant motion like a wave.The elbow will not be a hindrance or a cumbersome anchor. Since it’s "going for the ride," it will take on a role similar to a tail of a kite. It adds balance and heft, but no willful or clumsy weight. Changing Planes - No Shortcuts Chords require sudden changes of strings, with a light touch on the upper and lower part of the chord. Changing from two strings to two different strings involves an enormous change in the angle of the bow, and the plane in which it moves. Make sure you’re thinking about the transition. The brain is equipped with this knowledge, but not at birth. (Possible exceptions are Perlman, Szeryng, Hahn, Heifetz, etc.) The mind can develop this skill of observing geometry; about five minutes a day of constant reminder should "re-wire" the stubborn brain waves. The key to smooth bow movement is to bow straight, with the bow parallel to the bridge. One common problem is the bow veering, even careening, towards the bridge accompanied by strident sounds. A strong image is necessary to make the student aware of this undesired force of nature. Suggesting a "reverse rainbow" will equalize the problematic detour. It not only stops the rapid skid towards the bridge and relieves the intense sideways pressure, but it also gives the bow the freedom to find its organic path. Collé and Parlando The lower part of the chord must have an extra amount of strength because it serves as a pick-up to the upper part. Because of its quick, fleeting rhythmic nature, the sound is often diminished. The part of the bow that actually is touching the string at that given moment seems to go unnoticed. To pay attention, let’s first give a name to this rapidly changing bow segment. Since "sounding point" is the term used for the segment of the string that is played between the bridge and fingerboard, I use the expression "playing point" to get the player’s attention focused correctly on the part of the bow that’s being used, [...]

The Week in Reviews, Op. 153: Julian Rachlin, Karen Gomyo, Joshua Bell

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 18:12:14 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. Julian Rachlin performed Mozart's 3rd Violin Concerto with the Royal Northern Sinfonia.The Westmorland Gazette: "Throughout, he enjoyed a perfect, infectious alliance with his colleagues who, in every aspect, were the most responsive and sensitive of partners. Together they presented sheer beauty, sparkle, happiness, drama and, occasionally, a rustic, humorous charm for our enjoyment. Mozart’s genius was revealed in all its true glory." Julian Rachlin. Photo by Julia Wesely. Karen Gomyo performed the Berg with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.Vancouver Sun: "(Conductor Karina) Canellakis created a transparent web of orchestral textures that complemented Gomyo’s fine solo work; the pair had the confidence to let the music speak with plenty of style. Gomyo’s playing was technically assured and emotionally generous." Joshua Bell performed the Brahms with the Los Angeles "It was downright mesmerizing. The audience stood immediately afterwards and called Bell back to the stage four times..."Los Angeles Times: "...for all of Bell’s extroverted physical crouching and bending — even more so than usual for him — and Dudamel’s alert accompaniment, this was not an emotionally involving performance." Gil Shaham performed the Mendelssohn with the San Diego Symphony.The San Diego Union-Tribune: "Gil Shaham’s collaboration with the San Diego Symphony in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto needs only two words: pure magic." Frank Peter Zimmermann performed the Bartók Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.The Boston Musical Intelligencer: "There is razzle-dazzle aplenty in the solo part, and Zimmermann gave it the full measure of brilliance and, where required, grit."Boston Globe: "Zimmermann’s tone was ascetic and his approach at times fraught in an interpretation that leaned to the composer’s modernist side." Augustin Hadelich performed the Bruch with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.The Dallas Morning News: "I was surprised how much I noticed Augustin Hadelich's vibrato--faster and more intense than I remembered from past performances. But he remains one of the best violinists out there, with technical finesse--those crystal-clear runs!--allied to generous expressivity." Philippe Quint performed the Korngold with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.The San Francisco Chronicle: "He’s a fervidly expressive player in a Romantic vein, with a nimble technique that always makes room for whatever fluctuations in tempo may be necessary. His sound is full and dark-hued, with a tremulous catch to it that would do credit to an operatic tenor."East Bay Times: "The three-movement concerto revels in Romantic excess – music so sweet it nearly makes your teeth hurt – and, despite the best efforts of Outwater and the energetic Quint, it came across sounding fairly aimless." Stefan Milenkovich performed the Sibelius with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra.Chicago Classical Review: " Milenkovich brought icy stoicism to the opening of the Allegro moderato, and poignant ardor to the movement’s second theme. His commanding technique was on display throughout, especially in his idiosyncratically inflected cadenza and searing delivery of the coda." Andrew Sords and pianist Elizabeth DeMio performed Brahms and Franck in recital in "The concluding Presto agitato, a virtuosic tarantella, included lively exchanges between the two soloists and powerful rhythmic contrasts, all brought out with panache. This was truly a beautiful performance." Efi Christodoulou performed the Busoni with the Slaithwaite Philharmonic.The Huddersfield Daily Examiner[...]