Schubert C Major Cello Quintet Section

June 29, 2021, 6:47 PM · In this quintet(I am playing first violin) there is a extremely fast run at measure 39(from A on the g string to D on the e string in a beat and a half), and I always seem to lag behind leading into the next measure. In recordings, it doesn’t seem like they slow down or take any liberties in that section. Any advice?

Replies (14)

June 29, 2021, 7:49 PM · Make sure your fingers are as close to the string when not playing and use a metronome. Figure out how quick you want it to go at speed, and go slow and gradually build up speed
Edited: June 30, 2021, 10:39 AM · You won't be able to synchronize that run perfectly with the others because the last group of notes in the 1st violin is 5 notes while the cellos are playing four and the second violin and viola have a 16th note. Replace the group of 5 with a duple and a triplet. Stop the bow on beat 2, turn that tie into a rest and don't be late starting the run. Aim for the next down-beat. The bar line is not a rest or a barrier. Most of these leading runs sound more impressive when done with an accelerando and crescendo. The others in the quintet should wait for you, as actors will say, not "step on your lines"
One way to practice runs like this is in reverse order. First get the group of 5 notes plus the down-beat note fast enough with a secure fingering, then add the four notes in front of it, etc.
June 30, 2021, 6:18 AM · I remember being coached on the same piece by the first violinist of the Czech Skampa Quartet. About this run, her advice was: "It's impossible." That helped a lot. There is no time to play all the notes in that scale. A suggestion will have to do.
Edited: June 30, 2021, 7:22 AM · Don't start late.

Shift early at least once, if you are worried about being tangled up on the E string.

Find an intermediate marker to be sure you are on schedule. The B natural halfway through is an obvious point. Play that on the D string and you should be good to go. Practice the last half of the run starting from there, to be sure.

Don't get hung up (too much) on note values. Aim at the next beat or fraction thereof.

June 30, 2021, 4:22 PM · ditto,--don't shift during the last group of 5 notes, already be up there. It's OK to play the first high D with 4th finger, then shift, replace with 2nd finger for the repeated D.
For a lot of runs like this we can play the top 5 or even 6 notes without shifting, by playing half-steps with the same finger.
Edited: June 30, 2021, 5:55 PM · My advice: Cheat! Focus entirely on arriving at the next bar on time. Don't worry about any missed notes on the way up! This is advice for paying for one's own fun; if you want to perform you'll have to find a way to learn it. Even then though "nailing" this run is far from the most important element that makes a good performance. By the end of the piece the audience won't remember anyway if you screwed up on bar 39 or not.

Also: IMHO the "ma non troppo" in the tempo marking needs to be taken seriously; not because of this run but because of the heavy and serious character of the music. Incidentally this makes the run a little easier.

BTW Schubert was apparently fond of such runs. Several of them in various keys occur in his last string quartet (in G-Major, slow movement) and in his first string trio.

June 30, 2021, 9:03 PM · As far as the tempo goes, finding one that works for both themes in the exposition will solve many problems. You don't want to be TOO fast in the opening, but you also don't want to get goopy for the famous bit.

FWIW, I've always admired the first Casals recording, with Stern, et al. I don't know if they take it exactly the same way all through, but it avoids many problems you find with other groups.

July 1, 2021, 10:18 PM · My daughter (cello) and I (viola) performed the Scherzo-and-Trio movement at music camp recently. This whole quintet is just the most glorious thing ever. It's such a pity Schubert died so young. Such a blithering genius. Given another 30 years he might have eclipsed Beethoven.

I had to cheat on the double stops in the opening bars of the Scherzo. I tried to learn them but my hands just will not do that.

Edited: July 2, 2021, 3:24 AM · Joel, I was taught the opposite: in fast runs never do half note shifts on the same finger, or the run will sound "smeary": instead try to emulate a pianist, they also do lightning fast runs, fast successive fingers and quick shifting, if needed omit a note here and there strategically!! In this run anyway you normally would shift from C# in 1st position to D in third position and then from D to D it is just a D-minor melodic upward scale starting o the first finger which is something that lies really fast in the hand. Indeed like Joel says: the second D can then shift up to second finger. That's the theory, now the practice :-)
July 2, 2021, 11:10 AM · Thanks Jean. That is also the fingering I would use.
I have been doing more of those same-finger half-steps starting just recently. The revelation for me was Ricci's fingering for the three-octave scale without any conventional shifts. The "smear", audible slide can be avoided by lifting the finger off of the wood. It looks like an extra motion but can be very fast and clean.
July 3, 2021, 1:29 PM · interesting Joel, I'll try that, although, if you play the run in one bow and you lift the finger, you get the previous note?
Edited: July 3, 2021, 8:43 PM · Jean:-- 1/2 steps with the same finger:-- It is actually 3 discrete motions; lift, move, set. Stay in contact with the string but off of the wood. That seems more complicated, slower, than just sliding the finger, but in practice it is clean and fast. It avoids the friction and the audible slide. Important; do not release the bow traction when doing this. And do not worry about making a noise or hitting a harmonic. It is one of the many counter-intuitive things about this instrument. This is the same technique for learning a long distance shift and for learning the crawl-shift, which are separate topics. An immediate application would be one of the traditional fingerings for the chromatic scale. I hope that makes sense.
July 4, 2021, 2:03 PM · thanks Joel for the clarification
July 5, 2021, 3:43 AM · Joel I tried it yesterday practice, indeed you can do a kind of single vibrato-knick movement, but then upwards. Downwards seems more awkward. But to be honest I still think that for crazy fast runs (like the one discussed originally here on the thread) the "pianist" strategy is still better. Anyway, for the run discussed here originally, we don't need it, right? All the best, nice disucssion.

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