Have you been wanting to learn the violin excerpt from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Scherzo?
Maybe you have an audition coming up, or just want to learn the music for the sake of leisure?
This article will help you better understand the technical approaches needed to master the notes on the page.
Read on to find out more — and here to watch the associated lesson for FREE inside tonebase.
The Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is on virtually every audition list.
In this excerpt, there are a few important points to pay special attention to in terms of timing, pacing, and bow strokes. It should be played with character, a variety of off-the-string bow strokes, and challenging string crossing all within a soft dynamic.
There are three basic strokes to master:
- spiccato, off the string,
- détaché, on the string,
- sautillé, bouncing slightly on the string without letting the hair lift off entirely
There are countless variations between the three basic strokes. Many younger players try to play this excerpt entirely off the string, but it is full of variety.
There is no particular recommended bowing for the opening; just find what is most reliable for you. For violinist David Kim, this is a two-beat pickup followed by two down bows.
Be careful not to rush the three eighth notes in the second measure. (You could even use the three syllables of “David Kim” to help pace these three notes appropriately or find an alternative three-syllable phrase.)
Some of the combinations Kim suggests are as follows:
Blend each stroke with the next!
Although this can seem like a lot to take in, these strokes are geared towards practicality, so there’s less effort for the hands.
As a general rule, we can tether the type of stroke we use to dynamics: at piano play off the string, at mezzo-piano or mezzo-forte play sautillé, and at forte play on the string.
Practice accommodating these different strokes with the gradual build and fall of dynamics throughout the excerpt. Remember to hold back a little during eighth-note passages.
If all of these combinations of dynamics and bowing strokes are well-rehearsed, they should be reliable and effective under pressure.
It is worthwhile presenting these excerpts to colleagues as a type of mock audition to ascertain which parts might need more attention.
There is no need to fixate on closing the ending phrase beautifully. An abrupt final note followed by silence is very effective. Be careful not to project the idea of “giving up” with the final ascent, and instead hold the mood before finally relaxing.
Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Scherzo is a highly regarded piece in the canon, and mastering the movement’s notable violin excerpt is necessary for mastery on the violin.
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