February 1, 2010

Danse Macabre

Well...thank you all for taking the time to read my last entry. For some reason I feel that I must apologize for having been so emotional and seemingly conflicted; however, I also ask the deeper question which is about our true shared humanity and vulnerability. After all, if we cannot share our deepest selves, what is life for?

I have taken some time away from the violin to be very quiet, to think, and to find what serves as both a healing and driving force. I have, as many of us do, found solace in the craft and while doing so have also continued following the advice of my teachers and mentors - I'm listening and watching "old violinists" and finding my perspective on violin playing and musicmaking, as well as my thoughts about much of this repertoire and the craft itself, growing by leaps and bounds.

Of course, you say - this is what we DO as fiddle players! Nevertheless, I'm finding this time of listening and watching to be incredibly meaningful now in more profound ways than before. We all have our "favorites", and one of mine - discovered only last year I'm almost embarrassed to say - is Christian Ferras, and this video of him performing the Sibelius Concerto is truly an educational and emotional experience.

With this video being available on YouTube, hundreds of thousands of people have watched (I hope) it and found themselves amazed. While it's needless to say that the late Ferras had a formidable technique, his involvement with the energy and direction of the music that is truly indescribable:

The last movement (posted first), in his hands, runs like a Danse Macabre - man against violin (against his own demons perhaps) - and is one of the most hair-raising experiences I've ever had (as well as insightful - how still he is when tackling endless fingered octaves and double stops).

Formidable technique aside, however - while watching this I'm reminded of hearing the words "Get past technique!" Yes, that's the goal...but now I think I understand why we must look deeper - and with that I leave you with the first movement of this concerto, asking you not only to pay attention to the sheer edge-of-your-seat abandon with which he played the coda- making one forget that he's playing fingered octaves - but also for the glorious lyricism he brought to his audience that night, and forever.

We do have a huge responsibility as violinists - not only to master the twists and turns brought to us by Paganini, Ysaye, Dont, Ernst, and "the boys", but to go deep within ourselves while also forgetting "ourselves", focusing on the energy, direction and messages in these works and sharing (not in a self-indulgent manner) our discoveries with those who come to hear...


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