Interview - Brenton Fyfield
August 2005: Brenton Fyfield (Vol.1 No.4)
Interview recorded by S.Kenan on 22/07/05
'The Violineri', is a quaint violin retail and repair shop situated
along Bridge Road Richmond in the city of Melbourne. He works away
sitting on a stool close to the front window. His white beard, long
thinning hair and the pair of spectacles perched on his nose give him
quite a distinguished appearance. "Playing he violin is a lifelong
thing," Brenton says, "And it's good spiritually. You can be sad and go
and play the violin and after ten minutes it's all gone, absorbed in the
music; it's wonderful. And you can be happy, and you pick up the
violin, and then you really fire." Brenton moved the business from
Melbourne to Ballarat last year then returned to Melbourne six months
I asked him how the move went.
A. The move went well. It was a lot of effort but it was a thing
I had to do. When I got there and took off my rose tinted glasses,
found it was necessary for me to come back to Melbourne. Well, I
started to miss Melbourne I guess. All the forces that were about in the
universe seemed to be telling me, 'You are in the wrong spot.' It's
working really well now. It's fabulous and I love it. People were very
supportive when I returned, players, students and general public. The
response I got from the local Richmond people was overwhelming. It was
lovely. I am thrilled to be back.The Violineri Shop
Piatigorsky attempted to play the 'Baudiot' Stradivarius cello, a little
voice came from the scroll. It said:" Who the hell do you think you
are?" He never played it again. Have you ever felt a similar thing in
of some instruments?
A. No. But let me elaborate
on that. I find that with the violin that you play regularly yourself
there may be some days when you think, "Golly, this is not going so well
today. What's wrong with the 'thing.'" Usually it is not the 'thing '
at all, it is yourself. You are not, for want of a better word 'in tune'
with the instrument, with the soul of the instrument. You are perhaps
fighting against it. I think that is the time when you say, "We are not
succeeding here," so you put the instrument back in it's case. You try
again later and it usually works. The other thing you find is, the
violin or any stringed instrument for that matter, likes to be and needs
to be played in tune absolutely, absolutely impeccably because the
vibrations work when everything is in tune. The quality of the sound is
at it's optimum. If it's just slightly out of tune that all goes because
all the overtones and everything have disappeared. The sound becomes
I think that's what happens when we get this little
message, not quite so succinct as dear old Piatigorsky did, but we get
this message from the instrument saying, "It's not me, it's you." Then
you get the other side of that coin when you are completely ready to
play and everything is just right and you're playing right in tune and
the violin just jumps. It vibrates right through your being and it's the
most amazing feeling and that's what we all aim for
I guess. It is a good thing to do.
Q. What are some of your favourite pieces of music and what do you play when you are working?
I have the complete set of the Bach Cantatas and I always start the day
by playing some cantatas. There are six discs in each set and there are
ten sets so there are sixty CD's. It takes me ten weeks to go round the
cycle. They just keep going around and around and around.
And after that, I listen mostly to chamber music I suppose. Quartets quintets, sonatas and not necessarily string music.
have the Beethoven piano sonatas, which I love, the Mozart piano
sonatas which I love, Beethoven and Mozart piano concertos complete
which are gorgeous. Also a lot of Baroque music like Corelli, Vivaldi,
all that sort of stuff and that goes on all day. I also burn
frankincense in the morning while I'm having breakfast and that seems to
waft off down into the shop and
I vaporise aromatic oils throughout the day and this is very therapeutic.
The German's have a saying, "The longest way home is often the
shortest". You must have horror stories about shortcuts performed on
delicate instruments. I met a double bassist in Geelong who had taken
the top off his instrument to insert a pick up then glued the top back
with epoxy resin.
A. For most people the instrument is a part of
them, I would like to think of it as being an extension of your soul.
Incidentally, the European's refer to the sound post as the soul. I have
had people come into the shop and say, "Could you adjust the 'soul'?"
So they refer to the sound post as the soul of the instrument which is
really beautiful I think.
With the instrument that you play, you
unconsciously do or should think of it as part of your soul. Or
certainly part of you so you take it to a recognised repairer. If
anything goes wrong with yourself, you go to the doctor so if there is
anything wrong with your instrument you should go to its doctor. It
doesn't have to be a valuable instrument. I think the repairers in
Melbourne would all go along with that idea that whatever the instrument
that comes in whether it even be a cheap student instrument it is still
part of that child's being and so it has to be treated accordingly and
be cleaned and presented back to them in a lovely condition. You have to
be conscious that it's not yours, it's somebody else's and they
You should talk to Ben Puglisi, perhaps that is what
double bass players do. I don't know but anyhow I think it's a shame
when people do that sort of thing because when something serious goes
wrong with it then it's really difficult to do a repair. In the long
term, you don't really save anything. It's only that you can't claim the
thing on Medicare.
Q. Do you play an instrument and how long have you
Yes, The violin, which I have been playing for 65 years. I began at 9
years of age. Then I took on playing the viola about fifteen years ago
because I thought by doing that I could be in a string quartet and not
have to do as much practice because there weren't as many notes. But I
discovered, much like the move to Ballarat, that doesn't happen. You
have still got to be good so I play viola a lot also and I enjoy working
on the Bach cello suites which have been transposed for the viola. Not
only can I explore violin music, but now I can explore viola music and
also some cello stuff. I have done some public recitals on the viola
At the moment, I am collating a programme, which
will include violin and viola to perform next year. I have a pianist up
in Mullumbimby, Ian Knowles. We will do a concerthere in Melbourne and
also in Mansfield and Northern New South Wales. If you don't have some
sort of a goal to set yourself, it's very easy to become a bit
complacent about your playing or a bit complacent about your practice
maybe. Whereas if you are going to do something and you are going to do
it properly, you have to think about every aspect of your playing and
build your technique up as well as you can and be as regular as you can
and the rewards are there aren't they? The rewards just automatically
follow because it's the practice. In my case it will be for twelve
months, to get the thing to it's peak. That's where the excitement and
the pleasure is. Not necessarily just going on and knocking off an hour
and a half's concert. Well that is nice too.