Issue 142: Rehearsing with an exam candidate

Today I had a run-through with a candidate who I will be accompanying in a couple of week’s time.

It gives me an opportunity to raise a issue which is dear to my heart, and I KNOW that I have posted on before!

After we had played through a slow movement of a Bach violin sonata, I asked her what she thought the piece was about. Errr. Umm. Don’t really know… I was expecting this as an answer, because that’s exactly what she communicated by her playing. Rhythmically accurate, intonation good, not much in the way of dynamics (none specified in the edition), but somehow, NO CONTENT.

So, I went through my usual questions; fast or slow? happy or sad? major or minor key? What kind of mood?

We decided that the mood was gently wistful, maybe remembering happy days gone by, even though it was in a major key. Perhaps revisiting a place where you had been very happy al long time ago. That, with a basic outline for dynamics of louder when you were higher pitched and playing faster notes (scary, for violinists!) and softer when playing more slowly or lower pitched phrases, and we tried it again.

Result! Now there was shape and communication.

If the player doesn’t understand the music, then their bewilderment is what the listener will hear.

The other suggestion I made was that she should try drawing simple objects, like flowers, or animals, using a single line, without lifting the pen from the paper. This was to encourage a longer line in her phrasing, and a sense of continuing the shape of the phrase all the way through.

Paul Klee, 'Burdened Children' 1930

Paul Klee Burdened Children 1930
Tate Modern
“A drawing is simply taking a line for a walk”

This is something I picked up from my daughter, whose drawings always have such long flowing lines and shapes. I remember her showing how important it is for finish your lines in a purposeful manner. Her comments have influenced the way I hear and play these long intricate phrases in music.

Poppy divider

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