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Violin Lessons: Mendelssohn - 1st Movement Exposition

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A Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is
an interesting choice to play at an
because it's high risk and high reward.
Committees don't hear very many
Mendelssohn concertos in the auditions,
so everybody's ears will be really fresh,
but everybody's ears will
be really fresh to hear any intonation
problems that you might have.
[LAUGH] Heifetz once called this the
hardest page to play in tune in all of
violin music.
[LAUGH] So, not that I want you thinking
of that, but to play this piece it,
especially in an audition, you have to
have total confidence in it.
It's not a piece, if you have a choice
between Mendelssohn and something else,
and you're kinda wavering,
choose the other one because you need to
feel very comfortable with Mendelssohn,
and, and some people do, and it is a
beautiful piece that shows off so
many great things about the violin and an
intelligent musician.
So, if you're gonna play really go for it,
and now let's make it better.
The lines need to be long.
Mendelssohn, like Mozart composed a ton of
vocal music,
and so the lines have to sing.
very smooth.
The only articulations that you should
really hear are the ones
that articulate same notes.
Those can often come out sounding just
as long notes, especially in a larger
but the slurs and the bow changes should
be very smooth.
Now, there are lots of pitches to match
here, so,
what I suggest is to keep your hand
relaxed during practicing.
The, the worst thing you can do is to
tighten up the hand to try to hit certain
That's never going to stick.
The, the intonation's never going to
improve that way.
What I would suggest is practice without
the bow,
get the hand feeling the way you want,
what I call the choreography.
Notice how the hand feels when you do
how the fingers are naturally elastic.
When you put the bow back, rather then
immediately trying to adjust the fingers,
let them fall as they fall, and just
notice what's sharp, what's flat.
When you repeat it, I bet your hand is
gonna make adjustments, and if you keep
repeating it and it keeps getting better,
then you've taken the best possible path
to getting that in tune because it's gonna
stick with a relaxed hand.
If it stops improving, if you hit a
then you've already done some good work,
then you pick your spots.
If it's one reach or one shift that's
giving problems, you can practice that
shift without the bow, and change the
habit that you have there.
But as I say, the worst thing is to repeat
it trying to hit spots.
That, that just, that will [COUGH] always
leave your hand and
your fingers searching.
Now, it's important to know when you're
reaching and when you're shifting.
obviously I shift with the guide finger.
Now, I'm gonna reach up.
I take off my one anchor because I
no longer need it.
There I reach back, and
then the hand follows.
Another reach back with
the hand following.
As you know, you reach first then move the
hand after.
Now when the notes get quicker and you get
into triplets,
there you need great left hand
If I play that without the bow,
you'll, you'll hear.
You certainly don't always want your
fingers falling down like that, but in a
passage like this where it's intense and
it's slurred and you need to articulate
those quick notes,
that kind of articulation in the left hand
is essential.
Now, there's a high G.
How do you get up there?
Here, it's really not possible.
There's not much time to use a guide
finger of any kind, so,
this is one of the few times when you're
going to have to find a note based
purely on the, the feel of the hand and on
the violin.
Now, you can have three points of contact
to help you.
You've got the thumb on this side of the
you've got the side of the hand on this
side of the violin and
then you'll have your contact with the rib
So it's those three points you can find a
high note like that.
So it's worth doing, again, without the
bow, and fe,
just feeling the sensation of those three
Then, you put the bow back.
Doesn't really matter if you hit it.
What you're after is comparing the feeling
that you just had without the bow,
to your feeling now.
Your mind, your ear, will match up the
feeling with the pitch.
And soon you'll have a foolproof
guide to get to that note even without a
guide finger.
Now, the octaves near the end of the page.
There's a good, there are good ways and
bad ways to move from one to the other.
The worst thing that can happen is for
your fingers to get pushed onto the right
or what I would say the wrong side here,
Now there's no flexibility.
I'm simply trying to push the fingers up
the board.
Far better is to have your fourth finger
on the left side as it should be and
then to release forward like that to the
next one, then release forward.
So each octave ends with me pushing the
off the string this way, rather than
rolling it.
Now obviously the fingers do the same
thing for the bowing variation, but
the string crossings have to be very
Now, for the next entrance,
if you decide to have a slide, which I,
I like a little one use a guide finger of
a two,
and then, you can leave it down.
And then you can
reach down for a one.
That's an easy way to get that in tune.
Let's look at these double stops.
You can certainly practice
them as single notes.
But that doesn't really address
the difficulty of changing them precisely
with the triplets.
So instead of playing straight triplets,
you could bow like this.
That increases the difficulty of
coordinating the two hands, so now,
when you go back to the triplets it'll be
more coordinated.
Now, the passage that comes right
after the double stops resembles an etude
like Kreutzer eight very closely.
The problem is the string crossings and
the slurs mix together.
So you have to use your
ear very critically.
You may also wanna practice the open
strings that would correspond.
That you wanna start out slowly, but
if you can prac, if you can play the open
strings exactly without any noises,
then you'll surely be able to match the
fingerings up with them.
Finally, right before the second subject
comes in,
it's useful to be on a third finger.
Because then you can leave
the three down, and just reach a one.
And that takes us
to the second subject
of this beautiful concerto.