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Caprice no. 1

Finally, here we are at the beginning! Until taking the plunge with this project, I had always avoided Caprice no. 1. It didn't make sense to me until I had studied period baroque music for a few years, and now it clicks. Beginning a piece with a slow, contemplative movement (as opposed to an upbeat one) is very Baroque in style, and by the classical era it was going by the wayside. This seems to be Campagnoli's throwback piece, a nod to earlier times. I also think it's a great way to begin a hefty book of caprices, as it hints at the diversity that can be found within every number.

The caprice consists of two mini movements. First, a Largo: a slow, harmonically driven section that cultivates bow control, followed by the Allegro, its flashy counterpart.

The Largo (mm. 1-28) again, is all about bow control. I have heard people play this REALLY slowly, but I don't think that's the point. (Remember, the literal translation of largo is "long" or "broad".) You need to find a tempo that still accommodates the original slurs marked in the music: particularly mm. 10 and 12. A tempo that is too slow will insure that you will have to break up the 16th-note slurs. I also find it interesting that Campagnoli includes more dynamic indications and shaping than possibly anywhere else in the book. Perhaps this is because of the lack of melody, but I also think he is directing the use of pressure and speed in the bow, especially in the first six measures.

The Allegro (mm. 29-47) is essentially a study in perpetual motion, and if you have read my previous posts, you know this is not my forte. I found it helpful to remember to relax into the slurs from m. 34. The absence of dynamic shaping in this section is more typical of what you will find in this book. Use your musical intuition and knowledge of harmony to come up with a convincing roadmap,

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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.

Caprice no. 15

I had fun working on number 15 - it's a caprice that tends to play itself. The key of G major makes the most of the viola's natural resonance, especially in a nice hall like the one in Riverside Church that I used for the recording session.

I want to take a moment here to thank Riverside Church for providing the inspiring space. And a big thanks to my new recording engineer, Stuart Breczinski, for signing on to this project. He has done an amazing job with the audio and video: his work speaks for itself!

So back to this caprice: the temptation was to start at a quick pace. But I had to look forward to passages like mm.13-17, and 35-36, where the passagework demands a more conservative tempo. The latter passage was especially challenging for the stratified voicing. Jumping back and forth between the G and A string, or the C and D string, requires a quick and adept adjustment in arm weight to make the string speak properly.

I observed many posts ago that many of these caprices …

Caprice No. 17

I fell in love with Caprice No. 17 when my teacher assigned it to me in middle school. My fascination with the work became one of the reasons I pursued this project: I wanted an outlet to perform it. Because the piece is my favorite, I’ve decided to post it first.
No. 17 is more than just a caprice, it is a delightful Theme and Variations with tons of action packed into four short minutes. Each variation is a micro-caprice with its own technical landscape to explore. While it is appealing musically, the work is also incredibly fun to play. Most of my practice time on this caprice and other early posts was spent holed up in the bathroom during my daughter's nap time, playing with a practice mute on and the door closed. I was working on this one in the middle of the summer and there were hot days when I craved the AC which was on in the rest of the apartment!
Note: Throughout the entire piece, I attempt to keep the same tempo, adjusting slightly for
character. This allows for last t…