Review: Violist Teng Li; Joshua Bell with the LA Phil at Hollywood Bowl border=0 align=

Review: Violist Teng Li; Joshua Bell with the LA Phil at Hollywood Bowl

August 14, 2022, 2:18 AM · It's been a busy week for the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl - in the span of five days they played four performances with three completely different, full programs featuring three different artists, with three different guest conductors.

I attended two of the concerts, starting with Thursday's concert, featuring violist Teng Li playing Paganini and the orchestra playing Scheherazade with conductor Lina González-Granados, in her first-ever appearance with the orchestra at the Bowl. Then the next day, I watched Joshua Bell playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto and the orchestra playing the 1812 Overture (with fireworks), plus some pieces from the Nutcracker and a piece by Bramwell Tovey, who had been scheduled to conduct before he passed away last month. That program, conducted by Ludovic Morlot, was repeated Saturday. I missed Tuesday's performance of Dvorak's New World Symphony, with violinist Pekka Kuuisisto playing Daníel Bjarnason's 2017 piece, "Scordatura," with conductor Dalia Stasevska, also giving her first performance with the orchestra at the Bowl.

That's a lot. Certainly there were some amazing moments of music, but on both nights that I attended, the stress did show. It was hard to ignore the lack of cohesion between orchestra and conductor and the sense of everyone rallying to get through it all.

Why set things up this way, with such a brutal lack of time to prepare? It puts the conductor at a distinct disadvantage with the group, with the music, with the public. And yes, even a world-class orchestra playing largely familiar works needs time to gel with each other, with a conductor's ideas, with the music. This is not a push-button streaming service.

That said...

It's not every day that the viola gets center stage, so Thursday represented a big win when Principal Violist Teng Li performed Paganini's Sonata per la Grand Viola. Of course, the Hollywood Bowl, an enormous outdoor venue in Los Angeles that can seat up to 17,500 audience members, is not exactly an intimate space. Yet this convincing and assured soloist managed to project the delicacy and detail of a piece clearly written for a smaller, acoustic space. The large screens on the side of the stage helped bring her closer, as did the Bowl's legendary system of amplification. Keep reading...

For Music Teachers: Making a Box Violin for Beginning Students

August 11, 2022, 4:52 PM · It's a special day, whenever I start a brand-new student on the violin. Wednesday was such a day, and as I was preparing a cardboard violin for my new 6-year-old student, I made a video to post on's social media pages. If you are on any of these social media platforms we'd love for you to follow us, so I invite you to come see the video and to follow us. Here are all the links:

Click here to see the video on our Instagram page and follow.

Click here to see our brand-new TikTok page and follow.

Click here to see it on our Facebook page and follow.

If you want to print out our Violin Cutout, please click here. You'll need to print it out on 8 1/2-inch by 14-inch paper (larger than normal) or cardstock. You can use it for making a box violin, or just color it for fun!

Below is our full article about making a box violin, reprinted from 2020. Wishing you a happy start to the school year! Keep reading...

For the Record, Op. 207: violist Hélène Clément plays Britten's Viola; Trio con Brio Copenhagen

August 11, 2022, 1:48 PM · Welcome to "For the Record,"'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!

Bridge & Britten: Works for Viola
Hélène Clément, viola
Alasdair Beatson, piano
Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano

Known as the violist with the Doric String Quartet, Hélène Clément is the current holder of the viola previously owned by both Frank Bridge and Benjamin Britten. Her ambition, quickly formed once she first played this instrument, has been to create a testament to both composers and the instrument that binds them all together. "Frank Bridge owned and played the beautiful viola made by Francesco Giussani, in Italy, in 1843. Benjamin Britten was Frank Bridge’s most beloved pupil, and Bridge gave him the viola as a parting gift when Britten had to embark on a ship’s journey to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War. The composers were never to see each other again. To record the viola repertoire of both composers, producing the very sound that they would have had in their ears, the sound that inspired their love for the instrument and its special language, became a priority for me." BELOW: From 2018, Hélène Clément plays Britten's Elegy for Solo Viola on Britten's viola.

Keep reading...

The Well Aging Fiddler - Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number

August 10, 2022, 9:56 AM · I thought I was an outlier. I thought I was a bit beyond the presumed paradigm of musicians. After all, the accepted picture of musicians is this – if you don’t start when you’re a child, there is little to no point in picking up an instrument and learning how to play. Here’s an example of that kind of thinking:

This Happens a Lot

I was at the Tri City Airport, outside Saginaw, Michigan, sitting in the waiting area with my violin in its case. A pilot walked toward the gate, saw me, smiled, and strolled over to me.

“Are you with an orchestra?” He asked.
“Oh,” he said. “You’re a soloist?”
“I’m just beginning to learn how to play a violin. I play for my grandchildren!”
He shook his head, turned, and walked away. Keep reading...

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