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Caprice no. 5



I recorded Caprices 5-8 over two weeks ago, at 7 months of pregnancy with my second child. Needless to say, I'm taking a break now, as my energy wanes and I anticipate learning how to navigate life with a toddler and newborn!

Caprice no. 5 has always intrigued me, but when giving it the cursory read-through I would realize that it was too difficult to read for fun. This one took the most time to learn out of the current set, and the biggest challenge was giving it the light, playful character that I believe it deserves. There are lots of bowing inconsistencies in the engraving, and I marked what I deemed appropriate, trying to stay true to the few decipherable patterns. However, there are many other possibilities depending on one's personal preferences.

Another choice that I've made is to not re-articulate the top note in the slurred triple-stops, occurring at mm.32-33 and 36-37. This follows historical performance practices, as well as a more literal interpretation of the tied note. If the note were meant to be re-articulated, it would not have been tied. (I bring this up simply because the general practice now is to do the opposite.)

There are some fingerings in the part that lead me to believe that Campagnoli either had large hands, or a small viola (or quite possibly both). At m. 38, he marks the double-stop F#-E with a 2 and 4! This is possible on the violin, but certainly not on my 16.5-inch viola. For a composer that leaves most fingering up to the performer (or more likely, assumes that most fingering will be played in first position), I thought it was an odd place to add an opinion- but also leaves an insightful piece of evidence.

Measures 75-89 proved the most challenging for me. The first half of this section was difficult for managing very quick trills, double-stop patterns, and the change to a staccato articulation. The second half (from m. 83) is a beast for the fourth finger. I'm going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and assume that on the composer's small viola, it was much easier to play.

Given the oddities of the first four caprices, this one is relatively tame, staying in the key of G major and finishing on a tonic chord. If you missed Caprices 1-4 be sure to check them out in my earlier posts: some are quite wild!



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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.
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Note: Throughout the entire piece, I attempt to keep the same tempo, adjusting slightly for
character. This allows for last t…