Lost arts of string playing: Unlocking the secrets of the past


Did the great string players of old know something that we didn’t? Some of today’s virtuosos reveal to Charlotte Gardner the various technical and musical tools of the trade that are in danger of being lost in the current pursuit of perfection

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Picture this. You’re about to make a shift down from a higher note on one bow stroke to a lower note on a new bow stroke. However, rather than making the shift and bow change simultaneously, you first make the shift, and only upon arrival change your bow.

This is the ‘Menuhin slide’, so called because Yehudi Menuhin was the violinist who regularly used it, and it’s one of a number of colouristic tricks that violinist Guy Braunstein has noticed aren’t so commonly heard these days. ‘It’s simple, but very difficult to do convincingly,’ he tells me. ‘Singers do it all the time – sliding from one note to the next, and starting the next consonant only after arrival – and if you listen to the singers and violinists of 80 years ago, the similarity between the two is much greater than in our era.’

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