Skip to main content

Caprice no. 22

I recorded Caprice no. 22  along with nos. 17 and 33, and even though it's not my favorite, this piece (and my former student) provided the inspiration for The Campagnoli Project. I had assigned it to a student who came back to me the following week, frustrated that she couldn't find a recording for reference online. After doing some research and finding the same results, I realized that many of the caprices were not recorded. Nearly two years later, this project was born. So this recording and post are dedicated to my former student Sara: thank you for your inspiration! I hope you and many other violists find this helpful.

No. 22 is more like a standard etude, with a less developed form and narrow technical focuses. It seems to follow in line with the concept of Kreutzer's Etudes (42 Etudes for solo violin), which is believed to be the model after which Campagnoli wrote his 41 Caprices for Viola.

The overriding technical focuses for Caprice No. 22 are:

The trill
Slurred Double-stops

The trill obviously takes center-stage in this caprice. An important part of developing your trill technique in this work is being able to use the fourth finger. There are just three places where this happen: measures 6, 31, and 49. Needless to say, trilling on the fourth finger on the viola is not the easiest feat- especially if you weren't made to do it regularly in the past. That was one of the biggest challenges for me, but I'm glad I didn't give into the strong desire to change the fingering. 

An alternation of bariolage and slurred double-stops happens at mm. 20-24; 35-38; and once more at 66-67. I found the most challenging section to be the last: m. 67 in particular was very tricky with the fingering (using 2, 3, and 4 spaced in whole steps, while alternating between 2 and 4: intonation nightmare!). In addition bariolage is more difficult when you are holding the lower string and alternating on the upper string. In contrast, holding the upper string and oscillating on the lower string, as in m. 20, is much more ergonomic for the bow. My suggestion is to practice these sections on open strings, without the fingers. If you have never done this technique before, the hard part is getting the bow coordinated to obtain rhythmic precision.

Popular posts from this blog

Caprice no. 40

Caprice number 40 was difficult to learn but ultimately fun and rewarding. As musically simple as it is, I think it's one of the flashiest pieces in the book. (Case in point: my recording engineer, Stuart Breczkinsi, decided this one should be the background piece for the introductory video to my project.)  The key of B Major makes the notes bright and cheerful on the viola. And the string crossing sections almost give it a fiddling/bluegrass feel (mm.27-37) . Of course, that style emerged from Baroque violin technique.  Don't be fooled by the eighth notes: this one should fly off your fingers (and bow) as the Vivace assai marking requests. As with any fast piece, practice working up your speed in very short bursts, at times only a measure. Always remember to land on the next downbeat so you can thread your section practice together into longer fragments.

Caprice no. 41

I couldn't think of a better way to end an epic book of caprices. Caprice number 41 is a grand bookend for a grand project. I used to think number 17 was my favorite, but this piece took the cake once I discovered it. It is joyful and stately. And the sonority it draws out of the instrument makes the solo viola sound like a chamber group.  Perhaps it's the crescendo of energy and sound output. This can heard and also clearly seen in the music, at about  measure 26 , going on to the end of the piece. Double-stops and bariolage, and sometimes both at once, make the viola into a mini-organ. This was my favorite section to play because I felt awash in sound.  This piece mostly tries to be a fugue, but also reaches for something greater. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the fourth movement of Hindemith's Op.11, No.5 sonata (another favorite of mine). The Hindemith obviously came later, and is much longer and more fantastical. But both pieces give you the feeling that you have bee

Caprice no. 35

Lighthearted and fun, Caprice no. 35 is an example of a piece that doesn't exactly scream viola. (To my non-violist readers: our instrument is usually trotted out for a slow, melancholy number.) I'm glad that Campagnoli expanded the realm of possibility for our instrument, even if his ideas didn't stick for the next 100+ years. I like how every section in this piece has its own special touch of buffoonery. Variation 3 (measure 17) mimics the beginning Theme, but the low register makes it rather burdensome, and a little silly. Variation 10 (measure 73) is supposed to sound sad, but the repeated returns to the "A" harmonic, and the little soprano run at the end (mm. 79-80) give it an air of mockery. And the da capo  turn at the end goes from an over-deflated/defeated minor section, to a just-kidding, flippant ending. For just a few examples. So have fun with it, and enjoy the relative ease of this piece. No major technical curveballs here!