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P R A C T I C E    J O U R N A L


Picking up Jean Sibelius’ violin concerto, a manifestation of the composer’s deepest penchant for the violin and a work we could not imagine being without. The technical demands, especially in the final movement (!), underscore generally dark, robust orchestral colors and a pointed rhythmic architecture. There’s something so 3-D about this work that I just absolutely love! You may or may not be surprised to know that Sibelius actually lessened the technical challenges in the revised version, which is the one we understand the work to be nowadays. The first version was poorly received by critics and others, but it frankly contributes to a more nuanced appreciation of this beloved work.

The segment in this clip is one of the parts that the composer retains, save for a few pretty significant changes in the orchestration. For example, the rhythm of the backdrop in the beginning of the final movement - indeed, which lends the mvmt the characterization of a “polonaise [Polish dance] for the polar bears” - is actually inverted in the original version! Completely different sensation… I reckon that the dancing restlessness is thanks to this small revision.

Issues at hand: pulse, bow distribution, and left hand frame anticipation.

Unsuk Chin’s “Gran Cadenza” for Two Solo Violins | 8 concerts into the Europe tour with Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Mutter’s Virtuosi - I am grateful to play with Ms. Mutter twice an inconceivably difficult contemporary work written for two violins by Unsuk Chin. Conceptually elusive yet filled with visceral sound colors and effects, the work for me evokes screaming dueling ghouls, wailing phantoms, and silvery spiders crawling in an icy chamber. Befitting of Halloween maybe…


Performing the work two days ago at the Tonhalle Düsseldorf and tonight, revisiting the work at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.


Photo credit: Deutsche Grammophon

A comeback after a month's hiatus away from blogging? A discussion of left hand pizzicato - to help circulate the blood in the fingers; build strength and springiness in the joints; develop light calluses for tactile stability! Usually one thinks of left hand pizzicato as having the pizzing fingers trace a simple diagonal line (from the player’s point of view- top to bottom, right to left). I experimented around with a few exercises from the Dounis collection and realized that alternatively, and more helpful, one can imagine the finger tracing a tiny arc... almost like a letter “C”. In other words, the pizzing finger feels the potential energy stored as it sets itself on the string, leaning towards the player before the actual act of pizzing (kinetic energy) and snapping in the opposite direction towards the scroll.


To create more leverage, the thumb moves forward the higher the finger involved in the pizz. Naturally, the hand supinates slightly, to the extent that in certain instances (on lower strings), the fingers themselves are placed almost if not completely perpendicular to the string.


These two factors (the trajectory by which the finger follows while plucking the string and the position of the thumb) liken left hand pizzicato to finger snapping. When snapping, the thumb and second fingers move as oppositional forces- thumb to the left and second finger to the right. The same actions happen in left hand pizzicato, just more subtly. The thumb is an important component in pizzicato, and because it is the strongest (and longest) finger in the hand, one would be remiss to not take advantage of it!


Spending just under 3 minutes a day working on pizzing can help with building up pliability and strength, especially in the pinky. Taking it easy so as not create blisters - but, mild calluses are more than welcomed and good for intonation. I needed it especially today, as I felt the pinky was feeling a little wobbly while working on pieces. Dabbled with the 12th exercise in Dounis’ Daily Dozen, a section from his Fundamental Trill Studies, and finally applied to the 9th variation of Paganini’s 24th Caprice😊



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