The Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin by J.S. Bach are probably the most widely known works for solo violin in the repertoire, however, other composers also wrote solo works for violin. Among the baroque composers contributing to this repertoire were:
- Heinrich Ignatz Franz von Biber – Passacaglia at end of Rosary Sonatas (Performance on Youtube by Hirschfeld)
- Georg Phillipp Telemann – 12 Fantasies
- George Frederic Handel – Allegro in G Major HWV 407
The performance practices for Rosary sonatas by Biber are not known because no information about this has survived. We know Biber wrote these sontatas to represent the life of Jesus Christ. It is a collection of 15 sonatas for violin and basso continuo. We do not know if all of these sonatas were intended to be performed at one recital or if they would be performed in a series of concerts. They were written in approximately 1670. It should also be mentioned that this is the largest collection of scordatura for the violin. (Scordatura is alternate tuning of the instrument.) Biber used this technique to create different sonorities of the violin to represent the joyous, sorrowful and glorious parts of the life of Jesus Christ. The Passacaglia, for violin alone, is the last movement of Sonata No. 15.
The Twelve Fantasies for violin by Telemann are very approachable for students not yet ready for the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. Their movements are based upon the structure of the Sonata de Chiesa like the Sonatas of Bach, but they are shorter in length. Each work begins with a slow movement, has a second movement which is fast, a third movement which is slow, and a final movement that is fast. Ornamentation is similar to that of the Bach works, as well. Telemann was aware of the Bach works so it is possible he wrote these in this style.
The Allegro in G Major by Handel is one of several single movement works by Handel. This is the only one that is unaccompanied. This can be considered more of a novelty than a work included in the standard repertoire for violin.
In order to teach Long Long Ago in Suzuki volume 1, I believe that students need a number of prerequisites:
- Knowledge of all fingers on A and E string. Should have experimented with playing known songs on lower strings.
- Ability to learn songs by rote.
- Ability to use good tone with longer and smoother bow strokes
- Ability to hear “up”, “down” and “same” when playing pitches and scales.
Steps to teaching:
- Start by teaching the “RIBBET” (first finger E on the D string). Teacher will play the third section of the song and student will play “RIBBET” parts.
- Teach the “E Down the scale” RIBBET “D Down the scale” section.
- Show the student this section will repeat. The first is a big frog, the second a small frog.
- Show the C# B A ending on the second and fourth lines. Have student play that ending. That is the “Far A Way” ending.
- Teach the A part. A AB C CD E the add F# E C.
- Show the “E Down the scale, D Down the scale” ending without the frog for the first part.
- Show the “E Down the scale Far A Way” ending.
- Put the sections together:
- A section – No Frog
- A section – Far A Way
- Big Frog – Little Frog
- A section – Far Away
As students begin to learn positions above first position on the violin, viola, and cello, they need to be able to name the notes across the strings in these positions.
I have created a worksheet to help students work on their note naming into the positions. Students should have a basis in the chromatic notes of the fingerboard. I suggest that more advanced student name both enharmonic spellings for common notes.
Violin Fingering Chart (to 4th position)
Teachers may feel free to reuse this.
Recently, I have been working on playing better in higher positions across the strings, only to come to the realization that to play better in the higher positions, you must have an understanding of the fingerboard geography in the parallel lower position.
For instance, when in sixth positions on the A string, you are playing the same notes with the same fingers as in second position on the E string. Seventh position and third position are also parallel in this manner. When playing pieces in the lower register of the instrument but in these high positions, you should check to see how much of it can be practiced in the corresponding lower parallel position. The parallel for fifth position is first position, but you must play with 4th fingers.
When doing extensive position work, even numbered positions are particularly tricky for violinists and violists. The way we learn to read music may be the reason for this difficulty. Second, fourth, and sixth positions require that the notes on spaces in the staff are on fingers 1 and 3 and notes on lines of the staff are on fingers 2 and 4. In first position, the opposite is true. Third position and fifth position are easier positions to read because they follow the first position rule.
Practicing the lower positions allows the hand to be more comfortably. Once the fingerings are learned, it will be easier to apply this to the higher position with the somewhat more compact finger spacing and arm placement for high positions. Changing to a higher position and moving down a string is not a problem if the fingering has been put into muscle memory by the hand in the lower position.
In the Fiorillo Caprice No. 22, there are large sections that can be practiced in the lower positions in order to check for understanding. Once the written fingerings have been mastered in third and second positions, they may be taken up to seventh and sixth position.
Go to IMSLP for the Fiorillo Caprices for Violin.