Sunday, December 11, 2022

string theory

Plague Year(s) Bach Project, update plus violin news

Slow progress - have now re-memorised the minuet in D minor to complete movement 2.5, one of the more difficult movements in the first three suites. It still needs sorting out with the metronome. Also, getting the hang of the bourrees in Eb minor, with half of the first (much longer) bourree memorised and the rest of it beginning to make some kind of sense when I play it.

Now looking forward to a few quiet weeks to to advance a bit more.

In other string-playing news, I managed to restore my aunt's violin, which hadn't seen the light of day in more than half a century, to a playable condition, and actually quite enjoy playing it. Waking up an instrument neglected for decades, it would be rude not to play it, right?

Although the fingering on the violin is different from the cello, and the hand is the wrong way round, I found to my surprise that the automatic playing transfers quite quickly. By this I mean that I think of a sound and the fingers will find it - John Holt explained it nicely: when you whistle a tune you don't plan what your tongue and cheeks and lungs are doing either. Playing the violin in the afternoon and the cello in the evening, I have one or two violin related errors when I pick up the cello (ie putting down the 3rd finger where I should use the 4th), so I guess it is important to practice both to make sure the cello code doesn't get overwritten with violin code (that's my string theory at least). But otherwise all good.

So far, I'm only playing folk tunes that I know by heart (eg those from the Oxford Slow Session), and they do tend to come out ok once I figured out which note to start on. Here is a video recorded one month into the fiddle-playing experience - I picked a slow tune, Inisheer, to demonstrate the sound of the instrument, which I think is actually improving as it wakes up from its long slumber, and as we are learning each other's ways. Playing these folk tunes also made me realise to what extent they are written to fit into first position on the fiddle - I've effortlessly played a few that I still find awkward on the flute. Oh, and we made our debut appearance at the Slow Session last Sunday.

Heinrich the cello and Christa the violin. Come to think of it, their human namesakes and previous owners may or may not have met in Idar Oberstein in the 1950s. It may be too late to find out if they did. The attic years of both instruments likely started within 6 months of each other, the cello's after Heinrich's widow died in October 1961, and the violin's after Frieda the pianist died in April 1962 (until then the violin had resided on the top of her piano). Oh, and Frieda's piano also went into storage at that point, but it was the first of the three instruments to see daylight again, at the end of 1968.

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