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Caprice no. 23

No. 23, Andante sostenuto, is a melancholy work that draws its character from the beautiful sonorities of the viola. This is a great piece to explore your rich sound in many different forms. Because it repeats so many times, there are small opportunities to improvise with ornaments, change dynamics, or play certain notes on different strings. All of these variables can help you to change the character as you wish.



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Caprice no. 26

When I record, I savor the slow caprices. I am a particularly nervous and sensitive performer - which explains why I had such a hard time with orchestra auditions. These soulful, calm caprices do wonders to soothe my nerves. I try to always have one in every recording session - the boost I get from singing on my viola helps me with the pyrotechnics of the other caprices.

Number 26 is to be played solely on the G-string (no pun intended!). I appreciate the narrow focus: it combines a very specific technique (G string tone and shifting) with a great melody. And there is even a little room to ornament. If you work on this, please send your own thoughts on the piece!


Caprice no. 21

Have you ever heard of a polonaise for solo viola - or for any solo string instrument? Neither have I. That is why No. 21 is a true gem, buried in the middle of the book. Until I started this project, forcing myself to learn every caprice, I would take one look at this caprice and immediately get scared away by the trills on the 16th notes, and the sheer amount 32nds.

Finally last year, the time came for me to ACTUALLY learn the piece, and when I really took it apart and repackaged it, I realized that I needed to play my viola like a pianist playing a polonaise. Just let the notes fly.

Easier said than done, of course. It took a lot of experimentation and tested my patience. But in the end, I had a lot of fun playing this piece. In fact, now I would love to record it again - and play it just a notch faster. But first, I have a few more caprices to go....


Caprice no. 20

Well, hello, Positions 1-7.... Caprice no. 20 is by far the MOST ANNOYING caprice I have encountered in the book so far. But, it's also the one that most improved my raw technique!

In fact, I have never been made to hang out in seventh position unless I'm playing on the A string for some stratosphere work. So, it was a new experience having to traverse ALL the strings in these high positions. It was uncomfortable, and very tricky to eliminate extraneous noise, such as a plucked string when crossing over to the next one. Plus, getting a stellar sound way up there is a constant challenge! I had to pay extra attention to my bow: in order to make a good sound it had to be in exactly the right place with the perfect amount of tension and speed.



Caprice no. 18

Perpetual motion pieces are NOT my strong point, so this caprice definitely gave me a run for it. However, as a musician, I love a good challenge. So I came away from my work on this caprice deciding that fast pieces are, indeed, fun to play. But they need the proper amount of drills and practice time (ie, a LOT more than you initially think) to settle in!

Because of the amount of drill work involved, memorization was the easy part. There was one caveat: mm. 39-47, which fall into an A - A' pattern. Here I really had to switch tracks quickly with my brain, to not get stuck in an A-A loop pattern.

The trickiest section was the double trills at mm. 14-16. Instead of really digging in , I tried to haze over the notes a little, since my fourth finger was not always reliable. The last three measures of the piece pose a real challenge for intonation: switching between the E and B Major chords harkens back to Caprice no. 15!

My favorite passage is mm. 60-64. I had fun shaping the bow st…

Caprice no. 19

Number 19 is an imaginative way to review all twenty-four major and minor keys, without playing a single scale. Campagnoli packed theory and bow technique into this caprice: he cycles through the entire circle of fifths, in the major and minor variations of each key, throwing in a different bowing for each. The result is twenty-four mini caprices, each with its own character and style.

Notice for instance, how G (mm.5-6) major sounds jolly, A major (13-14) sounds slightly aggressive, and C-sharp minor (29-30) sounds mysterious. The hardest part of learning this caprice was discerning all the characters and attempting to convey them in performance.

To accomplish this, I had to extract each 2-measure section and repeat it until I got the character I wanted. Much of the time, characters were determined by the bowing and shape of the line. For example, A-flat major (mm. 33-34) is whimsical, because of the displaced arpeggios and lopsided bowing. B minor (43-44) is sneaky, with the stacca…

Caprice no. 16

Caprice no. 16 was a bear for my left hand, which I contorted in ways I previously thought impossible. I disliked it for a long time because frankly, I couldn't make it sound good. The very first chord in particular, with the extended fourth finger, is just barely playable for me on a 16.5-inch viola. However, after clearing the hurdles, I've decided it's one of my favorite caprices. 

The key of E Major sounds mellow, rich, and joyful. especially on the return of the "A" section after the C-sharp minor section (mm.17-end). Campagnoli certainly does interesting things with the bariolage stroke, especially in mm. 9-16 where he staggers the slurs. This makes it extra tricky for the left hand, as if any more challenges were needed in a piece like this! I found it most helpful to emphasize the bottom note of each chord, to keep the line going and also to keep my bow and left hand on the from getting distracted by other technical complications.