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The first presentation of (b) in mm. 7-17 is relatively straightforward (Figure 29). The pizzicato only occurs when the bow is sustaining a note making it easier to multitask. The ornamental figures on the downbeats of mm. 7-8 will use the most bow in each measure. Once these figures are played the bow has to slow down, and despite the pianissimo dynamic marking, and play closer to the bridge. In general, the bow should stick to this pattern: moving faster for the moving notes and slower for the sustained notes. When the bow is sustaining a note and
left hand pizzicato. On the other hand, if the bow is not firmly in its groove on the string, the left hand pizzicato can cause the bow to bounce or the plucked string can vibrate against the bow hair and cause extra noise.
The slow, heavy bow becomes more important in the next Soprano Theme (b1) in mm.
30-47 where the melodic line and the pizzicato figures are more complex (Figure 30). In measures 30-34 the left hand is now in thumb position and the pizzicato begins on the open B string, and by mm. 33-34 is on the B and D strings. In order to execute this passage the left hand has to remain in place over the A string to play the phrase in tune while simultaneously reaching across the fingerboard to reach the B string. I found that this kind of movement can cause the balance of the left hand to become disrupted, which can in turn cause the intonation to suffer and the bow to lose the contact with the string. However, if I kept the bow close to the bridge it made it easier to play these passages.
The most difficult passage by far for me is mm. 117-127. The range of the melodic line begins in the bass, expands into the treble range and the pizzicato figures are the most rhythmically active in this section (Figure 39). Furthermore, the melodic line begins on the F♯ string and continues to ascend on the D string where it will remain until m. 126 (with the exception of the cadenza in m. 122), while the pizzicato occurs on the open B, F♯, and A strings (Figure 39). Not only is the left hand going back and forth between three open strings, but it is also playing a soprano line high on the D string. If played on the A string this melody would not pose too many obstacles for either the bow or the left hand.
However there are now two primary issues that need attention: 1) the D string is now quite short requiring the bow to be as close to the bridge as possible; and 2) when the notes are stopped by the left hand the D string actually falls below the level of the adjacent strings causing the D string to disappear. The D string only resurfaces near the bridge making it impossible to play this passage near the fingerboard.
Since the bow has to be near the bridge, the bow speed and arm weight have to be adjusted to accommodate the placement of the bow. Again, I found a slow, heavy bow to be
achieve that kind of sound. The pizzicato also complicates matters because multiple fingers are required to play the pizzicato figures while one finger is sustaining the melodic line. I change the fingers that I use to play pizzicato as the passage progresses. For example, in m. 117 I use my second and third fingers, and in mm. 118-119 I use my first and third fingers. For the remainder of the passage (mm. 120-121 and mm. 123-126) I use either my first or second finger to play the B and F♯ string, and my thumb to play the open A string. It may seem odd at first to use the thumb in this situation, but I find that if I use my third finger, it leaves my thumb in the air and disconnected from the cello. Using my thumb for the A string pizzicato keeps it closer to the string and fingerboard. Maintaining some contact between thumb and fingerboard in thumb position is another important part of keeping the hand balanced. If the thumb hovers over the fingerboard like a helicopter or sticks out like hitchhiker, it is difficult to orient the hand geographically. There is also an important physical component to keeping the thumb involved.
Without the thumb in contact with the fingerboard, all of the arm weight is being transferred into one finger. Although the thumb should never apply pressure to the string when not in use, its contact with the cello will divert some of the arm weight from being shunted to a single finger.
6.4 The B Section: Con moto The B section of this movement is based on new material and features the most energetic music in the movement. Like earlier parts of the movement Kodály has used elements of folk music as the basis for his themes in this section. Kodály has drawn on his knowledge of military tunes from a popular uprising in Hungary in the 17th and 18th century. These songs were a product of the Hungarian War of Independence which was led by Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II
describe the group of people united with Prince Rákóczi II. Folk songs written during the revolution were often performed on a wind instrument called a tarogato which was commonly accompanied by a drum. The rhythmically firm and more aggressive con moto section has the feel of a march of some kind. Smith’s so-called “Kuruc Themes” are derived from the first two measures of the con moto section and then repeated twice in sequence between mm. 53-75.57 Technically speaking, there are a few moments in this relatively brief section that I always found difficult to coordinate between the left hand and the bow, and some places in which I had to make decisions with regard to the direction of the bow. The first decision I had to make with regard to the bowing occurs in mm. 53 when the first so-called Kuruc Theme is heard (Figure 40). The printed edition begins on an up bow which may seem counterintuitive as string players are more accustomed to beginning on a down bow on the first beat of a phrase, especially when the beginning of the phrase is as strong as it is here. When I tried reversing the bowing I discovered that the original “backwards” bowing made the measures following the Kuruc Theme easier to play. If I began on an up bow in m. 53 the triplet arpeggios that begin on the C string beginning in m. 55 started on a down bow. It is much easier to play an ascending arpeggio that starts from the C string on a down bow because the weight of the arm can be used more effectively at the frog than at the tip. The passage between mm. 57-59 is also an example of a seemingly backwards bowing that ends up being more playable than one might think (Figure 40).
Again there is a series of repeated string crossings that go back and forth between the A and B string. The series begins in m. 57 on a down bow with the first two sixteenths slurred. My original instinct was to begin this passage on an up bow so that I would be closer to the frog for the open B and F♯ strings. However, once the ascending tritones began in m. 59 this bowing pattern became too cumbersome for my right arm. Kodály has slurred the tritone grace notes to the open B and F♯ strings on the final sixteenth of the first beat of m. 59. I found it difficult to begin the lower notes on an up bow and play the higher notes on a down bow. So in this instance I simply followed the printed bowing and began on a down bow on the second beat of m. 57.
Following this bowing also works for the transition into and the next Kuruc Theme in mm. 60The final Kuruc Theme begins in m. 68 and leads into a brilliant flourish that ends at the climax of this section in m. 75. In this section the difficulties I faced had more to do with the coordination between the left hand and the bow, as well as deciding on a few fingerings. With regard to fingerings I try to minimize the distance between position changes by shifting between
passage of dotted-eighth-sixteenths, I shift on the dotted-eighth which gives me more time than if I shift on the relatively faster sixteenth note. This rule can be applied to any duration. There are a couple of examples in the third Kuruc Theme of the B section.
The coordination issues in this section arise in mm. 72-75 (Figure 41). This passage begins in the lower register of the cello and gradually ascends over two octaves, ending high on the A string on an up bow. The wide range of this passage means that the bow will have to begin in the lower half and make its way out to the tip in order to play the B on the second beat in m.
Figure 41: mm. 72-75. Use the slurs to begin at the frog and get to the tip.
After many unsuccessful attempts to get from the lower to the upper half of my bow, I realized that there was a small window of opportunity in which I could make the bow travel. In m. 72 the thirty-second note figure on the second beat is played twice and the first beat of m. 73 is simply an elaboration of this pattern, while the left hand plays a relatively simple pattern.
From the second beat of m. 73 until the conclusion of m. 75 matters for the left hand become much more complex.
As I continued to experiment with the distribution of the bow I realized that the best way to get to the tip was to use the slurs that occur on the first half of each group of thirty-second notes. Using more bow on the down bow slurs was more effective since a down bow travels in
because I have to be at or near the tip by the time I get to the second beat of 73, otherwise the right and left hands are to each other. At the same time I realized that the bow should do all of its traveling before the left hand has make its way up the fingerboard. Beginning on the second beat of m. 73 the left hand makes a series of semitone position changes, which while not necessarily difficult by themselves, can be troublesome to execute while the right arm is busy making rather large movements to get the tip of the bow. If the bow is in its ideal position by the time I need to focus on the left hand I have one less thing to worry about.
The middle section concludes with a series of recitative-like gestures that serve to lower the energy level and bring the cello back to the register of the Bass Theme which is recapitulated in m. 90. Unlike the previous passage in mm. 73-75 in which I had to make a conscious effort to get to the tip of the bow, the bow can start exactly where it needs to and through proper distribution can be in the right place to finish the phrase. For example, the passage in mm. 77-79 is marked piano and crescendos to forte quickly on the second and third beats of m. 78 that lead into the two forte chords in m. 79. It makes the most sense to begin the crescendo on the B♭ on an up bow, which means that the ascending scale should begin on a down bow. Since there are no slurs in the scale to help the bow travel to the tip, the scale should begin at the tip and use relatively little bow (Figure 42). The next passage in mm. 82-83 is similar in the sense that the second and third beats should begin on an up bow so that the chords in m. 84 can be played on a down bow (Figure 43). The scale is all under one slur which will require that it begin at the frog on a down bow, gradually increasing in speed as the scale ascends.
Figure 43: mm. 81-84. Speeding up through a down bow to get to the tip.
6.5 Thoughts on Performance With regard to performance there are a few strategies I used to help maintain the pulse in both the A and B sections. The rhythm and the pulse in this movement must remain steady and in sections with left hand pizzicato there is no room for interpretation. Establishing a pulse in the opening was an important part of getting off to a good start in the second movement. I decided to use the start of the Soprano Theme as my point of reference for the pulse of the Bass Theme. I also discovered that breathing before each change and thinking or saying the word “and” before each change prevented me from cutting a tie or dotted rhythm short. This in conjunction with varying the bow speed correctly helps make the bow changes smoother. The concept of the word “and” as a sort of musical place marker was explained by Janos Starker in a master class on the second movement of the Sonata.58 I found that it also helped to simply count the eighth notes particularly in the Soprano Theme when the left hand pizzicato notes have to line up correctly
control (Starker used the phrase “controlled fury” and often quotes Gyorgy Sebok who said, “don’t get excited, create excitement.”).59 It is a similar approach to the trill section in the first movement. My tendency was to hurry through the technical passages, but maintaining a firm tempo greatly increased my chances of making it through this section successfully. The virtuosity is already written into the music, so it makes little sense for me to speed up or slow down where it is not written.
The second movement illustrates a clear dichotomy in the variety of playing styles required. On one hand, there are expansive lyrical passages that necessitate micromanagement of the changing bow speeds, and on the other there are passages in the B section that are short and intense that require quick adjustments in the placement of the bow. I found that I had to make a number of choices with regard to my left hand to manage the left hand pizzicato as well as the melody. My choices were based primarily on the size of my left hand, what felt the most comfortable, and what resulted in the best sound.
The third movement of Op. 8 is firmly rooted in Hungarian dance and instrumental folk music. At nearly eleven minutes, the third movement is a test of endurance, technical prowess, and memorization skills for the performer. Kodály expanded the range of the cello to five octaves, included unique pizzicato techniques, unusual left hand techniques, and bowing techniques such as saltato, ricochet, sul ponticello, and sul tasto. Although composers had used many of these techniques individually, it is likely that Kodály was the first composer to combine these techniques in one composition creating a variety of sound colors.