Fourth finger stretching in the Mendelssohn
I'm currently learning the 3rd movement of the mendelssohn, and the 4th finger stretches in the beginning are extremely annoying for me; I can't seem to stretch the finger far enough to hit the f#. Any tips/advice on how to practice those two sections?
You mean the 4th finger extension to the F# on the A string, right? Try the descending triad backwards and forwards. 1st finger on B, 3rd finger on D#, 4th finger on F#, holding down the 1st and 3rd fingers. Center the hand with the thumb across from the 2nd finger if necessary; it will lend strength to your 4th finger and make that reach easier. If you need to, you can rock the hand slightly and release the 1st finger.
Practice some excercises for finger stretching. Or just practice viola for a while and most violin stretches aren’t very challenging anymore.
You are allowed to invent your own custom fingerings. I also cannot do many of the 4th finger extensions found in many published editions. Many of those editors were done by either the leading teachers or soloists of their time, with long or completely independent 4th fingers. For a real scare take a look at any fingered edition of the Paganini Caprices or the fingerings suggested by Szigeti in his technical book, "--On the Violin". Take your time and be very gradual with exercises that open the hand; the harmonic minor scales, then the 1-3 octave, minor 10ths, then later the 2-4 octave and the major 10th.
Saying nothing about whether this particular "stretch" is easy or not, and acknowledging the good tips given above. But it made me wonder: would it be really sacrilegious to play the little phrases in question without the extension, simply playing them in first position? I think you could make that sound non-awful, at least.
Jean, the passage in question is too fast for a string crossing--the extension is necessary.
Fast extensions like this where there's an arpeggiation can also be done as if the extension is more of a pivot shift. Throw your hand forward from the wrist when reaching for the 4th finger. You can keep the 3rd finger down as kind of a fulcrum if you need extra stability for intonation purposes. Then rock the wrist back into its normal position when coming back to the 1st finger.
Mary Ellen, but just a few measures later it goes like D#-C#-F#, D#-B-F# descending and the descending one is equally fast and is done with string crossing.
This situation looks like doing whatever works best for one's particular anatomical makeup. Having said that, it may be useful to look at 19th century editions, much nearer Mendelssohn's time, such as Auer's (it's on IMSLP), to see how they approached these fingering problems.
Jean, the difference is the rhythm. In the first case, the F# is a 16th note and goes very quickly to the D# (typing from memory, hope that's right). Your later example is not actually as fast; the F# in that case is an eighth note and there is more time for the string crossing.
Being just a fiddler trying to play classical, I don't find either of those fast string changes on a slur to be difficult. At ms. 11, 1st finger on the F# will sound OK, actually louder than the 4th finger, but that non-traditional fingering might not win the contest. That other spot, Ms. 15, can be played in 2nd position, then use 1/2 pos. to get out of it.
Thank you for all the inputs and suggestions! I'll try practicing tomorrow using Lydia's advice and see how it goes. If all fails, I'll resort to using string crossings.
It may be worth knowing that the reach of the fourth finger (I don't like using “stretch” because I think it can send the wrong message) depends not only on its length but on the width of the hand. I have heard both a piano teacher and a cello teacher remark that a square hand is often the best for technique.
Where is your left elbow during this passage (and others requiring stretches?)
Sorry for the dumb question, but in saying "The Mendelssohn" do you mean "Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64" ?