Clock Work

The Vivaldi concerto in A Minor has a lot of As – on multiple occasions I shift up to third position and play A on the E string with the first finger.  The move is really the tagline of the piece – open E string followed by a series of bold, ringing As.  Teacher wants me focusing on vibrato for those As – it’s challenging, because they are eighth notes, not enough time for me to start and stop the vibration on each note. Instead, my finger needs to keep vibrating independently of what the bowing arm is doing.  Pulling out eighth notes with the bow and vibrating smoothly requires me to keep two unrelated, metrical movements going at once.   For me, it’s like running on two clocks simultaneously while not really knowing how to tell time on that vibrato clock in the first place.

I’ve been working up this Vivaldi concerto since early May, and I’ve only been able to play it through, technically speaking, for the past couple of weeks.  It’s been fun, but a notable challenge.  The work in third position has been especially difficult, as have the large intervals, all of it chock-full of accidentals.  The more I play it the more I’m enjoying it; it’s far and away the most intricate and thoughtfully stitched together thing I’ve played to date.

But it’s sure taking time.  Since I’ve been playing it I’ve also progressed in my warm-up routine – I still start with scales most of the time, but I’m now doing the Beethoven and Boccherini Minuets from Book Two most days, and I usually do at least one of the Book Four concertos that precede Vivaldi as well.  For my fun practice finale, I’m still trying to make Ashokan Farewell sound decent too.

Ironically, almost four months into working on this same piece, I do feel like I’m making a lot of progress in my playing.  My tone is better and better, I’m feeling more comfortable with the instrument, and I continue to find a lot of joy in playing.  I just haven’t had a lot to write about as far as my day-to-day violin practice is going.

I’ve got two excursions on the brain – tomorrow I’m going to another free Cultural Center concert at noontime, a young pianist named Esther Nyberg.  And I’ve just ponied up for a world-class show toward the end of September –  Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra hosting the great violinist Anne Sophie Mutter.

Thanks for reading.


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