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The 'Ein Heldenleben' Journey: Part 2

Daniel Tan

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Published: January 18, 2015 at 9:56 AM [UTC]

This can also be read here at my own personal blog along with a variety of other topics and conversations.

The last week has been a somewhat patchy one. Life has been getting busier and I'm in the process of finding a new violin, which is not only proving time consuming and emotionally draining, but also a massive headache regarding the insurance policies of various violin dealers. Irrespective of all that, most things feel back to normal with managing life and regular practice.

Most significantly, I can feel my physical form returning with regards to violin. The cobwebs of a few weeks off are well and truly being swept away and my sense for the subtleties of both hands definitely seems to be returning. This has all been helpful with my progress on the Strauss. I got a chance to listen to the whole thing earlier this week and it is truly a magnificent piece (with some incredible string writing). In particular, there is a section a few figures after the solo ends which is particularly sublime in my opinion (and also included in my excerpts). Also upon further exploration, I've isolated my excerpts properly and (perhaps thankfully) a part of the solo isn't required for this audition. In some regards, it feels like a bit of a shame that I'm not required to learn the whole thing and I think it would feel like much more of an achievement, but hopefully it won't be the last time I have to tackle anything from this work!

The first half now feels fairly solid in terms of the fingerings and bowing and for the most part I don't have any trouble playing at tempo. (That said, counting the rests is still proving to be a bit perplexing). I've also listened around to a number of renditions of the solo in my bid to approach this more musically. The diversity of interpretations is really something, and everything from tempo to use of rubato differs between all the recordings I've listened to. Some are quite liberal in interpretation while others are much closer to what is written on the page. Since I am learning this completely from scratch and have no preconceived notions anyway, it has all proven to be very interesting and helpful.

Now that the first half is predominantly under the proverbial belt (of course there is still much polishing going on), I've spent a lot of the last week experimenting with tempo, tone colour and the varying directions the musical markings provide. For example, I've spent a great deal of time trying out different ways of playing the numerous 'calandos' that Strauss has marked. How much does one slow down or get quieter? Similarly, achieving a 'somewhat sentimental' sound has been and interesting challenge.

The latter part of the solo which descends into what I can only term madness via the means of manic triple stops has presented its own set of challenges. The obvious hurdles of tuning and tone production aside, one thing I've found particularly difficult is the use of rubato to make it technically achievable but also musically valid (and again the variations are fairly broad on YouTube). Needless to say, a lot of rhythm and slow practice is still going to be needed for this one.

On the whole, I think most things are beginning to settle down and all of it feels much more comfortable and familiar. I still feel however that I'm a while away from making many of the musical decisions I will need to make later on. I don't really mind yet. After all, musical interpretations are at the best of times, always in a state of flux and the more I become acquainted with this piece of music, the more possibilities there seem to be.

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