Archive for the 'Practice & Performance' Category

Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas are among the most famous works of chamber music history and represent, together with Mozart’s works for this instrument duo, the core of violin repertoire from the Viennese Classicist period.

Though composed in a short span in Beethoven’s creative life (nine of the ten were written between 1798 and 1803, with the final one appearing in 1812), these sonatas bear all the marks of Beethoven’s compositional innovation: the breaking of formal tradition, a vast emotional scope, skillful musical manipulation, and, of course, the trademark urgency and power.

The new Bärenreiter edition of the violin sonatas — or, as more appropriately titled by Beethoven himself, sonatas for the pianoforte and violin — offers a revolutionary editorial approach to the music that does more than simply hand down the text.

These new volumes, edited by historical performing practice expert Dr. Clive Brown, present an approach to performance that is quite different from what most of today’s musicians are accustomed to. This approach not only falls much more in line with what Beethoven would have expected, but also imbues the music with a renewed vigor and offers musicians an incredible array of opportunities for creativity.

“This is the highest quality of academic scholarship, but it is not only that: this edition has enabled me to bring these sonatas to life in a way that has not been possible before – this is historical research in the service of living and breathing music!”

Viktoria Mullova, Violinist

Here violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Alasdair Beatson demonstrate some of their most illuminating discoveries from the “Spring” Sonata (Op. 24) and show us why they’re excited to work with these new editions:

The Editorial Approach

Dr. Brown’s new editions of the Beethoven violin sonatas combine a traditional scholarly Urtext approach with a wealth of information on historical performing practice informed by the thorough study of recordings and editions made by 19th-century musicians, many of whom had direct contact with Beethoven himself or with others that did.

These historical sources reveal a striking discrepancy between performance and notation. Composers in Beethoven’s era, including Beethoven himself, simply did not write down a large swath of the expressive gestures that they would have expected musicians to make, including rhythmic and tempo flexibility, piano arpeggiation and asynchrony, portamento, cadenzas, and ornamental, rather than continuous, vibrato effects.

By not including these details in the text, composers created a space bursting with potential for the creative performer to exploit in what could and, most importantly, would be wildly distinctive and thrillingly emotional performances. In many respects, it was a creative freedom much more akin to jazz than to today’s renditions of classical music.

“I’m alerting people to the fact that we’re actually missing the point if we play the music exactly as it stands on the page. It’s not expressive in the way that they would have expected it to be.”

Dr. Clive Brown, Editor

In the 20th century, all that changed. Between the spread of recording, which captured and then propagated singular interpretive viewpoints, and the Modernist revolution, which sought literal adherence to the text, classical music performance lost its improvisational spirit in favor of technical correctness, leaving performance after performance of any individual piece to be, for all intents and purposes, much the same and even redundant.

In this edition, Dr. Brown provides a traditional Urtext violin part, plus a second edited violin part featuring suggestions for fingerings and bowings that might help the musician explore the text as a 19th-century musician would have. The edition also clarifies some notational conventions employed by Beethoven that went out of use since his time and were ignored or misunderstood in later editions, including the most recent Urtexts.

Dr. Brown’s edits and annotations are, it must be pointed out, intended only as suggestions to invite serious engagement with the soundscape of Beethoven’s musical era. They are not meant to be performed as written time and time again, but rather to serve as guides as we experiment with the music on our own.

“That’s what I would love to see classical musicians getting back to: not being so frightened of making mistakes. In order to be really bold in performance, you have to be prepared to make a mistake.”

Dr. Clive Brown, Editor

Here Dr. Brown himself introduces this performance approach to us and explains how it helps us connect with the emotional essence of Beethoven’s music. He also discusses the importance of tempo in Beethoven’s music, gives us some stylistic examples of the expressive potential that we can begin to experiment with as we revisit Beethoven, and shares some anecdotes that bring Beethoven and his contemporaries to life:

For further information about Dr. Brown’s approach to Beethoven and a more detailed analysis of historical sources, please refer to the introductory text, “Reading between the Lines of Beethoven’s Notation,” included in the edition and the detailed Performing Practice Commentary available in full here:

About the Editor: Dr. Clive Brown

Clive Brown was a member of the Faculty of Music at Oxford University from 1980 to 1991 and is now Emeritus Professor of Applied Musicology at the University of Leeds and Guest Professor at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst (University of the Arts), Vienna. He has published numerous articles on historical performing practice and, as a violinist, pursues practice-led research.

First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up

Guest post by Michael Andros

I picked up the guitar at 14, played in a band for 14 years, then quit.

Years later I picked it up again and have been going strong ever since. But the road to guitar greatness is littered with those who gave up.

Hopefully, my experience helps you avoid becoming a casualty on the guitar “battlefield.”

Let’s look at a four-pronged strategy to defeat the biggest causes of quitting — pain, boredom, and discouragement. We will exploit “beginner’s blush,” focus on the mission, explode plateaus, and “learn how to learn.”

How to Exploit “Beginner’s Blush”

The idea here is to harness the almost irrational, dopamine-induced optimism to push through the painful process of earning your “guitar fingers.” 

Continue reading ‘First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up’

Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English

“There is no truth in theory – only in music!”

Frank Sikora

That’s Frank Sikora‘s creed.

Frank Sikora is also in charge of the theory department and the Master’s program in Jazz Composition & Arrangement at the University of the Arts Bern and is the author of a best-selling and widely acclaimed jazz theory book, Neue Jazz-Harmonielehre, that is now available in English: Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach.

While this coincidence might seem puzzling or even contradictory at first, it is exactly what lends Sikora’s approach the nuance and balance to successfully bridge the gap between theory and practice. In Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach, Sikora sets out to mold musicians who can adapt to anything, regardless of how novel and unexpected it may be. To achieve this, he establishes a close relationship between theory, the ear and our instrument, forging a dialogue between theory and spontaneity that helps musicians connect with music both intuitively and analytically.

Continue reading ‘Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English’

A Four-Part Journey through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

Guest post by Curran Mahowald, a choral singer who participated in Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6 in May 2020

Eric Whitacre

In the spring of 2020, Eric Whitacre assembled his sixth global virtual choir to premiere his new piece, “Sing Gently.” Following a series of virtual rehearsals led by Whitacre himself, 17,572 singers from 129 countries submitted videos of themselves singing their individual lines.

From there, a team of film editors and audio engineers from 59 Productions and Floating Earth assembled the individual submissions into one final virtual performance:

Here is what it was like to contribute my voice to that video.

Continue reading ‘A Four-Part Journey through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir’

Tips on Practicing Music in the Time of COVID-19

dan-leeman-notestem

Dan Leeman

Guest post by Dan Leeman, a music educator and software consultant from Fargo, North Dakota. He taught middle school band and went on to found the Davies High School band program in 2011. Dan’s new site, notestem.com, combines his love of music, education, and technology. While the site is in its infancy, it will be home to music tools and resources that will be released in the coming months.

 

 

The impacts of Coronavirus and social distancing are being felt all around the world. Music teachers and students alike are wrestling with the effects on the music-making process, both logistically and emotionally.

One of the greatest opportunities during this phase of social distancing is to establish strong practice routines. Here are some tips to help make the most of your practice time. Continue reading ‘Tips on Practicing Music in the Time of COVID-19’

Sightreading. Solved.

FPALogo

Nancy and Randall Faber are pleased to announce the release of their newest digital support tool, the Piano Adventure Sightreading Coach. This innovative technology provides immediate feedback and assessment, making it the perfect companion to the Piano Adventures Sightreading books.

PianoAdventureSightreadingCoach

The Sightreading Coach “listens” to the student play along with the score, and instantly grades rhythm and pitch by highlighting incorrect notes and rhythms. Students can practice the exercise as often as they wish, and upload their best performance to the teacher in between lessons. Teachers can monitor student progress without using valuable lesson time, making at-home practice more accurate and efficient.

Continue reading ‘Sightreading. Solved.’

Bring the Ring!

By Sondra Tucker

I am not by any means a master gardener.  But every spring, I get excited when my local nursery begins to display their colorful annuals and perennials for sale. I shop for old favorites like geraniums and sweet-smelling marigolds, and add new varieties that are different and beautiful.  I fill my car with what I hope will be hardy plants that will grow and blossom, making my yard more beautiful, and I carefully plant, fertilize and water them throughout the summer.

Handbell choirs can be like that, too.  Each new season brings an opportunity to greet old friends and integrate new ringers into your ministry.  Providing the right mix of instruction, inspiration, and music can make your handbell ministry flourish and become an integral part of your church’s music ministry, both within your congregation and out in the community.

What are some essential steps to grow a handbell ministry? Continue reading ‘Bring the Ring!’

New School Year, New Warm-Ups

Do your warm-ups need a tune-up? Are you looking for effective warm-ups that still leave you with plenty of rehearsal time? Would you like to strengthen your choir’s ability to sight-read while also warming their voices up in preparation for singing? Two birds with one stone, anyone? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, Russell Robinson’s Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups is for you! This practical resource has been getting a lot of attention from directors nationwide, and we don’t think it will take you long to see why.

To see this resource in action, check-out the video below!

 

Continue reading ‘New School Year, New Warm-Ups’

New Resource for Choir Rehearsals: carus plus put to the test

A choir is a collective of different types of singers who approach rehearsals in very different ways: one can sing perfectly by sight, whilst another is always reliant on his or her neighbor. Some prepare for rehearsals at home, but most of the singers hope to get some direction from the conductor and practice their parts during rehearsals. Bringing together and shaping voices which have more-or-less secure intonation into a unified sound is a task which requires a lot of time and effort on the part of all involved.

In order to make this task easier, in recent years Carus has considerably expanded its range of new, motivating practice aids. Under the keyword “carus plus” practice aids are now available to suit the different needs of singers for over 70 works from the international standard repertoire – from Bach’s St Matthew Passion to many masses by Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert, and to Saint-Saëns’ Oratorio de Noël. Continue reading ‘New Resource for Choir Rehearsals: carus plus put to the test’

15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano (via Elissa Milne)

 

via 15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano


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