Temperatures around the Bay Area are blessedly cooling, but Music@Menlo kept a little bit of heat going yesterday by taking on the incendiary topic of…vibrato! Joseph Silverstein led a public conversation over the lunch hour about the role of research in violin performance. Silverstein's had a great career as the longtime concertmaster of the Boston Symphony and conductor of the Utah Symphony, but I had no idea he was such a scholar as well. He's read enormous amounts of the literature on violins going back at least 250 years—one author contradicting another while a third has an ax to grind against a fourth, and then come modern researchers who have biases and publish-or-perish agendas—all of them with a slightly or grandly different take on how much vibrato a player should add to each note. Questions were flying around the auditorium yesterday about what Leopold Mozart said in 1756, or Geminiani in 1751, and whether the great violin inspiration of Brahms, Joseph Joachim, really was 'dry' in the whole vibrato department? Oy. What’s a violinist to do? I guess flock to Menlo to have this exact kind of conversation.
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