|Newsletter August 2008|
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- Interview with James Ehnes
- What’s happening at The Violin Studio- and Instruments available
- Synthetic core violin strings from Pirastro
Interview with James Ehnes By Olaf Grawert
James Ehnes is currently touring Australia playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Bernstein Serenade. I caught up with him in Brisbane last week to ask a few questions that would be of interest to string players:
TVS: You started playing at 4?
James Ehnes: Yeah, I got a violin for Christmas about a month before my 5th birthday.
TVS: Do you remember… did you want to play?
J E: I did, there was always music in the house, my father is a trumpet teacher and my mother has a ballet school so I had lots of music, lots of instruments to choose from, but for some reason I decided I wanted to play the violin and I stuck with it.
TVS: Do you remember your first violin?
J E: Yeah …definitely. I didn’t have my first violin for very long…it was too big for me…it was a half size and I really need a quarter size, so I think I had it for probably only a few weeks…
Later I had a ¾ size violin that was really beautiful and had a really really nice tone. It was a violin from Mittenwald it was probably the favourite violin that I had until I started playing on the really nice full size violins.
TVS: What do you think players should look for in a good violin?
J E: For me I think that you can find violins that have a beautiful sound, and you can find violins that have a big sound and project well, but the hardest thing is finding those two qualities in balance. Usually a violin will have much more of one quality than the other, so I think trying to find that balance is important. I think for students it’s probably much more important to have a violin that is capable of producing a beautiful sound because if you don’t have a concept of beauty in sound early on than I don’t think you grow into that, you either have it or you don’t.
TVS: At the moment you are playing the 1715 Marsick Strad. What do you like about the instrument?
J E: I think what I like most about it is that it’s extremely adaptable it will do anything. There are some instruments with such strong personalities they really just want to sound the way they’re going to sound. I think the Marsick can sound like a very different instrument depending on the repertoire. Some of the best compliments that I think the violin has received is when sometimes I’ll play say a Mozart Concerto and they’ll say “well……the Stradivarius violin is perfectly suited to this type of repertoire…it’s very sweet…it’s very lush…it’s very whatever” and then I can play the next week…..I play Bartok or Shostakovich and they say “this instrument is particularly well suited to this…it’s very deep and very rough and very masculine….well it’s not limited at all and I think that’s ultimately the thing I like best about it.
TVS: What kind of bow are you using?
J E: Most of the time, probably 90% of the time I use a Dominique Peccatte …which I’ve been playing on for almost eight years now, so I had the violin for about a year before purchasing this bow, which was nice because I was able to find something that really matched the instrument …I also have a Pajeot that I like very much.
TVS: Who were your violin “Heroes”?
J E: The people I listened to most growing up I would say were Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz and Izaac Pearlman. So three different generations in a way, and recordings were pretty important to me growing up because my little city in Canada… it’s a very musical place for a city of its size, but it didn’t have the big performers coming through town, so it was important to have recordings.
TVS: It’s probably a similar thing in Australia…….we are very isolated.
TVS: Who played an important role in you music life?
J E: Definitely my parents, whose support was really important for me. Francis Chaplin, my violin teacher was a huge influence. Donald Henry who was a piano teacher there… my accompanist, my coach, my piano teacher. The two of them along with my father were the 3 most important musical figures of my developmental years. So it was great having these three amazing men mentors in this little town in Canada.
TVS: You have been performing for the public since you were a child… What do you love about performing?
J E: I love the music. I think that is the reason that I do what I do, but I don’t think that that’s all there is that I enjoy about performing. Some of the things I like about performing are the lifestyle that comes along with it. I enjoy meeting people and I enjoy going to interesting places and seeing different parts of the world.
Also I like the communication between the performer and the audience and being able to share something that I’m passionate about and to be able to feel like I’m being successful in bringing that across. I’m not a particularly shy person… I’m not a particularly outgoing person I think… but this is my artistic palette. I think that everybody has some sort of an outlet. They might not even see it as being that, but I think if you analyse everybody’s life there is that part of them where they get that across and this is what it is for me
TVS: What do you think are the greatest challenges facing young musicians today?
J E: Well I think it is probably the same challenges that have been facing them always. It is very difficult to become a good instrumentalist. If you do become good, it is difficult to forge a career. It is difficult to keep on focus on the goal and to keep ones spirits up if things aren’t going well.
TVS: What advice would you give young musicians that want to become world class musicians like you?
J E: Well I think as difficult as it is: to keep ones spirits up while remaining constantly vigilant all the time. I think that the performer that is really 100% satisfied with a performance is maybe going to need to stop. If you are perfectly pleased with something, it doesn’t show that you have learned well, it just shows that you have lowered your standards.
It is a balance… I mean you have to recognize your accomplishments and you have to be proud of yourself when you have worked hard and you have archived a certain goal.
If you can just keep raising the bar constantly constantly constantly. Particularly in today’s world the key to being a successful performer is getting to a point where there is a refinement with your playing that even your worst is still not that far from your best. Because every night has to be on that level… that’s the thing to practise for… you know if a young person is practising a difficult passage and they play it through nine times and it isn’t clean and they play it through the tenth time and it’s clean and they say “oh I got it and they go on to something else.. Well if you can get it eleven through to 15 clean as well, then maybe you have got it.
James Ehnes was born in 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. He began violin studies at the age of four, at age nine he became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin. He studied with Sally Thomas at the Meadowmount School of Music, then in 1993 at The Juilliard School. He graduated from Julliard in 1997, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music. Mr. Ehnes first gained national recognition in 1987 as winner of the Grand Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Competition. The following year he won the First Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Festival, the youngest musician ever to do so. At age 13, he made his orchestral solo debut with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. He has won numerous awards and prizes, including the first-ever Ivan Galamian Memorial Award, the Canada Council for the Arts’ prestigious Virginia Parker Prize, and a 2005 Avery Fisher Career Grant. In October 2005, James was honoured by Brandon University with a Doctor of Music degree (honoris causa) and in July 2007 he became the youngest person ever elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada.
In October 2005, James was honoured by Brandon University with a Doctor of Music degree (honoris causa). James Ehnes plays the “Ex Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715 and gratefully acknowledges its extended loan from the Fulton Collection. He currently lives in Bradenton, Florida with his wife Kate.
What’s happening at The Violin Studio
If you are looking for a good violin or bow, you don’t need to travel the world to find Exceptional quality. Before you buy an Instrument, come and see our great range of exceptional quality violins, violas and cellos. I’m extremely fussy about the instruments I sell, so while I may not have the biggest range in Australia, I always have a good quality, great sounding range of instruments.
Klotz School violin around 1750
During the mid 18th century Bach had just written the Goldberg variations and Telemann and Handel were at the height of their careers and Australia had not even been discovered by Britain yet. It was at this time, in a small violinmaking workshop in Mittenwald that our featured instrument came into being. It was played during the early classical period, then the later classical and Romantic period and made it’s way to America. It passed through the hands of many musicians and finally made its way to Australia.
This violin has a beautiful slightly deeper rich tone with clear overtones when playing double stops. It has a stunning one piece back with lovely flames and the wood used on the top is of the best quality spruce. You have to really see and play this instrument to fully appreciate it.
If you would like to try the instrument, you can make an appointment on my website or call us
on 07 38446090
“Find your voice at The Violin Studio”
A Selection of Exceptional Instruments For Sale at The Violin Studio
Remember this was August 2008 and a lot of the instruments below have since been sold
$10-000 to $40-000
- Beautiful Mittenwald violin from around 1750
- A violin by Sebastian Dalinger from Vienna made in 1778.
- Really beautiful Italian violin from around 1730 (Currently undergoing restoration)
- Tyrolese violin Labeled Johan Georg Friedel from around 1850’s
- Olaf Grawert violin from 1998
- Olaf Grawert Cello from 1999
- Buthod Cello from around 1880
- A Helge Grawert violin to try on request
$4-500 to $10-000
- Colin Mezin violin from 1926
- A violin by Franciscus Kritz Prague 1923 Sold
- German violin from 1850’s
- German Maggini Copy late 1800’s
- Herman Dölling violin
- French Jean Tibouville Lami violin circa 1860
- A substantial range of beautiful antique and new instruments between $2000 and $4500
- A wonderful range of carefully researched, well made new instruments from Germany and China
- All instruments have passed my extreme sound and quality tests as an experienced maker and restorer as well as a player
I also have, and can source instruments in higher price classes. Please let me know what kind of instrument you are looking for.
Why come to The Violin Studio for Instruments, repairs and restorations
Here at the Studio and restoration workshop I always put you, the player first. I look at the style of each player and then work out ways of making playing easier by setting up the instrument perfectly for your playing style. Come in and find out how much better your instrument can respond. It is difficult enough to play at a high level, so the better I can get your instrument to work for you, the easier it will be to play.
Having trained with my father, who is a highly skilled German Master of violinmaking as well as in Germany with Geigenbau Machold, one of the largest Violin Restorer and Dealers in the world (there were 8 restorers in the Bremen workshop alone), you will truly get world class repairs, restorations and sound adjustments right here at your doorstep. I fully understand how important your instrument is to you and will always try to arrange your repairs and maintenance so that it suits your playing schedule.
The Violin Studio is geographically the closes violinmaker and restorer The Queensland Orchestra, The Conservatorium of Music and The Queensland University. Now that the Green bridge from Dutton Park to Queensland University is finished, The Violin Studio is within easy walking distance from the university. We are also very easily accessible from anywhere in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, as I’m situated only about a kilometre from the Stanley Street Exit of the South East Freeway.
Synthetic core violin strings from Pirastro
Published with permission from Pirastro Company
New Synthetic Core?
Advantages for the musician
The new core material of all three string lines, Evah Pirazzi, Obligato and Violino consists of a new synthetic material that we have co-developed with our supplier and which we obtain exclusively. The advantage of this new core material over nylon, carbon and steel is, that it offers a wider range of sounds.
In combination with our newest production techniques we are now able to offer a new family of these strings, which offer:
• a complex tone based on
• a focused warm core sound and which has
• a great playability, meaning:
• outstanding response,
• stay in tune and
• which can be used in any environments no matter the degree of humidity or changes of temperature.
Which string is the most suitable for my instrument?
It is Pirastro’s aim to develop string lines of equal high quality but with different sound pictures and tensions; this is why we developed the Oliv gut string line in addition to the Eudoxa gut string line. Oliv strings meet the highest needs such as soloists whereas Eudoxa strings are mainly used in smaller concert halls, for chamber music and studio takes. We are using the same approach today for Evah Pirazzi, Obligato and Violino strings. The Evah Pirazzi is the most powerful string line with the highest tension of the three. The Obligato has a warmer sound with a lower tension than the Evah Pirazzi strings. The Violino has the lowest tension and a very warm sound. Please refer to the following pages for detailed information.
Evah Pirazzi strings
• Very intensive and powerful – excellent for soloists.
• Exceptional playability and outstanding response at any of the dynamic levels.
• They resonate beautifully and have a silvery, sweet, noble and full tone.
• The sound is complex, rich with overtones based on a brilliant
• Expressive, great nuances.
• Enormous dynamic range.
Set: E carbon steel, A aluminium, D & G sterling-silver,
E string also as gold plated carbon steel available.
Gauges: Weich, mittel and stark. If there is no indication of the gauge on the envelope it is a medium gauge string.
Fractional sizes: Evah Pirazzi is available in 3/4 – 1/2 and 1/4 – 1/8; please refer to our homepage www.pirastro.com for further
Tension: Due to their higher tension the Evah Pirazzi strings can compete with steel core strings and other synthetic core strings. If you do not have any experience with the tension of strings then a too bright sound might be an indication that your instrument cannot cope with the tension of the strings. In this case, please try the Obligato strings, which have a lower tension than Evah Pirazzi
strings. Please refer to the table for tensions.
Alternative E-string: Our newly introduced Wondertone Solo E could be an alternative to the Evah Pirazzi E-strings. It is made
from a new steel that produces a powerful brilliant sound based on a warm core tone with no metallic edge to it. The response is outstanding.
• Obligatos possess a warm rich, sonorous tone quality; they are precise and focused.
• Impressive amount of volume.
• Very dynamic response.
• Excellent uniformity across all strings.
• Pliable feel under the finger.
Set: E gold plated steel, A aluminium, D & G sterling-silver,
E string also as carbon steel available.
A string wound with chrome steel also available.
D string wound with aluminium also available.
Gauges: Weich, mittel and stark. If there is no indication of the gauge on the envelope it is a medium gauge string.
Fractional sizes: Obligato is available in 3/4 – 1/2 and 1/4 – 1/8; please refer to our homepage www.pirastro.com for further information.
Tension: Due to their lower tension than the Evah Pirazzi strings, Obligatos are suitable for almost all instruments. They are also
suitable for instruments with a rather bright sound character.
Obligatos might also be the right choice if playing pp with other strings is not bringing out the best of the instrument. Please refer to the table for tensions.
Alternative E-string: There are a number of musicians who prefer to mix the Obligato set with a Pirastro No.1 E-string. The No.1 is an E steel string wound with a thin chrome steel wire. The chrome steel wire makes this E-string especially suitable for musicians suffering from hand perspiration and it is non-whistling.
The Violino is the warmest sounding string of the three string lines and it has the lowest tension. The sound can be described as smooth, very warm with a lot of colour to them to allow the nuances of the music to be interpreted well. Both on the strings and off the strings strokes can be performed readily. The strings are well balanced and very stable. They are very easy to play, have a soft and gentle touch and a fast response.
Set: E steel string, A aluminium, D & G sterling-silver
Gauges: Medium only, no indication of gauge on the envelope means it is a medium gauge string.
Fractional sizes: Violino is available in 3/4-1/2 and 1/4 – 1/8; please refer to our homepage www.pirastro.com for further information.
Tension: Due to the low tension, Violinos are especially suited for violins which are unable to cope with the tension of other
synthetic core strings. The outstanding price/quality ratio makes the Violino strings also suitable for students.
Please refer to our web-site for statements of famous musicians:
www.pirastro.com – statements.