Resuming Violin – Part 1

The peak of my violin study was about age 14, before I went to boarding high school. I took my violin to and from school, but I didn’t tackle any new pieces and I played it with decreasing frequency. In my twenties and thirties there were periods as long as five years where I never took it out of its case. It was always easier to sit down at a piano than to open the violin case, attach the shoulder rest, tighten the bow, tune the strings, warm up the muscle memory….

A few years ago a friend who plays in a local church orchestra noted that they could use more violinists. It was a low-key affair – rehearsals once a week, performance in Sunday services once a month, and missing either was not a big problem. I joined a second violin section that varied from 2-4 other violinists. It was fun. And I bumped in to a few very good violinists who inspired me to dust off my skills.

With my violin regularly coming out of its case, I began to spend time working on my technique, instead of just blasting through the canon of pieces I had maintained from my teenage years (e.g., Vivaldi’s Four Seasons). Now in my forties I had a level of patience for technical exercises and practice that was sorely lacking in earlier decades. It was time to tackle something new.

One rehearsal I was talking to the best violinist in the orchestra, who had let his violin practice go fallow for some years as he worked on his legal career, and who said he was also renewing his study. “With what?” I asked. He replied, “I decided to go back to the beginning, so I started with the Bach Sonatas.” Of course!

There are some movements in the Bach Sonatas for solo violin that I have always loved. The fugue in the second sonata (BWV 1001) in particular called to me. In my late teens I obtained the sheet music but I didn’t get more than two lines into it before I gave up. But now … I have patience!

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