One of the silver linings of social distancing is that it has led many musicians to find creative ways to play “together,” and that creativity has led to many beautiful creations. This “Chaconne at home for 14 violinists” is one of said creations. The Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No. 2 for solo violin is perhaps the single most difficult movement from any of Bach’s 6 Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, and one of the wonderful things about this particular rendition is that the change between violinists helps make it clear where the different variations within the movement lie. Plus, it’s a delight to get to see so many different approaches to the violin and to the Chaconne itself!
I saw Leonidas Kavakos perform live over a decade ago at the Kranert Center for the Performing Arts when I was a music student at the University of Illinois. He played Bartok Violin Concerto #2, which at the time I was not mature enough to be able to fully appreciate, but his masterful virtuosity was clearly evident nonetheless. I remember seeing, from my seat in the balcony, my teacher Stefan Milenkovic – himself a prodigy and world-famous soloist and recording artist – rise to his feet in thunderous applause as soon as the final note had finished resounding in the air, and I knew that I must have just witnessed something special.
Since then, I have followed Leonidas Kavakos’s career intently. Everything he performs is a masterpiece, and although it is particularly vulnerable, I wanted to share a video he recently put out on his Facebook. I was touched by his openness and honesty, as well as by the beauty of his playing. I hope you are too.
I was not familiar with Roberts Balanas until a week or so ago, when one of his videos popped up on my timeline. Since then, I have enjoyed perusing his catalogue of arrangements and improvisations. One which I thought I could share with you all, is his arrangement of Queen’s Killer Queen. The idea of taking something that was originally written for a vocalist, several guitarists, and a bassist and performing it all on the violin reminds me closely of Bach’s Sonatas & Partitas, in which many voices are often present simultaneously on one instrument – a challenge for the performer, to be sure. I love watching the flexibility and dexterity in Roberts’ violin hand. We talk often in lessons about relaxation being critical, and Roberts’ playing is a wonderful example of why. I hope you enjoy!
One of the things I try to impress upon students is that we’re never “finished” with a piece. In the same vein, I try not to ever review a piece just for the sake of reviewing it. Whenever we take another pass at a piece, we’re bringing new skills, broader experience, deeper understanding, and more maturity to it, which all put together means that we can – and should – play the piece more artistically, more masterfully, more musically.
Augustin Hadelich has quickly become one of my favorite performers for almost any style of music. His love of the violin, and of classical music in general, is evident in every note he plays, and he is just as good at explaining technique as he is at using it in his own playing. This performance of Humoresque – a piece from Suzuki Violin and Viola Book, and in this case an arrangement by Fritz Kreisler – is as good an example as I can imagine of bringing skills, experience, understanding, and maturity to a piece that’s “review.” I hope you enjoy!