December 1, 2007

From Prodigy to Mature Artist

One of the most wonderful resources that we as string players, and specifically as violinist, have at our disposal, is a wonderful website: Laurie Niles, the founder and editor of this site, is constantly writing and searching, and has recently interviewed Ruggiero Ricci, a man who started a career as a prodigy. In this interview, Mr. Ricci speaks candidly about life as a child prodigy and his transition into being a mature artist, as well as about his trailblazing study of Nicolo Paganini's Twenty-Four Caprices. When speaking of expanding one's technique, Mr. Ricci says "You don't get technique from practicing the pleasant. You get technique from practicing the unpleasant."

The late Ginette Neveu, a formidable violinist in her day, said "Aim high - aim for beauty." With Ms. Neveu having been a student of Carl Flesch one can be certain that she did indeed spend time on "the unpleasant". These thoughts - one seeming to focus on the nuts and bolts of violin playing and the other seeming to have a musical, almost spiritual aim, are nevertheless similar - and true, I have found as I have recently delved into Paganini's labyrinthine world.

Regarding prodigies, Ms. Niles recently posted an article about the transition from prodigy to artist, in which violinists Jennifer Pike, Chloe Hanslip, Nicola Benedetti (my favorite of those mentioned in this article) and Julian Rachlin speak about their early lives and the "ups and downs" inherent in building a career. I find myself intrigued by Nicola Benedetti, who speaks honestly about inner life, and invite you all to read both articles for what is a fascinating look into the psyches of four young people who have achieved international acclaim.

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