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Karen Allendoerfer

Bach cello suite #1 on viola

March 12, 2007 at 11:20 AM

It snuck up on me, but my performance in church is less than a week away. I'm playing two movements from the Bach cello suite #1 on viola, the Prelude and the Courante, and the Louis Vierne Legende.

I feel reasonably well prepared. I can play the Courante easily from memory and the Legende almost from memory. That one is harder because I haven't played it with the pianist yet and I was never able to find a recording. I did record myself, though, and found and fixed a few intonation and shifting problems that are much better now.

The Prelude was a more recent addition. I'm playing it for the prelude to the service. People are going to be talking and filing in, and it's only around 2 minutes long. The very last line, the end, is still a little shaky. Some of it, right before the end, is a bit like the Preludio from Partita in E on violin, which I've auditioned on successfully, and that part I do pretty well here . . . but then I get to the last few measures, the climax, with the string crossings and the intonation can go out without my really understanding why. Some of what Corwin Slack wrote about shifting from a finger seems to help, as well as just keeping the left hand quiet and in position without unnecessary movements. First I just lift one finger, then I roll my fingers rather than lifting and repositioning. That seems good, when it works, but it doesn't always work. And I'm a little at sea with respect to "shifting to a position." Except for easy, low positions (i.e. 1-3), I generally have to stop and think about (and therefore get distracted by) what position I'm in. Is this 4th or 6th? Usually by the time I've figured that out the notes I was supposed to be playing are long gone. And I don't find that information all that useful anyway--I'm in 4th position now, then I'm in 5th for those 2 notes and then I'm in 6th and now back to 2nd--how does that help?

Anyway, I'm trying not to think too much about the performance itself because I'll get nervous, and nerves don't focus me, they just make me feel stressed out and ineffective. The goal-setting aspect of this performance has been great: I'm thrilled that I can play a lot of this stuff from memory and that I've learned two movements of this suite. Having and working towards a goal has given me a real sense of progress and accomplishment. But the emotional aspect of an impending performance is something I'd still rather forego if I could.

From John Chew
Posted on March 13, 2007 at 2:54 PM
You'll do fine. It is so appropriate - the majesty of Bach in a church
Have fun!
From Richard Hellinger
Posted on March 13, 2007 at 10:12 PM
I LOVE Bach's first cello suite prelude! And I have heard it is just as good on Viola! Sounds pretty good on the Euphonium too.

Yah, it must be something about bach and church, I am playing Bach's concerto in A minor at the VA church in a couple of weeks... Short notice, but it is really easy!

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 13, 2007 at 10:20 PM
The whole Bach A minor or just a movement?

One reason I am playing unaccompanied Bach is that it bugs me to practice pieces that need accompaniment when I don't have the accompaniment readily available. The Legende has piano accompaniment and I still haven't played both parts together because it's been hard to coordinate with the pianist. Yikes. We're going to rehearse Saturday and Sunday morning.

I'm biased, but at this point I think I prefer the cello suites on viola. I listened to a cello recording for a change of pace the other day and it just sounded too low. I feel like Goldilocks: the violin is too high, the cello is too low, but the viola is just right.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on March 14, 2007 at 3:20 AM
Karen- I LOVE teh 1st Suite Prelude! It was the first suite I started with... also the first time I ever shifted out of first position. For that last tricky line, look back one more line or so. What you are really doing is moving from 1st position, then a jump to 3rd for one beat, then to forth and remaining there until the final chord with a small 1/2 step shift. When I first learned this piece, my teacher had me play every other note (the higher ones) in those drone sections. After you get that down, add the remaining notes of the 16th note run (one of which is an open D). Since you stress the higher notes, any small intonation problems get lost a bit in the resonance of the open D and the higher note. Also the 2nd to last measure uses a fingered C on the D string, you can check your tuning if your lower C string gets its sympathetic vibration. The same thing happens with the measure before that with a fingered A.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 14, 2007 at 3:54 AM
Good luck, Karen! (Oh, I'm with you on the nerves business!)

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