Book One FAQ

Book One FAQ

Q: Can you recommend a recording of the Mendelssohn?  How about the Warsaw Concerto?
A: I highly recommend Joshua Bell’s recording of the Mendelssohn, it is as close to a perfect interpretation as I have ever heard.  I also recommend Jascha Heifetz, and if you like old-school, Zino Francescatti.

For the Warsaw Concerto, you really can’t go wrong with Liberace.

Q:What do the chapter labels mean?
A:The chapter labels are all music terms that fit the part of the book they are used for.  A concerto is usually a solo piece for a single instrument, backed by an orchestra, although there are concertos for groups of instruments. If you’re interested in these, check out the Bach Concerto for Two Violins, the Bach Brandenburg Concertos 1-6, and Concerti Grossi by any number of composers.  Usually, a concerto will have three movements, which are the individual pieces that make up the whole concerto.  There is usually a distinct break between the movements.  As you can probably guess, Movements One, Two, and Three in the book are named for these.

A concerto usually, but not always, includes an introduction at the beginning of the first movement, where the orchestra plays but the soloist does not. This is called a ritornello. Sometimes it is very short, sometimes quite long. The introduction to this book is named Ritornello after this.

And finale…well, that one is probably self- explanatory.  🙂

Q:Do orchestras really do deep-dive rehearsals?
A:As you can imagine, not all orchestras rehearse the same way.  But I have been with at least one student and one professional symphony who did do deep-dive rehearsals, although none of them used that term.

Q:Is Chrispen Marnett based on you?
A:Only inasmuch as we are both female, and we both play the violin.  Past that, though—I never went to Juilliard, I don’t play fulltime, and I hate iced tea.  Next?

Q:Is it true classical music is in crisis?  What can I do?
A:Yes, it is undoubtedly true.  The best way to help is to support it.  Attend concerts, support the arts in your schools and your community. If you enjoy classical artists, buy their music.

Q:How is a symphony laid out?  How can Chrispen sit next to Alexis and Dwight?
A:There are variations.  However the NPSO uses a very traditional layout, in a U shape around the stage.  Closest to the audience on the left are the first violins.  The first chair, first violin, sits on the outside.  The second chair first violin sits on the inside.  Next to the first violins are the second violins.  The first chair second violin also sits on the side closest to the audience—so the first chair second violin does indeed sit next to the second chair first violin. Confused yet?  🙂

Q:Is Maggini a real violin maker?
A:Absolutely.  Giovanni Paolo Maggini was an Italian luthier who lived from 1580 to 1630. His violins, especially the later ones, are highly desired.

Q:Does the Maggini Chrispen plays really exist?
A:It does, and as far as I am aware it is currently in a museum collection.

Q:What is purfling?
A:If you look closely at a violin or picture of a violin, you will see a thin dark line that follows the edge of the body around the violin.  This is an inlaid piece of wood called purfling.  Maggini was well known for using double-purfling; two lines following the edge of the body.

Q:What does it mean to play scales in thirds and octaves?
A:When you play a scale in any interval (thirds, fifths, and octaves are common on the violin) you play the scale as usual, plus the note that is the specified interval higher than whichever note you are currently playing.  On the violin this means playing the scale in double-stops; on two strings at once for every note.  It can be a tricky exercise.

Q:What is concert ready position?
A:If you’ve ever seen an orchestra sit quietly ready before they play, then you’ve seen it. There are slight variations, but it usually involves holding the violin on your lap, with your right hand resting on the shoulder of the instrument, and your bow in your left hand, either across your lap, or straight up in the air.

Q:What is a concertmaster?
A:The concertmaster is the first chair, first violin.  It is the most important instrument position in the orchestra.

Q:What is a cadenza?
A:A cadenza is a point in a concerto when the orchestra drops out, and the soloist plays freely, in a virtuosic style.  A cadenza is usually provided with the sheet music when you buy a concerto.   Some concertos have a cadenza in each movement, although the one in the first movement is generally the longest.  Not all concertos have cadenzas.

Q:Do violinists really write their own cadenzas?
A:Some certainly do.  It used to be a much more common practice than it is today.  For an excellent example of a cadenza written by the violinist, I recommend Joshua Bell’s recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

Q:Do people really tell viola jokes?
A:Absolutely!  And violin jokes, and conductor jokes, and every other kind you can think of. Every viola joke in this book is real and circulating.  I also have a couple dozen more of them that wouldn’t fit.  🙂

Past this point are spoilers for Book One : Concerto

Okay, on this part of the page I’m going to discuss some of the questions I have received that aren’t really suitable for the main FAQ, because they are too spoiler-ish.  I love talking about the books, but for some topics, you need to have read Concerto first.

Do you have a question about the story that you would like to see discussed here?  Or feedback you would like to share?  Contact me at

Q: Do you really think that falsified evidence is a technicality??
A: No, of course not.  Not to me, personally, anyway.  Early on in the story, we are given a very brief overview of Alexis’s story by Dwight, and then a bit fuller story later on by Kolbi.  Dwight tells us rather defiantly that Alexis “only got off on a technicality.”  Kolbi reveals that the prosecution falsified evidence.

Now, falsified evidence is a big deal!  We all know that.  But, falsified evidence is one of the circumstances that can result in a mistrial for prosecutorial misconduct.  I’m no lawyer, but this particular circumstance is important because most mistrials will be retried, until an actual verdict is delivered.  In the case of a mistrial for prosecutorial misconduct, however, double jeopardy protects the accused from ever being tried again for that crime.  So in this case, by trying to artificially strengthen their case, the prosecution lost it entirely.

Now that your eyes have glazed over, and we have a full understanding of the legal situation, let’s look at that apparent contradiction.  Dwight says technicality, Kolbi says falsified evidence.  Does this mean I have lost my fragile grasp on reality?

It’s important to remember that these statements are coming from two different characters, who have two different views of the situation and very different agendas.  Dwight is trying his hardest to turn Chrispen against Alexis, and has a vested interest in making the situation sound as bad as possible.  Kolbi is sympathetic to Alexis, and more interested in telling the truth.

So, if you are paying attention to who is saying what early on, you learned up front that Dwight is not trustworthy–he presented a deliberately skewed view of the situation as truth.  You’ve learned that Dwight will lie to further his own interests.

And that information can be very helpful later on.

Q: How did Dwight end up with Chrispen’s grandmother’s violin?
A: This is never spelled out in the story, but Dwight picked up the violin named Madeleine in a pawn shop.  We know that Chrispen’s cousin pawned the instrument many years ago.  Dwight had such an obsession with Madeleine Avery Brooks that he bought the violin as soon as he saw the engraving on the back, without haggling over price, without caring where it came from or why it had that name.  He never read the will inside bequeathing the instrument to Chrispen, but he would not have told her or given it to her if he had.  You may have noticed that Dwight is more than halfway insane.  He imagined a connection between the violin and the woman he loved and would never have parted with the instrument.

Q: Do musicians really have to play behind screens at parties?
A: Not every party, obviously, but I have played at least two in my life that were set up as Kolbi described.  We came in a separate entrance, played behind a screen where we could not be seen, and left the same way we came in.  We never saw a single guest who attended the party, and they never saw us.

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