«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of ...»
The Soprano Theme (b) is first heard in mm. 7-17 and is sandwiched in between the two Bass Themes (Figure 29). The tonal center in the Soprano Theme is B (pentatonic), and has two voices: a lyrical soprano and a bass accompaniment played with left hand pizzicato. Like the Bass Themes (a) and (a1), the Soprano Theme will gradually become more complex as the sonata progresses: the range will expand and the pizzicato accompaniment will become more rhythmically active.
In the first presentation of (b) the range of the melodic line stays essentially within two octaves (between E below middle C and C♯ an octave above middle C), and the accompaniment repeats the open F♯ string.
The second presentation the Soprano Theme (b1) in mm. 30-52, features a wider range of the melody and more intricate accompanimental pizzicato, also with a wider range (Figure 30).
It is possible to consider this phrase as the continuation and conclusion of (b) despite the fact that (b1) begins a minor third higher (A above middle C). The tonal center changes throughout the progression of this phrase. One aspect of this theme that makes the tonal center difficult to define is that although there is a B pedal in the accompanimental pizzicato, the
and minor, and with the D# in m. 32 hint at a transition to E major. However, mm. 33-36 is centered on G, and again modal mixture is a result of the pizzicato B and the E♭ in m. 35.
Measures 37-38 arpeggiate a C major chord, but instead of going back to G, mm. 39-42 appear to alternate between D major and D minor. The (b1) phrase finally comes to a close in m. 48 on D.
Like the opening, the sustained D in mm. 48-50 leaves the harmonic direction open. Similar to the opening phrase, the section in m. 51-52 ends on C♯ with the C♯-E-C♮ motive first heard in mm. 5-6, creating another open ended conclusion to a phrase. The B section is shown in a diagram below (Figure 31).
The large B section, con moto, begins abruptly in m. 53 (Figure 32). This section (mm.
53-96) is based on military songs that were popular in Hungary during a popular uprising in the 17th century.53 The motive in mm. 53-54 is the basis for this section, and is repeated in sequence two more times in mm. 61-62 and 68-69. Theme 1 (mm. 53-60) is in A minor, Theme 2 (mm. 61is in C minor, and Theme 3 (mm. 68-75) begins in G# minor but ends with a descending motion from an E minor chord to a B major chord.54
The descending semitone motion (heard in the top two voices of these chords) will occur three more times in a series of recitative-like gestures in mm. 77-88 (Figure 33). Kodály has to drastically reduce the energy level and return to a lower register for the return of the A section in m. 97. The recitative gestures all begin with an ascending line and end with a dramatic falling gesture followed by two descending chords related by a semitone. The falling semitone is generally acknowledged to signify a sigh or something coming to a rest. In this case, the successive falling semitones function to lower the energy level with each statement. Each
reminiscent of (a) in mm. 90.
Figure 33: mm. 74-98. Three recitative gestures beginning in m. 77.
Similar to the recapitulation in the first movement, Kodály does not recapitulate the entire Bass Theme (a), nor do the themes return in the order of the exposition. The recapitulation of the A section is shown below (Figure 34).
Instead, a version or recollection of the Bass Theme (a) returns in mm. 89-96 that is not in tonic, and therefore cannot be considered to be the true recapitulation of the (a) theme. This version of the Bass Theme functions more as a bridge to the recapitulation of the first Soprano
return of the A section is strengthened by the fact that the last bowed pitch of the B section in m.
96 is a C♮ which makes the descending semitone relationship to B in m. 97 quite strong (Figure 33).
The return of the A section and the unfolding of events closely follows the framework of the first A section. However, the recapitulation of the A section is more elaborate and virtuosic, and the rhythms are meant to sound as if the material is being improvised as it might have been if sung. Measures 97-105 are equivalent to mm. 7-11 (see Figure 33), and the passage beginning at m. 106 is based on the passage beginning in m. 12 (Figure 35), now with a cimbalom-like elaboration between the original components of the Soprano Theme (b).
Figure 35: mm. 106-107, excerpt of the return of Soprano Theme (b).
The Bass Theme (a) and Soprano Theme (b) are fully integrated in the passage beginning in m. 117. Here, the Bass Theme spans the full range of the cello, and the pizzicato accompaniment is more rhythmically active (Figure 36).
After a cadenza-like passage in m. 122, the melodic line makes its way back down to the lowest register of the cello, and the pizzicato eventually returns to an arpeggiated figure in m.
123. This section concludes with another E-C♮ motion in mm. 130-131 (Figure 27), reminiscent of the original C♯-E-C♮ motive in mm. 5-6. This is followed by a final flourish in mm. 135-138 to begin the coda (Figure 37).
Figure 37: mm. 135-136. Beginning of the Coda.
6.2 Bass Theme (a), (a1) There were three basic hurdles that I had to overcome in this movement: The Bass Theme (a) in all of its incarnations presented bow speed, pressure, and placement issues; the Soprano
which can negatively influence the other; the virtuosic passages in the large B section require a certain amount of coordination between the right arm and left hand in order for it to be successful. Finally, there were a few isolated passages or issues that returned throughout the piece that were problematic.
There are a few things to take note of in the Bass Theme in all of its forms. 1) There is often a wide dynamic range. The opening goes from pianissimo to forte in little more than one measure. Subsequent iterations do the same, but also feature several hairpin dynamic changes. 2) The range of pitches in the Bass Theme can vary greatly. While the theme begins in a low register, it gradually expands with each presentation. Almost all forms of this theme span at least two octaves. 3) Kodály often indicates that the Bass Themes should be played on either the B or F♯ string while simultaneously expanding into the treble register, creating additional difficulties for the bow. Playing the span of two octaves is not something that would cause problems for even an inexperienced cellist. However, cellists do not typically play on the lower strings what could just as easily be played on the A string, but in his desire to create a specific kind of sound color (perhaps strained, muffled, gray, or distant), Kodály keeps the rising melodic line confined to the lower strings for as long as possible.
With regard to the Bass Themes throughout the movement, they all tend to have one or two long phrase or slur markings. One of the first decisions I made was to split any slurs that were longer than two measures. Changing the direction of the bow every measure or half measure was more amenable to playing a wider dynamic range, and aligned accents with stronger down bows (Figure 38).
At first I tried to play the printed bowings on the first page, but I found it difficult to save enough bow while making a crescendo, and in the end it was more trouble than it was worth. As a result of splitting the slurs (or phrase markings), I created more bow changes, thus more instances in which the changes had to be smooth. Often times during a crescendo the bow would actually get stuck in the string effectively disrupting the line. I constantly adjusted bow speed and bow pressure and changed the points at which I would increase or decrease the speed, but regardless of when I changed speed the bow changes were never as smooth as I wanted them.
After a period of experimentation I realized that it was actually the change in speed that was causing the problem.
Although the Bass Theme features a wide range of dynamic levels, the slower tempo and longer durations of each note mean that the changes in dynamics will occur more gradually.
There are no subito forte or subito piano markings and thus no need for the bow to suddenly speed up or slow down. Instead the changes in speed will happen as the note is played rather than at or near the bow change. Take for example the opening two measures, a place that always gave me difficulty and still causes apprehension in performance (Figure 38). My goal in any of these
possible. The bow in the long pianissimo B in m. 1 should start at a moderate speed not only because of the dynamic, but because the bow will likely be closer to the fingerboard than the bridge. If the bow travels too slowly the sound quality will suffer, and if the bow travels too quickly I run the risk of running out of bow. As the dynamic level grows, the bow will move toward the bridge, necessitating more arm weight, and a slightly slower bow speed. As I approach the change of bow in m. 2, the bow speed should be maintained or changed only slightly. Changes in bow speed at the bow change will cause a disruption in the sound. The bow speed should increase gradually in m. 2 to prepare for the arrival and accent on the downbeat of m. 3. The same principal holds true at the start of the second Bass Theme (a1) in m. 18.
In addition to the subtle variations in bow speed, I made some physical changes in my approach to these passages. The first is perhaps less tangible, but it made a difference nonetheless. It was simply a matter of feeling my weight being transferred from my arm into the string and feeling sunk into the string, especially in the opening passage. This passage (and those like it) is in no way agitated or nervous, but my nervousness has a tendency to affect my playing of a delicate passage. The opening of the second movement of Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7 is quite similar, and I used the same tactic in both cases.55 Instead of sitting “at attention” and on the edge of my seat at the opening, I sat slightly back in the chair so that my body would feel less suspended over the instrument. I wanted my arms to feel heavy, as though my left hand was hanging off of the instrument and as though my right arm was not suspended in 55 The opening of the second movement of Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello, features the cello alone, playing in the treble register on the G string, in a piano dynamic. The combination of the delicate opening, soft dynamics, and awkward register can result in nervous moments for the cellist as I discovered in preparation for performance in 2010.
When air is inhaled the upper body naturally rises to accommodate the expansion of the lungs, and the subsequent suspension of the shoulders may hinder the natural weight of the arm from being fully applied to the bow. The piano dynamic and the sustained notes combined with the suspension of the upper body above the string will work against playing with a full sound regardless of dynamic. I also find this technique to be effective when playing the opening of the second movement in Brahms’ Second Symphony, an excerpt on every orchestra audition list.
Exhaling prior to playing allows my whole upper body to relax making playing in the string and sustaining with the bow much easier and more effective than inhaling before starting.
The second physical change was made more to the cello than to my body. Since the Bass Themes are played on the lower strings for extended periods, the right arm is much lower and the angles created by the bridge and string crossings are somewhat severe when the cello is held in the academically correct way. To counteract this I simply turned the cello to my left in order to bring the lower strings more toward the middle. I have found this good practice in any situation in which the bow is going to be on either the A or C string for longer period of time. The only caveat here is that the angles that once made the bow travel in a straight line no longer apply when the cello is turned. It took some time for me to reorient myself to the new set up, but practicing in front of a mirror fixed many of these problems.
6.3 Soprano Theme (b), (b1) The Soprano Theme is essentially a juggling act for the cellist. The right arm and left hand are still busy with the usual tasks but Kodály has incorporated accompanimental left hand pizzicato into the equation. The pizzicato is not terribly difficult by itself and it is always done
balance of the left hand, which can influence the steadiness of the bow and intonation.
While the bow has to remain fairly steady when playing the Bass Theme, the Soprano Theme is much more volatile requiring the bow the change speed more quickly. However, in between these turn-on-a-dime changes, there are often sustained pitches that are accompanied by the pizzicato. Here the bow has to become somewhat static, not only to sustain the note, but to act as a counterbalance to the highly active left hand. The steadiness of the bow becomes especially important as the left hand ascends the fingerboard not only for sound quality but because of the disruptive tendencies of the left hand pizzicato. For the left hand, choosing the finger that executes the pizzicato will end up being a personal choice for each cellist. I have relatively short fingers so I generally use my second and third fingers, although in one or two places I use my thumb. By using second or third finger I found that there was less of a possibility that the finger on the fingerboard would be pulled out of position, thus affecting the intonation.
Sometimes the left arm has to move forward, up, or over in order to get the pizzicato finger in place. Cellists with bigger hands or longer fingers may find it easier to use fourth finger for left hand pizzicato.