The violinist, teacher and scholar had conducted extensive research on Paganini and violin intonation


Violinist Philippe Borer © Joelle Nublat, private collection, CC BY-SA 4.0

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Swiss-Italian violinist Phillipe Borer died in June 2023, aged 68. He had fallen ill to cancer and a funeral was held in Neuchâtel in the presence of a small circle of friends.

Born in 1955, pursued his violin studies with Max Rostal, Ruggiero Ricci and Jan Sedivka. He has held various positions as member of orchestras and chamber ensembles in Switzerland, Italy and Australia.

He recorded contemporary music for violin and viola, premiering works by Don Kay, Jean-Frédéric Perrenoud and John Michet. In 2016 he formed a violin and piano duo with French pianist Jean-Claude Frey.

In addition to his violin playing, Borer was a musicologist, carrying out research in the field of violin pedagogy. From 1998 he performed with a curved bow which allowed him to play on single or multiple strings simultaneously. His polyphonic repertoire comprised works by Marini, Westhoff, Bach, Paganini and Michael Bach Bachtischa.

From 2007, Borer conducted masterclasses on violin intonation at institutions including Novgorod State University, the Mozarteum Salzburg and the University of Alberta. His research in tuning systems and violin intonation led to the creation of the ’Violin Slide-Rule’ for the calculation and the visualisation of musical intervals. Borer was a member of the Swiss Pedagogical Society, working alongside Russian, French, English, Italian, Austrian and Australian musicologists and was considered an authority on Paganini and Bach.

As an author, his publications include The Twenty-Four Caprices of Niccolò Paganini: their significance for the history of violin playing and the music of the Romantic era (1997) and La Pagina e l’Archetto: historical-technical violin bibliography and studies carried out on Niccolò Paganini (2003). He embarked on further studies in Greek and Sanskrit from 2011 to 2016.

’Philippe’s fascination with all things violin originally drew me, and many other violinists and scholars, to him,’ said Gwendolyn Masin, violinist and director of The Exhale, a holistic retreat for musicians at which Borer offered a course on violin intonation.

’His PhD, submitted to the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music in 1988 on the origins and evolution of the European schools of violin playing foreshadowed his later interests in playing styles and in particular, execution of works by Bach and Paganini for solo violin. His observations and the time he took as the external expert on my PhD in turn were selfless and tireless. Thanks to his easy explanations, detailed research, and demonstration on the subject of intonation, his class was filled with string players from all over the world who felt the subject had been demystified for them.’

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