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Junior Tova Forman plays the violin. Madeline Fry | Col­legian

Saint-Saëns wrote the piece for a vir­tuoso.

The composer’s “Intro­duction and Rondo Capric­cioso,” per­formed by junior Tova Forman in last month’s Concerto/Aria Com­pe­tition, was meant to test the limits of both instrument and musician. Fingers fly across the strings, stunning the audience with swift, intricate bow strokes and dra­matic shifts between fiery enthu­siasm and tender musi­cality.

“It’s one of the most dif­ficult violin pieces that has won the con­certo com­pe­tition,” Pro­fessor of Music Melissa Knecht said. “She did a very, very expressive job. The slow, melodic sec­tions were gor­geous, and the fast sec­tions were impec­cable.”

Camille Saint-Saëns com­posed the piece in 1863 for his friend, the then-19-year-old vir­tuoso, Pablo de Sarasate, who fre­quently per­formed the piece on his European concert tours. Forman, who was a finalist in the Howard Department of Music 2018 Concerto/Aria Com­pe­tition, said she looks forward to per­forming the piece with the orchestra in their March per­for­mance.

Forman had actually planned to perform the piece at the com­pe­tition a year before, but an injury her ther­apist termed “double crunch,” which involved a pinched nerve in her neck and shoulders as well as inflam­mation in her arms, pushed the per­for­mance back a year. The injury forced her to stop playing for more than a month.

During that month, Forman said she focused on cog­nitive memory.

“During that time, I would just think about the Saint-Saëns,” she said with a laugh. “That’s really good actually — mem­o­rizing it without having the muscle memory — because then you really have it cog­ni­tively mem­o­rized. I could totally feel myself playing it if I con­cen­trated enough, even though I was just sitting there…I could even feel, ‘Oh, that went wrong; I lost my bowing right there,’ and I’d go back and do it again…I got to think about how I actually would want it to sound if I could play it that way.”

Although it was a chal­lenge not to be able to play, Forman said it did not affect her pos­i­tivity.

“My violin is part of who I am, but it was just nice to have it con­firmed that when I can’t even play my violin, I don’t feel as though I’ve lost part of my identity. I was just as happy in some ways,” Forman said. “I think some people play violin every day and not know what to do with them­selves if they don’t play.”

The judges placed seven per­formers out of the 26 who audi­tioned, and five of them will play in the orchestra’s two per­for­mances this semester. Holleman said the greatest chal­lenge is rehearsing. Forman said it was dif­ficult for her to determine the appro­priate volume at which to play, as violin can easily be over­whelmed by an orchestra.

“I think Dorothy DeLay said there are two dynamics that a solo vio­linist can use: forte and for­tissimo,” Forman said. “You don’t have much space to get really quiet because the orchestra’s going to bury you or you’re going to sound as though you’re scared of playing. You want at least a color change, even if you can’t dynam­i­cally alter what you’re doing.”

Forman majors in clas­sical studies, with minors in accounting and music. She teaches music, plays at a retirement home, and per­forms for various gigs. She also serves as one of the con­cert­masters for the orchestra.

“She’s always pos­itive in rehearsals when I see her,” Holleman said. “It’s always an uplifted, pos­itive attitude.”

Although she came to Hillsdale with a strong musical back­ground, Holleman said he has seen Forman mature even more as a musician during her time at the school. He gave Knecht the credit for that, as he noted that at every com­pe­tition, there is at least one winner from Knecht’s studio.

“Dr. Knecht is phe­nomenal,” Holleman said. “She was able to take an advanced player and con­tinue to advance her.”

Knecht agreed that Forman exhibits strong musi­cianship.

“Some­times stu­dents with strong musical ideas are not willing to listen to another opinion,” Knecht said. “But she listens to me, and we find out what will work best with her per­son­ality. She’s very mal­leable that way, but strong-willed as well.”

She said Forman is a “won­derful person in every way.”

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    The Saint-Saens violin con­certo is a great piece. If you like clas­sical music then you’ll enjoy this short ren­dition of Claude DeBussy’s ‘Clair de lune’, by pianist Kathia Buni­atishvili. She has great passion in her per­for­mance: https://youtu.be/DBl2ClXzt3U