Wanna Play?

Sunday, September 12, 2010 - 10:19 PM

As our month-long ViolinFest proceeds on WQXR, I’ve been reading about the violin, and talking with some violinists and other violin experts. Curiously for me, though, learning about the violin has not made me interested in the slightest in learning to play the thing.  I say “curiously” because usually when I study something, I feel an urge, however small, to experience it. But for some reason, the violin hasn’t grabbed me in the least. It looks not only difficult to learn, but uncomfortable, too.  I love listening to it, and deeply admire the people who study it, play it expertly, and understand it.  But it’s not for me. 

If I were to study a string instrument, it would be the cello.  There’s something about its tone quality, its warmth, and the intimacy of holding it in an embrace – as opposed to tucking the violin under the chin, as if it were napkin – that draws me to it.  There’s nothing rational about any of this, of course. Speaking of irrational, I also have long had a desire to play the accordion. I love the sweet rusticity of the French bal-musette sound.  But the accordion instead of the violin – what’s wrong with me? Please don’t answer that, but do answer this: What musical instrument have you always wanted to play, and why?  If you’ve fulfilled your ambition, what was it like to meet the object of your musical desire?

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Jeff Spurgeon


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Comments [27]

I have wanted to learn piano for a long time but I have two left hands. I took up the violin instead. It's a lot easier - at least for me. October was the month of the birth of the most famous vioilnist of all time - Paganini. October 27, 1782. Mozart was in his mid-twenties and Beethoven was not quite a teenager. Coincidentally, Sivori (one of Paganini's pupils) and Lipinski (one of his competitors) were also born in October. So were Kavakos, Campoli, Midori, Flesch, Voicu, Baillot, Bustabo, Zelenka, Barton-Pine, Wirth, and a few others.

Oct. 27 2010 11:32 AM
Barbara McNear from =

This is a note for Alina (and Jeff (whom we met on a ship in the Baltic).
I too, would love to play the cello, but have been wondering if I am far too old (71). I love the variations in sound it can produce. My music background -- very ancient -- is with the clarinet.
Any thoughts?
Barbara McNear

Oct. 19 2010 10:14 PM
Brian from Cranford NJ

Hi Jeff! Heard you talking about the piano piece this morn: Promenade by Gershwin...I believe that it is also MOVIE music and is the score for the scene in SHALL WE DANCE when Ginger Rogers walks her little pooch on the promenade deck of an oceanliner. Fred, always in pursuit of course, borrows a big hound to follow her and I think the dynamics in the piece are the comic canine interactions. This film is Fred and Ginger's best vehicle in my opinion and includes "Let's call the whole thing off" "Oh no they can't take that away from me." and "Who's got the last laugh now" some of G's best songs...

Oct. 07 2010 09:36 AM
Roberta Donis from Yonkers, NY

Hello. I have been listening to you in the early mornings with pleasure for years. I contributed to your first year as part of WNYC. We live in Yonkers, NY, well within the listening area, right? But when we moved two months ago, 3 blocks away from where we were before, still in Yonkers, we found that we can no longer receive your station . Sometimes there is a space, like an empty tooth space, between Spanish or other rapidly speaking stations. Sometimes there is just static. Usually, there is no indication that 105.9 exists. Once in a great while, we obtain the station at 6 AM, then it goes off at 6 PM automatically switching to Spanish language. Is there nothing that can be done to increase the signal to cover this area?

Sep. 30 2010 09:24 AM
Barbara Marrone from Tenafly, NJ

I used to dream about playing a pipe organ. I'd enter a church where the organist was practicing, and she/he would invite to sit and play. With feet just reaching the pedals, I'd bring both hands and feet crashing onto the keys...and there was only silence. Again I'd pummel the keyboards. The thunderous chords I'd hoped for remained mute and then mists would swirl and the organ would disappear. My parents bought a piano when I was 7 years old, and I took lessons for 10 years. Finally, when I was an adult, I was face to face with a pipe organ. I was given permission. I picked some stops and positioned hands and foot. At last, there was the thunderous chord. But I stopped, because I knew I could not properly play.

Sep. 28 2010 10:31 AM
George Wells from Dover, NJ

Thank you WQXR and all the announcers who have participated in the Violin Festival. The emphasis has gotten me to waken my wooden friend from her extended sleep, have her checked for open seams, re-strung and now we are getting to know one-another again. This festival reminded me of the fact that I have always enjoyed playing, only to be distracted by other things.

My friends voice is still a bit sleepy and my fingers have to re-learn those exact spots on the finger board that will bring out the glorious songs as I caress her strings with the bow. Perhaps we will only play alone or our collective voice might be heard in church some Sunday mornings. It doesn’t matter; you have re-awakened the friendship that we have – thank you again.

Sep. 27 2010 10:22 AM
Lali from NY

Thanks alot for your response about the Rossini overture.
Since I absolutely knew I'd heard it, I looked yet again, and finally discovered that it had actually been aired at 4 PM that day, when I was also walking to my office, as I had been at 10:00 AM. Clearly I was "dreaming" about the time of day, but definitely not the music!

Sep. 22 2010 11:52 AM


The piece you heard was this: http://www.wqxr.org/recordings/9272/

Sep. 22 2010 10:09 AM
Thomas from Sparta, NJ

I have been playing piano for over half a century, but "my instrument" is the 12-string guitar, with which I fell in love in my early teens. I play it and sing with a "picket line chorus" called the Solidarity Singers. We're sponsored by the Industrial Union Council of New Jersey. I also sing with a classical chorus in Blairstown, NJ, called the Water Gap Singers. Just lately I have taken up the classical guitar and started to learn another style of music that I have loved since my early teens: Brazilian bossa nova!

Sep. 21 2010 03:11 PM
Lali from NY

This is actually a playlist question, which I previously directed to the Listener Services email address; they responded promptly, but couldn't answer my question: I was sure I heard Rossini's Gazza Ladra overture around 10:00 AM (ending around 10:04 AM) on Tuesday morning, Sept. 14, but it's not listed in the playlist for that day. I wanted to find out what recording it was! Or was I dreaming? Thanks!

Sep. 20 2010 08:57 PM


The error has been corrected: http://www.wqxr.org/articles/about-wqxr/2009/oct/06/visual-history-wqxr/

Feel free to comment directly on the page if you notice a typo!

Sep. 20 2010 03:01 PM
Alina Rubinstein from NYC

I’ve loved playing the piano all my life but I too always wanted to play the cello and finally started at age 61. I was attracted to it for the same reasons you mentioned, especially its sound. I wanted to be able to actually create sounds one cannot make on a piano except through illusion –the very art of non-percussive piano-playing-- like sustaining a pitch while being able to vary its loudness; vibrato, etc. As a middling piano sight-reader, I was looking forward to being able to sight-read easily--only one note at a time! And I was really curious to find out how string players could find their notes, especially at great speeds.

When I first started, I couldn’t believe how heavy a 2.875 oz bow could feel! And how difficult it was to control it finely enough to produce those beautiful and varied sounds. Now, four years later, finding the notes is no longer a mystery, the bow is quite manageable, sight-reading is in fact easier--even the new-for-me tenor clef, and I love that I can now actually work on the sublime Bach Suites and play in quartets, right in the middle of the sound instead off on the side, or all alone, sitting in front of a giant piece of machinery!

However, I haven’t abandoned my first instrumental love and frequently play the piano, both solo and chamber music, with a whole new appreciation now for the balance with my fellow string players, especially the cellists!

Sep. 18 2010 11:59 PM

Speaking of violinists, slide 8 of the "Visual History of WQXR" slide show includes the caption, "Many of classical music’s biggest stars came to the WQXR studios throughout the 1940s and '50s, including Jascha Heifetz (left), seen here sitting next to WQXR music director Abram Chasins." Heifetz is actually seated on the right while Chasins is on the left. I have contacted the station a couple of times to ask them to correct the caption but nobody there seems interested in doing so.

Sep. 18 2010 07:28 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

I play classical guitar, but really wanted to learn to play the cello in my childhood. It was totally out of the question for us, though we did have a piano which I taught myself to play. The violin as an object of would-be player's longing comes and goes, depending on what music I might be listening to. although my father-in-law owns a couple, and I have dabbled in mandolin, I have yet to actually try playing one.

Sep. 17 2010 02:17 PM

I wanted to play the horn, but my grandfather who loved jazz more than classical music brought home a trombone. I stayed with the t-bone beyond college and grad school..as an amateur who took lessons even in college. Teh instrument gave me some wonderful moments in music and life. Erich Leinsdorf wrote a book called the Conductor's Advocate in which he recalled a Richard Strauss quote: "Never look at the trombones. You'll only encourage them.” On behalf of 'posaunenspieleren' worldwide, I officially reproach Herr Strauss. He wrote some of the most incredible and wonderful parts for the trombone, to wit: Zarathustra, Alpine Symphony, Death and Transfiguration, and any of his operas. But Dvorak, Shostakovich, Mahler, Bruckner, Brahms and Sousa also wrote well for the instrument.

Sep. 16 2010 03:20 PM
jfp from NJ

Enough of instruments! I've always wanted to sing, but played instruments instead. Piano was first [and I miss it terribly], then french horn, baritone, a brief [and unhappy] stint on a trumpet before switching to flugelhorn for marching band. Stayed with the french horn for concert band and such, however. String basses have always fascinated me, however. LOVE the tone.

Sep. 16 2010 02:33 PM
vicky cosgrove from Queens, NY

I am an amateur recorder player....wish I played the violin. Since you play recordings of Matthias Maute, I want to share a funny story he told me and several other recorder players at a Canadian Amateur Musician's Workshop in Quebec. Matthias teaches there. He told us when he was a boy in Germany, he was studying both the recorder and violin. He began to feel the recorder was a "sissy" instrument and he did not want to practice it. One day, he decided to throw his recorder down a hill. It was over...he could now concentrate on the violin. That evening, his doorbell rang and a friend said:" I found your recorder" and handed it to him. From that day on, he played the recorder and was to become a virtuoso and composer for the instrument!

Sep. 16 2010 01:56 PM
Paul Levy from Brooklyn, NY

I've alway loved the sound of the bassoon and for many years have wanted to learn to play. Now that I retired two weeks ago, and have never been busier, what with watching a very cute granddaughter two days a week and volunteering at the local hospital on another day, who knows - perhaps studying the bassoon is not such a crazy idea.

Sep. 16 2010 10:45 AM
Richard Simons from Garfield NJ

Signed off a ship in the 70's widh some cash in my pocket. Always loved the French horn and bassoon. Wound up buying a bassoon. 30 years later every time I curse a reed I think of that ill fated decision. But are we not suppose to suffer for our art? Whio ever said that played the bassoon; or perhaps the oboe.

Sep. 16 2010 09:22 AM
Brian Fallon from East Meadow, NY

I've been playing the guitar for 30 years, and when my father-in-law bought a violin, I thought to myself, "I should be able to get some kind of sound out of this thing". Boy, was I wrong - the lack of frets and the smaller scale of the semitone divisions left me completely useless on that instrument, and with utter respect for anyone who can make music with it.

Sep. 16 2010 09:14 AM
Tony from Mt. Arlington, NJ

My musical path was set for me at the age of ten, when The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Seeing Ringo up on that drum riser behind his Ludwigs made me want to play too. I acquired my basic set at the age of 14 and have been playing ever since. However, if I could learn another instrument, I would love to play the piano, since Chopin is my favorite composer.

Sep. 15 2010 10:15 AM
Barbara from Hicksville, NY

The violin is definitely a beautiful instrument but nothing compares to the cello in it's warmth and depth of tone and expression. When is the month of the cello on QXR?

Sep. 15 2010 09:29 AM
Pat Finn from New Jersey

I have taught music for many years and have experience with piano, flute, guitar, and harp but nothing prepared me for the week I spent at the School of Piping on Prince Edward Island - boy did my chest and lungs ache!!!! Bagpiping is a unique experience which I hope to continue at sometime in the future.

Sep. 13 2010 02:50 PM
john J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

I played the trumpet in high school. Got pretty good at it and still enjoy a Winton Marsalis rendition of Haydn's E-flat Trumpet Concerto. But if I had the choice I would take the piano. The ability to play so many notes at once makes it the quintessential instrument.

Sep. 13 2010 02:14 PM
Tiffany from Long Island

As a cellist, I'm still very very happy with the choice I made many years ago (influenced by Lori Singer's portrayal of Julie Miller on "Fame"!). But to this day I rue to my parents for not forcing me as a child to take piano lessons. I wish I could play the piano, mostly because I think it would help me be a better musician overall. But who wouldn't want to be able to play Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" or Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto?

Sep. 13 2010 10:31 AM
Eileen from Queens, NY

Many, many years ago I attended parochial school and we did not have any kind of music. But, my parents MADE me take the piano which I did for 10 years, didn't appreciate it then but do now. My son, in high school played many, many string instruments and reached 1st Chair in the Empire State Youth Orchestra (cello). I think that my instrument of choice would be the mighty organ!! I would love to play Bach's Fugue full bore in St. Patrick's - how powerful! The only downside is that an organ is pretty hard tto move around and not many people have them in their home. That's figures, I would pick something like this, and not a violin which is much easier to move around. LOL

Sep. 13 2010 08:58 AM

In high school I played the trumpet, not terrible, but definitely not well. To be honest I never got above the third trumpet seat. My high school band (Power Memorial Academy) was renowned for its quality: we played in Lincoln Center in 1964 and 1965, and often won the marching band contests during the St. Patrick's Day parades Nowadays I play the radio very well, indeed.

Sep. 13 2010 08:01 AM

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