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Cui`s cool pedagogical works....

November 26, 2009 at 5:11 AM


The name Cesar Cui is probably vaguely familiar to most violinists.  He wrote a very well known encore the precise name of which I have, or course, forgotten that appears in the Heifetz encore books among other places.  Oriental something or other. There is a wonderful Elman recording to boot, another great violinist who should be studied by all. He has written many works for violin, including a very good violin sonata of which a recording by Kogan is still currently available, coupled with Mozart of all things!
Reason I mention him is that I find him not only a superb composer in general but someone who has a great feel for the violin and a certain probably unintentional knack of writing in a very pedagogically useful way.  I have been using one of his set  of short pieces for some time and would like to introduce and comment on some aspects of them over the course of a few blogs.  If you don’t have the music then guess what? You can download it for free from IMSLP: Cesar Cui- `Six Bagatelles for Violin and Piano.`   If you don’t have a copy then reading on is largely pointless ;)
What I love about these charming short little movements (bagatelles, in fact) is that they are of, as I stated above, powerful pedagogic value .  However, the value is not so easily defined as merely technical.  Rather the music itself leads and as a consequence a students technique advances unobtrusively but surely. The pieces are about the same level, perhaps somewhat easier than the Dancla `Aires Varies` of which number one is very much standard repertoire.  Of course the degree of difficulty resides in what one demands of the students.  You can play it in first position of plat it in fifth! (kind of thing). I’m going to jump straight in with number four in this blog because it is a favorite of mine.  It’s `A la Mazurka.`
Initial introduction.
I ask a student to research what a Mazurka is and listen to as many as they can find on youtube.  I stress that not only should it be violin but piano and indeed as many other instruments or combinations as possible.  Make a note of what they find and listen to and we talk about it at the next lesson.
Next session.
I hand them a copy of the music and ask them to prepare it from memory for next week.  I may not ask for all of it depending on the level of the student. We talk about how one might go about memorizing such a work.  Through a process of questioning I elicit simple things like the key and then ask them to note the phrase lengths.  With a few exceptions there are very clearly defined four bar phrases of material.  I help the student discover that many of these phrases are actually identical or although they are transposed the actual relationship between the notes (IE patterns) is identical.  By means of this observation the student is able to see that there is actually very little to learn.   We also discuss key changes and chord patterns. Students may work on the piano but not use the violin this week.
Next session.
Having mentally mastered the structure and sound of the work we talk about some technical aspects of practicing with the violin.
In the first four bar phrase we discuss how the mind must have a clear image of exactly what each individual finger is doing in each chord and how it moves there from the previous chord.  For example, the second finger moves from the a string to the d and g together in the second chord.  It is not in the third but must remain poised above the d string for the fourth chord.  The analog versus digital concept of Mr Haslop is discussed in detail here.  In the next four bars we discuss the technical basis of two musical demands:   a crescendo over two bars (increase bow speed) and a transition from legato to spiccato (How to work through the bow).. We might discuss how the relationship between the first and third finger changes from a minor third c# to e to a major third ato c# and how this different spacing changes before the shift is made in slow practice so that it will occur naturally during the shift.
 The next four bars is a repeat of the opening. The student then notes that the next four bars begin as the second phrase a fifth lower and the crescendo begins –earlier requiring a precise difference.   The student compares fingering choices of going up the a string or staying in first position.  The small chromatic section in the third bar invites a discussion of sliding versus `clean` fingering.. These kinds of passages are also good for developing independence of left and right hand.  The bow plays sustained notes on the g string while the left hand plays the scales.  Bar seventeen onwards gives one the option of moving into the fourth position (b18) so that the subito piano of the next phrase can easily be taken on the a string..
The four bar phrase beginning b25 has a jump from a third position b up to a seventh position a.  Keeping the first finger down on the a string (the preceding note) helps to provide stability in the big leap which is a relatively high technical demand out of the blue.  For less advanced players simply keep the passage down one octave.  The very high ending of the piece can be similarly modified..  The four bar pizz passages provide excellent training for orchestral work and pizz in general.  Study the difference between keeping the left hand finger down (long pizz) and releasing the pressure (shorter).  The last two bars provide an example of left hand pizz and harmonics.  Only two of each and simple enough.   Start them young on these…
A great deal of attention should be paid to contrasting dynamics when preparing this piece.  That is part of the fun! The rest is self explanatory but introduce the idea that doing a passage in the same way twice is the rocky road to boredom. Thus although bar 5 of the third section of the work is identical to a phrase in the first section where it was in fourth, this could be played in first for a different sonority. The student is then made aware that the reverse is also possible and that they need to start really listening and making decisions about the kind of sound they want at a specific moment.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 26, 2009 at 10:44 PM

I'll look at this when I'll finish this lab report...   but THANKS A MILLION TIMES FOR THIS LINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I didn't think such a jewel of a website would even exist! (I had seen a little similar but so complicated and with less repertoire)



From Corwin Slack
Posted on November 27, 2009 at 2:53 AM

 Here is a link,_Op.51_(Cui,_César_Antonovich)

From Royce Faina
Posted on November 27, 2009 at 1:48 PM

Is the name "Cui' " pronounced, kwEE ?

Also, If I read correctly, the peice leaves some room for a student to experiment?

From Ray Randall
Posted on November 27, 2009 at 5:22 PM

I've played the "Oriental" in public before. It's one of the few pieces he wrote that people play, according to one review. I'd love to hear Elman playing it, how do you find that?

From Corwin Slack
Posted on November 27, 2009 at 10:09 PM

Not Elman but perhaps next best Toscha Seidl



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