Have you ever had moments of clarity where you finally understood what something really meant, even if it's been swimming in your mind for years? Kurganov recalls a story in which he was a sophomore, playing Vieuxtemps’s 5th Violin Concerto. The day before the concert, he struggled with some of the lyrical moments at the bottom of the first page, making him quite nervous. He went to YouTube, looking for some sort of solution, and finally realized that he had to use more bow to make it work. His nerves disappeared, and this idea of “use more bow” immediately took on a new significance.
Sometimes, changes to the basic mechanics of playing and moving can yield striking artistic results. Kurganov has had similar moments where he realized he has to use less bow.
Let’s compare the approach of two great violinists: David Oistrakh and Midori Gotō, playing the beginning of Movement 2 of Tchaikovsky just before the return to the theme.
Oistrakh was the king of using a lot of bow. His sound has so much breath and vibration to it. Midori’s sound is more inside as if she’s spinning a web – it’s a slow and soft burn.
Take a religious approach to this practice: take all the lyrical passages in Tchaikovsky and try to channel either Oistrakh or Midori.
One great exercise to open bow usage is a grand detaché exercise: use the entire bow and move quite fast on an ascending and descending major scale G major scale (one note per bow). This serves to exaggerate and amplify any bumps or misalignments in your bow, allowing you to more clearly identify and eliminate inconsistencies and artifacts in the sound.
Take all the lyrical passages in a piece (the Tchaikovsky Concerto is a good one if it’s appropriate for your level,) and try to play them with the large, broad strokes of Oistrakh, and with the smaller, intimate strokes of Midori. Then, incorporate Kurganov’s grand detaché exercise to your routine, described on the previous page.
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