The solid-body Jordan
Jordan Electric Violins
The solid-body (without resonating chamber) Jordan Electric Violin is another successful entry in the burgeoning field of high-volume, no-feedback bowed instruments. The model I tested had five strings and a Barbera pickup (probably the most common model in such instruments), and was made of maple. It had an even tone and volume on all strings and on my small Trace Acoustic amplifier it sounded like a loud violin rather than a generic electronic instrument.
While pleasing sound is the main factor, there are a couple of extra features that make the Jordan unique. Finally bid farewell to those pesky friction pegs: the head stock is gone! Ball ends are secured where the head stock used to be, and sleek, machined tuners are placed on the treble-side ribs. No fine tuners are needed. A volume control is also placed nearby. Despite these changes, the instrument is still well balanced and easy to play.
No longer will you forget your shoulder rest, nor will it slip off while playing. It is securely bolted to the underside. It can be set to your specifications, as can many other features of the instrument. Other options include a variety of pickup makes, a detachable upper bout (the test model had none), different finishes, four to seven strings, a fretted fingerboard, and even double-necked violins. The manufacturer recommends the use of preamplifier to realize full tonal range. An on-board preamp is another option. For more information, write to Jordan Electric Violins, 1173 Linden Dr., Concord, CA 94520; call (925) 671-9246; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Bach with a Bang
If you are seeking a holiday gift for your favorite Bach lover, look no further. The ultimate Bach collection was released in August by Collegium USA—all 1,126 J.S. Bach compositions (on 172 CDs). Edition Bachakademie is the only recorded set of the entire Bach works and includes many pieces not previously recorded, as well as newly remastered and recorded additions.
The project began 20 years ago under the joint direction of Helmuth Rilling and the Hänssler label. All the pieces were recorded with top musicians such as Robert Levin, Evengi Koroliov, and Thomas Quasthoff. From the chamber music of Cantata 165 ("O heliges Geist- und Wasserbad") to the Brandenburg Concertos and The Well-Tempered Clavier, this set is the definitive collection—the only full library of Bach’s works. But be forewarned, this is an investment for only the most devoted music lover. The set costs $1,699 plus shipping. For more information or to order, contact Collegium USA at PO Box 31366, Omaha, NE 68131; call (800) 367-9059; fax (402) 597-1254; or go to www.collegiumusa.com.
In addition to the many books and CDs put out this year to commemorate Bach’s anniversary, there are also several new (and free!) Web sites devoted to Bach’s work. One particularly noteworthy site, www.bachdigital.org , is making otherwise inaccessible Bach manuscripts available for viewing. Scholars petitioned for permission from the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, and six other repositories of Bach manuscripts, to compile the works into a digital library. The resulting on-line collection provides a clear and color-correct look at the handwritten manuscripts and scores of many Bach masterpieces.
Sponsor IBM Germany is celebrating the project’s commencement with a worldwide live television broadcast of the Mass in B Minor from a concert Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany. Digitized images of the 180-page score of the Mass will be posted on the Web site so visitors can simultaneously view images of the handwritten scores. Other pieces will be made available through audio and video downloads, and occasional broadcast streams.
Just Playing Along
I’d love to join a professional orchestra, or an excellent string quartet in which nobody plays out of tune or slows down when he gets to a difficult passage. But like the old joke wherein Groucho Marx says he wouldn’t join any club that would have him as a member, there are few opportunities for folks like me to play with first-rate musicians.
Play-along CDs and software programs solve this dilemma by providing backing tracks of popular pieces to practice with just for fun. There are two such products newly available for violinists: one a series of programs that run on both Macintosh and Windows computers, the other a more traditional collection, offering audio CDs and printed music books.
Although the play-along CDs in Warner Brothers’ Solos for Young Violinists series appear to be targeted at youths, most are appropriate for advanced players, too. I reviewed Volumes 2–6, and by Volume 3, I found left-hand pizzicato and artificial harmonics. There are more than 40 selections in the entire collection, with six to eight per volume.
Each CD contains two versions of the provided pieces. First are complete performances with both the violin part and the piano accompaniment, followed by a track with an A note for tuning. Tracks of just the piano accompaniment follow, making it easy to play along. When the violin and piano are to start together, a ticking sound provides a count-off.
Each volume is also available in book form: one book with the violin part alone plus a second book of the piano music with violin cues. Including the printed piano music is a big help; it lets you see how the violin and piano fit together in complex passages, and you can use it with a real pianist when you’re ready for a recital.
Everything about this series is first-rate. The violin and piano performances are excellent and provide good examples of what these pieces should sound like when played properly. The producers also had the foresight to include several "intentionally blank" pages to make page turns easier.
There are far too many pieces to list here, but a few are Dvo rák’s "Sonatina," Op. 100, on Volume 2, Massenet’s "Meditation" from Thais on Volume 5, and Rachmaninoff’s "Vocalise" on Volume 6.
Solos for Young Violinists are available separately for $13.95 per CD and $12.95 for each set of two books. For more information, call (800) 327-7643, ext. 1637, or go to www.warnerbrospublications.com.
Three separate titles are available in the Music Master Series: Beethoven’s "Spring" Sonata, Op. 24, Mozart’s Sonata in Bb, K. 454, and Bach’s Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1014. Each computer program is supplied on CD-ROM, and the music is displayed on the computer’s screen.
You can turn the violin and piano parts on and off separately to hear the complete performance, or play along with just the piano. A metronome counts the start of each selection and can be set to tick throughout. You can also play part of a piece repeatedly to practice sections.
I was disappointed in the violin and piano, however—synthesizers play both parts. The instrument sounds are decent enough, but all of the notes are played at the same volume, with only a few tempo changes throughout the pieces. Such mechanical performances are useful to practice with, but don’t provide a good example for students.
I also found the on-screen music less than satisfying to follow, partly because only half a page is displayed at a time. There is a control for how quickly the page changes are anticipated, but no matter how much I fiddled with it, I was unable to strike a good balance between seeing the last note on one page and having the next page appear quickly enough.
Part of the problem may be that the programs run only in the older 640 x 480 video resolution (modern computers can fit much more on the screen at one time—I run mine at 1,280 x 1,024). The Music Master programs also installed an obsolete version of Apple’s QuickTime movie player. Fortunately, it did not conflict with the newer version I already had on my computer.
The Music Master Series costs $44.95 for each volume and is available from Digital Music Design at PO Box 870, North Hollywood, CA 91603; telephone (877) 479-2457; e-mail email@example.com ; Web site www.digitalmusicdesign.com .
Dale Walker Stevens, master violin maker, was 75 years young and felt that he had many more violins to make when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given three to four months to live in August, 1999. He couldn’t have surgery, and there was no cure.
After much faith, 28 radiation treatments, many chemotherapy treatments, and many complications, Dale succumbed on April 27, 2000. He had fought a very courageous battle against cancer.
Dale loved life and truth, his God and church, his family, his country, and his violin making. And he loved all of you—his friends and associates.
Dale left a great legacy. He has violins throughout the world. He loved the violin and was still learning and doing research until just before his death. During his illness Dale started making, with hopes of finishing, a violin which is only partially completed—the ribs are as beautiful as those he made when he was well.
Dale is greatly missed by all and we, his devoted family, especially miss him.
—Betty B. Stevens
Dale Walker Stevens is survived by his wife, Betty, his son, David, and his daughter, Donna.
Market-related news items and information on new products, from the U.S. or abroad, are always welcome. Please mail to Heather K. Scott, Market Report, Strings, PO Box 767, San Anselmo, CA 94979; fax to (415) 485-0831; or e-mail to Heather@stringletter.com.
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