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Caprice no. 7

Caprice no. 7 is packed with all kinds of technical delights - if you prefer to call them that! Portato, beriolage, double stops, double-stop TRILLS, they're all here.

Campagnoli is kind at the introduction (mm. 1-8), giving a tempo giusto marking for the section which is solely a study in the portato bow stroke. I thought it was also nice of him to use a scalar pattern, rather than something more elaborate. However, you may find that there is only a finite tempo range in which you prefer to play this stroke. That was certainly the case for me. It's similar to spiccato, in that if you play too slowly it simply won't work.

The "aria" of this caprice starts at m. 9. The first time I read this, it felt manageable until I hit a wall with the double-stop trill at m. 21. The challenge lies more in the fact that in first position, with a B-flat in the first finger and A natural in the fourth finger, one has to extend as far as humanly possible just to get this in tune. Especially on a 16.5" viola! This left-hand contortion is something I experienced regularly in Berio's Sequenza VI for Viola as well. It helps to think of your second and third fingers as the balance points for your left hand. The first finger will extend back, and the fourth forward. If you base your hand off of the first finger here, you will have limited flexibility.

How to practice the double-stop trills? Lots of rhythms. It's the only way.

Another challenge was measures 34-38 where the thirds oscillate quickly. My fingers encountered coordination problems that I didn't know I had. Again, rhythms helped immensely here. And lots of patience!

In mm. 41-42, some might choose to let the quarter note go instead of holding through the second eighth note during the double-stops. However, I felt it was important to hold it through, as if you are playing chamber music with yourself and carrying two separate lines.

The triplets/beriolage in mm.45-end feel like such a release, after mucking around on double-stops for so long. Yes, you still have to configure your left had for triple-stops at times, but at least you don't have to play the notes at the same time. Ahh.

And if you can get through all of this, I've found that the hard and frustrating caprices are often the most rewarding. They certainly stretch one's technique to new levels. Enjoy!

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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.

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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.

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