“Schindlers List” — Violin Solo, Music Analysis, Practice

Added on August 22, 2021:
Violin Lab has excellent on-line videos to teach the violin playing, including Schindler’s List. 


NTU Alumni Choir invited our Chamber Ensemble to join their 2015 Annual Concert on September 20, 2015. Some of our members are traveling and we won’t be able to provide a 20-minutes program that Esther originally promised. Hence, I-Ling asked me to provide a solo violin piece and I chose John Williams’ “Schindler’s List.”

In the preparation of this music piece, I listened to several performances in YouTube, e.g.,

I compared the different interpretations by these violinists and selected those parts I like to help my practice.

I-Ling showed me a performance that brought me to tears, so beautifully played, with delicate details, and emotions.

Then, I realize that I cannot easily express my feelings and interpretations through my learned skills. During the practice, I have changed the bow strokes, the fingers positions, and the phrasings so many times. I rehearsed with I-Ling, she accompanied my violin solo, and she video recorded our practice to help me find the weak spots on my playing so that I can correct them. I wish that I have more time to prepare this song.

On the concert day, the weather outside was so hot and the air conditioning in the concert room was not working properly. Worse yet, we have very short time for rehearsal because the Sunday worship ended around 1:00 pm and our concert started at 2:00 pm. However, we played the song without noticeable mistakes though I am not totally satisfied.

Analysis and Review of “Schindlers List”

Itzhak Perlman played the song in the above video recording. The violin solo melody starts from 00:14. The melody consists of 10 bars. Each odd number bar has a downward interval on the 3rd through 4th beats.  The odd number bars are very similar while the even number bars in between are varied and fluctuated.

Schindler’s List

Starts from 01:15, the melody changed one octave higher. The intensity increased. The interlude comes in from 02:02 and I sensed a change in the mood away from sadness. The melody returns at 02:35 with one octave higher than the higher notes. At 3:05, a transition then led to lower notes starting at 03:10. Another transition occurred at 3:20. The coda with higher notes started at 03:35. The playing was tender and adoring, sweetly and light touch. It was followed with a warmly passage then ended slowly and softly at high A, just over three octaves above the lowest note, the open G string.

Nick Proch wrote an article in examining the melody of the song with excellent analysis on the composition vs. the Orchestration —  http://www.composingcomposer.com/composition-vs-orchestration-part-1/.

He pointed out that the open strings on all of the stringed instruments have a distinctive sound that some describe as rustic, or earthy. The lowest note of this song is open G string, and he guess that Itzhak may also played the D and A strings open as well, for the same reason of providing that earthy, authentic tone. This was what I played in the concert.

“Schindler’s List” is a song with strong emotions that make people cry. Nick Proch wrote that the “B♭ and C on beats three of the first and third bars serve as appoggiaturas of sorts – which, as has been pointed out by people smarter than me, is a fancy term for the real source of tearjerker moments in music.”

Another article “Anatomy of Tear Jerker” from Wall Street Journal gave an explanation of why did Adeles “Someone Like You” make everyone cry. That is, Adeles used appoggiaturas. Though this did not convince some people, it provides a reasonable explanation of how strong emotions evoked by the music. Actually, I was in deep sad and sorrow mood during my playing in the late part of the song. I felt the pain of the powerless Jews, the cry for the justice, the pray for the mercy of the Lord. My heart was broken at the playing……………………..


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