Think you have good intonation? Prepare to be humbled.

Edited: November 2, 2018, 7:37 PM ·

This actually turned out to be a really good study for tone and intonation. It's actually not really really hard, but certainly in the realm of quite tricky when it comes to getting it perfect. Record yourself playing it!

On an unrelated note, does anyone else really dislike it when violinists follow the repeats in the Bach S&P's (and in most baroque music, generally)? I find it drags on waay too long when you repeat every section as intended.

Replies (12)

November 2, 2018, 8:24 PM · would love to hear your recording!
November 3, 2018, 10:27 AM · There are a great many "simple" piano pieces that turn out to be very difficult on the violin. Another "study for tone an intonation" that turns out to be harder than you'd think is Kreutzer No. 2.
Edited: November 3, 2018, 7:41 PM · The first of Biber's "Mystery" Sonatas (composed 10-15 years before Bach was born) has its many "moments". Apart from the passage work in bowed demisemis that needs to be cleaner than clean in order to be anything like convincing there are the double and triple stops in the 8 measures of Adagio preceding the Finale that are guaranteed to severely challenge one's intonation. Biber was a virtuoso of the first rank.

I worked on K2 with my teacher. It is indeed not as simple as it looks.

November 3, 2018, 2:42 PM · but the Bach is keyboard music.
Kreutzer 2 is an excellent exercise.
November 3, 2018, 4:25 PM · I've just been looking at my old copy of Kreutzer. In May 2011, when I was working on K2, my teacher wrote these comments in the margin:
1. Keep fingers not in use on or as close to the string as much as possible.
2. Watch intonation on 4th finger E and A.
3. Watch intonation in 2nd and 3rd positions.
All sound advice, applicable anywhere.

I also noted that the structure of K2 is such that the first 8 measures can be repeated ad infinitum (ad nauseam?), likewise the next 10 measures.

November 3, 2018, 9:08 PM · Yes Trevor. With 400 different bowings. :)
November 4, 2018, 8:46 AM · The problem being Bach wrote well tempered klavier, but violinist don't always agree with well tempered geige.
November 4, 2018, 8:53 AM · That's what makes it so tricky. You think it's all in tune, so you record it. When you play it back, though...

Egad! It's in the wrong temperament!

Edited: November 4, 2018, 9:08 AM · playing this piece on the violin is a worthwhile challenge I think, but several similar challenges can indeed be found in the Kreutzer etudes, and, indeed, in Bach S&P for solo violin, so probably it makes more sense to work on that because they sound better on violin. it reminds me that I read somewhere that Milstein, in his youth, practiced a lot of piano music on the violin. pianistic arpeggios and other motifs are also often found in orchestral music, when the violins are playing accompaniments.
November 4, 2018, 9:37 AM · An important difference is that when this keyboard piece is played on violin there is no expectation of sustain of the lower notes, so these are broken arpeggios, not chords. Therefore I think the argument of "wrong temperament" is somewhat ... tempered.
November 4, 2018, 11:02 AM · To the latter question-because "as intended" is more important than whether someone may not have the taste for a repetition.

In any case, modern performers do both (cut or play everything), and I have no problem with either approach-even though I believe the repetitions in Bach are important, and only as "boring" as the performer may play them. Alternatively, perhaps I have horrible music taste.

November 4, 2018, 2:19 PM · Well, there should be "expectation of sustain of the lower notes," in my opinion. I am also a keyboard player and composer, and just tossing Bach's polyphonic concept for his composition out the window for the heck of it is a problem for me. Especially when it can be done on the violin. I can't post an image I guess, but--first two iterations of the figure-- Start third position, sustain the 3rd-finger B on the D string with the up-bow, and you can play the D and G on the A string. I played the next four 1/16ths without the bass, though I did my best to imply it, but the next figure is pretty easy--play the A open and you can play the rest on the E string with the up-bow, etc. No, I'm not going to record it.

I also play all the repeats in Bach, but I started all this as a fiddler who has played for actual dancing for decades, and I understand why repeats are necessary. I do some variation if I think it needs it, but I'm pretty happy hearing a Bach passage over and over (which is the only way we learn this stuff). It reminds me of a nameless-but-well-known composer who was one of my teachers in grad school. He said (I'm not kidding), "What Beethoven took 25 minutes to do, I can do in nine!" Yeah, it's a race. He won.

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