After watching the proms a new expression has crept into my vocabulary. It’s an expression used to describe someone that is concentrating so hard, or that is so caught in the moment, that their face seems to be afflicted with some sort of muscle spasm and otherwise normally featured, even beautiful, people are transformed into contestants from a gurning competition.
I call it violin face; an over emphasis of joy, angst, sadness, or chin ache that proclaims the professional violinist is feeling deeply for his art. Just why do violinists pull such strange faces? Sometimes it looks like they have constipation, other times diarrhoea or even (God forbid) a stroke! Just what's going on?
We’ve all seen it. From Yehudi Menuhin to Nigel Kennedy, Vanessa Mae to Scala, Basil Rathbone to that Cumberbatch chap, they all pull those funny cartoon faces whenever the pick up their instruments. Even that bloody smug André Rieu runs the full emotional spectrum from A-B whenever he’s on the fiddle.
It seems that concert violinists must feel things far more deeply than the rest of us. Or at least that’s the way it looks judging by the range of expressions that pass across their faces when they’re playing. I can’t imagine a car mechanic or a plumber contorting their features to represent their innermost feelings as they fit a new tap or change a spark plug. Even most actors appear a little wooden when compared to Nicola Benedetti in full violining flow.