Bowing stroke for the second violin in the Razumovsky No. 1

Edited: March 4, 2020, 10:32 AM · In the first eleven measures of Beethoven's Op. 59, No. 1, string quartet, the second violin plays detached eighth notes (C on the G string). How would one characterize (or label) the bowing stroke or technique for this section? (I recognize that one might arguably tackle this section in more than one way.)

More to the point, my question concerns how to play the section.

Replies (8)

March 4, 2020, 6:41 AM · The manuscript doesn't say much, although you will be paired with the viola for the opening. Whatever you do, make sure you two are in agreement.

Normally, the stroke is somewhere between detache and spiccato. So non legato, and somewhat off the string. Those trained in the French schools may have a more specific term for that. The precise cocktail of articulations may depend on the mood you want, how forward-leaning you want it to feel, etc. Beethoven asked that you play at 88 half-notes per minute. So if you don't emphasize beats or bar lines, it will not feel especially fast or slow in this phrase, even though the Italian marking is "allegro".

March 4, 2020, 7:31 AM · Stephen -

Thank you. "[N]on legato, and somewhat off the string" is what I suspected. Given that the first eleven measures are played on the G string, I also concluded that it would be played a bit closer to the frog as opposed to the middle or balance point of the bow. Higher up on the bow seems awkward and more difficult to control in light of the need to raise one's arm and elbow to comfortably reach the G string.

March 4, 2020, 7:37 AM · Exactly how you'd play a similar Mozart accompaniment, e.g. the C major string quintet. Some things just aren't worth agonizing over!
Edited: March 4, 2020, 10:58 AM · Traditionally that opening in the 2nd violin part has been played off the string with a ‘brushy’ spiccato. It’s definitely not detache. Try the stroke slightly below the middle by approximately 2”.
March 4, 2020, 10:59 AM · Steve wrote, "Some things just aren't worth agonizing over!"

What? Are we violinists or not? LOL

March 4, 2020, 1:18 PM · Nate -

Thank you for the advice.

March 4, 2020, 1:37 PM · What Nate said.
Edited: March 4, 2020, 5:23 PM · Nate is correct. My quartet recently performed this work, and I (viola) and the 2nd violinist coordinated our strokes to match. We ended up doing a spiccato that wasn't too "spiky" but was definitely off the string, in the middle of the bow. BTW absolutely GREAT piece of music!

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