Sibelius concerto 2nd movement

May 31, 2020, 8:10 AM · Is it supposed to be played on the G string (Sul G) for the first few lines?
It goes up to E5 which is a very uncomfortable position to play on the G string and most violin can't produce a good sound

Replies (16)

May 31, 2020, 8:56 AM · I think you have to go with what sounds good with your violin and your hands.
May 31, 2020, 11:04 AM · I agree with Paul. If it doesn't sound good or it hurts or whatever, don't do it
May 31, 2020, 6:30 PM · Respectfully I disagree, for three reasons. One, the composer was a violinist, and he knew what he wanted, which was the sonority of the violin at this register. Two, if you’re playing Sibelius 2nd movement, I’m assuming that you’ve played the 1st movement, where in the first cadenza you go up the exact same place on the G-string, and at a much faster tempo. Not to mention the technical challenges in the rest of that movement. (Sidebar: most violins, if adjusted properly, should be able to handle being played in that register, it’s the true lemons that can’t) Three, Sibelius Concerto requires a highly polished technique in spades, and perhaps there’s something that you have to examine in order to gain more comfort and facility up the fingerboard on all strings, and to make sure that the bow gets the instrument to speak at that register.
May 31, 2020, 7:44 PM · Lorenzo is correct. That passage was written to be played on the G string.
May 31, 2020, 7:53 PM · It really seems to come down to your opinions of musicality and how you interpret the piece. Usually, when the G string is used in higher positions it gives a certain edge that was the composer's intentions however if you are able to create this better on the D than why not play it like that.
May 31, 2020, 11:14 PM · Lorenzo is correct. Any decent violin should sound okay in that register, though you need to have proper technique with it (which any player tackling the Sibelius should have), and there's occasionally a wolf that needs to be worked around.
Edited: June 1, 2020, 4:28 PM · It should be played sul G. If the sound cracks, then that is part of the musical expression like a singer's voice breaking. Music is not to be just beautiful sound, it is passion, excruciating sorrow, struggle, and every other emotion that a human being can feel. Listen to Schoenberg Phantasy. Do you think this should be played with pretty tone?

Play closer to the bridge with a slower bow and lots of pressure if you wish to mitigate squawking.

June 1, 2020, 5:22 PM · I of course agree with the posters here. Violin has such a rich repertoire - Why waste time watering down great pieces by not playing them how they need when we can pick so many other beautiful pieces to play that are within our grasp? Or better yet, we can use this as a reason to get really comfy in the upper registers of the G string.

Unfortunately, sometimes our instruments really are the thing in our way, but the point is to find the way through that recognizes the value in the music and doesn't subordinate it to technical considerations.

June 1, 2020, 7:05 PM · By the way, it will be more comfortable to play on the G string if you gradually push the violin scroll more to your left as you play beyond 3rd pr 4th position.

An excellent exercise for this is to play a scale starting with 2nd finger on the g string with your elbow placed on a table and using the fingering 2-1 2-1 234 (or233 if you have short or weak 4th finger). You may find that the scroll moves gradually to the left.

Depending on your physiology, this will most certainly help.

Edited: June 3, 2020, 10:38 PM · It's one thing if you're a pro or if you're hoping to become one, then you've got to follow the rules and play pieces according to the markings. On the other hand if you're an amateur who has decided to play the 2nd movement of the Sibelius VC just for your own enjoyment, I don't see why you should feel compelled to set the whole piece aside just because you can't do one particular technical thing. What's more likely, though, is that if you can't do that technical thing, then there are probably a host of other things in the same piece that you also can't do. But that's not always true. I'm working on the Viotti No. 22 VC, and there are two bars in the cadenza that are musically gratuitous and will never sound good in my hands, and I mean not ever. So I just cut them -- without the slightest afterthought. Viotti didn't even write the cadenzas anyway. Some early 20th-century hack probably did.
Edited: June 4, 2020, 6:39 AM · In principal I agree with Paul: What you play for your own recreation in private you are allowed to play any way you like, on any string that suits you, at half tempo or double tempo, whatever fits your mood or taste or technical limits. Who are the rest of us to dictate what you do in private?

However if you want to play for some audience, even if the audience is your teacher and nobody else, you should try hard to respect the composer's intentions.

As to the Viotti example: A cadenza is not quite the same thing as the opening of a movement; so even in performance you are allowed to alter the cadenza any way that fits you (except in the few cases where the cadenzas are supplied by the composer of course). I have studied some concertos in violin lessons (not as many as most people here, I admit) and have never once learned the cadenza (with no objection whatsoever from my teacher). If I had to perform one of those in public I'd have to choose and learn one obviously but the only concerto I ever performed was Vivaldi a-minor and it does not even have a cadenza.

This is exactly the reason BTW why I wonder why everybody studies so many concertos, especially amateurs (who are the vast majority of violin students as far as I know). Why not study more sonatas and quartet parts? There is a very real chance for most of us to get a chance to play those in ensemble while playing solo with orchestra is only possible for very few people, even very few professional musicians actually. How many percent of good, solid professional musicians who have studied all the "important" concertos get to play even one of them even once in their lives with orchestra?

June 4, 2020, 7:17 AM · I agree with you Albrecht. But nobody that I would ever perform for is going to care whether I play something on the G string or the D string. Sometimes I take really long notes in two bows too. And by the way I agree about the choice of music. I work on chamber parts more than concertos. But I like salon pieces too.
Edited: June 4, 2020, 9:44 AM · The reason to study concertos instead of sonatas is because concertos are more effective in pushing technical development than sonatas. Furthermore a concerto can actually sound pretty good without accompaniment whereas sonatas generally sound like something is missing all the way through.

But I am on the side of playing a piece in the way it was written. And someone who struggles with playing the opening of the second movement on the G string as Sibelius intended is probably someone who is struggling with many other technical aspects of the piece as well.

Edited: June 4, 2020, 3:51 PM · While I agree with Mary Ellen that the study of concertos pushes a violinist’s technical development, I just want to nuance her point and mention that there are certain pieces that do more harm than good if started before one is ready. The harm can come in different forms, whether it’s injury, or getting burned out from the piece for having to practice it so long, or never being ready or comfortable playing it in public. This concerto is one of those pieces that one plays when they’ve “arrived” as a violinist, or at least very close, with a fully-formed technical arsenal and a mature musical and artistic sense (Isn’t this the runner-up in the violin concerto tournament a few years back? That says it all about its lofty status in the repertoire).
Now in case the OP is at the stage of their playing where listeners will care about (or worse, grade) how they play something, they would do well to acquire all the necessary technique (hopefully with a good teacher) through scales, etudes, exercises and other pieces alongside studying the Sibelius Concerto, so that relatively minor technical hurdles (let’s face it, even in the 2nd movement alone, there’s even harder stuff in there) such as playing in high registers don’t seem so daunting.
As for the instrument, just make sure that it’s well-adjusted (I would start looking for open seams, check the sound post position, fingerboard projection and scoop, string heights, the shape and condition of the bridge), the strings are fresh and the bow has a full ribbon of hair, and it should respond adequately well in that register.
June 4, 2020, 4:02 PM · Well yes, anyone who’s been reading my posts for any time might recognize that I am a huge advocate of not playing pieces that are too hard. It’s important to be ready for the repertoire. That being said, there are plenty of intermediate concertos from which to choose.
June 4, 2020, 7:05 PM · I took the Sibelius slow movement to an audition once, before my violin's belly had distorted to the point where the luthier persuaded me that no one could get it back to the right shape, and that it had to have a standard repair. They also assured me that the bass bar could not be removed without breaking it, so it had a new bass bar as well. The way it now sounds in that register on the G-string, I wouldn't dare take that movement to an audition (I wouldn't take either of the other two movements to an audition for a different reason, which I leave you to guess!).

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