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For Demetrius Constantine Dounis, the secret of good technique came from developing the brain and memory, as well as the arms and fingers. James Dickenson examines what made his ideas so special, and why he became one of the 20th century’s most influential teachers
Probably 70 per cent of professional violinists have a large blue book in their collection. Perhaps it comes out occasionally, perhaps not, but this oversized volume is The Dounis Collection: Eleven Books of Studies for the Violin (first published as a set in 2005) by the legendary Greek pedagogue Demetrios Constantine Dounis (1893–1954), who made a name for himself in New York and then Los Angeles in the first half of the 20th century, and whose reputation and legacy continue to this day. Rarely has a teacher been surrounded by such mystery or caused such differing and extreme reactions, viewed by some as a god or a saint, and by others as a charlatan or an egomaniac – with rumour even circulating that he hypnotised his students; yet many great players studied with him. Sadly, as Dounis never revealed their identities it is impossible to know the full extent of his ‘class’.
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