The Swan (Saints-Seans) - On Viola!

April 16, 2018, 8:31 AM ·

Hi everyone! I've just recorded "The Swan" on Viola, and I would love to know what people think of it :)

Replies (27)

April 16, 2018, 8:49 AM · Very, very beautiful indeed!

If you had not told us I would not know it was not being played on a cello. Playing it on viola involves different string crossings (etc.) that are not at all audible on your beautiful recording. (Physically it is played an octave higher on cello strings so it involves only the two upper strings. On viola it involves all 4 strings - or at least the three lower ones - getting the consistent tone quality of your performance could be a challenge.)


April 16, 2018, 10:25 AM · Clean playing, wth beautiful tone & phrasing.
April 16, 2018, 2:05 PM · Thank you both so much for your kind feedback - it really means a lot to me!
April 16, 2018, 2:14 PM · I love this music and your interpretation was simply jewel like, thank you!
April 16, 2018, 2:43 PM · Thankyou Janice!!
Edited: April 16, 2018, 2:54 PM · Beautiful! I especially liked your tone. Sounded more like a cello than a violin, which is a good thing in this case.

I think this piece works particularly well on viola. It sounds like you didn't have to transpose it. Which arrangement did you use?

April 16, 2018, 2:58 PM · Hi Jason, I just did it by ear actually :) My brother has always played it on the cello at home so I've heard him practicing it a lot!
April 16, 2018, 3:27 PM · The viola and cello solo versions are musically identical. No transposition is necessary. On cello, for which it was composed, it is in a moderate to high-ish range (one might call it 1st to 8th position-if cellists talked that way), on viola it can be played in a "normal range" or "elementary range" (1st and 3rd positions). But that does not mean it is easier to play it smoothly on a viola.
April 16, 2018, 3:28 PM · Love this recording - very expressive and clean, too! Awesome job, Elliot!
April 16, 2018, 3:43 PM · Thanks Brook!
April 16, 2018, 6:29 PM · I think we can all agree— the viola is the most beautiful of all the string instruments...
April 17, 2018, 3:37 PM · Thank you, Craig! Although I'd have to say I'm torn between violin and viola!
Edited: April 18, 2018, 3:46 AM · My own violin sounds like a fractional viola, slightly over-sized, with deep ribs and smallish f-holes.

BTW, reading Brooke's blog, with Obligato C,G & D(silver), I use the Aricore-Eudoxa A. Very good match.

Edited: April 18, 2018, 4:06 PM · Adrian, my old violin is like that - a 14.25" instead of the standard 14" - with deep ribs and wider bouts. Mid 18th c copy of a long pattern Strad. Currently I'm using Eudoxa G and D, Chorda A (plain gut), topped with a Pirastro Obligato E (gold plated, and I believe used in other Pirastro sets). The tone on the G is reminiscent of a viola and makes its presence known in the section, although it certainly would not be fair to say it could be mistaken for the real thing.
April 18, 2018, 6:45 AM · Blowing across the f-holes gives middle-c, just like a 15" viola (with bigger f-holes) that I sometimes use in lessons.
April 18, 2018, 9:54 AM · Adrian, blowing across the f-holes on my 14.25" violin also gives middle-c. In contrast, doing the same on my 14" gives middle-d.
April 18, 2018, 11:20 AM · My violin is also like this! :) it's only about an inch smaller than my viola! (I should probably add that I play a very short viola!)
Edited: April 18, 2018, 12:09 PM · My instrument (violin) gives middle d as well.

Very nice viola playing by the way.

April 19, 2018, 2:54 AM · Ohhhhh, beautifully played Elliot!


April 19, 2018, 3:05 PM · Thank you Peter, and Thank you Neil also :)
Edited: April 19, 2018, 11:43 PM · Very nice! For anyone else interested in doing this there is a version of the part in alto clef available on IMSLP. With two cellists in the family I have not dared to intrude on their repertoire, but your recording made me rethink. Perhaps one day when I am home alone....
April 20, 2018, 4:01 AM · Thankyou Bo! I'm planning to record Faure's sicilienne next which will probably annoy the cellists in my family even more!
Edited: April 20, 2018, 4:33 PM · The cello is the one stringed instrument that comfortably covers the full range of the human voice. I discovered many years ago when I had a Sony reel-to-reel tape recorder (that dates me!) that I could do multi-track recordings of me on the cello playing all four voice parts of Bach chorales. This was an excellent discipline for intonation, timing and dynamic balance. With that old hardware it would typically take about three hours for me to make an acceptable recording of just one chorale, and there are well over 300 of them. Sadly, that recorder has long since expired, and the tapes with it.

However, there are many violin duets where multitrack recording by a sole violinist can be an option using easily accessible modern technology. The attractive Bartok duos, covering a wide range of technical ability, come to mind.

April 20, 2018, 11:29 AM · There is a YouTube video of the cellist Wells Cunningham playing both parts of the Händel - Halvorsen passacaglia. But I think it is more fun playing with someone else.
April 20, 2018, 3:16 PM · I've seen that video! I still can't believe how he can play the violin in between his knees!
April 28, 2018, 3:09 PM · Thank you, Elliot. Inspiring.
April 29, 2018, 5:06 AM · Thankyou Francesca!

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