A heartening podcast by RBP, and wondering how the pros cope with swapping out their instruments

That would be this one, with her old teachers the Vamoses. It was a long, rambling discussion of the Barber with which I’m unfamiliar, including considerations of specific sections and live on-the-spot playing, and during it there were two things that stood out to me:

1) Pine hadn’t played the Barber for a while at that point, so she was rusty. It sounded great for being rusty, but there were definitely places where her fingers tangled and she was frustrated. How heartening to hear that she really does have to woodshed. I mean, we all know that these people do and that it takes endless amounts of work to get that good, but it’s still reassuring to hear it, then and there. Obviously, even her rusty renditions of the excerpts were far better than most people would ever be, but it was still reassuring to hear a tier-1 virtuosa actually working instead of performing. Like Valentina Lisitsa’s YouTube practice sessions.

2) She and the Vamoses talked a bit about working around annoyances on her violin — even her beautiful old ex-Soldat has an irritating wolf on it, apparently! And Almita Vamos talked about one on hers that was fairly inconveniently placed. I’ll stop complaining about Stevie’s incredibly irritating wolf in first freaking position. It’s been good lately, too — my luthier had mentioned to me that fiddles can misbehave during the air conditioned months since A/C dries out the ambient air around them. I know that I haven’t had the A/C on in a little while, and I haven’t sworn at that G for a while.

In general, I’m noticing that the better I get and the more comfortable I feel, the more attached I’m getting to my viola as well. I’m starting to feel very possessive of it in a my fiddle mine sort of way now that I’m thinking of him in terms of what specific colors I can get out and how I can get him to sound just like what I want. It’s like the minute the bowing became more important than the fingering, that’s when it became mine mine mine.

I don’t know how professionals manage it with all the impersonal swapping around; in that podcast, Pine mentioned all the fiddles she had played on in her career — this del Gesu, that one, a Strad, the old Amati she had (that I dislike). It was impressive how she knew them all intimately (including the wolf tones on each one argh), but I still don’t fathom how she was able to surrender each one. She’s certainly on an ideal one for her now. The Amati sounded squeaky and plasticky under her muscular style, especially on the high end where it tended to buckle under the demands she made of it. The ex-Soldat is just right for her style of play, singing more sweetly on the high end the harder she pushes it, and I love the viola-like sound of it as much as I’m going to love the sound of any violin.

Nevertheless, it must have been hard for her to swap out repeatedly like that, and I don’t think I could manage playing one I didn’t own outright. Few to none of the tier-1 types own their own instruments, though. They just cost too much. It’d be like owning a Botticelli. I guess at that level, you just see yourself as the latest in a long line of accomplished musicians who have held that instrument and played on it.

Still though. It still brings to mind what happened to Dylana Jenson, though. No way would I let some rich asshole have that much power over me. Zillionaires don’t get that rich by being nice. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be a case of bilious behavior; there was a recent instance (and damn me for not recalling whom) where a wealthy violin collector died in a car or motorcycle crash, causing his lawyers to lock down everything he owned to straighten out his estate … including several lovely old violins that suddenly had to go back home.

Screw that noise. The only way anyone will get my viola away from me is if they pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

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