My violin teacher here in Vienna, Barbara Gorzynska, is a fiery Polish woman and an amazing player. She teaches through IES and at the Prayner Konservatorium in Vienna, with about 20 students in her studio; today alone, she started teaching at 11:30 (I’m her first student on Tuesdays), and her last student came at 7:45 pm. She also always has a glass of orange juice when I walk in her door (after the four flights of stairs to get to her apartment) and a box of chocolates “for your treep home.” (I love her accent!)


was the only photo I could find of her online, and it’s from several years ago.

I had looked her up online before coming to Vienna, and the only information I could find about her described her as “strict and demanding.” The article went on to tell a story about one of her students through IES, in which “he showed up for a rehearsal without having practiced his part, [and] the teacher [Barbara] whacked him on the forehead with a pencil, saying, “If you ever come to my rehearsals without having practiced, I’ll rip your hair out!”

So I was nervous walking into my first lesson. Especially considering she said she lived on the second floor, but the second floor in Europe is equivalent to the third floor in the US, and there was an unmarked mezzanine level before the first floor, so I almost walked into her neighbor’s apartment. The first thing she said to me when I walked in the door: “Oh! You are a girl! I am glad you are a girl; I like teaching girls.”

Barbara turned out to be very sweet, though – demanding, yes, but very kind. At my second lesson she tried playing my violin, made fun of my “boul-sheet strings” (she said they put too much pressure on my instrument – “You Americans! Always so much tension!”) and started planning a trip to a local string factory, where she knows the owner and promised to give me a free set of strings.

She started me on more music than I’ve ever played at once in my life – Hindu Lied by Rimsky-Korsakov (“It will be good for you, no? Indian song, just like you.”), Liebesfreud by Kreisler (“You are in Vienna! So play something from Vienna!”), one of Paganini’s caprices, and Bach’s towering Chaconne, from the Partita No. 2 for solo violin. When I told her today that my Easter break plans fell through and that I’d be staying in Vienna instead of meeting family in Spain, her response was, “Good! You practice.”

For tomorrow’s recital, I’m playing the first movement from the Second Partita, the Allemanda. I played it for her at my first lesson, and she asked who told me to play with so little vibrato. We then had a conversation about the “correct” way of playing Baroque music; the too-prevalent modern version, with too little vibrato and not enough sound, she called “boul-sheet Barock,” and instructed me to never play that way again.

so many arches! at Schönbrunn

A shorter post today, as it’s very late and this week has been busy (but what else is new?) – Vienna Philharmonic on Sunday (Dvorak and Suk), classes yesterday and a 2.5-hour-long opera last night (Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites), a lesson today and a 3-hour-long opera tonight (Gounod’s Faust), and 2 classes, lunch with Steve, a recital, and Liszt’s Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth tomorrow.

oh wow. Gute Nacht!