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Caprice no. 2



Caprice no. 2 is a loose semblance of a Theme and Variations. While short, there is still a lot of material packed into a few minutes, and I find it's a great all-encompassing etude for warming up and hitting your double-stops, triplets and bariolage.

The Theme (m.m. 1-8) has a song-like quality, and it is helpful to practice without the double and triple-stops to get an idea of the flow for the melody. It is quickly followed by a bariolage section (m.m. 9-16) in the relative minor key of e , which I think does well in a more hushed, mysterious tone, building up to the forte in m. 15.

Measures 17-22 are a bit curious with the break from the traditional eight-bar phrase to a four-measure phrase repeated, followed by a three-measure phrase (also repeated). The end of this section marks the end of the theme/variations, as the character, form and key shift going into the triplet section.

It helps to think of the piu moto (mm. 25-44) in groups of two measures, like it were written in 6/4 time. This will give the section more flow and also justify the up-bow that happens every other measure. The long winding chord progression hits many keys as every other measure resolves the harmonic tension that has built up from the last. The descending bassline from mm. 37-40 imply a natural crescendo that should continue until the sforzando in m. 42.

Notice how the piece ends in a half-cadence on an E major chord- leading us right into Caprice No. 3, which starts in A major. For this reason, I believe that the first few caprices might have been intended to be played or performed one right after the other: The first perfect cadence at the end of a caprice doesn't happen until no. 5!  However, a true V-I cadence only occurs between Caprices 1-2 and  2-3. The transitions between no.'s 3-4 and 4-5 are not as harmonically sound.


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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. 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…

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 …