Importance of bowing as written
I've been watching a few YouTube videos of performances of pieces I'm learning and finding a lot of performers vary their bowing from what is written. Dvorak's Romance in F for example varies significantly between performers and doesn't match the versions I have found. How do we know what the composer actually intended in the piece and how important is it to stick to the score as written? My teacher always was a stickler for playing as written.
Other look at the piano part (may have the original bowings, but not always), buy a pocket orchestral score, or get "Urtext" parts whenever possible.
The same kind slurs are used for bowing and phrasing.
In general, today's violinists start from the urtext -- the composer's unmodified original. (Note that scholarly urtexts, such as editions from Henle and Barenreiter, will generally resolve conflicts that exist in the original manuscript, and may specify areas where there are two reasonable alternatives for the composer's intent, or where something is likely an error.)
Happens all the time. Does it matter? Only if you think it sounds wrong
One of my teachers insisted I follow the bowings exactly, and would stop me if I cut a note out of the bow or something else silly like that. It drove me right up the wall!
I'm of the opinion that for solo playing you have to temper your bowing practice to your interpretation of the music, your personal skills, and the acoustics of your instrument, the venue and accompaniment.
I think it's defensible to argue that interpretation is all about introducing subtle shades of tempo, rubato, articulation and tonal variation that the composer would have expected to hear from an intelligent and "musical" performer but was happy to leave to their discretion. That undoubtedly includes bowings. In the string quartet medium I suspect there are few if any ensembles that insist on playing to the urtext in early repertoire, or the printed bowings in later music.
Most composers are pianists, and should not try to set bowings, the ups and downs. The exceptions would be Stravinsky and Bartok. My opinion is that composers and arrangers should notate how they want it to sound, the phrasing and articulation, and let the soloists and concertmasters figure out the mechanical details.
I have a different slant to add to this question of bowing.
When I was learning CG I went to Youtube to find out how NOT to do something!
I think we can agree that most times people change the bowing, they split bows rather than create more slurs. This is because it's simply much more comfortable. I think if there are no immediate plans to play with orchestra or to play in an extremely large hall, the student should suffer and learn to sustain the sound. This promotes playing as close to the bridge as the sound possibly allows, and increases projection through the creation of greater upper harmonics. Bow distribution also becomes much more of a factor when having to sustain many notes in 1 bow.
While I agree that learning to sustain the sound is an important skill, it's also not appropriate for all circumstances (even solo circumstances). Some instruments don't deal well with close-to-the-bridge playing, for instance, and/or combinations of player's technique and violins that benefit more from the use of more bow rather than more weight with a slow bow.
As others have said, go to an urtext to find the composer's bowings as written. Then see how they work for you and adjust accordingly.
True freedom and maturity starts on the day you sharpen the pencil and update bowing and fingering to suit musical needs. Between rigidly following (the editor) and losing musically expression and changing the bowing and performing musically....well. There are plenty of examples...the most recent arpeggios in 1st viola and 1st cello part in Mendelssohn's octet. One edition the whole bar of triplets under a single bow, the other 1/2 bar slurred. Pianissimo...so how on Earth is one supposed to provide a beautiful harmonic background if one has to "fly" on the frog and at the tip, with some exotic chords in left hand? Music comes first, always!
Good comments. It seems a lot of pianists think “with their sustain pedal” when writing slurs,
Good points, Rocky. OP will find when exploring various pieces that he will disagree with bowings chosen by composers and needs to revisit and adjust them when that happens. There is nothing sacred about the composer's chosen bowings, particularly if the composer was not the greatest violinist (e.g., Beethoven).
'There is nothing sacred about the composer's chosen bowings, particularly if the composer was not the greatest violinist (e.g., Beethoven).'
by flying I meant when your left arm makes movement like bird's wing - string crossing at the tip are not fun! By the way, I dislike Beethoven's attitude toward a violinist who complained about some parts being unplayable. Yes, he was inspired by his muse (or whatever), but stressing a slurred note when there is no bow left inevitably leads to vertical movement. I play his quartets and do think that his music is one of the ultimate tests for a violinist....
I think you have to distinguish the bowing choices made by bad violinists (or for teachers seeking to simplify things for less-skilled students) and the artistic bowing choices made by more capable players.
James - Beethoven was a great pianist but not a great violinist. So, while we can take his bowings seriously because he was a great composer, some of them simply do not work well, as Rocky points out. A composer such as Bach or Mozart, who was an excellent violinist as well as a great composer, has a better claim to our attention to his bowings, although not one which is compelled.
James's point about the tendency for some players to fly from frog to tip is well taken. I can't have been the only beginner to have it drummed into him that I should use the whole bow, not just that easy spot in the middle. Some, I think, now find it hard to break the habit and apply it to every note, regardless of its length. I see some pretty competent players who seem to think that the faster they get through the bow, the more sound they'll make, while the converse is probably closer to the truth. And in slow pianissimo passages it often makes sense to ensure evenness of tone by using the upper half only, even if that requires more changes than the printed bowing indicates. Such matters are the player's concern rather than the composer's.
There might not be anything sacred about the composer's bowings, but there certainly is about the concertmaster's (no matter how strange they might be).
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