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The Violinist's Bible.

When one considers the violin’s importance and dignified position in the musical world, the comparative poverty of its literature is, after all, astonishing. It is quite true that a few composers of the past ten decades have penned their most beautiful thoughts for the violin, and that some few composers of the present generation have contributed something of fair worth to the literature of the “king of instruments.” But, on the whole, it must be confessed that the average composer is either insufficiently interested in the violin or he is incapable of adjusting his ideas to the technical requirements of the instrument. Barring the inspirations of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Bruch, we must look chiefly to the compositions of players of the instrument to discover instrumental as well as musical worth. Among those compositions whose chief purpose is that of training the arm and fingers, but in which musical beauty of structure and idea are of an undeniably high order, we have three sets of studies which, in every civilized country, are considered standard educational works, and indispensable to every serious violinist. I refer to the “Etudes” by Rode, Kreutzer, and Fiorillo. These universally adopted studies may truly be termed “The Violinist’s Bible.” They introduce to the player practically all the peculiarities of violin-technics, and carry the student from modest ability to the very essence of artistry.

Strange as it may seem, however, there are few didactic works in violin literature that suffer such neglect as these very “Etudes.” An American boy or girl of the puniest instrumental ability smiles pityingly at the neighbor who may happen to have a pious regard for these classical studies. I have heard pupils speak contemptuously of others who were “merely struggling with Rode,” while they had already sapped the musical and technical juices from our most difficult violin-concertos.

I regret to say that experience has convinced me that our teachers are greatly responsible for such a state of things. It is highly improbable that many students will discover the true worth of such works if they do not receive particularly conscientious instruction. I do not believe that I am guilty of the slightest exaggeration when I say that the average teacher permits the average pupil to play the most important studies in the most slovenly manner, rarely, or never, directing the pupil’s attention to their higher possibilities, nor demanding any of those qualities of excellence which are associated with the higher art of violin-playing.

Some of the “Etudes” by Kreutzer and Fiorillo may, without the slightest hesitation, be declared to be of little or no merit. Often, also, the progress of these studies is illogical, if not actually absurd. But, with all their shortcomings, they are works of monumental strength, as indispensable to-day as they were many years ago, and doubtless will continue to be in the years to come.


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