Fri, 20 Jan 2017 20:31:15 GMTBy Laurie Niles: Electric Violins, Octave Strings, a 3D-printed fiddle, a new kind of Manhasset stand -- these were a few of the innovations I found Thursday at the annual NAMM Show in Anaheim, Calif. The show is a giant gathering of the National Association of Music Merchants -- expected to attract more than 100,000 people and 1,600 exhibitors. I first dropped by what I would call Yamahaland -- Yamaha has so many products that it holds its displays in the Marriott Hotel, adjacent Anaheim Convention Center, which houses all the other merchants. Yamaha Music's stringed instrument division was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first Yamaha electric violin, the Silent Violin, with a new model (the YSV-104) which goes back to the idea of the instrument as mostly a practice instrument, used with headphones. You may remember that in 2016, Yamaha introduced its Yamaha Electric Violin, or YEV, which is priced around $600-$650. The YEV is still getting a lot of buzz, and I caught a little demonstration by LA-based violinist Andrea Whitt: width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ToTjqJ7Ve6M" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> One of the headline-catchers for NAMM this year was the new 3Dvarius, an electric violin made completely with 3D printing. It's the brain child of violinist and engineer Laurent Bernadac. Here is an interesting video about the making of the violin, which is priced at $7,000. I did not see this one in person, but here is a performance by its inventor: width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gF0pOUBS3sg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> One fun thing about NAMM is the fact that it attracts so many musicians -- you just might see someone you know, or that you know of. I've always been a fan of the Dave Matthews Band, so I was happy to get the chance to meet its violinist, Boyd Tinsley, who recently formed a new band called Crystal Garden. Laurie with DMB violinist Boyd Tinsley. Tinsley was giving a demonstration next to the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, where I also found longtime Violinist.com member Jesus Florido. He's been going to NAMM every year since 1998!: Laurie and Jesus Florido by the Lennon Bus. Going inside the convention center, I found all kinds of goodies. I'd say that the NAMM show seems to center a lot on the guitar and band instruments, but I still found plenty of things for string players. For example, these guys from Maple Leaf Strings, based in Cincinnati: I especially enjoyed this little detail, where they kept their business cards: I was also impressed with these violins with "pyrograph designs" by Gliga violins This one with a ballerina goes for around $3,000: At the D'Addario booth, I found Lyris Hung -- a number of years ago she gave me a tour of their string plant in New York. She told me about their new line of Helicore Octave Strings, fresh on the market this month. I first had to ask: What are "Octave Strings"? Apparently, you put them on your fiddle and they make everything an octave lower, so you can sound like a cello! Lyris explains here: width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BXCtlclDY0M" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> On my way out, I caught a glimpse of something familiar: The Manhasset music stand booth. I have a Manhasset music stand, but it doesn't look like this! Decorative, and a little wider than the regular stand, they had designs with other instruments as well as this violin design. I want one! They must be very new, as I can't find them online anywhere! You might also like:The 2016 NAMM Show: New Technology, Gear and InstrumentsA Sneak Peek at the New Yamaha Electric ViolinHow strings are made: a tour of D'Addario Strings plant[...]
Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:24:59 GMTBy Tomas Cotik: Recently I made a recording of Schuberts complete works for violin and piano with pianist Tao Lin, and an important goal in approaching our recording was to make informed decisions and interpretations inspired by knowledge of Schuberts times. To this end I researched the historical context of each piece in order to know what the usual practices in interpretation were at the time of its composition. At the same time, we recorded with modern instruments and tried to incorporate our own modern esthetical understanding of the pieces into the historical frame. What follows is a synthetic description of certain aspects of this research and our interpretive decisions. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/s0BaQS-0tsE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> For a violinist, one way to approach the style and tonal qualities of original instruments is not to apply too much pressure with the bow. By the time of Franz Schubert, violin bows with the modern shape, introduced by Francois Xavier Tourte, were already in use. At the same time, older transitional bow models were also available in Schuberts time, and it seems that a local bow model was available and preferred in Vienna. Pianists using modern instruments can approximate some of the characteristics of a pianoforte of Schuberts time by avoiding emphasis on strong dynamics in the outer registers and thereby emulating the weaker outer register of the 5 ½ to 6 octave instrument. Another issue regarding sound is the use of the pedals. In Schuberts time, the pedals were used not as a standard resource for achieving legato passages or for facilitating technical execution, but rather for subtle special effects. Regarding the use of vibrato on the violin, we know from the treatises about interpretation that some kind of vibratowith variations, less uniform, and probably not on every single notewas used during Schuberts time. It is very possible that it was used as an ornamental device and not as a standard continuous addition to the sound. It is more difficult to be certain about the meaning of Schuberts tempi. While Schubert did not put metronome markings on any of his instrumental works, some conclusions can be drawn from the contemporary metronome markings in some of his Lieder and in the opera Alfonso und Estrella. There are signs indicating that many allegro movements, according to Schuberts choice and the practice of that time in Vienna, were performed faster than what is common in todays performances. Some of these bright tempi may have been played adequately only by the best players of that time. We understand that Schubert wrote sufficiently expressive devices for his own purposes and doesnt need the assistance of too much rubato from the performer. The baritone Johann Michael Vogl (1768-1840), who was not only Schuberts close friend but the singer whom Schubert admired above all others, nevertheless recounts that during rehearsals, Schubert would frequently admonish him with: "Kein Ritardando" or "Keine Fermate" ("No ritardando,"or "No fermata"). Schubert seems also to have desired very smooth, seamless transitions at meter changes. In a letter dated May 10, 1828, to the publisher Probst regarding the E-flat Piano Trio, D. 929, he has this to say: "See to it that really capable players are found for the first performance, and above all, where the time changes in the last section, that the rhythm is not lost." Leopold von Sonnleithner (1797-1873), a friend of Schubert, Beethoven and Czerny, who was a lawyer and a well-known personality of the Viennese classical music scene, gives us an invaluable resource with his memories and views regarding Schuberts performance practice. He described Schuberts performance style as simple, natural, unaffected, and lyrical as opposed to dramatic, too sophisticated, with exaggerated declamation or violent expression. He also wrote that Schubert always kept the most strict and even time, except in the few cases where he ha[...]
Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:36:18 GMTBy Laurie Niles: "I will not remain silent." This is the name of a violin concerto that Berlin-based Daniel Hope is performing this week in Los Angeles, but it also could be his personal motto. A prolific artist of many talents as well as a activist, he gets his message across not only through the violin, but also through writing, producing documentaries, and hosting a radio show. Daniel Hope. Photo by Margaret Malandruccolo. He does not shy from difficult topics, either. This week he'll give a lecture on Kurt Weill at the University of Southern California, participate in a Friday screening of his 2013 documentary called Refuge in Music, about musician-survivors of the World War II Terezin concentration camp; and perform with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Saturday and Sunday. All these events center on topics such as championing civil rights, resisting injustice, fighting oppression -- themes that seem particularly prescient during this time of political transition and upheaval in the United States. The violin concerto "I Will Not Remain Silent" is "a fantastic, extremely passionate, lyrical concerto that tells the story of a fascinating man," Hope told me on Tuesday by phone in LA. The piece, written by Bruce Adolphe, tells the story of Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who escaped Hitler's Germany to settle in the United States. "(Prinz) believed passionately that the worst thing you could do was to remain silent. He spoke up against racism, against prejudice and against what was happening, both in Nazi Germany, and then in the 1950s and 60s in the United States, when he became a very vocal candidate for human rights." "He didn't draw any boxes around different types of oppression," Hope said, "oppression was oppression for him." In the concerto, which Hope will play next weekend with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Adolphe attempts to demonstrate two different worlds: the world of 1930s Germany and the Berlin of the Nazis; and the world of Civil Rights-era America and Martin Luther King. "He's done that in an extremely refined way, by switching gears musically," Hope said. The piece has two movements, each one representing those different times. "He's blended spirituals and songs from the Civil Rights movement, which he's very cleverly woven into the texture of the second movement. In the same way, (in the first movement) he's taken the sounds of Berlin and the sounds of war -- from explosions to gunshots to all the rest of it, coming out from the orchestra. The violin is in the center, the voice of this rabbi, Prinz, who is constantly trying to stay above what's going on. The piece is really like a historical journey, a terrific piece." Hope's documentary, to be showed Friday, is a 2013 piece called Refuge in Music. It tells the story of two musicians who survived the Terezin/Theresienstadt Nazi concentration camp near Prague. "One of them is Alice Herz-Sommer, who passed away about two years ago at the age of 111 -- she was a mere 109 when I interviewed her!" Hope said. "She was a classical pianist that played over 100 concerts at Theresienstadt. The other was a musician called Coco Schumann, a Berlin jazz artist who was into the swing scene Berlin. He was sent to Theresienstadt and afterwards even to Auschwitz, which he survived," Hope said. "Until recently he was still giving concerts with his jazz band." In the film, these two musicians tell their story, and those stories are blended with excerpts from a live concert from Munich that featured music from Theresienstadt, played and sung by Hope and other musicians such as Christian Gerhaher and Anne Sofie von Otter. For the interviews, "I went back to Theresienstadt with Coco Schumann," Hope said, "and I visited Alice Herz-Sommer at her apartment in London." "I didn't want to make a history documentary, but something that looked at musicians and the way they used music to help others and to save others," Hope said. "Those two musicians in particular were fundamental in creating, in a sense, a concert sce[...]
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 22:57:42 GMTBy LEIA ZHU: Greetings and hello to everyone on Violinist.com. This is my first blog here, and Id like to tell you about a challenge that I set for myself, to learn two pieces in just five days!
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 19:27:08 GMTBy 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. Nicola Benedetti performed the Beethoven with the Worthing Symphony Orchestra.Worthing Herald: "No bombast, no over-screwed tension, no showing-off, no probing rubato, no contrived drama. Just the concentration and focus that meant no lapses into areas of sheer leisure, luxuriating, beautification, or indulgent introspection." Nicola Benedetti. Photo by Simon Fowler. Vadim Gluzman performed the Tchaikovsky with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.Naples Daily News: "The good: Hearing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto performed on the 1690-vintage Stradivarius it was meant for, even if ultimately it didn't premiere the work. The bad: We had just heard this concerto, played by no less than Joshua Bell, a month ago...The result: It was all good in fact, it was great. Vadim Gluzman and Bell are continents apart in their interpretations of the famous concerto, and both were so rewarding we realize now we would happily hear a third reading next month." Gil Shaham performed the Korngold with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "(The Korngold) makes high demands of its soloist, both technical and interpretive; Shaham aced them all, with a bravura performance that brought down the house." James Ehnes performed the Beethoven with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: "Often bird-like, happy and intense, Ehnes interpretation of this work is powerful and precise, from gritty double stops and arpeggios to delightful trills."Rochester City Newspaper: "Ehnes's no-nonsense style, his accuracy, and his sweet but penetrating tone, fit it perfectly -- and fit the movement from Bach's Third Solo Violin Sonata that he played as an affecting encore." Noah Geller performed Bartóks Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Kansas City Symphony.The Kansas City Star: "Geller commanded the work with innate sensitivity and muscular drive. His virtuosic cadenza was a dense, terse sequence of double stops and complex runs." Pekka Kuusisto performed the Ligeti with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.Cincinnati Enquirer: "Kuusisto, an artist of astonishing gifts, booted up his iPad and tackled the daunting score animatedly. He began almost imperceptibly, with a pianissimo melody, followed by a frenzied dialogue with orchestral colleagues. His playing was by turns expressive and fiercely vibrant in this journey of many moods." Jonathan Carney performed the Walton with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.The Baltimore Sun: "If his articulation became fuzzy in some stratospheric passages, Carney's ever-stylish and communicative phrasing carried him along handsomely throughout. He tapped into the bittersweet element in the concerto with especially radiant phrasing." Kolja Blacher performed the Mendelssohn with the San Antonio Symphony.San Antonio Express-News: "Blacher didnt break any new melodic ground in the concerto, but his attention to detail led to an impressive performance, the orchestra merrily chasing his high-spirited lead in finale." Alexander Janiczek performed Mozarts Violin Concerto No. 4 with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.The Herald: "Alexander Janiczek took on the role of both soloist and conductor for Mozarts Violin Concerto No. 4 that followed. Janiczek was a far from egoistic soloist, but the beauty of his playing produced in a captivating performance even if the finale seemed somewhat restrained." Sarah Chang performed the Dvorák with the Prague Philharmonia.Palm Beach Daily News: "Although Chang demonstrated a constant elegance and lyricism, it seemed as though she was not getting any help from the hall. Her sound struggled to break out of the orchestra at times, and not for lack of trying." Abigail Fayette performed Mozarts Violin Concerto No. 2; and Brandon Garbot performed Mozar[...]
Fri, 13 Jan 2017 16:57:28 GMTBy Laurie Niles: Most of us have probably been there: that first lesson after a vacation or busy week, when little or no practice has occurred. Now it's time to play for your teacher, and it doesn't feel so great.
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 20:55:40 GMTBy Holly Mulcahy: There comes a time in every professional violinists life when they look at their career and ask: Is this all I can do? Playing symphonies, solo recitals, and concertos is a heavy work load. But some days the question comes up: Am I really making a difference in peoples lives? Playing the violin and playing music can say things in ways people cant. The texture and sonority of the violin can lure any person into listening with full attention. It has that power. But that question has increased in volume for me: Am I really making a difference in peoples lives? Is this violin speaking enough to people? To truly keep the magic of music special is to share it. And not just share it with people who want it, but share it with people who may not have access to the therapeutic benefits of hearing it live. Last year I entered a prison, to see if my question could be answered. Accompanied by several symphony patrons, some of whom who also served as prison mentors, I brought a challenging but evocative solo violin recital to 75 prisoners. For the first 30 minutes of this prison recital I played solo violin works, including Bach and then a few living composers works. After each movement, I encouraged the prisoners to share their thoughts. Then I was joined by a piano collaborator to close the performance with Jennifer Higdons String Poetic. Everyone asks if I was afraid to play for prisoners, but I had been well prepared for what to expect. The prison mentors who escorted me into the prison opened a dialogue for me with prison leadership weeks in advance. They also briefed me on what to expect and supported me in an environment in which they were already familiar. I fully trusted in them. The scary part was playing new music and not knowing how it would be received. Some of the newer music asks a lot of the violinist, but it asks a lot of the audience as well. Everyone assumed Bach would be the favorite; of course, it would be well-received. But to my surprise and relief, String Poetic and the other new works were received with even greater enthusiasm! When I repeated my invitation for prisoners to share what they thought, I was excited and encouraged to find their passion for the new violin music to be so palpable. Their thoughts and responses on surveys we handed out impressed the prison mentors and me so much that we immediately planned another visit a few months later. The second performance in the prison was much like the first. Prisoners eagerly shared their impressions of the music. And again, I offered mostly new music written by living composers. And heres where we discovered another aspect of bringing the violin into the prison: Bringing the human component was as important as just the music. Not only were prisoners able to watch the music being created and participate in sharing in a two-way conversation, but they were keenly aware and very excited that their thoughts and opinions would be shared with the performers who were creating the music they heard. Their opinions mattered. The violin started the conversations, and the prisoners continued the conversations. The byproduct for me as a professional musician has been a new dimension of sharing what I love. Playing violin for my whole life has been rewarding on its own, but sharing with people who found a reflective and therapeutic need for the art has enhanced that art for me as well. To read more about the journey of bringing music to the prison, follow this link. You might also like:'The deepest sincerity leads to happiness' - Holly Mulcahy on Jennifer Higdon's Violin ConcertoDaniel Heifetz interview: playing at The Tombs in ManhattanIf They Care, Shouldn't We Listen?[...]
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 19:23:30 GMTBy 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! The Romantic Violin Concerto Vol.21 Jack Liebeck, violin BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins conducting Jack Liebeck plays Max Bruch's lesser-known Violin Concerto No.2, which was composed in 1877 for the Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate. The album also includes three shorter works for violin and orchestra by Bruch: the Adagio appassionato, Op.57; In Memorium, Op. 65; and Konzertstucke, Op. 84. Some excerpts from the album (what a gorgeous tone; Liebeck plays the 1785 "Ex-Wilhelmj" J.B. Guadagnini): width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hC0PS6Amva0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> My World Nigel Kennedy, violin In celebration of his 60th birthday on Dec. 28, Nigel Kennedy released his first album of his own compositions, which combine his many musical interests of a lifetime. The album is a collection of short pieces that mix jazz, classical, folk music, pop, world music and other influences to pay tribute to specific mentors and influences in his life, including dedications to jazz fiddler Stéphane Grappelli, Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Mark O'Connor and others. Accompanying him are the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra as well as a jazz band. Nigel Kennedy talks about his project: width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DJGRLfOgcPs" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Hans Zimmer - The Classics Hans Zimmer, film composer If you like movie music, here is a compilation of Hans Zimmer's movie themes, performed by some familiar artists: Maxim Vengerov, Lindsey Stirling, pianist Lang Lang, cellist Tina Guo, The Piano Guys and more. Zimmer has scored more than 120 films, many of them runaway hits. This recording includes arrangements of his themes from The Dark Knight Rises; Interstellar; Pirates of the Caribbean; Gladiator; Man of Steel; The Lion King; Inception and more.
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 18:37:17 GMTBy Laurie Niles: Ahh, it's a beautiful fantasy, that a violinist could barge into a record company board meeting, whip out his fiddle and play the entire Sibelius Concerto, holding the board members rapt for 35 minutes until they jumped to their feet in applause and awarded him a record deal on the spot. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6x2bJXm6wJo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> It may not have happened exactly that way, but today Decca announced that it has signed violinist Ray Chen to a "major new recording deal and multimedia partnership." Considering Chen's excellence as a musician and his multi-media prowess and creativity, they could come up with some interesting projects! "Im super stoked to be joining forces with the awesome team at Decca Classics," Chen said. "We'll be working together on a variety of projects which include the recordings of classic repertoire that everyone loves, but I'm happy that I'll have a partner which will help boost the multimedia side of things, too.
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:50:07 GMTBy Laurie Niles: Who is really taking whom on this journey?