Musical Heroes

27 04 2007

I’ve been doing a lot of music-related work these past few weeks – reading articles on the evolution of the symphony orchestra, watching performances on YouTube, revising the string curriculum, etc. – and I must say I’ve learned quite a bit, and discovered a number of people who inspire me to continue to speak through music.

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Olga Goija – I first discovered her browsing Youtube for videos on viola performances. Her tone is riveting – thanks to her, I know the viola can sound absolutely gorgeous: rich and dark and nuanced, like very fine chocolate.

Yuri Bashmet – I also discovered him on Youtube playing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante alongside Maxim Vengerov. He singlehandedly demolished the misconception that the viola cannot be a soloistic instrument. His sound is penetrating, easily carrying itself over the sound of an orchestra; his technique masterful, his fingers dancing across the fingerboard as easily as if it were a violin (except for the ridiculously high notes in Sofia Gubaidulina’s Viola Concerto – I blame the composer). And he conducts, too.

Maxim Vengerov – an amazing violinist, it’s as if there is nothing he cannot play. Not only that, he has the ability to take even the vaguest tunes and extract the most incredible imagery from them, making you say, “I wish I saw that first!”. His characteristic humor and wit make me wish I could study with him.

Yo-Yo Ma – Who doesn’t know Yo-Yo Ma (If you don’t, you need to get out more)? I can rave about how he makes the cello sing, but it’s the warmth of his personality that really draws my attention – it’s isn’t very often you meet a friendly concert musician who is humble enough to seek instruction in styles of music outside his own. I hope when the opportunity arises, I can be just as magnanimous.

Francois Rabbath – completely self-taught on the double bass, Francois is my rolemodel; the musical rebel who refused (and still refuses) to be boxed in by convention and tradition and consequently showed people that the double bass deserves the same attention most often accorded to the cello. When you find someone who can take a 30-minute double bass concerto containing every difficulty known to the instrument, learn it all in one week, and still say to a complete beginner, “You are fantastic – keep up the good work.”, you don’t hesitate – you bow before the master.

Edgar Meyer – multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire, Edgar Meyer embodies my original idea about which school of learning to follow on my instrument: Learn them all. His upper-register tone on the double bass is unbelievable. He’s an incredible pianist…and he composes really lovely music as well.

Arturo Toscanini – when people imagine an orchestra conductor, they think flaming hair and a temper of biblical proportions; that image is Toscanini. But despite his infamous temper, no one can deny he was a masterful conductor – I watch videos of his performances, and even I can tell from his gestures how he wants the orchestra to sound! And this was just after World War 2!

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I have many other heroes, but only so much time to do write-ups for all of them. Click on their links and find out a little more about them – and maybe learn a little more about where I come from, and what makes me tick.

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