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Sibelius and women from general to particular.

February 21, 2008 at 12:53 AM

Greetings,
Dug out an old recording of Kyung Wha Chung playing the Sibelius and Bruch (Denon label). I realized very quickly that her sound was precisely what I wished for the Sibelius. Not too determinedly trying to be glacial and Scandinavian (a tribute to global warming perhaps?) and not too romantic and excessive. As I ran it through again I was struck by an odd thought I don’t often have: this is very much a female interpretation and approach. Not weak or lesser but to my ear containing elements that are decidedly feminine. That is odd because usually I am unable to hear any difference between men and women. It reminded me of one of old teachers (John Ludlow) saying that when London orchestras finally began accepting women player s into their ranks the sound actually changed. Again, not better or worse but distinctly different.
I took quite along time off from what I consider to be the non plus ultra of bowing exercises last year: son file. The a month or so back I started adding again as my first exercise of the day- it’s about the only thing I and my cat can tolerate at half past five in the morning. After all the hack orchestra work of this year I realized how much my bow arm had lost, being a very imperfectly trained mechanism to being with. I found I was struggling to get back to a thirty second stroke at first. Interestingly to me, this situation didn’t gradually improve but in jerks. I woke up three or four days and forty seconds was easy. This stayed for a while and then last week I was suddenly doing one minute. This morning I was very puzzled to find one and half minutes per stroke quite comfortable. I suppose when I am up to four minutes I will be dead….
I had also forgotten the fantastic benefits of this stroke. That’s easy to do with bowing where the improvements are not immediately clear in the painstaking work violinists must do daily on their bow arm until the day they shuffle off their mortal coil. Then something may happen and you realize there had been a point. Last Sunday I had to play the Scheherazade solo and I cannot remember ever being so deeply lost in the sheer sound of the music. After I finished the first solo my desk partner just let out a little sigh. I’ve been meaning to ask her for a date for ages and although the sigh was propitious it did not seem like such a good moment in terms of public viewing….
I would reiterate the dangers of son file while I am at it. Practicing this stroke without rapid bow work is very likely to lead to a sleepy bow arm. Very deleterious. I always follow this practice with WBs on SP5 (nearest the FB) at Mm 120-130. The slightest shake in the bow must be explored to find out where the interference is taking place. An important place to look is the exact base of the right thumb. Consciously asking that part of the hand to do less is a useful practice in a great deal of bowing work.
Cheers,
Buri

From Mara Gerety
Posted on February 21, 2008 at 6:00 AM
I can tell male violinists from female, just by listening, about half the time. I don't really know why...one of those ineffable sort of things maybe.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 21, 2008 at 6:10 AM
I wonder what a gay violinist sounds like...
From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 21, 2008 at 6:57 AM
You can't tell me you've never heard a gay violinist, Buri!
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on February 21, 2008 at 8:32 PM
Haha, Mara, half of the time is no better than guessing:-). Seriously, I believe the difference must be there, but I find exceptions such as Viktoria Mullova and Gil Shaham.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 22, 2008 at 7:55 AM
I have one openly gay student, and he is great. A combination of talent, willingness to work hard, a sense of adventure, and a generally happy life all contribute to his learning to play well. Gender preference is irrelevant.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 22, 2008 at 2:09 PM
Buri - an interesting issue concerning female interpretation was raised by some music writer (I do not remember where). During the 20th century, arguably the best pianists for Mozart pieces were female (Kraus, Haebler, Haskil, Landowska, Hess). The writer suggested that there was a feminine aspect to Mozart that the female pianists were best at bringing out.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on February 23, 2008 at 8:33 PM
"I can tell male violinists from female, just by listening, about half the time."

Not convinced that's statistically significant. But I agree about uneffable women. They're very frustrating.

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