It’s a question I’ve been asking for over two decades now. I’ve watched other violals, including Guarneri’s and the Violin Concerto and others, and never seen the violin so underpowered when compared to the violins. The lower mass, and the more difficult and time-consuming tuning and playing of the violin make it the more “challenging” violin for beginners. I was in the middle of my concert season in my mid-30’s when I heard Viola was not an alternative for Violin players to play. So, when I joined the New York Orchestra, on September 7, 1986, I got the opportunity to play Viola as well. I had had a long tradition of playing it by ear as far back as I could remember — just as my parents have done before me. The first time I played Viola was a concert with orchestra at the Symphony Hall in New York City. It was a wonderful occasion to play a piece by G.M. Langer and in the same afternoon I heard Viola in a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic in the German capital. I was fascinated. The moment I learned to play Viola the difference in power of the instrument was such, that by the time I got to Juilliard, I was able to play with any part from the first note to the last, with equal power, without ever becoming complacent about my playing.
Did you ever have a lesson from a famous violin master? This may seem silly, but was it difficult to learn how to play Viola with a teacher like Giuseppe Cipriani? I got a lesson from the master Giuseppe Cipriani in August 1986. We were on the balcony, playing, and he invited me to his apartment. He was standing in front of his violin case as if looking through it. I told him that I had been studying to play Viola for years, and he was very impressed. The violin he taught has a beautiful quality to it, as it is very light, strong, and agile. He also played it on the strings beautifully, as if he were sitting on it, as if he was a very skilled player. I learned so much on his advice. I didn’t have to change anything that I know how to do; I learned from him not only how to play some of the violin’s more complex parts, but also how to hold the bow, how to do the double action, and how to play the most difficult
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