Violin professor Boris Kuschnir gives five reasons why students should avoid copying others' phrasing and interpretation


Vienna Conservatoire and Graz University of Music professor Boris Kuschnir answers a reader's question in The Strad's Teacher Talk section.

How do you encourage students to develop their own musical ideas rather than just copying your phrasing, or even that of Heifetz? JOHN JONES, CARDIFF, UK

I would ask such a student a few questions:

1 Why do people not organise exhibitions of copies of works by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Raphael, Picasso and other great painters?

2 Why do paintings by great artists cost millions, whereas copies of those paintings are sold for €10 at the supermarket?

3 Why did tickets for concerts by great violinists such as Heifetz, Oistrakh, Menuhin and Stern sell out a year in advance, whereas performances by violinists who try to copy those great musicians take place in half-empty halls?

4 Why has nobody succeeded in copying Stradivari violins – or other classic Italian violins – in such a way that they sound like the originals?

5 When does that student feel happy? When they put their thoughts, feelings, worries, pain or happiness into their interpretation? Or when they copy the interpretation of Heifetz?

This article was published as part of Teacher Talk – in which top teachers answer readers’ string teaching queries – in The Strad’s October 2011 issue – download through The Strad App.

Read: ‘Young players must find their own sound within each composer’s idiom,’ says violinist Kyung Wha Chung