Monday, January 7, 2008

Haydn Out

Welcome back, everyone, and Happy New Year! Our first practice of 2008, although postponed from last Wednesday due to storm, was well-attended by 5 firsts (two of whom were relocated from the thriolas), four seconds, two violas, and three cellos. Alison handed out two new pieces: Haydn's Quartet Op. 1 No. 4, and Divertimento No. 1 in D major (K136) by Mozart. The latter is a large, long-term project, so we started today on the Haydn.

This Quartet is a early work of Haydn's. It has Presto's at the beginning and end, Minuet and Trio between, and an Adagio in the very centre. We started the first Presto and got all the way to the first repeat. Here are some notes I took from the second-violin section: if other sections have anything I haven't covered, do add a comment.

  • The piece is in 3/8 time: eighth notes count for one beat, and there are three per measure. Presto means "fast", so it will end up that way although we practised it under tempo this evening.
  • As exercises, we played G major scales in round, using different three-note rhythms: first beat only and lift from string, second and third beats legato, all three beats in a down-up-up staccato pattern. All these appear in the piece.
  • The dynamics are dramatic changes between piano and forte; to play the right ones at the right time takes attention and perhaps a highlighter!
  • First and second violins have two- and three-note chords in the first line. They can be divided among the members of the section or played as dramatic bow-waving double stops, which we practised doing. They are in a forte section, so make them prominent. They should be played as down-bows, even measure 19 which is marked as up-bow for Seconds.
  • The trill in bar 11 (for Seconds, at least) is optional but makes it sounds very nice. One or two grace notes from A to B should be sufficient. These bars can be diminuendo'ed in order to play bar 12 piano more easily.
  • Bars 25 to 32, full of sixteenth notes, are not quite as hard as they look! They are almost completely made up of string changes between a note on the D string and the open A. Practise alternating open D and open A to get the feel of how to do these changes smoothly; use the balance point of the bow. They are not slurred anywhere; first note of the bar is a down-bow. Bars 38-39 are similar.
  • Firsts and Seconds play together in the slurs spanning bars 40-41 and 42-43; lower strings play in between.

We will have a "fill-in" practice for those wanting more basic note- and bow-work next Monday at church, if conditions permit; watch for email to confirm. The next full practice is January 29th.

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