How to Progress as a Violinist

I was reading a great article from Strings Magazine a while back about what drives the violinist’s “fascination” with Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas.  The writer interviewed and presented the expertise of some of my favorite violinists today.  I loved it.  One particular quote from violinist, Mark Kaplan, really resonated with me as I have been revisiting performance pieces from earlier years.

“I rarely listen to my own recordings, but a few years ago I turned on the car radio and heard my first Bach recording. I really enjoyed it, but it seemed like someone else’s interpretation—and of course it was someone else: It was myself a few decades younger, and it seemed completely appropriate to that person.”

Kaplan continues, “I realized how much my understanding of the works had changed, and I started thinking that maybe I could make a recording appropriate to the person I am now.”

This resonated with me.  I recently set to work pulling out earlier pieces I had once worked so hard to master and I feel a different understanding and ability than I previously had.   Wisdom and understanding come with experience.  As a child, youth, young adult I played, like Kaplan, interpretations that were completely inline with my understanding at that time.  And now, my interpretation is different.  I do feel a comfortability that has come to my skills and playing over the years as I revisit these pieces, for which I am grateful.

I often advise my students to revisit or review a piece they mastered last year just to see how they feel about their progress.  This review is a valuable tool to propel current skills forward and look with anticipation to an inevitable future of better technique and expression that comes with continued practice and performance–and life experience.  A piece is never truly finished.  Each violinist’s unique voice will express more, or less as they sing the many different verses that the song of life affords.  Thank goodness for that! Progression is our aim and at the core of our efforts.



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