In yesterday’s lesson I made it through the rest of Schumann’s The Two Grenadiers, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s the first piece I’ve learned that contains a key change – the song (and yes, it’s really a song) starts in D minor and changes to D major a little over halfway through. D minor is an entirely new key for me – it includes low first finger, the first time I’ve worked with that position, to produce F natural on the E string and B flat on the A string. I love producing a minor sound – this is the first minor key and piece I’ve worked with. And then the song modulates into D major for the “French National Anthem” finale – the whole thing feels like such a real piece of music. That’s one of the joys of the Suzuki approach – he sequenced “real” music, but, let’s face it, there are levels of “real.” Handel’s Bourree and now this song are really starting to sound like fully functional pieces of music to me, and they are a joy to play.
And Paganini is next.
I can’t say enough about the shadow of Paganini hanging over my lifetime appreciation of violin music. Way back in high school I sent off to join the Columbia House CD club – you remember these clubs – fifteen albums for a penny, and you only have to buy five more at regular price! Well, I ordered a few entirely random classical CDs as part of my fifteen. One of them was the Munich Symphony Orchestra, Iwan Czerkow on the violin, playing Paganini’s First Violin Concerto. I fell in love – I listened to it until I had it memorized. I could hum along as if it were a pop song.
Over the years I’ve picked up more tidbits about Paganini and as I’ve learned about his stature as a towering figure in violin music I’ve continually gone back and listened to that First Concerto. I did not know when I first loved the piece that its composer was one of the greats. I didn’t even know he played the instrument himself (though I now know that a great many people who compose violin concertos play the instrument themselves). I’ve since listened to his Caprices, his other concertos, and much more, played by some of the best players in the world, and my trajectory of appreciation has been a steady upward climb. Of course Paganini, in addition to being a brilliant composer of violin music, is one of the very best players ever to live.
Since I first leafed through book two and saw this piece I’ve been on pins and needles. I try very much, especially in my violin practice, to live in the moment, but, despite myself, I just can’t wait to jump into his shoes here in a couple of weeks with “The Witch’s Dance.”
Thanks for reading.