The US violinist gave advice to violin students at the Domaine Forget Academy 2015 in Quebec
• Checking a note by plucking before playing it is unprofessional and will be noticed. Practise until you can play the right pitch unaided.
• Dynamics represent changes of atmosphere and mood, not just volume. For example, the unexpected hairpins in the first movement of Glazunov’s Violin Concerto are what make it so special.
• Expression can be faked. You may not feel the piece in a certain way when it comes to performance, but it won’t matter if you have memorised the motions needed to create the same effect.
• Facial expressions should mirror the music. It looks ridiculous if you glare when you’re playing something light-hearted, or if you’re grinning while playing something morose.
• Never do something just because a top soloist does it. They have bad habits too, but they have no one to keep them in check. Perhaps their playing would be even better if they didn’t do those things.
• Rests are as much a part of the music as notes. Think about whether they belong to the notes preceding them or following them, how they affect the flow of the music, and how to interpret them.
• Vary your interpretations. If a passage appears for a second time, play it differently: perhaps indulge a little one time, then play rhythmically the next.
• Vibrato should begin before the bow touches the string, to achieve a warm sound from the outset. When it is used, it should be constant, on every note – even when using the fourth finger (try waggling your first finger in the air to trigger the right motion).
• Watch what your hands are doing, don’t just listen. Eyes can be more accurate than ears, because sound imagination can be stronger than reality. You might think you’re doing vibrato, but looking at your hand while you’re playing might tell you otherwise.
• Atonal music will not appeal to all audiences. Win them over with the way you perform it and the message you carry across, if you can’t do it with the notes themselves.
The complete Domaine Forget article, including further advice from Rachel Podger, is published in The Strad's November 2015 issue - download through The Strad App.