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arco notes. Once this reflexive way of playing the figure became smooth, I was able to play it rhythmically and gradually increase the tempo. Measures 471-473 were by far the most difficult transposition of this passage for me because the configuration of the left hand made it nearly impossible for me to play the left hand pizzicato notes. The left hand has to play an E♭ major chord with the first, second, and third fingers, so that the bow can play the bottom note of the chord and the fourth finger can pluck the top three notes of the chord. What I found difficult was maintaining the shape of my left hand and thus, the intonation of the chord while reaching with my fourth finger for the pizzicato, since repositioning the hand happens automatically as the fourth finger attempts to reach. Unfortunately, I have never been able to completely solve this problem since it may be an issue of hand size more than anything else. Perhaps if I had a much longer third or fourth finger, this passage would be less problematic. I did, however, find a few ways to help the problem. First, I tried positioning my left thumb behind my third finger rather than behind my first or second finger which prevented my fingers from pulling back to go with my thumb. Second, I tried moving my left arm forward and around the cello to shorten the distance that my fourth finger had to reach to play the pizzicato. These two ideas helped somewhat but have never completely solved the problem.
Measures 78-96 are less complicated for the left hand than the parallel passage in mm.
477-493, but both require the cellist to use first and fourth finger to bar a fifth, first in mm. 94and again in mm. 488-490 (Figure 68). These two passages also require the cellist to alternate between the barred first and fourth fingers while covering the distance of both a minor and major third. Using fourth finger to bar any two pitches is never entirely comfortable but there are few
but it allowed my relatively small hand to better preserve the intonation. If, on the other hand, I tried to keep my first finger in place while reaching with my fourth finger, my first finger ended up pulling sharp. My hand also became tight and tired quickly. Releasing the left hand was absolutely necessary in mm. 488-490 due to the passage occurring in half position and because of the much larger interval spacing between double stops.
Figure 68: mm. 94-96, mm. 488-490.
The passage in the recapitulation in mm. 477-492 presents less of a problem in terms of balancing the sound than mm. 78-96 (whose problematic drone I discussed in section 7.3) since there are no open strings to strum repeatedly. However, I did modify the method of strumming in this passage in order to get a fuller sound from the chords. Rather than strum all of the chords from the top down as Kodály has indicated, I reverted to the back and forth strumming pattern from mm. 78-80. I felt that these chords were more harmonically complex than those from the exposition and needed more sound to make the harmonic changes clear, and that I could get the
configurations throughout the passage as there are few options to use open strings. Again, I found that releasing my left hand at every opportunity made the passage less difficult and less tiring. Measures 491-492 were particularly difficult for my left hand because of the spacing required by the chords (Figure 69).
Figure 69: mm. 491-492.
Here the left hand has to alternate between E and A♯, and E and Cx. Although releasing the left hand between chords was still imperative, I realized that it was my fingering that I had to change to make this passage successful. I began playing this passage by going back and forth between second finger and first finger on the E-A♯, and second finger and fourth finger on the ECx which meant that I was keeping second finger down while trying to reach a minor seventh with my fourth finger. Despite changing the angle of my hand to reduce the reach, the intonation suffered, and I changed my fingering on the E-Cx to first finger and fourth finger to prevent this.
Although this meant that I had to make a position change on every eighth note, I felt I was able to justify a reduced tempo in these two bars since it made sense to slow down as the material from the second theme group is about to arrive for the final time.
One of the most problematic passages in the entire piece is that which makes up subsection (2d) in mm. 119-173 in the exposition and in mm. 517-564 in the recapitulation. Each of these subsections can be divided into two parts: 1) a single melodic line in mm. 119-136, and
2) a repetition of the same phrase with double stops in mm. 137-173. The requirements for the left hand are unique in the cello repertoire as the thumb is fixed on a pitch, while the left hand reaches for the pitches in the melodic line (or double stops) that alternate with the pedal tone created by the thumb. The fixed nature of the thumb is where the term restez comes into the picture, as the word translates from the French to mean “remain.”68 The word is generally used in string playing to instruct a player to remain on a particular string or finger. What makes these two phrases difficult for the left hand is, 1) the fact that there is little in the way of a reference point for the fingers as the normal diatonic configuration of the hand does not apply, and 2) the fixed thumb limits the ability of the left hand to effectively reach some of the larger intervals.
The speed, placement, and distribution of the bow is also critical in the success of these phrases.
The first time this phrase occurs in mm. 119-173, it is in D major. In mm. 119-136 the thumb will remain on D (above the A harmonic) and the first, second, and third fingers will reach for the alternating notes (Figure 70). As the phrase progresses the melodic range expands, beginning with the range of a fourth (to G), moving on to a fifth (to A), and reaching its maximum range of a minor seventh (to C) in m. 127. For the size of my hand and the length of my fingers, using first and third fingers for A and F♯ in m. 122, and using third finger for any pitch above F♯ was the most comfortable.
68 Christine Ammer, The A to Z of Foreign Musical Terms, (Boston: ECS Publishing, 1989), s.v. “restez.”
Given the shorter distance between notes in this register of the cello, reaching a minor seventh was not terribly uncomfortable once I became accustomed to the sensation of having my thumb function as the pivot point in my left hand. The distance between notes became more problematic for me in the following double stop phrase, as it is positioned a perfect fourth lower on the A and D harmonics in thumb position. This portion of the phrase is also made more difficult in terms of reach because of the double stops, particularly in the case of a minor sixth in which the second and third fingers must be further apart. Here I tried to turn my body to the right in such a way that my left arm could come around the cello thereby reducing the amount reaching I had to do with the left hand.
left hand because of the larger distances between notes, particularly in the double stop section of the phrase. Again, turning my body to the right helped to some degree, but in the case of the double stops in mm. 535-545 I am not able to truly reach the G-E double stops if my thumb remains in place on the B and F♯. Not only does this make it difficult to perform the passage, but the super stretch that I have to make limits the amount of time I can practice the passage before my hand and forearm begin to hurt. I attempted to solve this problem by not lifting my second and third fingers, therefore not actually playing the notes stopped by my thumb. I was able to make it sound as though I was lifting my fingers by articulating the bow using a portato stroke as I played the moving sixteenth notes. In doing this I found that in both passages, although it seems necessary to do so, lifting the second and third fingers higher makes it more difficult to play. The higher the fingers are from the fingerboard, the greater the chances are for losing sight of the next target. Furthermore, I discovered that in all of these phrases, the speed, placement, and distribution of the bow became just as important as anything I tried with my left hand, and one of the first alterations I made was the number of measures under a single slur. Kodály has written long slurs (or phrase markings), many of which are over four measures. This distribution of the bow was never comfortable for me because not only does the bow have to be in the upper half, but because I had to carefully budget the amount of bow used down to the last sixteenth note. By altering the slurs to one or two bars per slur, it became much easier to use an effective and comfortable amount of bow in the upper half while negotiating a difficult left hand passage.
As I mentioned above, I also found it useful to articulate the bow when playing the moving line in order to make up for the loss of articulation made by the left hand, as I decided not to lift it as
doing it because ultimately the moving line would be heard and it stood a better chance of being in tune. There are many instances in the cello repertoire in which we have to make a decision between doing what is written and doing what is playable. At this point in my life, that passage is unplayable as written, so I have to alter it. Perhaps later in my life I will not find it necessary to make these changes, but until then, this is what works.
7.9 Cadenza The page of bizarre arpeggios in mm. 272-325 is difficult primarily because of the odd configuration of the left hand, syncopated rhythm, and the fact that the bow has to repeatedly traverse all four strings (Figures 56-57). I found that most of the difficulty in this section was superficial in the sense that it looks more difficult than it actually is once all of the bowing and fingering patterns are figured out. The first step for me was to figure out the make-up of the chords. These chords are dissonant, made up of augmented fifths, diminished fourths, and minor sevenths all framed by an octave, but the configuration of the left hand remains the same between mm. 272-300 making it relatively easy to go from chord to chord. It is between mm.
301-315 that matters for the left hand become somewhat complicated because the shape of the left hand does not resemble anything that cellists are accustomed to using in Classical and Romantic music. In terms of the bow, I found it helpful to make a few of adjustments when playing these arpeggios: 1) Use more bow as the arpeggio rises and less bow as it falls. Not only is this a general rule that applies to cello playing in general, but it will also help the cellist execute the crescendi that Kodály has marked over almost all of the notes played on the A string;
2) Turning at the waist to accommodate the curvature of the bridge helped keep the bow straight,
imagined that my elbow was actually leading my right arm.
7.10 Coda The arrival at the coda is a satisfying moment both musically and psychologically (it is truly the light at the end of the tunnel). B major has finally arrived and after playing for over 30 minutes it is nice to know that the end is near. However, there are a few hurdles yet to clear before reaching the finish line. There are two sequences in mm. 618-641 and mm. 659-673 that are separated by four-string B major arpeggios in mm. 642-658. The first sequence almost outlines an anhemitonic pentatonic scale (B-D-(E)-F♯-A-B) that was so prevalent in the first movement, and the second sequence is an arpeggiation of a B major chord using sixths and thirds that covers 5 octaves. Both of these sequences posed problems for my left hand and required a few adjustments in the bow, although for different reasons. The B major arpeggiation in mm.
642-658 was mostly an issue of executing string crossings, because the left hand essentially remains in place.
The first adjustment in the bowing I made in the first section was to retake the bow in m.
619 and in m. 622 so that m. 620 and m. 623 would start on a down bow (Figure 71).
Figure 71: Retaking bows in mm. 620 and 623.
Without making this change the eighth notes on the lower strings would start on an up bow and the rhythmic variation in the remainder of these measures would be on a down bow, making the string crossings more difficult and the down beats weaker. I found it much easier to play the
up bow made it easier to crescendo into the next down bow. I retake the bow again in m. 631 so that I can play the triplet-sixteenth note figure (now in separate bows) on a down bow. This will set up the desired bowing in the next section which is composed of string crossings over three and four strings in mm. 638-658 (Figure 72).
Figure 72: mm. 637-641. Earlier retakes allow the arpeggios to begin up bow.
The arpeggios in this section begin on the lower strings, go toward the A string, and come back down again. Originally, I played this passage beginning on a down bow so that by the time I reached the A string I would be further out on the bow. Changing the bow direction made these arpeggios easier to play because by starting on an up bow it is naturally traveling in the direction of the string on which the bow change occurs. The same is true as the bow is moving in the down bow direction toward the B string. I retake the bow again to begin the next section in m. 659 (Figure 73). Beginning this passage on a down bow ensures that the bow will be at or near the frog to play the notes on the lowest strings, and that the notes in the higher register will be played in the upper half of the bow. The final section in mm. 659-673 (Figure 73) I found difficult because of the constantly changing shape of the left hand. The passage is a series of sixths and thirds, and concludes with tenths and thirteenths (a compound sixth). Although I anticipated each shift, I had a choice of using either the thumb or second finger to use as my point of reference.
Both options are viable but the most comfortable option for me was to use my thumb to anticipate each position change.