Todd Ehle - advanced violin expert
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How to approach Bach's Sonata No. 1 - Adagio

Helpful tips to study the Adagio from Sonata No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach

Released on April 3, 2013

  
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Comments/Questions/Requests:

B Correa on January 6, 2014 @12:00 am PST
If it's in g minor, why do you think Bach wrote the key signature without the e flat?
poicpi * VSM MEMBER * on June 7, 2013 @2:01 am PST
Him again,it would be possible to show also for the fugue,the chords technique?Thanks
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Todd Ehle - host, on June 12, 2013 @7:58 am PST
That's a very good request. Let me think about it a little... I appreciate your input. poicpi!
Patrick on May 8, 2013 @3:46 pm PST
Thanks, Todd, this is great. My two kids 8 & 5 are doing Suzuki violin. The older one is learning Country Dance in bk5. Technically she is quite capable of doing these pieces. But for slow pieces like the 2nd mvts of the A- & G- concertos, or even the lullabies in bk4, the level of sensitivity or expressiveness does not quite catch up. Now I recognize there may be only so much you can expect from an 8 yr old, but on the other hand there is this Suzuki "every child can" philosophy. I can't think of better things to say other than "can you play it with more feelings?" which is hardly granular enough to have any effect. Aside from just listening more to recordings, are there concrete steps suitable for her age that can help nudge things along in this respect? That would be my burning question. Thanks a lot.
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Todd - host, on May 12, 2013 @6:20 pm PST
Hi Patrick, That is a great question, with a complex answer. As a student develops the ability to add dynamics, different articulations and vibrato, their choice of potential 'colors' they can add to their music opens up. Still, true musicality is more that just loud and soft, etc. I think a teacher needs to help a student learn about shaping a phrase. We teachers give the students our ideas of interpretation, and hopefully they will start to transfer this skill to new works. One technique that is very successful is to have them sing the part, then play what they just sang. Anyway, it's a long process, but very rewarding. Thanks.
Mary * VSM MEMBER * on April 11, 2013 @5:44 am PST
how do you do the tr on the music that i play like canon in d
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Todd - host, on April 13, 2013 @3:15 pm PST
Hi Mary, I'm not sure if you are asking what the tr. means, or how to execute a trill (which is what the tr. indicates). Pachelbel, like Bach was a baroque composer, and it is standard to begin a baroque trill on the upper note, or the pitch above the written note. You will then tap the upper finger very quickly, and finally end on the written note. I had a teacher who said that the speed of the trill was not as important as the articulation. You want to hear both notes clearly. I find that holding the written pitch firmly helps with this. I hope that helps.
Helen * VSM MEMBER * on April 9, 2013 @12:11 pm PST
Thank you Todd, this is really interesting and useful information to have. Can I put in a request that you make a video on the first movement of the Mendelssohn Concerto? There are plenty of techniques in there such as the octaves in bars 41+, accurate shifting in the first 4 bars, and the saltando section. Having a copy marked up with the fingering/working/shifts etc, as suggested by Bridget (below) would also be an excellent idea.
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Todd - host, on April 10, 2013 @2:02 pm PST
Thanks for this, Helen. I really appreciate you posting the request, and I'll see what I can do to help.
Bridget on April 8, 2013 @6:21 am PST
That was great. Thankyou and looking forward to the next one in the series! Just an idea - I was wondering if you would consider selling your marked up copies for the pieces you are showcasing with bowings/fingerings etc. through the website for educational purposes? I would definately be interested in purchasing them. Kind regards
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Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator, on April 8, 2013 @9:32 am PST
Thank you for your comment Bridget. We would love to have Todd taking care of bowings/fingerings of our Sonatas and Partitas. We will discuss all this with Todd. Thank you for your feedback!
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Bridget on April 8, 2013 @5:34 pm PST
Great! That's an even better idea! After it's published maybe Todd could return to these pieces and explore various approaches to rhythmic and dynamic interpretation in more depth as well as discussing architectural aspects :) I see you are an accomplished violinist yourself. I think you guys are going to make a great team! Best wishes
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator, on April 8, 2013 @5:56 pm PST
Thank you Bridget, we'll surely make something like that. Thank you again for your kind words!
Todd - host, on April 8, 2013 @4:31 pm PST
Thank you, Bridget.
Ryan on April 8, 2013 @6:10 am PST
Really interesting! I am an amateur violinist who is in love with the Bach solo music, and generally I don't know how to approach MOST of the pieces. I appreciate your subdivision statement, and wonder how you would approach the chaconne. Also, as I am working on improving the bowing (as that is behind the left hand), how you would address that technically with this particular piece and the chaconne, as well. Thank you.
aMaudPowellFan * VSM MEMBER * on April 6, 2013 @12:09 pm PST
This promises to be a great series. As to further topics, I am working on Viotti concerto a minor, 22, and would appreciate input on style and the passage of rapid bow changes between D and E string. Also, playing in higher positions on the G string, like in the beginning of Monti's Czardas.
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Todd - host, on April 8, 2013 @4:35 pm PST
Hi, I love your user 'name!' I'm interested in the violinists from that era as well. Thank you for the recommendations. I have a student working on Viotti now, however I've never played the work. Only the 23rd. Czardas is an excellent choice, thanks!
aMaudPowellFan * VSM MEMBER * on April 9, 2013 @5:54 am PST
Hi Todd, yes, I could talk volumes about Maud Powell. Too bad that I cannot have more names. aMaryHallFan would be next on my list. You might remember my real name (Anne Br├╝ggemann-Klein).

Which cadenza does your student use for the Viotti 22 first movement? I haven't decided yet, probably Kreisler.

And thank you in advance for whatever you decide to do next. I trust that everything will be of benefit!
Todd Ehle - host, on April 9, 2013 @10:56 am PST
Anne, of course I remember you. I'll look into that Viotti cadenza..
Peter Smith * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @7:19 pm PST
i just re-started working on this (it's my favorite piece), so really appreciated the variety of approaches - i've counted it in quarters and eighths while playing it, but your approach with the thirtyseconds really changed my perspective. it's easy to let it get too improvisational and this will pull me back from thinking purely in quarters.

for next time.... something on the Beethoven Spring sonata?
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Todd - host, on April 5, 2013 @1:53 pm PST
Hi Peter, The 'Spring' Sonata is an excellent idea, thanks!
Eddie Parente * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @12:08 pm PST
This is fantastic, a perfect topic and very concise explanation of a piece that to this day, after all these years, I still am striving for!
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Todd Ehle - host, on April 4, 2013 @4:46 pm PST
I think we all feel that way, Eddie. I can play Solo Bach every day and it is still fresh, and ALWAYS difficult. Keep striving, I'm doing it with you.
Chapete * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @10:49 am PST
I am so very glad that you are showing this. It has helped me understand the counting and interpretation. Too many "loose" interpretations seem to confuse the learning violinist.
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Todd - host, on April 4, 2013 @11:43 am PST
Thanks, Chapete. It can be very confusing, I agree. I like to feel confident in my understanding of the rhythms, then try to let the piece flow and just forget about them. Best to you!
John Woodbridge * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @9:51 am PST
Thankyou Tood, I have struggled with the timing in these slower more rythmically complex movements for some time and have previously relied on recordings by Menuhin and Tognetti for guidance, but often liberties are taken (particularly Tognetti). I believe that it is vital to have an accurate understanding of the timing before adding one's own interpretation.
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Todd - host, on April 4, 2013 @10:54 am PST
Hi John, I agree that it is very difficult. I remember being a graduate student and still struggling with it while learning the Sonata #2. I hope this will give you a way to find it a little less intimidating. Best of luck!
Chad Kurtzman * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @7:23 am PST
Very helpful! I have not approached playing Bach like this, but will now. Please keep this series going. Thanks.
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Todd Ehle - host, on April 4, 2013 @9:17 am PST
Thank you, Chad. I'm very interested in hearing different approaches to these works. I would suggest listening to the recordings of Joseph Joachim, Arnold Rose' Joseph Szigeti, Arthur Grumiaux and Henryk Szeryng, as well as Sigiswald Kuijken (the baroque violinist), to hear some wildly different approaches to this movement. Best of luck to you!
Robert Hodgetts * VSM MEMBER * on April 4, 2013 @2:12 am PST
Hello Todd
I like that you present more than one particular view. For me this piece and indeed other Bach solos are often played to fast and loose musicality. Nice approach
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Todd Ehle - host, on April 4, 2013 @9:18 am PST
Hi Robert, I appreciate your input. Thank you.
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