Beethoven Spring Sonata - Opening

Edited: January 25, 2018, 3:22 PM · I have the Henle edition of Sonata No.5(Spring) edited by Max Rostal. The opening of the Allegro has an up bow marking instead of a down bow. What do think is the reasoning for that? I have been using a downbow because in part I'm breathing in on the upbeats and putting a little more stress on 1st and 3rd bars of the 4 bar phrase. I'm curious what everyone thinks.

Replies (12)

Edited: January 25, 2018, 2:22 PM · I liked to start it up bow and marked my music that way. I can't remember whom I saw do that, might have been Aaron Rosand**, but it lets you "gentle into it" without any chance of roughness and I think that is very important for this music.***

Emphasis on measures not so marked by Ludwig is a matter of taste, just not mine!

I'm reminded of when my (then) 6 year-old grandson performed Für Elise on the piano and I marveled at how he played those 16th note passages with no emphasis on the beats - clearly the way to do it!

** Who has been my favorite performer of the Beethoven sonatas and especially this one.

*** In all honesty, my right arm has gotten so bad in the past 3 years that I probably should not be giving advice about this any more - but I still have my memory!

January 25, 2018, 3:33 PM · Thanks Andrew for that feedback. I'm curious. As a cellist, do you think of up and down bows the same way as a violinist?
January 25, 2018, 3:46 PM · It is always interesting to play with no intentiononal accentuation, and let the texture of the writing guide us. Composers sometimes deliberately hide the meter; surely this sonata movement is not derived from dance patterns!


I think of a sunny spring morning: I can either open the curtains briskly or gently.

January 25, 2018, 4:25 PM · Down bow is harder when it comes to control (bow speed/dynamics). Think of the difference of having to climb up the hill and you get tired gradually, but when you come back down you are asked to walk at that particular slow speed. Which will be quite difficult.
January 25, 2018, 4:31 PM · Raymond, Yes! As a beginning cellist at age 14 I had already been playing violin for 10 years and found the feeling of a bow on strings to be pretty much the same. I thought of up and down bows in exactly the same way - although there are some differences for chords, string changes and certain arpeggiation because the low strings of a cello are on the right instead of the left - and the gravity force vector is angled from the strings instead of directly into them.

Adrian - beautiful image! Maybe why I love that sonata so - and I did see Szigeti perform it at my college - probably 1954 - but I already loved it before then.

January 25, 2018, 10:36 PM · I have seen many violinists start with up bow at the beginning. Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman for example. I found playing the opening phrase up bow is lot easier and more enjoyable than down bow. When I first learned this piece I was told to use down bow but now up bow is the way to go.
January 26, 2018, 7:34 AM · Starting up bow I think has the point to land on the first beat of bar 4 with a down bow which is where the phrase is going (if one feels that to be the case which is individual) and the same with the first beat of bar 6. I never felt very comfortable starting with an up bow so I solved the problem by starting down bow, playing bar 1 down bow, bar 2 up bow the playing the first half of bar 3 down bow and the second half up bow which gave me more room to play towards the first beat of bar 4. In any case this sort of thing is very individual and personal as we can see in these comments.
January 26, 2018, 6:59 PM · Possibly the initial string-change is easier to get smooth then?
January 27, 2018, 1:40 PM · An up at the beginning helps you take bar 3 on an up and then start bar 4 on a down. Surely the start of bar 4 is the peak of the phrase so that's where you want a down. Why's it the peak of the phrase? Because the minim C is a dissonance that resolves into the accompaniment's G minor with the Bflat.

Well, that's my view anyway - Beethoven could have spelled it out if he really wanted.... :)

January 27, 2018, 8:52 PM · Does any one of you notice certain violinists like Ray Chen who plays the opening of Thais Meditation up bow instead of down bow? Most score will indicate down bow to play the F# but even one of my early teacher who was a concert master played up bow instead. Any comment why?
January 28, 2018, 2:01 AM · An up bow surely is the only way to get that initial sound right . Having said that I suppose to try it both ways is very good practice .
January 29, 2018, 12:45 PM · Peace Lee I think it's for similar reasons as have been outlined here - issues of emphasis and tone quality, and maybe string crossing

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