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New Quantity Available: There, he performed two parallel feats of learning. But to Sam Zygmuntowicz that level of observation is like discerning that the leaves of a tree are green. Using precise rulers and calipers, he measured the Kreisler to tenths of a millimeter. He had a chart that analyzed the varying thicknesses of the belly in such detail that it resembled a topographical map. Sam later wrote his own article on the copying process for The Strad.
What makes the Stradivarius violin so special? - BBC News
Makers often study the minutiae of these instruments with a zeal that borders on fanaticism, and with a reverence that is almost religious. Not only did his prowess as a copyist give him insight into the minute techniques of the masters, it also advanced his reputation—as a copyist. A cover story in The Strad was a piece of advertising that no violin maker could buy. Not long after that, Sam got that call from Isaac Stern. With this success, though, came the danger that he would be not freed by the tradition, but hobbled.
It could have 79 john marchese been a lucrative course to make copies all his life. By the end of his speech to the Violin Society of America, Sam promised that he would soon give up making copies. The higher the level of the client, the more important it became to make not a copy, but a Zygmuntowicz. I could just make one violin after another in my style and I think I would do all right—someone would buy them. It remains the constant, enduring paradox of violin making. In the cool stone-lined lobby four somewhat nervous-looking young people waited with instrument cases.
It was a student string quartet from a college in upstate New York, and Gene had promised to give them a coaching session. As the young musicians broke out their instruments and tuned up, Gene chatted with them about his friend, who taught at their college and sent them to the city for this coaching.
The players were working on one of the Beethoven quartets and had brought that to play for Drucker. Of course, the Beethoven quartets are standards of the string quartet repertory and are constantly performed and frequently recorded.
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The Emerson often placed them in their programs and had made a recording of the full Beethoven quartet cycle for Deutsche Grammophon. Gene Drucker knew this music inside and out. The students did not. But they were talented players, and for the next hour or so they plowed into the music with a mix of verve and ineptitude that was charming and inspiring. Even bunched into a plain little living room with the dead acoustics of a closet, it was hard for the four string players to not occasionally create beautiful music with the soaring sonorities of the master.
Drucker was intense, yet also patient and kind. This was a fun way to spend a late afternoon. As the rehearsal ended, the de facto leader of the quartet asked Gene how much they should pay him; he told them to keep their money. Gene opened a cabinet and pulled out two compact discs and handed one to me. Because of my family. First it was losing my father. Constantly running out to Queens to see him in a nursing home. You have to decide that you really, really want to do that, and then you have to ask.
The photo seemed classic and old-fashioned, as if it had been taken decades ago. I feel the same way. There are periods in my life where I listen to Bach every day. And it is a near certainty that on those days I practice the trumpet, I will play something by Bach. The composer famously said that all of his voluminous musical output was designed for the greater glory of God. But Prince Leopold demanded that his kapellmeister write secular instrumental music, so these six pieces for solo violin are part of the relatively small segment of his work that is strictly secular.
They were written fairly early in the history of the modern violin—Stradivari was still making instruments—yet they stretch the technical demands on the performer to a breaking point. Nearly three hundred years have passed and they remain a high technical hurdle and an enduring musical monument. I did my best to drop out of music school several different schools, in fact before I was forced to take the courses in formal musical analysis. The scientist James Q. In comparison, the solo violin works seem more the musings of a single solitary genius. In contrast, a violinist playing alone can sound surprisingly edgy and intense.
For his solo works, Bach usually allowed the violin to play a single line, but often he exploited the ability of the instrument to play several notes at the same time. This is accomplished by running the bow over two or three strings at once. In the solo sonatas and partitas there are many passages that do present polyphony: two or more notes at once, but the bulk of the compositions consists of single-note passages of such supremely logical complexity that there needs to be no other sound. This was not always obvious. When it was being rediscovered during the late Classical age, at least two great composers— namely Schumann and Mendelssohn—suspected that there was no way Bach expected a violinist to play this music alone.
There must have been keyboard accompaniment that was lost in the mists of time. Each wrote his own version of keyboard support for the violin. To look at this music on the page, one understands the enormous complexity of the compositions.
But I have played bits of the partitas on the trumpet, and one changed note sounds immediately like a crime against nature. And indeed, Gene Drucker would write that this music had the quality of a natural phenomenon, as if it has always existed and always would. After all, Drucker himself, that most articulate of men, had warned me that words are often lacking when it comes to describing sound. I love words, but they often fail me in this context.
Here they are: hard, mellow, even, nasal, open, ringing, muted, round, full, hollow. Prier gave some explanation for each term. For instance, a mellow sound was a sweet, rich, and warm tone. I began listening to sections of the three sonatas and three partitas every day, often with very expensive headphones for sonic intimacy, just as often letting the music roar loudly through the speakers.
She has wide, eclectic musical tastes and we rarely argue about what gets played in the house.
Classical music is not really her thing, but she had been enthusiastic about attending Emerson Quartet concerts. I promised to always don the headphones when she was home. I came across an article by Norman Pickering, an acoustics expert whom Sam mentioned often in our time together, always with admiration.
They might be comprehensive, but hardly precise. There is evidence that Galileo studied the properties of the pitches of plucked strings in the mid—s. Just as often, it is not only the required courses in technical musical analysis, but also the required course in acoustics that make music students like me decide to drop out. Basically, no musical tone is pure.
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If it were, listening to it would be torture. It is the relative strength of the various tones in this harmonic series—think of them as ghost notes—that contributes fundamentally to the quality of sound. What gives the bowed string instruments their character is that they all produce a full overtone series.
The scientists know, for instance, that a certain great Stradivari has stronger frequencies in some areas of its sound spectrum than in others. But there is no way to translate that into a set of rules for someone like Sam Zygmuntowicz to follow in building a new instrument. And usually, even very smart people like Gene Drucker do not speak the language of acoustics.
I was listening to the Bach on a recording, and more often than not with headphones, so I was getting more intimate contact with the sound than someone sitting in a concert hall. In fact, Gene told me 6. It is at this point that connection between violinist and violin begins to be not just intimate, but downright symbiotic. At very intense moments I actually choke when I play. But there are also moments of intense physical pleasure. There, the violinist recounts his early fascination with the Chaconne he was a prodigy in all aspects and his youthful belief that if he could play the Chaconne—and play it well enough—in the Sistine Chapel, he might just be able to bring about peace on earth.
Nobody knows the exact circumstances of how Bach wrote any of the unaccompanied partitas for violin. His patron, Prince Leopold, was an avid traveler, and he often convinced his kappelmeister to accompany him. When Bach returned from one such trip in , he found that his wife, Maria Barbara, had died in his absence.
Over the months I was listening to Drucker playing Bach, I began to gravitate more and more to the Chaconne. I bought the book of sheet music that contained the piece and followed along, often amazed that anyone could actually navigate the technical demands. Even listening with the advantage of someone trained in music, I marveled that Gene could simply play all the notes.
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