First of all, I want to say “Amen” and “Amen” to the efforts of co-authors Amy Rosen and William Eckfeld for putting this pre-Simandl pedagogical method forth. From my first experiences with Simandl (the orange book we all have come to know) it has always stood in my mind as a somewhat dry, complex, boring text. The method is dated… Franz Simandl lived from 1840-1912 and studied with Josef Hrabe at the Prague Conservatory. What “My First Simandl” brings to the music studio is a more practical approach and preparation to the old Simandl that I feel is much better sequenced and student-friendly.
It is apparent that efforts have been made to sequence the skills in a more pedagogially-minded fashion. In the preface the authors write, “However, there are many areas where the studies [the original Simandl book] started at a level of difficulty, which has made it unrealistic for use by young players. Therefore, some studies have been shortened in length or have had note values doubled. The studies have been arranged in an order taking into account tonality, grade of difficulty and style. The studies chosen were considered to be the most important ones for the student at this particular stage of technical development.” Also, the preface to the original Simandl edited by Lucas Drew (1984) is re-printed to demonstrate the essential involvement of the teacher in that method and how it is ideally to be used.
Specifically, I like the fact that the authors used existing etudes and excerpts from Simandl and his 30 Etudes book as source material for this method, without deviating or introducing other musical ideas. The book is broken down into two parts: 1) Scales and Arpeggios and 2) Technique. The move to start in first position is a positive change since it is not only more logical from beginning note-reading point of view, but it also gives a point of reference for learning half-position and developing that larger hand span that high on the neck which is necessary in half-position. The following pages move up through the positions like the original but do a nice job of presenting the pitches and fingers on each string before going into the exercises. The highest position reached in this method is IV [fourth] position with about 10-11 level-appropriately placed scales that appear with the introduction of new positions. The Technique portion of the book is quite a bit shorter, but covers some of the essentials with regard to bowing such as simple double-stops, bowing pattern variations (this is excellent!), and hooked and slurred bow patterns. Finally, a trio of three short solo pieces (which also appear in Festival Performance Solos by Carl Fischer) is included at the end as part of the solo literature.
Lastly, the presentation is clean and easy to read. Fingerings are consistent and the overall feel of the book seems very accessible and not daunting. I really look forward to using this method book in the near future with my students.