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17.10.04

Yes, Mr. Stern

Just a quick mention of two pieces I heard on the excellent PRI radio program From the Top this afternoon. If you have not listened to this show, you should check it out, because host Christopher O'Reilly brings to our ears the most talented young performers (mostly teenagers and younger). What's really great about the show is that O'Reilly does what he can to remind us and his young guests that, with all of their extraordinary skill and hard work, they are just regular kids, too.

Today's show was a compilation of spots from previous shows featuring famous guest performers. First we heard 12-year-old violinist Brittany Sklar have a mini-master class with legendary violinist Isaac Stern. She had played Niccolò Paganini's Sonata No. 12 in E Minor, Op. 3, No. 6. Stern asked what she thought she would most like to improve about her playing, to which she responded she would "like to sing more" in the slow movement. He gave her some pointers on bow technique on just the first three notes of the movement, which was really interesting to hear. The program was recorded in 2000, not long before Isaac Stern's death, after which Brittany wrote this letter to the radio show.

The spot that followed it was a trio from Washington, D.C., the Trio Levine, ages 14 to 18, playing the second movement of Bloch's Nocturnes. They shared the stage with Menahem Pressler, pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio. Yes, Pressler answered one of the player's questions, I have played this piece before. He then proceeded to coax a hushed tone from the pianist's playing, that he said was implied by Bloch because the violin and cello were marked avec sourdine. The before vs. after difference was remarkable. You can hear the shows yourself if you follow the links in this post.

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