The Magical Versatility of the Violin!

The violin has been, and still is, the most universal of stringed instruments. Let us take a moment to ponder its splendor. There are, of course, many styles of violin playing and of violin music. The violin is very suited to gypsies, that nomadic people who express the wild way of life and knew the start of the night and every corner of the countryside, the wild sounds of the birds and all the animals, their own yearnings and nostalgia. They are said to have come from India.

The violin is at home in the classical music of India, having been adopted two centuries ago because it was superior in perfection and flexibility to the bowed stringed instruments native to India. The violin is at home on the moors of Scotland, on the plateau of Norway, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of America. The violin is at home in each Russian, Polish and Rumanian village, where it has always been accompanied the dancing and the singing.

Violins have been made of every description, crude and rough hewn, barely recognizable and yet quite adequate for the astonishing variety of roles they undertake. I have seen the gnarled, clumsy, horny fingers of Scottish bee keepers and sheep grazers playing Scottish reels, strathspeys, dances and lament with never a faltering rhythm. In fact the rhythm of folk people, whether in Russia, Hungary or Scotland is superior to that of the urban, industrial, commercial civilization of Middle Class America and Western Europe.

The violin is so flexible an instrument that it evolves in each country according to that country’s genius. It plays Tchaikovsky and the passionate virtuoso romantics if it is in Russian hands; it plays the ‘bel canto’ for an Italian; it plays the great musical literature of the classic German and Austrian heritage in those countries and, in fact, universally. And it was the instrument for which Purcell and Dowland wrote perhaps the most wonderful music of all.

So next time you pick up your treasured instrument take a moment to daydream and consider its wonderful place in the world.

Mary J. Gibson

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