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Rhythmic & Chordal Playing
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Cello Lessons: “The Swan” by Saint-Saëns

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Swan is one of the most
beautiful pieces for cello.
It was written by Camille Saint-Saens,
the French composer.
It was one of the movements in his
orchestral piece, Carnival Of the Animals.
Each movement is a different animal and
the cello got the swan.
A lot of professional cellists will
play this piece as an encore or
in the middle of a recital and
it's just a staple of the beautiful,
beautiful cello repertoire.
As you're learning the notes, I want you
to keep a few interpretive ideas in mind.
This piece, as with every classical piece,
we wanna identify where is the highest
place, of the most passionate.
And we also wanna identify the lowest
place, so that we understand the range and
the scope of phrasing
that we're gonna use.
And so I would propose that the high
point of this whole piece is in
measure 22, and
that's the part that goes like this.
This whole note keeps
growing until right here.
That moment,
that transition from 21 to 22,
that is where we're leading to from
the whole beginning of the piece.
Coincidentally I think this
comes right after the smallest
part of the piece,
the most sensitive part of the piece,
which is bar 22,
when we return back to the opening melody.
Which is something I want to talk about.
So this opening melody,
that happens three times.
It happens in bar two in the opening,
and then again in bar six.
A lot of people play bar six maybe
a little less than the first time.
Or even a little more.
The point is,
you have to play it differently.
You can never play it twice the same way.
And so what I want you to think about is
the three times that this melody shows up,
measure two, measure six and
then measure 18.
All three of those
presentations of that melody,
you need to play each one differently.
In the performance track I did
I actually played each one less
intensely than the previous time.
So the opening
was just kind of a comfortable expressive
sound, but the second time through I
switched the bowing and I started less.
And then grew because it ends
differently, it grows more at the end.
I decided to start it
softer at the beginning.
And then in measure 22,
I played the softest of all.
Almost no motion.
And it's something like that,
a really important
melody that coming back.
You want to be able to track
the emotional arc of the piece
by how that melody changes
as the piece develops.
So keep those ideas in mind as
you start developing your own
interpretation of The Swan.