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Caprice no. 6



I have finally made my return to writing (but not playing), two months after baby number 2! If you are a parent and reading this, you understand...if not, let's just say life is organized chaos at this point (especially since my oldest just turned two). Although this is a forced hiatus from playing - this was recorded back in March - I'm enjoying the time off. I hope to come back to the viola with a new perspective and fresh ears in August!

Anyway, let's jump back in with the contemplative Caprice no. 6. This was so relaxing to play, both in practice and performance. I felt that I had time to breathe, and think about phrasing and shapes. Caprice number 6 is all about bow control, starting with the very first note. I found a reasonable tempo to be between 50-60 bpm.

Notice the hairpins marked in measures 1, 2, 5-6, and 8. These markings are rare for Campagnoli, but they emphasize that he was going after a specific type of bow use in this caprice: slow, steady, and with maximum control. The extremely long slur in mm. 4-6, where the two C's are joined together is, I believe, not a mistake. The third beat of m. 6 should be re-articulated on the same bow, and if you start the entire slur down-bow, you will end up with the correct bowing on m. 8.

The portato stroke in m. 9 comes off as surprisingly fast after the languid introduction. To mentally prepare, I found it very helpful to subdivide the first two beats preceding the scale.

After the double-bar at m. 13, use a sort of double-stop portato to play the harmonies accompanying the top note F; same thing at mm. 15 and 22. This technique always reminds me of stepping on pillows when done right: you should ease in gently to the string, and it should feel - and sound - soft and pliable.

If you've read my other posts, you know by now that I rarely ever change bowings from the manuscript, believing that the composer was specific in this regard for pedagogical reasons. However, I did find it necessary to split up the slur at m. 21, so that the last beat is played down-bow. This way the following measure remains intact, and the up-bow works ergonomically to create a crescendo into the cadence. I also broke up slurs in mm. 14 and 24, where again, the bowing was too awkward in its original form.


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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…