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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 end in a half-cadences, which often resolve at the opening of the following caprice. Number 15 is another one of these caprices. It makes me ponder the original intention for the performance of these pieces: were they meant to be played back-to-back, in numerical order, perhaps in a series of sets? Or perhaps even the whole book in a long concert? (Hopefully not by the same poor performer!) More musings to come...

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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. 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 thepiu moto (mm. 25-44) in groups of two measures, like it were written in 6/…

Caprice no. 1

Finally, here we are at the beginning! Until taking the plunge with this project, I had always avoided Caprice no. 1. It didn't make sense to me until I had studied period baroque music for a few years, and now it clicks. Beginning a piece with a slow, contemplative movement (as opposed to an upbeat one) is very Baroque in style, and by the classical era it was going by the wayside. This seems to be Campagnoli's throwback piece, a nod to earlier times. I also think it's a great way to begin a hefty book of caprices, as it hints at the diversity that can be found within every number.

The caprice consists of two mini movements. First, a Largo: a slow, harmonically driven section that cultivates bow control, followed by the Allegro, its flashy counterpart.

The Largo (mm. 1-28) again, is all about bow control. I have heard people play this REALLY slowly, but I don't think that's the point. (Remember, the literal translation of largo is "long" or "broad&…