Vol 3

Minuet 3 from Vol 3 – Back to Bach

Just like mountain climbing, learning to play a new piece on the violin is not all hard work. Some sections are easier going than others, with places where you can turn around to enjoy the view and see how far you have come. A good example is J.S. Bach’s Minuet No. 3 – in Volume 3, which now includes his lovely G minor section. It is a nice reward for keeping up regular playing of Volume 1. The original Minuet is from Bach’s Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach (BWV Anh.114) for clavier.

Zac on the sandhill

I’ll keep the Volume 1 version of Minuet 3 – the G major parts – for a later post.

Main Teaching and Study Points

One of the main study points in this Minuet is learning to step with conviction through the doorways of the key changes – from G major to G minor and back. It is a profound change of scenery, as different as sunshine and moonlight. (Also see my post on J.S. Bach’s Bourrée, the final piece in Volume 3.) Read More →

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Martini Gavotte – Rondo We Go

It is encouraging to reach a milestone in a long journey. The sense of accomplishment is refreshing – it gives you the energy to keep going. Suzuki understood this very well when putting together the 10 plus volumes of violin music and refining his graduation system. Without reading too much into it, the balance between challenge and attraction in his violin repertoire displays a wise understanding of human nature. To be of real value, vision needs to be achievable, but not too easy. A hard won goal is more satisfying, as long as it is not insurmountable.

Volume 3 gives us the exciting vision of the new music to come – with pieces like Humoresque and J.S. Bach’s Bourree. Suzuki has put in a couple of easier pieces to get us going, starting with the Martini Gavotte. It is written in rondo form with a repeating refrain – ABACADAEAFA – by the Italian Franciscan priest Giovanni Martini, (known as Padre Martine) 1706 – 1774. A famous teacher and musical theorist, W.A. Mozart was one of his pupils.

Main Study Points

Padre Martine’s Gavotte provides us with opportunities to use some of the G minor fingering. B flat appears in the episode section after the first refrain – in bar 9. Then it’s back to B natural in the repeat of the refrain (bar 16). Lowered fingers are used in some of the other episode sections, particularly with a F natural in the last episode (bars 72 to 80).

The first two upbow notes are played with clean staccato bows  – not too short. Since the time signature is Alla Breve, the first beat falls on D. G sings sweetly, upbow quavers B and A smoothly connect before B and C separate lightly on the way to D in bar 2.

There’s the temptation to take a breath, i.e. break the phrase, on D, but the impetus of the melody carries us through to bar 4 at open D.

As episode 1 steps into D minor (B♭), check that students reach back with 1st finger for the B♭and F♮(on E string) without altering the stability of the left hand position.

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Becker Gavotte

Just because I love classical music, it doesn’t mean that I enjoy every funereal dirge on classic radio, any more than jazz lovers embrace all jazz music.

I didn’t take to Becker Gavotte when I first heard it from the recording, but after taking the time to really listen and then learn it, I began to see the many colours of its hidden treasures and now play it with pleasure. It is violinist’s piece, written by a very good musician. Jean Becker (1833 – 84) was in fact a leading German violinist of his time.

The Gavotte fits perfectly into Book 3’s focus on the key of G minor. (For more on playing in G minor see Bourrée by JS Bach.) The frequent use of upbow staccato makes it a valuable piece for developing this important bowing technique.

Main Study Points

From a teaching perspective, I know who has listened well to the recordings when they come in on time after the introduction. Even so, before trusting intuition it is best to count in the six beats of the introduction: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2. The first two upbow staccato strokes begin near the middle of the bow. The following downbow plays smoothly from the heel. Check for accurate intonation, with the hand position centred on the 3rd finger.  4th finger is tight against 3rd for E♭before the reach back to B♭.

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Humoresque, Jewel of Book 3

I enjoy journeys. There’s the adventure of not knowing what lies around the corner; and the delightful anticipation of arrival – realizing the vision. Learning a new piece often contains something of both. It has the frisson of discovery and the allure of an approaching destination. Every one of Suzuki’s volumes has one or more pieces of music which attract and inspire students to learn and play. In Book 3, students can’t wait to get to Humoresque.

Written by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, Humoresque is one of the most famous short pieces in classical music. Composed originally for piano in the key of G flat Major, it has been arranged for numerous instruments and ensembles. Our version is in D Major, moving into D minor in the middle sections. Read More →

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Gavotte in G minor by JS Bach

JS Bach’s Gavotte in G minor (from Suite in G minor, BWV 822) was written originally for clavier, which is perhaps why the more flowing violin arrangement has a kind of haunting quality. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Suzuki’s purpose in compiling Volume 3 was to teach students how to play in the minor key. This piece certainly does that – in a more interesting way than practising scales, don’t you think? (Of course we can’t do without scales, but they can be put into an interesting context.)

Forest Pas-de-CalaisThe 8 bar opening melody appears four times, enabling young students to memorize the whole piece quickly and experience a good sense of progress. Read More →

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How to Teach Bourrée by J.S. Bach

The last piece in Volume 3, this lovely bourrée, is from J.S. Bach’s incomparable Suites for Unaccompanied Cello (No. 3 BWV 1009). It is a step up from the previous pieces in this book and the perfect doorway to Volume 4.

You can read about the suites at Wikipedia from the following link:  Bach Cello Suites. You can

listen to it in the original form – as played here by Mischa Maisky. It comes with a piano part in Volume 3, but is best played as a solo, unaccompanied. To watch the piece played slowly, go to the videos here. You’ll need to register first.

Main Study Points

Bourrée’s main study point is the key change from G major to G minor after the second section. String players know that it is more than just altered fingering. It’s a profound melodic change that takes care to really sound convincing. Read More →

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Gavotte in D Major by J.S. Bach

I tell parents and students that Book 3 is an easy book for two reasons. Firstly, it’s true. A piece of cake. (Ok, the pic isn’t actually of cake. I took it in a lovely little patisserie in country France, but you get the idea.) Volume 3 is relatively short and not much more difficult that what we encounter in Volume 2, with the possible exception of the last piece, the Bourree by J.S. Bach.

Cake in France

Essentially, Suzuki put Book 3 together to teach students how to play in the minor key – G minor. It’s attractive music that everyone likes to play.

Secondly, I want to give students a vision of the way forward, an expectation that they can progress quickly. I know some pieces are more difficult to master than others, but I purposely neglect to say so beforehand. Imagined obstacles loom larger and more formidably than real ones. Sometimes a student is able to learn a ‘difficult’ piece easily, oblivious to the struggles of those who have gone before them. A strong attraction to the piece makes their work and study enjoyable. It can even happen with a whole book.

Bach’s Gavotte in D Major is a long piece, but I think you’d agree it’s not very difficult if you compare it with the other pieces in Book 3.  From the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major (BWV 1068), it is actually two consecutive gavottes, originally written for 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola and basso continuo. I love hearing it played with the original instruments. It gives a great insight into the heart and soul of the music. Have a look at the Youtube video of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra playing it by following this link: Bach Gavottes.

There’s some new technique: we learn to play double stops – two notes together – for the first time. But before we get to them, let’s look at a couple of other study points.  Read More →

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