Do you want to learn more about practicing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4? In this blog post, we’ll share more about specific ways for you to approach the piece and nail your violin auditions.
If you’d like to see the lesson this blog post is based on, click here to watch it for free — otherwise, read on!
This opening of Mozart’s fourth violin concerto exposes the soloist, yet it offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate multiple facets of musicianship. Despite its challenges, it must remain delicate and articulate.
The opening phrase has the quality of a call-to-arms from the trumpet: very direct and straightforward. Use only a little vibrato, and avoid using a lot of bow for the final note so as not to draw the note out with a swell.
After this “trumpet” phrase, the music switches gear. In measure 49, allow each pair of notes to taper off towards the end.
A more sustained approach brings out a Brahmsian quality that is generally inappropriate for Mozart. Another moment to bring out “Mozart’s language” is in measure 64, keeping the quarter notes slightly separated rather than maintaining their full value.
Throughout this piece, pay attention to the value of longer notes and rests, making sure not to cut anything short.
Take care with the staccato sixteenth notes in measures 74 and 76. If taken too literally, these can sound harsh.
Keep the bow relaxed, and don’t fuss about managing perfectly crisp staccatos. Use the lower half of the bow with a brushy stroke.
With the repetition of the phrase (74–75 and 76–77), it is common to play an echo effect, but again be careful not to exaggerate the contrast. A little less pressure on the bow and slightly away from the bridge is enough to create a pleasing effect.
Consider the four essential basics of bow usage: point of contact, pressure, speed, and proportion. Avoid straying too far from the norm when making dynamic changes. If at least two of these points are under complete control, the others should take care of themselves.
Measures 78 to 79 arrive at a high G, which can sound jarring if too much vibrato is added.
Use the larger muscles of the hand for a more controlled and pleasant vibrato with “some good density behind it.” In David Kim’s experience, who teaches the complementary tonebase lesson, over-vibrato is one of the most common mistakes in orchestral auditions. Explore different types of vibrato, and even no vibrato, and keep control of the sound you are aiming for rather than just letting your hands add the same type of vibrato to everything.
At measure 86, keep the music relaxed. Whatever musical ideas you have, make sure you commit to them.
These might include a soft phrase followed by a loud phrase, loud followed by soft, soft followed by crescendo, or numerous alternatives. Make sure you are committed to your own art, your own voice, and not just doing something because a coach suggested it.
Towards the end of the exposition, in measure 98, the violin plays in the higher register.
To ensure the high E enters in tune, placing the finger down and practicing some left-hand pizzicato before beginning the phrase is perfectly acceptable. Complete each phrase as though the orchestra is with you and feel the crescendo building behind the solo melody.
Play your musical ideas with intention!
An auditioning panel would rather you commit to your interpretation than play unclearly or weakly. In an audition, the jury might cut you off after any one of your phrases, so leave an impression!
As always, play with a beautiful, elegant sound, maintain accurate intonation, don’t over vibrato, and consider the appropriate articulation of Mozart’s style and language.
Kim also points out that many people play quite low in the bow, which has a lot more power and weight. For a lighter, elegant feel, play towards the middle or upper segment of the bow.
Mozart and Haydn repertoire is not usually an appropriate place for a player to demonstrate their strength and prowess. Instead, audiences (and audition panels) are interested in hearing a tasteful and delicate performance.
Many teachers, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances may influence your interpretation. You will pick up on such ideas throughout your career and develop a performance style that becomes your own.
Now that we’ve gone over these tips, you should be ready to handle your audition with the Don Juan violin excerpt with ease.
If you’d like to watch the lesson on this topic for free, just click here.
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