Friday, October 9, 2015

Handel's Concerto Grossi

      Handel is known for his oratorios, but they were not at first that popular.  In 1739, to get the public to come to his operas, Handel started having special instrumental pieces in the intermission. This led Handel to start composing Concerti Grossi. Handel was inspired and wished to compose at the level of Corelli's Concerti Grossi and these are a part of the high point of Baroque orchestral literature.

These pieces are very exciting to listen to as Handel has the soloists going back and forth with the orchestra. You can hear great fugues, aria-like, dance, mournful, and vigorous movements keeps the joy coming as you listen.

Here is the Concerto grosso in D major, op. 6, no. 5, HWV 323 performed by Il Giardino Armonico conducted by Giovanni Antonini.

Practice Tips for Bouree in Suzuki Book 2

            Congratulations on getting half way through book 2. Here we have the second piece in the book by G.F. Handel.  This piece brings together bow technique that we have been learning since the first piece in Book 2.

Here are some practice tips as you work through Bouree and prepare for your half Book 2 recital:

Bouree is in the key of G Major, which means that it has 1 sharp - F#. For violinists it means that we play a low 2nd finger on the A and E string. Did you notice that numbers 1, 3, 4, and 5 all have one sharp in the key signature?    

This piece is comprised of three main sections, having an ABA1 form. A is line 1 and 2,  B is lines 3 and 4 and A1 starts with a pick up into line 4 going all the way to the end of the piece.

Until now we have played the Minuet, Gavotte, and Waltz. The Bouree is a lively French dance in an even time signature from the Baroque period. Below we will discuss how knowing this will impact our playing of the piece.

The Grand Detache.
One of the reasons that Bouree is the sixth piece in Book 2 is to practice what some people call the "Grand Detache." There are probably other names for this bow stroke, so do not be surprised when you encounter them. In the second line of the piece, there is a gradual crescendo from piano to about a forte. 

Listen to the great Suzuki teacher, William Starr, as he describes what we need to do: "Suzuki asks the student to lengthen the bow strokes gradually, raising the elbow as the bow moves to the frog on the up-bows" (To Learn with Love, p. 110).

So, the Grand Detache is the bow technique of playing with lots of bow quickly, in this case eighth notes (Check below for tips on how to practice this technique).

Very Soft. In Hunter's Chorus, we encountered ff (very loud) where we strived to play with as much bow as possible. Now, we have the opportunity to play pp (very soft) and crescendo up to forte. Remember that playing very quietly means to use small bow but still keeping the bow pressing into the string.

Long Crescendos
In part 1 and part 3 there is a big crescendo, giving us the opportunity to learn to use more and more bow over the course of an entire line. More specifically, pick-up to measure 21 starts with a pp then a gradual crescendo all the way to forte in measure 23. This is by far the biggest crescendo that we have worked on.

1. Practice the bow exercises with whole bow, tip and frog.

2. Practice the shifting exercises on page 29 with smooth slurs.

3. Learn and play Finger Exercise No. 5A 7 times every you practice, to get comfortable sliding your first finger back for a low first finger.

4. Listen to the c.d. or a YouTube video of the piece as you follow the notes. Listen to how the dynamics and bowing are performed.

5. Play the piece with no slurs to be consistent in the rhythm, since it is easy to rush the eighth notes.

6. For the big crescendo in part 1 and part 3 practice playing on all the open strings 4 notes 4 times. Play the first 4 notes quiet, louder the next 4 notes, and so on. Now, do the same thing for measures 5-7 and 21 - 23. Each group of four notes should get more bow so that the crescendo is clearer. You can use the same strategy for the measures with decrescendo.

7. Study what the Bouree dance was all about so that you can start understanding the style of the piece. One aspect of playing a baroque dance is to keep the song lively and not aggressive. We want people to dance to the piece.

8. You are ready for the Half Book 2 recital. Get your teacher, family and some friends together to perform for them 1-6. The more you perform the better you will be able to play the pieces.

More tips on Bouree here