The Mental Side of Violin Playing

[quote]Technique is conception.[/quote] -Zvi Zeitlin As we begin a new year of practicing, let’s consider the mental side of violin playing.  The concepts we hold in mind can be an important guide for sound, phrasing, musical style and other aspects of playing.  Technique should always serve the musical concept.  In many cases, starting with a musical concept can propel us over a technical hurdle. Think about your last practice session.  Did you …

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A Ceremony of Carols

In celebration of the holiday season, here is music by the twentieth century English composer Benjamin Britten.  A Ceremony of Carols is scored for three part treble chorus, solo voices and harp.  The text, from Gerald Bullett’s The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems is Middle English. Listen to the uniquely pure timbre produced by the boys’ choirs in these recordings.  This is a sound that has been heard for centuries in cathedrals across England. …

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Five Great CDs for Your Holiday Gift Bag

Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift or you want to expand your CD collection for the new year, here are five recordings which I highly recommend:               Offering Alexandra Adkins, violin Find at the artist’s website Find on Amazon  Alexandra Adkins is a member of the Houston Symphony violin section.  Last December she released this CD which includes sonatas by Handel, Leclair, Corelli and two movements …

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A Charles Ives Thanksgiving

In the early decades of the twentieth century, American composer Charles Ives was stretching musical boundaries. Ives created exciting collages of sound by layering fragments of folk songs, hymn tunes and other music, often simultaneously in different keys and tempos.  The result was a musical melting pot that was uniquely American and anticipated compositional techniques used later by The Beatles, John Cage and others. Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day from Ives’s Holidays Symphony musically evokes memories …

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Death and the Maiden

Following up on last month’s post, let’s return to the music of Franz Schubert. Now we’ll hear how Schubert cleverly turned the melody of one of his songs into the second movement of a string quartet. Let’s start by listening to the song Death and the Maiden, written in 1817.  It’s performed here by the legendary contralto, Marian Anderson.  The text is from a poem by Matthias Claudius.  Follow the English translation below. Death …

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Songs of Franz Schubert

Schubert and Beethoven were contemporaries at the dawn of the Romantic Era, yet each approached composition differently.  Beethoven painstakingly developed small musical motives that roared to life as shockingly innovative music. The music of Franz Schubert on the other hand, is firmly rooted in long, flowing, effortless melodies. Although Schubert lived only to the age of 32, he wrote over 600 songs. Before we get to a few Schubert songs, let’s consider …

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The Artistry of Maxim Vengerov

Here are some inspiring clips featuring the great Russian violinist, Maxim Vengerov. In the first video, Vengerov performs the Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957).  The Chicago Symphony accompanies, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The concerto is followed by two encores: The Sarabanda from J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2 for Solo Violin (0:35:31) and Eugene Ysaye’s Ballad (0:40:06). Polish violinist and composer Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) contributed greatly to the development …

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