Gavotte by F.J. Gossec

Gavotte by F.J. Gossec, the last piece in Volume 1, is also Suzuki’s first level graduation piece, a significant milestone of a student’s progress in the repertoire with new technical challenges that must be mastered for the graduation recording.

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A WORD ABOUT GRADUATION RECORDINGS…
Recording a piece for a graduation level is extremely beneficial: as well as showing up the parts that require the most work, it reveals those little glitches and errors that usually escape notice. Listening back to the initial recordings, it’s possible to pick up things like non-musical noises, inaccurate intonation, uneven rhythms, inappropriate dynamics and unintended breaks in phrases, details that are less apparent during the performance. In live recitals audiences (and players themselves) are more forgiving of small imperfections or even the occasional little stumble.

François-Joseph Gossec (1734 – 1829) was a major French composer of operas, string quartets, 30 symphonies, and choral works. Gavottes, originally French folk dances, were often included in the instrumental dance suites of the Baroque composers.Gossec drawing

There’s two technical challenges to content with in the Gavotte: staccato bow strokes and eight quick notes, with a twist – in bar 20.

Staccato Bows

The staccato quavers in the first section are played with short detached bows in the middle or lower part of the bow, similar to those in Song of the Wind, Perpetual Motion and Etude. The quicker tempo makes them a little harder to achieve than in the earlier pieces. Students can practise with complete stops at first, letting the bow rest on the string without pressure after each stroke. Speeding up, the staccato is achieved more by the start and shape of each bow stroke – beginning with a pinch upwards of the thumb.

This is an excellent piece to practice and improve staccato bowing. Suzuki got us to play complete phrases in this first section with whole bows of staccato strokes – upbow staccato on one phrase followed by downbow staccato on the next.

More advanced students can play these phrases with off the string staccato – more like spiccato.

Technical Study Points

Work separately on bars 2, 4, 6 and 8 – with the grace notes. The key is to quickly prepare  before each bow stroke.

Play a short downbow on G and stop. Place 1st finger on F# and quickly cross to E string. Play F# upbow, sounding a short grace note to G then stop. Place 3rd on G again, quickly cross to for the short downbow on G and stop.

Gossec Gavotte Ex A

Take care with C# – in both cases it’s often played too flat.

THE KEY TECHNICAL POINT

The slurred semiquavers in bar 20 are rather fast for little fingers (and many big ones too) at CD tempo, and for added interest, 2nd changes from C# to C♮. I teach this run in three stages:

  1. Without slurs. Keeping 1st finger down, play the first four notes B, D, C#, D. As you place 3rd finger (D) again, lift up 2nd finger to prepare for C♮. Leave 3rd down. Stop. Place 4th. Play the next four notes E, D, C, B. Check: was C♮ in tune?
  2. Short separated strokes within the slurs. Pause again after the first four notes, place 4th finger (E) and continue on with the second four notes.
  3. Smooth slurs. Pause between down and up to quickly place 4th finger. As the student becomes fluent, reduce the pause.

Gossec Gavotte Ex B

Runs in the last section are best practised in the same way – to ensure the semiquavers are clear and even, especially during string crossings. Pluck the two pizzicato notes over the fingerboard with first finger, maintaining bowhold, just lifting it off the stick.

Musical Expression

The lively character of the gavotte evokes a sense of lightness and energy, especially in the first two sections – a light-footed dancer on tiptoes. If the short detached bows are difficult to play at the tempo of the recording, students may find it easier to practise first on an open string. Be careful that the phrases finish gracefully – without overly long or heavy crotchets (1/4 notes).

The score for Gossec’s Gavotte is now available for download in Resources. Thank you for visiting Teach Suzuki Violin, and a warm welcome to all the new members.

Cheers,

John

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