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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!


The Black Oak Ensemble: David Cunliffe, Desirée Ruhstrat and Aurélien Fort Pederzoli.

Silenced Voices
Black Oak Ensemble
Desirée Ruhstrat, violin
David Cunliffe, cello
Aurélien Fort Pederzoli, viola
For its recording debut, the Chicago-based Black Oak Ensemble has put together an album of music by six Jewish composers whose work was suppressed by the Nazis, with works by Dutch composer Dick Kattenburg; Czech composers Hans Krása and Gideon Klein; and Hungarian composers Sándor Kuti, Paul Hermann, and Géza Frid. "It is poignant music but also incredibly human," said the trio's violinist Desirée Ruhstrat. "That these pieces were written in a concentration camp is incredible." Members of the trio did not know the heartbreaking stories behind the creation of these works when they first came across three string trios by Klein, Kuti and Kraza - in a bookstore in Budapest. The other works, by the Kattenburg, Frid and Hermann, came from contacts the musicians had with foundations and family members of the composers in Europe. "These pieces stood out to us -- we did not know their stories or who the composers were," Ruhstrat said. "I think it kept us honest regarding the music. The music follows a typical format and harmonies that most of the pieces from that time period (the 1930s-40s) would have had. The influence of Bartok, Schoenberg and other greats is audible, but each composer's voice is incredibly unique."

When it comes to the composers, one survived World War II as a member of the Dutch resistance, the others perished in concentration camps and elsewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe. Another inspiration for "Silenced Voices" was the educational efforts of violist Aurélien Fort Pederzoli's mother, a history teacher of Sephardic Jewish descent who led annual student field trips to locations such as Prague, Budapest, Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Terezin. "This music needs to be performed," Ruhstrat said. "We think it is so important, and we are honored we had the opportunity to record it - and in the case of Frid's "Trio a cordes" Op. 1, offer a world premiere - and share it with our audiences." The Black Oak Ensemble will perform these works live in several upcoming concerts across Europe and the U.S., including the Everlasting Hope Festival in Terezín, Czechia.. BELOW: Introducing the album, with musical excepts and thoughts from the musicians:

Black Oak Ensemble discusses its new album, "Silenced Voices" - YouTube

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.

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By Eric Meyer: What's up with Maestronet?
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By Samuel Vargas: My heart beat faster when the presenter introduced me:
"From Acarigua-Araure, Venezuela...Samuel Vargas, Yamaha Young Performing Artist Winner!"

It was just before I took the stage to perform Pablo de Sarasate’s "Zigeunerweisen" for more than 1,000 people at the Yamaha Young Performing Artists Celebration Weekend -- and it was my favorite moment. The excitement was immeasurable. 


Samuel Vargas. Photo by Jolesch Enterprises.

As one of the 11 musicians selected as a winner of the 2019 Yamaha Young Performing Artist (YYPA) Competition, I was thrilled to perform, as well as attend the educational seminars that Yamaha provided over that weekend, which took place June 22-25 at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. I feel that the best way to show the world the power of our craft is when we have the opportunity to share what we do as artists and express our identities through music. For that reason, the Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) program has been a great experience for me.

Over the weekend, it was a pleasure to be instructed and guided by John Wittmann, Jalissa Gascho, Marcia Neel, Anders Astrand and Linda Mark through conferences related to the world of music education, business and cultural development. We were offered seminars on everything from the "philosophy of Yamaha" to developing better techniques when writing our resumes. In addition, the panel of experts helped guide us through mock interviews to develop better communication skills.

One of the most powerful lessons I learned from the Yamaha seminars was how to be a better listener. Many of the speakers shared that they owed 80% of their success to becoming a better listener - a message I’ll carry with me as I move forward in my career.

Throughout the weekend, we also had time to talk to each other, study, practice our repertoire and reflect on our purpose in life as artists.

While reflecting on my own career, I asked myself, "What does playing music mean to me? Why do I love to teach?" Playing the violin allows me to share my art with the world. Teaching, which I’ve done since I was 12 years old, gives me the chance to help my students achieve their dreams. I can give each of my violin students — no matter where they live — the opportunities that I didn’t always have. To me, there is no greater feeling.

I was also inspired by the diversity of the young artists with whom I had the pleasure of sharing this experience. Speaking with the other winners, we shared stories about how being a young musician has impacted our lives. Many had similar stories — though being a musician at a young age isn’t always easy, their love for music is bigger than any obstacle they’ve had to face so far. I couldn’t agree more. No matter what challenges I’ve had to overcome, having the opportunity to perform and share my love of music with the world makes it all worth it.

On Monday, we attended the annual YYPA Celebration Concert and the award ceremony. We were delighted to celebrate our accomplishments, but also very emotional because we knew we were going to leave the next day.

Looking back on the program, I feel the process was extremely worthwhile for my personal growth. It was not just about music — it was also about creating my path and pursuing what I want. Representing Venezuela and having the opportunity to share my craft at concert halls across the United States has been a tremendous privilege. I consider this award a testament to how hard work and dedication should be recognized, and it means a lot to me to be able to make my country proud.

The Yamaha Young Performing Artists program has been a lighthouse that guided me, and it has given me greater confidence to pursue the projects that I have in mind for the future.


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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.


Violinist Kristóf Baráti. Photo by Marco Borggreve.

Kristóf Baráti performed in recital with pianist Anton Nel at the Aspen Music Festival.

  • The Aspen Times: "A violinist who commands attention for the music without calling too much attention to himself, Baráti executed it all with remarkable tone, articulation and detailed expression."

Anne-Sophie Mutter performed music by John Williams, with the composer conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra.

  • The Boston Musical Intelligencer: "...the bulk of the program — 12 numbers in the official listing—consisted of arrangements Williams had made for orchestra and solo violin at the request of Anne-Sophie Mutter, works that they have recently recorded, so that the concert was, in effect, a first hearing of the new disk."

Esther Yoo performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto; Sylvia Rosenberg played chamber music; and Stefan Jackiw played the Barber Violin Concerto -- all at the Aspen Music Festival.

  • The Aspen Times: "An alum of the festival’s school who has made her career so far in Europe, soloist Esther Yoo played with precision and deftness....the ageless violinist Sylvia Rosenberg, surrounding herself with three old friends — Michael Mermagen on cello, James Dunham on viola and Anton Nel on piano — gave us a glimpse into what chamber music is all about.... music director Robert Spano let the orchestra overwhelm the slender sound of the soloist, Stefan Jackiw, who played the piece artfully, at least what we could hear of it. The saving graces were Jackiw’s lyrical fluency and a ravishing oboe solo in the slow movement by Mingjia Liu. "

Jeremy Black and oboist Anne Bach performed Bach's Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C minor with the Grant Park Orchestra.

  • Chicago Classical Review: "Black and oboist Anne Bach were perfectly synchronized and stylishly elegant in a brisk reading of the opening Allegro. Their passagework was polished and exacting, seamlessly integrating with the small string ensemble and harpsichordist Stephen Alltop."

Please support music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!

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By Melanie Kaboy: I had an opportunity to go to my local violin shop this past weekend.  While there, I tested quite a few violins in the $5k - $7k range.  Many were older instruments and quite a few were newer, modern violins.  One that I'm seriously considering upgrading to is a Snow violin made by Jack Hu in 2016.  It's got a beautiful, warm tone in the darker registers and just sings in the upper areas.  Projection is quite nice as well.  

I currently own a 7/8 violin by Gregory Sapp out of Chicago.  It's a newer violin as well, made in 2003.  While I absolutely love the tone, it just doesn't project as well - I really have to work with it to get volume from it and it doesn't quite happen.  

What are your thoughts on Snow violins?  Is it worth upgrading from my Sapp violin?  Very similar tone but the projection is the biggest difference.

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By Violin Padma Shankar: Violin Padma is an internationally acclaimed violinist, vocalist as well as educator introduces for the first time, Learn to play the Basics of Indian Classical violin with the Integrated Blended Learning module.

A unique mix of video lessons and face to face online contact classes . A blend of vocal and violin together brings about the singing style on the violin . This accelerated module of learning helps you learn at your pace. Within 6 months you should be able to play the basic notes quite well and within 1 year get a good foundation . All the basic exercises are covered in detail and then you can even play some popular film songs .For those who have had prior learning you can avail the play along series to practice well and enhance your playing . Want more details? Just what’s app +91 9884198930 Web: violinpadmashankar.com

Integrated Blended Learning I unique blend of video lessons and face to face interactions | - YouTube

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By Laurie Niles: I had to play with a lot of mutes before I found The One.

Okay I'm being a little dramatic there, but I've certainly rejected a lot of mutes, for a lot of reasons. One tore up my strings - that's no good! Others were inconvenient to put on quickly. Many of them moved around, the mute occasionally making its way toward the bridge until it caused a buzzing sound. One seemed perfect because it stayed in place and then slid on easily -- but then it barely muted the sound.

Of course, different mutes work in different situations. I'll never forget when conductor Victor Yampolsky required that we use old-fashioned ebony mutes to get the right sound in a Shostakovich symphony - he was right, no other mute makes quite the same sound. I'd still say that sound is the best, though it is arguably the most inconvenient for the typical orchestra situation because the mute has to sit somewhere separate from the violin while not in use.

I have a big, plastic practice mute that I would never use for performing, but it works very well for practicing in a hotel room, or late at night, or when your ears need a break. For regular orchestra playing, I've settled on the Alpine Professional Shield (which I think was once called a Menuhin shield). It doesn't rattle, it stays in place, it mutes the strings sufficiently, and it's actually rather elegant-looking.

The only thing I'm missing now is a blinged-out mute with crystals on it!

What is your mute situation? Which ones have you liked, and for what reason? Have you had to reject certain kinds of mutes? How is the one that you have now?

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By Paul Stein: Where were you, Fritz, 50 years ago when I needed you? My bow arm was in serious need of polishing, that is, maximizing the roundness, purity, and direction of the sound. I hadn’t read Fritz Kreisler by Louis P. Lochner (The MacMillan Company, 1950), but I could have used the wonderful advice Kreisler gave about the connection between thinking and playing, included in his practice tips on pages 89-92:

“I believe that everything is in the brain. You think of a passage and you know exactly how you want it. It is like aiming a pistol. You take aim, you cock the pistol, you put your finger on the trigger. A slight pressure of the finger and the shot is fired.”

“The same should apply to technique on an instrument. You think before, and not merely as, or after, you fire the note. Your muscle is prepared, the physical conception is perfectly clear in your mind, a slight flash of will power and your effect is achieved.”

Kreisler was prescribing something that sounds obvious, but is actually the exact opposite of what many of us do. In 1970 my bow arm was mechanized by technical thoughts, such as how I held the bow, self-consciousness of what my wrist and elbow looked like, and fear of running out of bow. (That fear was justified; I ran out of bow more than I want to admit.) Where I should have simply moved my arm like a conveyor belt, with a minimum number of movable parts, instead I over-thought everything. An overwrought bow arm was the result. Kreisler jumped over that hurdle by thinking first of the musical goal, then trusting the technique to work on its own. He even made a point of showing that spontaneity relates to music and technique equally.

My Inner Voice

I needed some kind of verbal instruction that didn’t exist. One thought kept surfacing through the muddle of building repertoire and suffering through memorization, the mainstays of majoring in performance. As I would play a phrase, I heard a voice telling me to get from point A to point B with more cohesion and assertion. I then played with more resolve, not realizing I was jump-starting all of my movements. Shifts worked better, sound was fuller, and notes were better in tune. Then I’d drift back to the status quo, my bow arm and energy at dangerously low levels. Then I’d give it another shot and feel pumped up again. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Occasionally a new technique would be required of me. Tenths and up-bow staccato requirements should have been shooed away. I really didn’t need them. What I needed were the necessary words to fix my technical yo-yoing.

The most difficult thing about studying the violin is that the right words you need at a particular time are usually not specific enough. When my bow arm was half of what it should have been, I needed to hear:

1. Keep the music moving forward; don’t idle into neutral and stall the technique into a state of limbo.
2. Have the confidence to move the bow with the technique you have. There aren’t hoops you have to jump through or quirky conditions that have to be met to be successful.

3. Success depends on having a smooth, non-interrupted, and non-scratchy sound. Learn how the hairs and the strings co-exist and figure out how to make bow changes so that your ears are satisfied.

4. All knowledge should be arrived at with careful study, so that you can call upon it when you need it. It’s only worthwhile if you can implement it quickly, with the pull of a trigger.

Kreisler’s Jump Start

Talking about triggers, firing shots, and flashes of will power gave us a glimpse into Kreisler’s own secrets of success. I can’t read his mind, but I suppose Kreisler had just as many distractions as the rest of us, and his words of advice may have helped him stay focused. It’s interesting that one moment he’s talking about musical conceptions, and the next moment about technique. There’s no doubt that music trumps technique, but it would quickly die without all the rote exercises that we put ourselves through. In fact, it sees technique as an equal. While Kreisler’s interpretations were obviously so full of life that his musical conceptions were completely untethered to earthly and pedestrian concerns, he valued technique and expected nothing less than the spontaneity he cherished in his musical feelings.

Shedding Whatever is Unnecessary

My bow arm had been answering the wrong questions and listening to the wrong voice. Sure, my bow was straight after years of training. I had had lots of scaffolding to make that work. Now that was too much and unnecessary.

Kreisler’s trigger philosophy applies to sound and organic principles, not pedagogical starting points. The truth always reveals itself when the veneer and the gimmicks are removed.

The greatest among us have their own stories. Daniel Barenboim shared what his father had taught him, in an interview with Emanuel Pahud on the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall. “It’s not about how you play. Some play this way, others that way. Some play from the bottom, others from the top. [He demonstrates different hand positions.] I never had those uncertainties, because I was raised that way. And my father taught me to think in music and with music.”

You’ll be surprised how much fun shedding is.

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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!

Marsalis: Violin Concerto; Fiddle Dance Suite
Nicola Benedetti, violin
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Wynton Marsalis, conductor and composer

"Nicky said she wanted a piece that would allow her to inhabit an expansive range of human emotions," Marsalis told Decca, in describing the violin concerto he wrote for Nicola Benedetti. "Though I have long loved the violin, she schooled me in its august history, in its tremendous expressive capabilities, and in a compendium of old and new techniques. From a very young age, Nicky’s dream was to move people with the magic of virtuosity and the warmth of her sound. The concerto begins with her telling us the story of her dream, the playing of it IS the realization of that dream, and it ends with her going down the road to play for the next gathering." Click here to read our interview with Nicola Benedetti about the creation of this concerto.
Nicola Benedetti returns with brand new album of works by Wynton Marsalis - YouTube

Gateways
Maxim Vengerov, violin
Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu conducting

China's oldest symphony, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra marks its 140th anniversary with a new partnership with Deutsche Grammophon. The orchestra and its Music Director Long Yu are launching a series of albums featuring works by major Chinese composers. "Gateways," the first of these, features two works by Qigang Chen: "Wu Xing" (The Five Elements) from 1999, and "La joie de la souffrance" (The Joy of Suffering) from 2017 - as well as Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Kreisler’s Tambourin chinois. Violinist Maxim Vengerov is the dedicatee and first performer of "La joie de la souffrance." Click here to read our interview with composer Qigang Chen about this work. BELOW: Vengerov performs the beginning of the first movement, "Despair," from Qigang Chen's "La joie de la souffrance" (The Joy of Suffering)
Chen: The Joy of Suffering - 1. Despair - YouTube

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons Recomposed by Max Richter
Fenella Humphreys, violin
Covent Garden Sinfonia, Ben Palmer conducting

Post-minimalist composer Max Richter's Recomposed (2012) is a re-imagining of Vivaldi's famous Four Seasons that retains about a quarter of the original music. "He brings so many new colors and new sound worlds to Vivaldi," violinist Fenella Humphreys said. "The essence remains, and it becomes this entirely new thing....It's an awful lot of fun." The album also includes Peteris Vasks' "Lonely Angel" and Arvo Pärt's "Fratres." BELOW: Fenella Humphreys and Ben Palmer discuss the evolution of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in Max Richter’s re-composition.
Fenella Humphreys introduces The Four Seasons Recomposed - YouTube

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.

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By Afonso Marques : Hi. Today my teacher gave me Schumann sonata n1 a minor 1st mov. I really like it and
i think I've never read anything about this piece. I would like to know your opinion: do you think it's a difficult piece? When did u learn it? What should I play after this sonata?

Ps: I play the violin for 12 years

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