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Integrating technique and interpretation in high-level violin playing and teaching: an intercultural exploration

Zhang, Jia (2020). Integrating technique and interpretation in high-level violin playing and teaching: an intercultural exploration. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Guildhall School of Music and Drama)


This study seeks to develop a greater understanding of approaches to integrating technique and interpretation at the highest level of violin playing in the classical tradition, by reflecting on my professional practice as a violinist and violin teacher in the broader context of violin pedagogy both in China and in the West. It comprises three components: a thesis, a video-recorded final recital of works by Debussy, Strauss and Wieniawski, and video recordings of repertoire by Bach, Schubert,
Brahms, Ernst and Milstein.

The motivating factor behind this study is that the separation of technique and interpretation is seen as a common approach in many teaching environments, particularly in the context of violin training in China where the focus is put on technical perfection. This pedagogical approach has had significant results in training young people; however, evidence suggests that the lack of connection between the development of musicality and technical training inherent in this exclusively technique-driven approach to violin pedagogy may have a built-in limit to what can be achieved. Therefore, my project aims to investigate ways to develop high-level instrumental technique alongside individual musical development to establish the foundations for a deep engagement with style and interpretation, and to develop a more integrated approach for students.

The investigation is conducted through a variety of approaches. My practice-led research examines the technical and interpretive issues involved in preparing specific repertoire for performance, prioritising techniques of expressivity such as tone quality, tone colour, choices of bowings and fingerings, breathing and vibrato; conducting interviews/ observations and taking lessons with a group of world-renowned violin professors; and documenting my reflections on the lessons and my own practice sessions.

My research confirms that adopting a more integrated approach to technique and expression results in a richer and wider range of interpretive possibilities. The findings also provide a new perspective on fundamental questions surrounding the balance between technical and musical issues in a later stage of musical development. The purpose of developing this approach is to seek a rich qualitative understanding from which to extrapolate broader principles and approaches that could then inform high-level violin teaching in China and assist students in their further development.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Zhang thesis 2022 PDF-A.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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