Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I have owned my violin bow for 25 years. It was a gift from my mother, with money she'd saved up from her adjunct-teaching salary. To this point I had owned only factory-made junk; and though I did have a decent violin, I was still not quite aware of what a difference a bow would make to my playing.

When my violin teacher learned that I was in the market for a bow, he began bringing a selection to each of my lessons--a mix of old and contemporary bows, all of them varying in balance, weight, poise, sound. Choosing a bow is a highly individual process. Week after week I tried out bows and began to discover how much they influenced not only my sound quality and control but also how each brought out my strengths and weaknesses as a player.

The bow I finally chose was made by early twentieth-century German bow maker Albert Nürnberger, regarded as one of the masters of the craft. Despite his fame, his bows are relatively affordable, partly because German violins of the period are famously crappy. The great violinists David Oistrakh and Fritz Kreisler both owned Nürnbergers.

My bow is delicate, lithe, elegant: beautifully weighted for my hand. It has allowed me to capitalize on what is probably my greatest strength as a violinist--subtle emotional dynamic shifts--yet has also improved my technical control of fast spiccato (a controlled bounce move), the short shifting slurs of swing violin, and collé (a sharp short motion at the base of the bow, very useful for blues violin).

But on Sunday afternoon, my Nürnberger bow snapped while I was playing.

I have not yet spoken to any other violinist who has experienced this devastation. I have not yet heard back from the luthier who will decide whether or not it can be mended. I do not yet know if my insurance will cover repair or replacement. Until I know anything more, all I can do is mourn for the friend of my right hand--my bow, my partner, as sensitive and familiar as my own fingers.


Ruth said...

Such is the sadness when a friend is hurting.

Sheila said...

This essay and "Canning Tomatoes" are two of my favorite DP essays. Wonderful!