Music of Spring

Let’s celebrate the arrival of spring with a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Opus 24. Sometime after this music was published in 1801 it became know as the “Spring” sonata. Can you hear anything “springy” in the music? As you listen, pay attention to the sense of dialogue between the violin and piano. What kind of a conversation are they having? Listen to the musical cat and mouse …

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Witches’ Dance

Suzuki violin students learn the theme from Witches’ Dance in Book 2. Here is the original piece by Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840). Through his virtuosity, Paganini transformed violin playing. Audiences at the time were shocked by the new sounds and dazzling effects which he employed. He toured Europe garnering celebrity comparable to a modern day rock star. Listen to this spectacular performance by Eugene Fodor. This clip is taken from his 1990’s recording, Witches’ Brew which …

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Shinichi Suzuki on Video

Here are two short videos that show Shinichi Suzuki working with students. They offer a glimpse of the good humor and almost childlike joy for which Suzuki was known. In the first clip Suzuki demonstrates the students’ ability to stop and start at any point in the last movement of the Bach A minor Concerto (Suzuki Violin Book 7). The game he uses reinforces the idea that you really know a piece well if …

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Lincoln Portrait

In honor of Presidents’ Day, here is Lincoln Portrait by twentieth century American composer Aaron Copland. Listen to the way Copland combines music and Lincoln’s eloquent words to create a monument to the 16th president. Besides the use of popular early American songs like Camptown Races and Springfield Mountain, do you hear anything else in the music that seems distinctly American? Listen to Copland talk about Lincoln Portrait and get some background on the piece here. You …

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Scenes from Childhood

Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Opus 15 (“Scenes from Childhood”) supports the adage that good things can come in small packages. Schumann wrote this set of thirteen short pieces for solo piano in 1838 as adult memories of childhood. Rooted in an ethos of Romanticism, each piece evokes a distinct mood. In this highly economic music a single chord can create great drama and every note seems perfect. Let’s listen to the first piece in the …

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Perlman Plays Tchaikovsky

Listen to this amazing performance of the final movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto played by Itzhak Perlman.  You probably know Tchaikovsky as a Romantic composer of lush, fiery, emotionally charged music, but don’t forget that he was also a ballet composer.  You may notice a grace and elegance in the rhythm that suggests dance. After you listen, consider what makes Perlman’s performance so exciting.  The piece is a tight rope walk …

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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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