The Bow, Its History, Manufacture and Use Part 10

The Bow, Its History, Manufacture and Use -

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[Ill.u.s.tration: Musical notes, etc.]

The bow remaining on the string between each note. The action is really no different to ordinary bowing; it is simply a short crisp stroke of about an inch in length, a short interval of silence (without lifting the bow) and then another similar stroke in the same direction, this being continued to the end of the hair. The part played by the forefinger is to impart a certain "attack" to each note, and is best produced by a slight turn of the wrist instead of an independent pressure of the finger itself. This "attack" is what the Germans call "ansatz," and consists in making a slight sound at the initial impulse of each note somewhat resembling the hard p.r.o.nunciation of the letter "K." This is a most important sound, and one that adds greatly to the crispness of one's playing. It should be produced in the hand, however, as if the arm is called on for this purpose the tone will become gritty and harsh. In commencing the study of staccato bowing it is well to confine oneself to the up-bow form at first. Great care must be exercised when reaching the lower half of the bow that the notes remain of equal duration and loudness.

Just below the centre of the bow there is found a curious turning point, a sort of corner that is very difficult to get round. It is even more noticeable in down bow staccato.

This turning point is in the wrist, for at that part of the stroke the most important change in the position of this joint takes place.

Therefore, as the muscles are so occupied in their internal movements, they are not so ready to control the tendency to vibrate in the bow. Thus, then, as a bad bow is nowhere so easily controlled as a good one, some inferior bows become quite unmanageable when the attention of the wrist muscles is so divided. Consequently it is useless to attempt the attainment of staccato without first being provided with a thoroughly well-balanced bow. In commencing the down bow staccato, all tendency to lean on the string and so drag the bow along in a series of jerks must be checked at once. The bow should be lightly carried at the heel. This will seem difficult, but practice will be well repaid.

It may not be out of place to give here a short list of studies and solos that are concerned chiefly with the art of bowing. Of course bowing studies are also to be found in all good schools and books of studies.

CASORTI, "The Technic of the Bow."

DANCLA, "L'Art de l'Archet" (quite easy).

HAAKMAN, "Steadiness and flexibility of the Bow."

MEERTZ, "Twelve Etudes Elementaires" (giving the six fundamental bowings).

PAPINI, "L'Archet" (the most complete work on the subject).

POZNANSKI, "The Violin and Bow" (contains excellent photographs of positions).

_Sautille_ can be studied in a pleasing manner by practising pieces of the "Moto Perpetuo" type. Of these the best are those by Paganini, Ries, Moszkowski, Papini, G. Saint-George and E. German.

Of solos devoted to particular forms of bowing, the most notable are:

DE BERIOT, "Le Tremolo."

KONTSKI, "La Cascade" (tremolo).

PANOFKA, "Le Staccato."

PRUME, "Les Arpeges."

VIEUXTEMPS, "Les Arpeges."

VIEUXTEMPS, 1st Concerto in E (staccato).

BAZZINI, "Ronde de Lutins" (saltando staccato).

In an earlier section of this work I alluded to the bow as being "tongue-like"; it is something more, for it is also the breath of the violin. As breathing is to a vocalist so is bowing to a violinist. It governs the phrasing, or, rather, is governed by it in the first instance and then controls its delivery to the listener. Thus it will be seen that too much attention cannot be paid to the real Art of Bowing. By which I do not mean the brilliant technical feats of _arpeggio_, _staccato_, _tremolo_, _etc._, but the pure legato bowing of cantabile pa.s.sages. It is in such song-like movements that the true artist reveals himself by the nearness with which he approaches that highest of all musical instruments, the human voice. Pure liquid tone, the inflexions suggested rather than insisted on, clear phrasing and an avoidance of all extravagance are the hall marks of an artist, and not the possession of brilliant technique alone. To those who are content with superficial glitter electro plate is as good as sterling metal. But critics of discernment (by which I do not mean _all_ those who write concert notices for the daily papers) require something of more lasting value.


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