As a student I was lucky enough to come across a great Russian Teacher; a pupil of the legendary Mikhail Vainman. Through the studies of Kreutzer, Gavinees, Rode, and Dont I reshaped my playing in the mould of the renown St Petersburg School of String Playing. The concept of violin schooling is an important one; this one soon defined my technique, style, interpretation and musical shaping for the rest of my life. I went on to perform Concerti from Vivaldi to Viotti to Vieuxtemps, and now enjoy passing on my expertise to students. For the young ones I include the etudes of Wohlfahrt and Kayser and a long list of Concertinos! For the advanced students solo Bach is at the very core of my training, though I often use the Solo Telemann Fantasias as preparatory material.
While the Moscow School excels at the Romantic repertoire, the St Petersburg School excels at Baroque and Classical repertoire. Underlying every technique is the utmost care and attention to the warmth of sound. This is achieved by very precise control of the bow; the tracking of the bow along the string, the micro-management of friction and the precise point of contact are always finely tuned to produce a singing tone. On discovering this singing tone (Tonus) as it was described to me, I found immediate joy and new meaning in my playing! Furthermore, the technical know-how helped master a great deal of repertoire. Most of this technique (called 'technology' by my Teachers) consisted in economising energy in both hands, eliminating excess movements, and using the whole body constructively to produce a marriage of sparlking articulation and purity of sound. Let's say a proficient left hand is a sine non qua, but that deep artistry and tonal control is all in the right.
The beauty of this technique I describe is that it cannot be detached from the end result of music making. Indeed every aspect and detail is geared towards a musical end. In order to give a complete education, I like to give a balanced diet of musical styles. Baroque, Classical and Romantic Concertos, two contrasting studies on the go (from the French School I mention in 'Schooling') Encore or Character pieces to spark the imagination and expressive style. I allow a certain freedom when it comes to phrasing.. I'm pleased to develop individuality in a student as long as it is in good taste, and as long as a student has developed a solid tonal foundation, chances are they will naturally think musically. My part is to act as a creative catalyst!
I do take on a small number of beginners with solid musical aptitude at regular intervals. Doing well with Music Scholarships, National Children's Orchestra, and Grade Exam Distictions are all very rewarding but my students know that following and pleasing the Teacher come first! I spend a year developing right hand bowing skills ahead of the left hand and insist on a Musical initiation with pieces played by heart. Of course I like to develop reading in parallel, but the Children who come to my lessons after a long School day, finally feel free to express themselves, no matter what their level! After all music is a universal language, and one that can stimulate the imagination. It is no mystery that doing well in Violin (one of the hardest instruments to play well) gives confidence, builds character and leads to all-round better performance at school and in life!