“Learning from the Legends: Lara St. John” (2014)

by | Oct 6, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

“Learning from the Legends: Lara St. John” (2014)

Program: BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in g, Op. 26; Piano accompaniment play-along track; Lara St. John’s practice philosophy; The importance of finding a teacher; Extensive set of technical exercises with full demonstrations; Scales & arpeggios; Vibrato; Advanced bowing techniques; Tone 
Performers: Lara St. John, violin/ Eduard Laurel, piano/ Joey Corpus, violin consultant
Director: Chris Thaler
Studio: Learning from the Legends (2 DVDs, learningfromthelegends.com)
Video: 16:9 Color
Audio: PCM Stereo
No Region Code 
Length: 188 minutes
Rating: *****  

Learning from the Legends is a new company that plans on offering many different instructional videos on each orchestral and other instrument. So far, violinist Lara St. John and trumpeter Rolf Smedvig each have two offerings. St. John has also released the Mendelssohn Concerto in D as well as this Bruch.

The first DVD is a complete performance of the Bruch with piano accompaniment, which works well as this is exactly how most people learning the work will play it. Balances with the orchestra and the variance of contrasting colors, along with projection, are not things that are covered, but instead more intimate and focused “chamber style” geared to a student learning the piece in a practice setting. The second DVD, called “bonus” but actually the meat of the whole production, has St. John giving wonderfully concise and pointed direction to a plethora of violin performance and practice techniques. Just check the heading for an idea of what is covered. She is fluent and articulate in her explanations, a delight to watch. What is most fascinating is the degree of depth and breakdown that St. John delves; if you ever thought a virtuoso never needed, or didn’t know how to practice, this will set your mind aright. She takes us through many and sundry techniques that will no doubt astound and utterly surprise most aspiring violinists as to the microscopic examinations she gives to all facets of the practice art. Talent is one thing, luck is another, but as a cursory reading of Renee Fleming’s The Inner Voice: the Making of a Singer demonstrates, these things are necessary, but hard, diligent, and consistent work are the foundations of any successful career. St. John proves this in spades with this outstanding video.

I once had a teacher who said “practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect!” St. John shows us how this is done, and why it is so vitally important. For all those interested in great performing musical art. Any instrumentalist—not just violinists—will benefit from these DVDs.

—Steven Ritter

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