Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo excerpt

October 28, 2020, 2:30 PM · Forgive me if this thread has been done before, but I am looking for some practice tips for this excerpt.

I've been working with a metronome on set to different metres each time (I've set it to one, two, and three beats per measure). Another focus has been to have a pleasing sounding bowstroke throughout while being musical. I've questioned a lot which notes should be short and which ones a little longer.

Overall, I am struggling a bit to make the whole thing sound cohesive, so any tips would be great, thanks!

Replies (17)

Edited: October 28, 2020, 5:44 PM · How in the world could you possibly play this with two beats per measure? It’s in one. I could see practicing it very slowly at three beats but that would only be helpful to a limited extent.

Most likely you are not starting from the string, and you are using too much bow. Without hearing and seeing you, I really can’t guess any further.

Editing to apologize, I did not realize you were a pro.

October 28, 2020, 4:43 PM · I wrote a bunch of stuff before realizing that you're a pro and not a student. Deleted it.

See this YouTube audition-prep video from one of the BSO concertmasters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcFIRCOXuxA

October 28, 2020, 6:21 PM · Thanks for the help so far! I'll take a look at that video...I am open to any and all tips as most of the standard excerpts I have worked on with a teacher in the past, but not this one.
Edited: October 29, 2020, 11:03 AM · Have you listened to the preucil excerpt cd? iirc he has a decent spoken rundown of it.
A couple overall thoughts without pulling out my part:
-this should be a lighter stroke than schumann scherzo. You want a sparkling quality to the sound.
-make sure not to rush or compress the sixteenth notes, both in the eighth-4 sixteenth rhythms (and start beat 2 early enough!) and in the long passages of 16ths.
-at C (?) when it switches to pp on the lower strings, find a different tone color.
-start the first note on the string
October 29, 2020, 11:56 AM · Thanks Irene, I'm just an amateur but I find such advice interesting and inspiring to read.
Edited: October 30, 2020, 7:53 AM · Audrey Wright's demo referenced by Lydia is a great one to follow.
My one exposure to the full Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream ("Incidental Music")goes back about 15 years, when the drama coach at our local college asked our orchestra director to make the planned performance a full SHAKESPEARE-MENDELSSOHN spectacular.

The stage hands built a complete stage in "the clouds" above the actual stage where the orchestra of about 20 was seated unseen for 10 complete shows over 3 weekends. My friend Mark (my weekly chamber music partner for over 2 decades) was one of the violinists asked to participate, but his health problems by then would prevent him from climbing the stairs up or down. Those stairs were narrow, steep and tricky. So I was asked and I participated in the full run of the show. (Most of the play's action occurred on the stage directly below us, but we could see the bits of action that occurred in front of the stage - what normally would have been the "orchestra pit."

It was the only time I have ever used my Rolland Spiccato bow in a public performance in the 20+ years I've had it (my stand partner used one too).

This is a good example of the whole Scherzo with full orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHTV3GFyHfM

(Not our performance, of course!)

My dear friend Mark died 2 nights ago, a month after his 85th birthday.

October 29, 2020, 12:23 PM · Andrew, I'm sorry about your friend.

That's one way of building up some adrenaline for a performance!

October 29, 2020, 2:08 PM · Thank you Christian.
It was not unexpected, he had many serious things going wrong (except he had no cancer) for the past 20 years. All his friends were surprised how well he hung in there. He kept playing his precious violin in ensembles until he lost his sight for reading music 2 years ago.
October 29, 2020, 4:29 PM · All great anecdotes and tips! Thank you!
October 30, 2020, 7:28 AM · My sincere condolences Andrew.

Yes, the video linked by Lydia is very instructive, I had missed it at first. Thanks Lydia and thanks Audrey Wright!

Edited: October 30, 2020, 8:38 AM · Andrew I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Even more sorry, perhaps, to hear that he was denied a performance opportunity because of a mere physical disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act was written for him and others like him.

But I digress from my main rant, which is to ask why a person who comes on here asking in plain language for advice on his playing sees that advice truncated, withdrawn, or disavowed just because, apparently, he is already a professional musician. Is there some ancient etiquette rule of which I'm unaware? It seems to me if James wants help on an excerpt (which, again, he asked for very clearly), maybe it's because he's hoping to advance his career by upgrading his gig. If he's trying to learn and improve his skill (and his situation) then I think, first of all, that's wonderful because it means he's committed to his craft -- certainly that must be universally acknowledged as one of the hallmarks of professionalism. But doesn't that also make him a student, at least in the present context, by some definition? Should pros who come on here asking for help have to declare their professional status so that the thread can be left entirely empty? Finally the lasting beauty of a website like this one is that others can benefit too, or at least enjoy reading about how others are working out their violin-related issues even if we're among those who will never have skills approaching the OP's.

October 30, 2020, 9:46 AM · Come on Paul, it's funny! Just go watch the Cliff Notes video on excerpt prep! (What I want to know, is there a cello version???)
Edited: October 30, 2020, 9:48 AM · Paul, I can’t speak for Lydia, but my edits were to change the tone of my response from that appropriate for a student to that appropriate for a colleague. My substantive advice was not removed.
October 30, 2020, 1:44 PM · Paul, similar. I was originally writing as if to a high school student who might have never played the work before and might find it technically difficult. That would have been inappropriate. After I realized his background, I assumed given the OP's background that he'd already been through an orchestral excerpts class where he'd likely studied this. I also assume that he has access to expert coaching for whatever audition he's preparing to take.
October 31, 2020, 4:57 PM · Both the Mendelssohn and Schumann Scherzo can be a beast - for me it was the Schumann! Here are some of my "tricks" from when I was taking a lot of auditions...all of them passed on to me by teachers, except the TV thing.

1) Feel bars with 16ths in 1, feel bars with all eights in 3 to avoid rushing and make them crisp.

2) Play almost on the string in the 16ths - your audience should feel it's off, you should "feel" it's on. 8ths are clearly short and off, but probably a little higher in the bow that you would really like to play them.

3) Practice by shifting the written meter a 16th in all permutations - helps hear all notes (are they all present) and builds confidence

4) A teacher told me once that this excerpt was all about intonation and rhythm (and "right now you have neither"). It was surprisingly helpful to simplify it in my mind.
4) run it while watching TV, also in every TV commercial, again for confidence.

Getting through the excerpt with some nice shape and in tune is a good thing, it doesn't have to be special. The enemy is often our own voice. :)

November 1, 2020, 11:05 AM · One of the great things about this site is that it welcomes everybody, and has contributions from everybody, from people like Nate Cole, through working professionals, and teachers to highschool students.
And everybody's contribution seems to respect everybody else.
November 1, 2020, 4:58 PM · I really appreciate the replies! And thanks for the consideration on the tone in the responses. Yes, I have gone through excerpt classes, have lots of experience with auditions and orchestras etc.. I still do love to discuss and exchange technical ideas and tips with my colleagues all the time, as you sometimes get widely varying responses depending on peoples' different educational backgrounds and some regional variations as well. It can be really fascinating.

It is my first time posting in many years and I can already tell that this is a wonderful community of players at all levels. Thanks!

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