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Kodály’s frequent use of a lowered second scale degree changes the normally diatonic relationship within the left hand. Like the B♭ major chord in the previous measure, the left arm has to come around the cello to essentially make the fingers longer. The degree to which each individual person has to adjust the left arm will depend on hand size and finger length. I have relatively small hands so I have to move my shoulder forward somewhat, bring my elbow up, and then play the C♭ with the tip of my first finger.
The role of the bow is also important here. In this instance we go from a single note on the A string to a double stop on the A and D string with a hairpin dynamic marking. As the phrase continues, the moving line moves to the D string while the F♯ string sustains and vice versa. Toward the end of the exposition, the same configuration occurs on the B and F♯ strings.
The problem I encountered in these situations was adjusting the speed and weight of the bow to accommodate two different strings. It was often difficult to sustain the A string while still making the D string clear. Ideally, the bow would have a different weight and speed for the two different strings, but since this is not possible the bow has to focus on the moving line.
I found that if I tried to treat both strings equally the string with the sustained note would usually be choked by the arm weight needed to support the string with the moving notes. I also realized that it took far less from the bow in order to make the sustained note heard. The solution here is simply to concentrate the bow on the string with the moving line. In the first instance in mm. 44-45 it is a matter of watching the way the bow hits both strings and focusing the weight of the right arm toward the D string. I found that this also somehow helped to overcome the
The development (mm. 80-151) is based on material from the first theme group, although the original theme never reappears. Of course, all of the chords in the development should be dealt with in a similar manner as the chords in the exposition. The development has two prominent features that I found difficult: sixteenth note passages and a series of single note and double stop trills. The sixteenth note passages begin in m. 116. The entire passage is essentially a sequence that leads in to the trill section and the climax of the movement.
The sixteenth note passages are challenging not necessarily because they are fast but because of the rapid position changes that occur in each group of four sixteenth notes. The strategy in these passages is to coordinate the preparation of the left arm with the bow changes, and keep this motion constant. The regularity of the position change also works in our favor because it allows for the motion of the left arm to be rhythmic. In each group of four sixteenth notes in mm. 117-120 the position change occurs on the fourth sixteenth note (with the exception of the first beat of m. 118 in which there is a string change, and the first beat of m. 120 where the position changes on the third sixteenth note of the group). The same follows for the two following sequences in mm. 124-128 and mm. 132-134.
All three passages are essentially the same in terms of the coordination that has to happen between the left arm and bow, but I will use mm. 117-120 (Figure 21) as an example. The second beat of m. 118 is where the coordination begins in earnest. As the example shows, the position change occurs on the fourth sixteenth note of each group and I shift with my first finger from the old position into the new position, and the beginning of each new position is played with first finger.
Because I am using anticipated shifts in this passage, the left hand has to arrive in each new position before the bow change. While the change from position to position might be determined by the direction of the bow (i.e. whether the position change happens on an up or down bow), the left arm has to be in motion preparing for each new position constantly. This preparatory motion is essentially a clockwise motion initiated from the elbow that lifts the left arm and the hand, releasing the weight of the arm and hand before the shift. Rather than occurring on any specific sixteenth note, this motion should begin as far in advance of the position change as is practicable and continue throughout the passage. In these three passages, the position changes are continuous (but regular) so the circular motion of the arm should be continuous.
The trill section in mm. 138-144 (Figure 22) was among the most difficult passages in the movement and certainly one of the most difficult in the entire piece. The first group of trills in mm. 138-139 is made up of single notes, and the second group in mm. 142-143 is composed of the same pitches an octave lower that are harmonized in sixths on the D string. This section presents a few unique difficulties for the left hand and the bow. The first group is difficult for a few reasons: 1) these pitches are above the fingerboard placing the fingers in rosin, 2) all of the principal notes are played with the first finger, and 3) the extreme register places these pitches
There are a few things that I found helpful in trying to play this passage. First, this passage has to be played in the upper half of the bow (if not the tip). The left hand is so close to the bridge during this section that if played anywhere in the bow below the middle, the right and left hands will essentially run into one another disrupting the physical balance between the hands. In order to get to the tip at the start of this passage I have altered the bowing such that the first two and last two eighth notes of each measure are slurred, while the middle two are separate. The first down bow slur will get the bow out the tip initially.
As far as the left hand goes, there is no way to avoid getting rosin on your fingers. The stickiness of the rosin is compounded by the fact that all of the notes in mm. 138-139 are played with first finger, thus we do not have the luxury of releasing one finger when another goes down.
Instead, the left arm and hand are responsible for releasing the weight between each note.
Without releasing the weight of the left arm, I found it extremely difficult to move from note to note. Not only does the first finger get stuck in rosin, but it is weighed down by the arm. The same principal of lifting has to be applied to the second group of trills in mm. 142-143 as well. I found it to be even more crucial in this passage because the arm is applying even more weight in order to play the double stops.
Finally, I have included some of my performance experiences for this movement. There were always a few strategies that I used when I performed this movement that were often helpful. As in any performance some things do not always go as planned, but these ideas can be implemented during the practice phase in the hope that they will be become a natural part of how the movement is played. First, I found breathing to be crucial to the pacing of the movement on both small and large scales. For example, breathing during all of the dotted rhythms was extremely helpful in keeping the pulse steady and helped in the preparation for the shifts in the opening. On a larger scale, breathing between the end of the first theme group and the beginning of the second theme group was beneficial because it allowed any residual tension to be released before beginning the next section. In a video production of a master class given by Janos Starker at Indiana University, he instructed his student to “go limp” after playing the final note of the first theme group and to take a big breath before beginning the next theme.49 Having a feeling of relaxation at the end of the first theme group is not only helpful for the body, but it also suits the musical gesture since this moment is the first real point of arrival in the movement. At the trill section in the development my tendency was always to rush through it, perhaps thinking unconsciously, that if I played it faster it would be over much sooner. Instead I discovered that playing the passage deliberately made the section slightly easier. In general I found that because Kodály wrote rhapsodically that my tendency was to play rhapsodically by stretching rhythmic durations, when the printed rhythms actually serve this function. Technically speaking, I found 49 Janos Starker. Janos Starker Teaches and Performs Zoltán Kodály, Sonata for Cello Solo, Op. 8.
Volumes 1-3. Produced by Nancy Calloway. Bloomington, IN: WTIU Indiana University Television in Conjunction with the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center, 1999.
Adherence to the written rhythms not only helps the metric displacement come out of the texture, but I found it much easier to play some of the most difficult sections of this movement. One final suggestion I would make to any cellist performing the piece would be to take the time to wipe the rosin from the strings and fingers, and to check the tuning of the cello before moving on to the second movement. Both ideas seem simple, but in during a performance the simple things are often easily overlooked. In a piece that is at least 30 minutes long, the strings will be caked in rosin by the beginning of the third movement, and I had better results when there was less rosin on the strings. The cello can also go out of tune by the end of the first movement. The temperature or humidity in the performance venue can be different from backstage and cause the strings to stretch, and it is worth taking the time to check.
The second movement of this Sonata is a remarkable example of how a complex piece of music can be created from economical means. This movement more than any other in the Sonata, evokes the human voice and is modeled on specific aspects of Hungarian folk songs.
Kodály uses elements of traditional laments, typically sung by women at funerals and during periods of mourning, and military tunes as the basis for his thematic material.50 In addition to the strophic construction of Hungarian folk songs, folk songs were classified according to style (old or new) each with its own specific characteristics. Kodály and his colleague at the Franz Liszt Academy, Belá Bartók were among the first scholars to collect and record Hungarian folk songs. Kodály and Bartók observed that most songs sung in the old style use pentatonic scales and harmonies, and have one of two tempos: tempo giusto and parlando-rubato.51 The tempo giusto songs are characterized by a strict and steady tempo, where as songs written with a parlando-rubato tempo are more rhythmically free and are typically found in slower songs such as laments. These songs also often feature music that is adapted to the text, and thus language.52 The second movement contains virtually all of these characteristics.
6.1 Formal Analysis The second movement is in an ABA form in which each larger section is constructed of smaller components. In the first large A section (mm. 1-52) there are two distinct themes which
51 The terms tempo giusto and parlando-rubato were terms applied to these songs by Bartók and Kodály and are a product of the Western art tradition rather than the oral tradition from which they originate.
speaking, the B section is totally independent of the outer sections.
The A section initially features two themes which I have labeled the Bass Theme (a), and the Soprano Theme (b) as outlined in the diagram below (Figure 23).
Not only do these labels reflect the register of each theme, but it is appropriate given the vocal nature of the movement. The initial Bass Theme (a) in mm. 1-6 is tonally ambiguous (Figure 24). The first measure is simply an open B with a fermata and provides no indication as to the direction of the melody. The melody then appears to gravitate toward D after two solid arrivals in mm. 3 and 4, only to land on C♯ in m. 5. A potential cadence on B in the following measure is anticipated, but the cadence occurs somewhat unexpectedly on C♮ instead. Kodály consistently uses the E-C♮ connection at the conclusions of larger sections of music, using it no fewer than four times. This melodic connection also appears in the form of C♯-E-C♮, and is used to create a situation in which a final cadence has been averted and harmonic ambiguity is maintained. For example, it first appears at the conclusion of the first Bass Theme in mm. 5-6 (Figure 24). It appears again at the conclusion of the A section in mm. 50-51 (Figure 25), at the conclusion of the B section in mm. 94-95 (Figure 26), and finally at the conclusion of the second A section just before the coda in mm. 130-131 (Figure 27). Not only does each occurrence of this
intensify descending semitone motion to B on a deeper structural level.
Figure 24: mm. 1-6. First presentation of the Bass Theme (a) and C♯-E-C♮ motive in mm. 5-6.
Figure 25: mm. 50-51. E-C♮ motive occurs at conclusion of the large A section.
Figure 26: mm. 94-95. C♯-E-C♮ motive occurs at the conclusion of the large B section.
Figure 27: mm. 130-131. E-C♮ motive occurs at the conclusion of return of the large A section before the Coda.
A key area is not established in the opening phrase, but it is significant that the first and last pitches are B and C♮. The second Bass Theme (a1) in mm. 18-29 (Figure 28), is interrupted
more coherent harmonically speaking, and at nearly twice the length of (a) is a more complete theme, essentially finishing what (a) started.
Figure 28: mm. 18-29, Bass Theme (a1).
The pitches that form the framework of (a) and (a1) are B-C-C-B, again highlighting the lowered second scale degree relationship between B and C. The (a1) theme gravitates toward A as its tonal center in mm. 18-20, but the C♯ on the last beat of m. 21 and the rising fourths in m.
23 lead to B in m. 24. The remainder of the phrase in mm. 24-29 confirms the tonal center as B.