Feedback/tips for starting Vivaldi Concerto A minor

December 3, 2016 at 08:20 PM · Hello everybody, I almost can't believe it's been six months since I posted my progress video on this forum ( Time goes by so fast!! I had received lots of very helpful feedback and I've been working with your feedback for the past six months - mainly focusing on playing with better tone, improving intonation and better bow technique.

My next project is learning the Vivaldi Concerto in A minor and I was wondering if you could give me some tips as to which things I should pay attention to based on my current playing. The recording shows my current playing of Bourree by Bach. Thanks so much :-)

Replies (28)

December 3, 2016 at 08:48 PM · Mariko, you've made really good progress. You play well in tune, and your position looks very good, too. Have you started doing vibrato? You are ready. Vivaldi A minor is a bit of a leap but you can probably do it if you take it in small steps. Make sure that, while you are learning it, you continue to do a daily review of pieces you already know, because the main thing you need at this point is fluency, and fluency will come with repetition of pieces you know well.

December 3, 2016 at 09:32 PM · I quite agree!

For the Vivaldi, I recommend practicing a two-octave scale of C major; (a) in 1st position, with an extended 4th finger for the high C; (b) entirely in third position, (adding the high D with the pinky) so the fingers get really used to the new spacings.

If you use Sukuki's position exercises, be sure to play the F natural with the same "leaning-back" index-finger that you use in the Bourré, but a "square" index as a base for the third position; i.e. the finger-tip travels farther than the first knuckle. This will avoid much frustration when you try that "leap into the unknown" halfway down page one, with its tricky subsequent downward scale.

December 3, 2016 at 11:12 PM · A standing ovation for Mariko!

December 4, 2016 at 10:36 AM · Thanks so much for the nice comments and tips! :-)

@Laurie Niles: I will make sure to learn the Vivaldi concerto in small steps as you say. I started yesterday and I really like it! I did start learning vibrato some months ago but I've never focused very much on it. I haven't spend much time on it yet, sometimes a couple of minutes. I will now dedicate more time on it on a daily basis, because it would be nice to add vibrato when playing this concerto. For now my vibrato doesn't sound too bad, but it seems like I can only do it for a short time, like 2 or 3 seconds, and then my finger stops... so I will need a lot more vibrato practice.

@Adrian Heath: I'm using the 3rd position book by Heather Broadbent and also the Laoureux violin method for learning 3rd position. But I will now start doing the Suzuki's position exercises. Thanks for the tip about the leaning and square first finger! So far, I really enjoy playing in 3rd position and it will be nice to use it in the concerto. :-)

December 4, 2016 at 10:43 AM · We all look forward to hearing & watching even part of the concerto!

December 4, 2016 at 02:13 PM · That's very encouraging! Thanks so much! I'll keep you posted :-)

I was wondering if you can recommend me a specific etude to work on while learning the concerto? I'm now working on Wohlfahrt Op 45 etude 23...

December 4, 2016 at 03:30 PM · Mariko,

Are you familiar with Kreutzer Etudes? There are only a few of them which I loathe. With no teacher, number 12 is straightforward and would be good shifting practice for you to work on a few measures at a time.

December 4, 2016 at 04:13 PM · Common mistakes to avoid that befall most students:

1. Up-bow does not mean tip. Don't automatically place pickup notes at the tip.

2. consistent articulation: most 8ths in this piece are bouncy, not legato.

3. Obtain decent bowings. Throw out the Viotti-style silliness that someone thought was a good idea if you're using Suzuki.

4. Throw out your Suzuki edition. You look vaguely Scandinavian. Use it to wrap herring.

5. If you are not Scandinavian, use your Suzuki edition to wrap whatever delicious smoked/salted fish is popular in your area.

6. The biggest stumbling block in the 1st movement is the jump up to the high D, which is often on the page break. Use a reference finger to shift, and work this area the hardest. In many editions, you have to turn the page--no wonder few students ever really master it. Why does no one make a copy and tape it to the previous page when I ask them? Sigh.

December 4, 2016 at 04:17 PM · Thanks Jeff Jetson, yes I do have a copy of the Kreutzer Etudes. I haven't learned any so far from Kreutzer. I just looked at number 12, pretty large, so I indeed I would only do a couple of measures per day. From what I could see so far, this etude seems to use only 1st, 2nd and 3rd position. Is that correct?

December 4, 2016 at 04:23 PM · Super! Thanks a lot for the list of common mistakes Scott! I'll try to not make them... :-) Hmmm I don't know what the Viotti-style is... And what edition do you recommend then? I'll pay attention for the shift to high D! And yes I was thinking of making a copy of the first page because I really don't like the page turn LOL

December 4, 2016 at 05:14 PM · The Viotti-style bowings are those silly ones you find in the Suzuki books where you have the middle two of a 4-note grouping slurred, thus not only making the bowing unnecessarily awkward but musically poor due to the syncopation.

I don't know who else publishes the Vivaldi, but the urtext editions by Henley and Barenreiter are expensive. You need a teacher with common sense and taste. Often, regardless of the edition, the piano part will have the original bowings and articulations.

My students usually have the Suzuki available, so there there is a lot of cussing and scribbling for the first lesson as I set things right.

December 4, 2016 at 05:51 PM · Schott' does two editions:

- the "improved" one by Tividar Nachez, with expanded passage-work and "silly" bowings, used in the Suzuki Book 4;

- A more "authentic" one by Lenzewski, but still not urtext.

December 4, 2016 at 06:52 PM · Wohlfart Op. 45 would be more appropriate at this point than Kreutzer. You can start with the second book. You should be able to master one a étude a week and move on; otherwise the étude is too hard. But don't forget the importance of review, I really really mean that. It will do as much as any étude.

December 4, 2016 at 07:22 PM · It's one thing for an older player with a full-size (or close to) instrument and a balanced, 60 gram bow to execute martele and detache strokes that satisfy the demands of Historically-Informed Performance on modern instruments. A six year old by comparison has neither the physical makeup nor an instrument that behaves in the expected manner to do it the same way.

The "silly" editing on Nachez edition makes the work more difficult, and while it may not satisfy the HIP folks, passages like those twisting arpeggios and irritating bowing patterns are useful for technical development, regardless of their perceived musical merit. There's lots of pieces out there that teachers use because they are useful for teaching specific skills, but don't expect their students to have to play in public.

On IMSLP you can download and use the first edition (reissue) from the mid-1700's from Estienne Roger. Someone has kindly done the work of taking the scans of the original and converting them to black/white for easy printing. After playing the edited editions, I have students look at this one (archaic markings and all) in order to get a sense of what has happened to pieces of music over time due to editing.

December 4, 2016 at 09:20 PM · I understand the point about silly bowings being useful pedagogically, but where's the limit?

Also keep in mind that that dumb Viotti bowing also ruins the first movement of the Beethoven concerto. Check the urtext-- it's simple detache. Was it Francescatti that put in that dumb bowing?

December 5, 2016 at 12:08 AM · I use the imslp urtext for fixing editing mistakes.

Also, I mark the notes that Vivaldi beamed in a contrasting direction in a group of notes, as this places emphasis on that voice (upper or lower, like choral singers).

Lastly, it might just be the instrument you have, but I think I would work on slow bows daily for tone development.

After all, the first priority should always be tone, with everything else being second (though rhythm and intonation are immediately afterwards on the list). :)

December 5, 2016 at 01:20 PM · Thanks everybody for all the information and tips. With this in mind I will better know how to get started!

Thanks Laurie for your etude suggestion. What you suggested will be better for me now because the Kreuzer etude looks really too difficult for me. I'm looking forward to getting started with the second book of Wohlfahrt Op 45. :-)

December 5, 2016 at 03:50 PM · Thank you for asking, Mariko; a very helpful thread!

[P.S. Why do I always hear it pronounced wolf-hart?]

December 5, 2016 at 04:35 PM · There is also a very good new-ish edition by Barenreiter, edited by Kurt Sassmannshaus. It is basically the urtext, none of the Nachez stuff! Very nice, and better than working from computer printouts. Here is a link to it.

December 5, 2016 at 07:39 PM · Yes, I have the edition by Kurt S. and it's great. Not expensive either, you should pick it up.

December 6, 2016 at 02:17 AM · I'm sorry to disagree so strongly with Jeff Jetson, but after watching your video I think you would be doing yourself a tremendous disservice trying to work on Kreutzer No. 12. I agree with Laurie that Wohlfahrt Op. 45 is fine. So is Dont Op. 38. Third position is no problem ... the problem is going *between* positions and my experience is that Dont studies have a lot of work on that. (Note: The opus numbers of the Dont studies, of which there are three sets, do not correlate with their difficulty.) The Op. 38 is the one with the "accompaniment of a second violin."

I recommend also you get Volume 1 of Solos for Young Violinists by Barbara Barber. There should be several pieces in there that you can play.

Your video is great and nicely produced too. Your setup looks good, and you sound good too. I suggest that if you are working on studies that are just a lot of 8th or 16th notes in a row with back-and-forth bowing, once you have learned the notes enough to take your eyes off the music at least part of the time, then you can just play it nice and slowly and evenly in front of a mirror, that is really the best medicine for continuing to smooth out any residual awkwardness in your motion. Make sure your teacher understands that you want to keep improving your form and your bow stroke. I hate to say it, but some teachers will assume that as an adult student you will be satisfied with less. I always play some kind of easier etude at the start of my lesson so that my teacher can help me with basic mechanics and form.

December 22, 2016 at 05:12 AM · I don't think that all the Kreutzer etudes are too difficult in comparison to the Vivaldi -- numbers 2-6 are all in the RCM syllabus for grade 6 as is the Vivaldi. I think no. 2 is suited to the Vivaldi as it's in a similar key and (depending on the fingering) can also be a study in shifting / the scale in different positions. The version of the study in the RCM publication has fingerings mostly but not entirely similar to the Galamian version, from which it might have been evolved. RCM examinations don't require specific fingerings though.

That said, RCM grade 6 level after 1.5 years of playing as an adult would be quite an achievement, as it'd nominally be expected after 6 years.

December 23, 2016 at 04:00 PM · Also Kreuter's studies are well composed, with proper harmonies and modulations, so they don't stifle musician ship.

December 24, 2016 at 03:30 PM · Thanks so much again for all the great tips!! :-) I will also look into the Kreutzer etudes. I think I can do number 2. I've been practicing the first movement of the Vivaldi concerto for three weeks now and I really love it! It's going well so far. I'm pretty familiar now with the fast notes and the shifting involved. I think at this moment the hardest thing for me would be to add vibrato. I'm practicing without vibrato for now. I'm planning to make a recording in a week or so and will post here so you can see how it's going...

December 24, 2016 at 05:33 PM · To begin with, perhaps just try a touch of vibrato on the those 8ths which give a forward impulse to the music?

January 3, 2017 at 10:07 PM · Hello everybody, thanks so much for the tips so far! Wanted to post an update on how it's going with the concerto. The past month I've been practicing the first movement. There is still a lot of work, the main thing being I should add vibrato. Well I think that's the main thing... What do you think? What could I do to further improve this piece?

Here is my recording

Also, I've now started working on the 2nd movement. Any tips to make it a success?

By the way, I've also started with Kreutzer number 2 and I love it!

January 3, 2017 at 11:27 PM · Clap clap clap for Mariko and Vivaldi. You are pulling everything together nicely, especially your shifting and your beginning vibrato. Part three will let you work on flowing your vibrato continuously from one note to another which is easier said than done. Listen to how Itzhak Perlman vibrates the Largo section and imitiate him. : )

January 4, 2017 at 05:07 PM · Thank you Jeff!! Very happy to read this :-))) I've listened over and over to Itzhak Perlman playing this piece for the past weeks, I just love it!!!

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