The past two days have been a lot of fun for me, and that I was well paid for them makes me feel almost ridiculously fortunate!
The short of it; I was engaged to lead the 2nd violins in a project to record music for a song and dance show to be the featured act on a new Disney cruise ship. As you might imagine, much of the score was fast, rhythmic and challenging; they wrote a ton of notes for the violins.
Yet as enjoyable and stimulating this sightreading exercise was, I had as much fun sharing the stand with a violin loving fellow I’ve known and worked with for 40 years.
John Whittenberg began the instrument late, at 15 or 16 years of age. Yet by his mid-twenties, after a stint in the armed forces, he had become a member of the 1st violin section of the San Francisco Symphony; quite unusual for such a ‘late bloomer.’.
Yet being a creative, cutting-edge sort of a fellow he soon found symphony life too confining for his taste, and he came down to LA to seek his fortune in the freelance world of Hollywood.
Now, John has many unique gifts and interests. Along with his passionate devotion to all matters violinistic, he has become one of the biggest collectors of violin, voice and piano recordings in the country – over 100 recordings of the Tchaikovsky Concerto alone!
You can imagine how much fun he is to spend time with discussing matters relating to music making and violin playing!
Yesterday we spoke at some length about the right arm and the ‘style’ of bow hold we’ve each settled on. John likes what is known as the ‘Franco-Belgian’ hold, with the fingers noticeably separated and curved. I, after spending 3 years around the great Nathan Milstein, gravitated away from that hold and now could be said to be in the ‘old Russian’ camp, with fingers close together and extended almost straight.
Mind you, a string instrument can be played beautifully holding the bow any number of ways – look at the underhanded grip of gamba players. Yet I settled for the Russian style for a reason.
Milstein used to speak of using the ‘sweep of the arm’ to get the violin ringing. It was magical, the sound he could produce playing this way, particularly in Bach.
And this is the very thing I teach in my “Beginners Circle” program; how to ‘caress’ the bow, and free up the wrist, elbow and shoulder such that a pure, ringing tone can be drawn from the violin from tip to frog; effortlessly.
As of last night there were just 4 copies of this essential course for novice players left on the Violin Mastery shelf of my assistant Heidi’s home. By weeks end I don’t want her to have any copies on that shelf. And to insure this happening I’ve lowered the tuition to less than Half what it normally is.
All the best,