Back from "Academic" Violin Hiatus: Ysaÿe 5!

October 26, 2020, 9:27 PM · I've been pulling out my violin a whole lot more this year than last. I think I really missed it, and playing is such a great stress relief. It also can be a wonderful way to take a break from staring at the computer screen all-day, which I feel is literally all I do, whether I'm working, doing classwork, or taking breaks watching videos or hanging out with friends on Google Hangouts or Zoom calls.

Yesterday, while I was waiting for videos to upload to Facebook for a student composition recital that evening (more on that coming soon!), since I couldn't use my computer at all and I was ready for a break composing my String Quartet, I pulled out my violin and one of the scores I brought with me in the bottom shelf of my drawer - my book of Ysaÿe Sonatas! I worked on the first movement of No. 2 with my teacher at Augustana. I sightread through it, and then flipped to No. 5 randomly. The more I played through the first movement (L'Aurore), the more excited I got about the piece, and this morning, I listened through the Dance rustique movement and started fingering L'Aurore. The piece reminds me in many ways of solo piano music by Debussy or Ravel, written for solo violin instead. As a pianist who has played plenty of solo piano music, it's great to have something to play on my violin, as I don't really have access to a keyboard at the moment easily. So here's an excuse to just play my violin for fun, just for myself, with this piece!

I absolutely adore this piece, despite its difficulty. I've already been able to get back into the swing of writing in fingerings and bowings (it's been so long since I've been in orchestra!). There are moments of the whole-tone scale, lots of fast gestures that sometimes use the pentatonic scale and remind me of Vaughan-Williams, but the quirk is all distinctly Ysaÿe, and are fantastic. As a composer, I love seeing how he utilizes counterpoint and allowing for a wide variety of textures to make up the piece. He brings back motifs beautifully as well throughout the two movements, unifying them together. And that ending is incredible! That's what really brought me to Ravel. It's definitely a showpiece, but I have confidence I can slowly learn it for fun, and I'm excited to see where this process takes me as a hobby violinist at this point (I suppose).

I'm not really sure what else I wanted to say, but I'm just super excited to be practicing again! I've been doing arrangements for a musical album I'm planning with a friend (violin duets), but this is the first "academic" piece I've worked on basically since I left Augustana, really. I'll keep updating the blog on more specific progress I've made, and depending on if I'm able to keep up a daily practice streak, we'll see where I'm at by the end of the semester.

Olaf the Violinmaker (whom TwoSet have showed off on their channel) in Australia recently did a video about how playing the violin (or any musical instrument, I'm just biased :P) can make you smarter. In taking the ideas he said in that video, I can use practicing violin before I start my coding homework as an excuse to get my brain warmed up and excited before I get back to the computer and am stuck. Maybe that's what I'll do when I code from now on; when I get stuck, I'll take a violin break and come back to it!


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