Yair Kless

Friday, 06 December 2013

Words of wisdom from the Israeli violinist and pedagogue

A quick, intense vibrato can very easily choke your sound

When I think about violin playing, my first and foremost aim is to create beauty with sound. A player’s sound is the cornerstone of the relationship, and the main contact point with, the listener – as well as being a tool with which we express our passion.

As a young boy I would run away from school so I could listen to the rehearsals of the Israel Philharmonic. I witnessed the playing of some of the leading violinists of the era – Nathan Milstein, Zino Francescatti, Ida Haendel, Henryk Szeryng, and later Jascha Heifetz and David Oistrakh. Despite the strong differences in their musical tastes and stage personas, I realised that what they all had in common was a never-ending desire to create nuances and colours in sound. In fact, what made each of them distinct was their own individual sound, which is recognisable even today.

Throughout my years as a student, when I followed the Franco–Belgian style and ethos, and now, having performed and taught all over the world for years, my conclusion is that in order to achieve mastery of sound, you must achieve freedom of motion, especially in the bow.

In a nutshell, free motion is the ability to create sound without creating tension in your body. Unfortunately, the increasing demand for an ever bigger sound not only smothers vibrations and nuances, but is also a source of increased physical tension.

To create a penetrating, clear sound, you must use natural movements combining weight and speed, while learning to relax your shoulders and avoid unnecessary tension.  

There are several other elements of sound production you should consider. For instance, often we are content to concentrate only on the beginning of the note we play, and forget to nurture how it continues. A quick, intense vibrato can very easily erase the colour and choke your sound.

Finally, my advice to our wonderful young generation: listen, imagine, strive for beauty, practise sound with the same zeal you practise intonation – and perfect your technique in order to translate emotions into motions.

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