Don Juan by Richard Strauss is
maybe the most important orchestral
It's on virtually every list, and that's
because it's a,
it's a total test pitch, rhythm,
quality of sound controlling quiet notes.
And after a while, it does become fun to
Because you can show off.
You can show your strengths.
That starts from the very opening, where
it's not important to get
every single note out with expert quality.
It's more important to get the character
you should still try to etch all those
I like to start in the upper part of the
bow, on the down-bow.
So I set the bow with quite a lot of
pressure before pulling it for that first
When I play it in tempo,
I like to imagine the first four notes.
I feel like if I can get the first four
then the rest of them take care of
So the last strong note that I
really feel is that up-bow on the C.
So, I'm looking, then,
to sing through in this piece whatever I
Far too often I hear a lot of breaks that
chop up the line and, and
they're not written in.
There are rests written in this excerpt,
but there are a lot of other times when
there's a long note written and I think
that should sing through.
It makes it more elegant and actually
expresses the character
of Don Juan himself a little better than
aggressive and chopping it up.
So, between the first bar and the second,
for example, that continues all
the way to the top, and same halfway
through the bar with the accent.
Not a big break there, because otherwise,
it takes away from the, the progress to
the top note.
Again, interested in articulation for
sure, but a singing quality.
It's very important in Don Juan, also, to
count the rests.
There's a bar, almost a full bar of rest
where we stopped.
One, two, three, four.
If you don't count the rest,
then this has a hurried quality that
takes away from the character.
We just passed now a quarter note, an
nowadays, people usually seem to make a
very big difference between those.
Also that accent on the eight note tends
to get exaggerated.
Rather just play them as a quarter and
without exaggerating the accent.
Now, the high D
that's in the middle
of the second line.
Getting down to that F natural
can be a little scary.
That's why I prefer to have a fourth
finger on that top note and
reach back for a one, for the F natural.
When I shift down, then, for the E,
the next note when I slide the finger
I articulate a little bit with the bow to,
to hide the slide down.
Now before A, there are those bars of
In order to avoid speeding through those,
it's helpful to hear the brassline.
That helps you keep the rhythm.
It also helps you from skipping a bar or
adding an extra bar as I often hear in
Now at A, those runs of triplet eighths
should be played on the string for,
for real strength.
They're still articulated because of
the pressure that's in the string there.
But you don't have to add articulation
in between the notes.
And as you'll see that crescendo at
the end, that's direction all the way
You have to fight the register a little
because register's going down, you have to
everyone worries about the run up to the
high D including me.
I when I won my first job in a major,
full-size orchestra, the Chicago Symphony,
I really missed that run, and I did not
end up on a D at the top.
And, you know what, things came out all
So, a problem in that run is not going to
sink an entire audition.
But there are ways that you can up your
The most important one is to practice from
the top, starting with the very top note.
To find the sound you want on that,
the ending that you want.
then to add one note at a time going
backwards you need to do that in-tempo and
you always need to end with the same great
D that you've been ending with.
I end the D on a third finger on an up-bow
I'm gonna play the B before it on the
second finger down-bow.
I always want that sound on the last note.
Now I add one more note that's on an
And I would work my way down through
the whole scale like that.
If it's difficult to do that in-tempo, you
can cut down the tempo but you wanna be
doing it in-rhythm and in-dynamic and
with, with the sound that you want.
That way you get the confidence at the
It's possible, actually, to nail the top,
even if something happens along the way
if you've had enough practice playing the
top the way you want.
Psychologically, it's great, too,
to know that you've ended it hundreds of
times with quality.
Another way to practice that run is to
start in the middle,
expand outward, adding notes after, adding
Dotted rhythms are great for that.
What I often find in performance is that
when the 16th notes hit, I want to go a
faster rather than keeping the pulse the
just playing the 16ths a little faster
than the triplets.
I always advise you to imagine expanding
the time right there when the 16ths hit.
Imagine that you have all the time in the
world to play them.
Play them a little slower than you might.
And it's even worth practicing it that
There I've, I'm barely playing
the 16ths faster than the triplets.
I like that feeling.
It, it feels free in both hands.
Now, when I play it in-tempo, I'm likely
to increase the speed enough anyway.
Now, after B it's
tradition to take a little
freedom in the quiet bars.
But then the fortissimo's
right back in-tempo.
I wouldn't exaggerate that.
I mean nobody's going to care in an
audition that you take that freedom there,
but, it's not written and it's just a
little relaxing in-character.
Now, C, in order to get the control of the
you wanna end in the right part of the
I'm in the right part of the bow.
To do a nice spiccato on those
If you're not ending in the right part of
it's never gonna come out with the right
dynamic or the right sound.
As for fingerings right there, on the top
I'm on sorry, on the G sharp, I'm on a
And then I play, four, three, three.
So I'm not moving the hand, yet.
I just have one shift now down to a three.
That's helpful to
have only one shift in that whole run.
Similarly the next one.
A shift down to a three on the D flat.
Leaving the one down there.
there to a three on
the C natural.
So, with a good plan, and a lot of
repetition with confident,
great sound, you can play Don Juan
successfully in the audition.