Don’t listen to your instrument – listen to the sound coming back from the hall
Leif Jørgensen, my teacher between the ages of about ten and fourteen, used to say that you should never start learning a piece from the violin part. On his advice, when I study a piece for the first time I get a piano reduction and the score (the piano reduction is easier for understanding the harmony because you don’t have to transpose orchestral parts) and keep my violin in its case. I’m a terrible pianist but even playing basic chords, and slowly reading through, you can get a feeling of what you want to do later with the violin. If you start with the instrument, intonation, technique and fingerings all get in the way of finding your personal opinions about the work. Jørgensen also recommended listening to singers and pianists rather than violinists and I have learnt so much from hearing Bryn Terfel, Plácido Domingo, Emil Gilels and other heroes.
When I perform I always think of the advice André Navarra gave Heinrich Schiff, according to one of Schiff’s students. When you go on stage, don’t listen to your instrument – listen to the sound coming back from the hall. It gives you a totally different perspective and helps things such as phrasing, timing and freedom of sound.
Photo: Robert Romik