If one were to choose one single work that stands out among the rich repertoire for Solo Violin, generation after generation, it could well be the Chaconne by J.S. Bach. It is a piece that suggests endless depth and profundity.
I am setting out on a journey of discovery: I want to learn how my understanding of this work will develop through the process of performing it 100 times in a row. These performances will be in normal public venues (the first was at Lincoln Center in May 2012) but also they will be for small groups of interested listeners, colleagues and friends with whom I can explore deeper levels of communication and connectivity. [read more]
It has been over a year since my last performance of this great work, and there could not be a more perfect setting than my friends’ home. This past year of semi-isolation and reflection has been a gift for my violin playing, with regular focussed practice without interruption producing a refined harmony between Music and my spirit, body and instrument. A change in the position in which I hold the violin, and a practiced integration with allowing bones and tendons to do the work of playing (as opposed to muscles), has facilitated the articulation of the three – occasionally four – voices that are at the heart of Bach’s writing for the solo violin. This is what I have been striving for since the beginning of the project.
In musical terms I found myself once again exploring the freedom of pulse in the Sarabande and the Chaconne…meaning I allow a phrase to have it’s own speed and character according to the musical inspiration of the moment – linking the flow of the inner pulse to the relationship between the tones of the bass line.
I cannot say how gratifying it is and how happy I am to play for my friends – live and in-person!
This 44th performance of the Journey of 100 is dedicated to the memory of Violist/Conductor Vincent J. Lionti, who passed away last April from COVID19 related illness.
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This performance, arranged at the last minute, was somewhat raw from my point of view, yet (seemingly) extraordinarily powerful for the artists and their companions who were attending.
In our training as violinists, polished performance is a professional essential. However I am reminded by this evening that the spiritual and emotional power of Music transcends all the notions of “polished performance” we are trained to set as standards and goals. In fact, without it we accomplish little for others, and diminish the return for ourselves.
I feel privileged to have been invited by retreat leaders Tim Hawkesworth and Lala Zeitlin, and for being so well received by the artists with whom they are working. My thanks to you all.
This performance was a home-coming for me – so many colleagues and friends from early on in my career, folks to whom I have looked up all my life. Although I wasn’t nervous, I do want to say that I had some trepidation about presenting to these superbly knowledgeable musicians my intensely personal artistic vision of J.S. Bach and his music. Somehow it seemed to go well and all were enthusiastic in their appreciation – phew!
In talking afterwards with my life-long friend Earl Howard – composer, instrumentalist – I started to get an idea of a new kind of sound that I might bring to the Bach works – one in which my particular violin and it’s unique sound would play a large part. More on this as the Journey of 100 continues.