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#1259566 - 08/31/09 11:22 AM Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Can understanding bowing help one interpret/understand phrasing on a piano? If so, what would be helpful to know about violin bowing(I know literally nothing on this topic)? For which composers keyboard music is understanding bowing helpful?

I got the idea for this post by listening to this recording of Erbarme dich(for solo violin, alto and strings):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJQDgLmPsdY

I am learning the Chiu transcription as I mentioned in some previous posts.

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#1259579 - 08/31/09 11:41 AM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: pianoloverus]
Schubertian Offline
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Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
Great question p - I am sure Bach uses string inflections in his keyboard music - if I only knew more about it - I know that a series of staccato notes with a phrase mark over them is a pretty standard representation for string portato, I wish I knew exactly what that sounds like -

string players! approach! I summon you!
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#1259765 - 08/31/09 04:31 PM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: Schubertian]
pianoloverus Online   content
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I've heard a lot of master class teacher say "Imagine a violin was bowing that phrase". One teacher even claimed(although I think Kreisler disagreed)that the phrase markings in the opening of Mozart's Sonata in F( the one with the brilliant last movement)were realy bow markings so they didn't have to be interpreted as literally as normal phrase markings.

The Chiu transcription of Erbarme dich has all the phrase markings indicated in detail so one doesn't have to worry about what to do in terms of phrasing.

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#1259800 - 08/31/09 05:06 PM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: pianoloverus]
pianojerome Offline
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What about the piano works based on Paganini's violin music: Liszt etudes, Brahms variations, Rachmaninov Rhapsody? Do you keep the original in mind?

A passage that comes immediately to mind is variation #7 in Achron's "Symphonic Variations and Sonata" [excerpt]. Achron was himself a virtuoso violinist and wrote a lot of music for violin, so it would make sense that his main instrument would influence his piano writing in some ways.

On a related note, how about a piano piece that was later orchestrated? After hearing the orchestration, does that change the way you interpret the phrasing in the piano solo?
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#1260440 - 09/01/09 04:20 PM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: pianojerome]
pianojerome Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianojerome
A passage that comes immediately to mind is variation #7 in Achron's "Symphonic Variations and Sonata" [excerpt]. Achron was himself a virtuoso violinist and wrote a lot of music for violin, so it would make sense that his main instrument would influence his piano writing in some ways.


Here's what that variation from the Achron piece sounds like (played by Jascha Nemtsov):

var 7
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#1260671 - 09/01/09 09:52 PM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: pianojerome]
gooddog Offline
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I'm posting just to keep this thread from falling off into oblivion. I'm very interested to hear the answer. STRING PLAYERS WE'RE CALLING YOU!!!
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Deborah

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#1260946 - 09/02/09 10:50 AM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: gooddog]
BruceD Offline
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Apart from the fact that one is a physical motion and the other is a musical concept, as far as the result is concerned, what's the difference between "bowing" and "phrasing?" In violin music, don't the two most frequently coincide? If so, then I see parallels between bowing of a stringed instrument, phrasing of a vocal line, and phrasing of a line in any instrumental piece.

Is it not all about what is generically termed as "phrasing"? Is there a distinction that I am missing?

Regards,
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#1260954 - 09/02/09 10:57 AM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: gooddog]
keystring Offline
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I think what they're talking about is phrasing, and legato "singing" of the phrase that the string player tries to do. Wouldn't that bring us to the voice? The bow is like the singer's breath. The term "bowing" didn't make sense to me in the context of piano playing, since bowing refers to whether the bow goes up or down, how much of the bow to use and which part of the bow - these are technical considerations that have nothing to do with phrasing of music. Maybe the people who made the analogy could let us know what they meant by it.

Bruce, just saw yours:
Quote:
Is it not all about what is generically termed as "phrasing"?

That would have to be it. (?)


Edited by keystring (09/02/09 10:59 AM)

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#1260969 - 09/02/09 11:21 AM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: BruceD]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: BruceD
Apart from the fact that one is a physical motion and the other is a musical concept, as far as the result is concerned, what's the difference between "bowing" and "phrasing?" In violin music, don't the two most frequently coincide? If so, then I see parallels between bowing of a stringed instrument, phrasing of a vocal line, and phrasing of a line in any instrumental piece.

Is it not all about what is generically termed as "phrasing"? Is there a distinction that I am missing?

Regards,


I think what you say is somewhat oorrect. But can't a violinist play a legato phrase sometimes by moving his bow in one direction and then the other?

One example I've mentioned before was when Irina Morozova claimed in a master class that(some of?)Mozart's articulation markings that might at first look like phrase marks were really bowing indications. She was talking in particular about the markings in Mozart's Sonata in F, K.332. She said the opening 4 measures should be played as one phrase even though if the markings were interpreted in the conventional way there are four different phrases.

So this seems to indicate to me that bowing(whatever that means?) and phrasing may be different. Yet the same teacher has often said "Imagine a violinist playing that passage". This statement and the transcription of Erbasme dich are what made me think that underatanding how a violinist bows or phrases might be helpful in understanding phrasing at the piano.

Here is a link to the IMSLP page for Mozart. If someone could post this music(I don't know how) in the thread it would be helpful.

http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Mozart,_Wolfgang_Amadeus



Edited by pianoloverus (09/02/09 11:24 AM)

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#1261479 - 09/03/09 01:02 AM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: pianojerome]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8143
Originally Posted By: pianojerome
What about the piano works based on Paganini's violin music: Liszt etudes, Brahms variations, Rachmaninov Rhapsody? Do you keep the original in mind?



I have done that a few times.

Although the voice is probably most often a reference for phrasing, it can be interesting and useful to get phrasing and articulation ideas from the other instruments, as well. And sometimes, composers will even let you know they want you to do that - there is an Alkan piece that imitates a string quartet, for example. And now that I know Chopin mentioned guitars more than once as inspiration, I find myself playing certain chords or figurations in his music with a guitar in mind, although that is more for sound quality than phrasing.

But about violin bowing specifically - hard to say how that would translate to a particular kind of phrasing on the piano. One thing that does come to mind is the way that violinists can change bow direction on a note without it being very noticeable. That gives them the ability to phrase as if on a infinitely long breath. And they can change volume very very smoothly.

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#1261578 - 09/03/09 06:02 AM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: pianoloverus]
keystring Offline
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Is this the piece?
Mozart K332
Quote:
She said the opening 4 measures should be played as one phrase even though if the markings were interpreted in the conventional way there are four different phrases.


Musically the first four bars are a phrase. A phrase is like a sentence in a two-sentence statement, or question-answer, or half a thought. In speech we tend to pause. In music we often slur the notes of a phrase together as legato playing. There is no break between the notes. That's a purely musical idea. The slur marks the fact that it is phrase, plus we often play or sing phrases legato. It sort of blurs in our minds, I think.

Something must be misunderstood about "four different phrases", however, because this would never be seen that way even without the slur. The conventional length of a phrase is four bars though it varies.

Bowing: To create legato, the violinist will continue moving the bow in one direction while fingering the notes, while non legato ("detache", separated) is done by moving the bow up and down or stopping and starting. The singer sings with one unstopped breath. Bowing is like the violinist's breath. So the musical instruction of slurring the notes together becomes a technical instruction of bowing in one continual direction for the violinist, but ultimately (s)he is after a continual legato. It's not really a "bowing" instruction, but maybe a violinist would automatically have that feeling in their hands and think that way. Violinists themselves try to create the singing tone of the vocalist for such things.

The first four bars would be a phrase even if they had to be played staccato. The slur marking indicates that the notes are to be joined together in the seamless singing style of the violin or vocalist (or winds player?).

String instruments have other bowing marks that create textures: col legno rubs wood on string, sul ponte plays right at the bridge, etc. Other musical instructions cannot quite be duplicated on piano. For example, you can start a note with a sudden, explosive, loud, thick, heavy attack and subside immediately to a thin pianissimo. The note is controlled every moment that it sounds, while on piano you lose most control after the hammer strikes the strings. Probably if you know what kind of textures or sound effects the instructions for another instrument are aiming at, you could play around with it on the piano to get similar things.

Quote:
So this seems to indicate to me that bowing(whatever that means?) and phrasing may be different.


Bowing and phrasing are not the same thing. The strings player manipulates the bow in the way that a singer manipulates the breath. An orator also manipulates pauses, how explosive to make a consonant, how his voice rises and falls. I've been reading a lot about how musicians looked to orators, and orators looked to musicians, and wondering if that can help us in how we play.

Quote:
One thing that does come to mind is the way that violinists can change bow direction on a note without it being very noticeable.

It's a really hard thing to learn to do. You are right though, in that a good violinist has an infinite number of ways to shade the line.


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#1261591 - 09/03/09 07:06 AM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: wr]
tomasino Offline
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Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
As a singer before a pianist, I first regard "phrasing" as referring to where you breathe. It always seems obvious. In piano music, too, phrase endings and beginnings seem obvious, and phrase markings therefore seem redundant. But I think we're talking about more than how much breath a singer has, or how much bow a violinist has, and where to breathe.

The second meaning of "phrasing" for a singer is much more complicated and interesting. It might better be called "nuancing." It refers to all of those things, some of which pianists can't do, such as portamento, portato, bending the pitch, staccato, legato, crescendo/decrescendo, different tonal qualities on certain words, straight tone vs various degrees of vibrato, and so on. I'm quite sure that most singers are referring to all of this when they speak of "phrasing." I know that's how I use the word. I was a childhood violinist for awhile, so I'm less certain how the word is used here, but I'll bet most violinists think similarly.

When it comes to singing a phrase, to demonstrate to oneself or a student how to play it pianistically, it seems to me that both teachers and students usually miss the point. You've got to really SING to understand how a singer would sing it. Humming, or a few little doo dah doo dahs won't do the trick. If it's a dramatic phrase, you've got to open your mouth and sing it out like an opera singer, or conversely, sing a more nuanced phrase like a Lieder singer to really get the idea.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1261625 - 09/03/09 08:42 AM Re: Violin bowing and phrasing in the piano [Re: tomasino]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
Quote:
he second meaning of "phrasing" for a singer is much more complicated and interesting. It might better be called "nuancing." It refers to all of those things, some of which pianists can't do, such as portamento, portato, bending the pitch, staccato, legato, crescendo/decrescendo, different tonal qualities on certain words, straight tone vs various degrees of vibrato, and so on

But isn't that so for all instruments, each using the attributes that the instrument has? A phrase is a single statement within an entire musical statement. What will you emphasize and how? In what way does one phrase lead up to another phrase, or will you contrast them in some way? On piano you can go louder, quieter, lead one note into the other note by blending them or leave off sharply, linger slightly for emphasis, start a bit early, and maybe create textures by touch and pedal.

Out of curiosity, I googled the least likely instrument for phrasing and got a hit:



Edited by keystring (09/03/09 08:42 AM)

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