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The Rode Studies.

If long-time allegiance  to a man or his works counts for anything in this world, the universal tribute paid to Rode must be regarded as the strongest attestation of that violinist’s exceptional worth. A century of violinists, of every nationality, have utilized Rode’s Caprices in their pedagogical work, and have recognized, in these famous etudes, the seeds of their own instrumental achievements. Tested for a hundred years or more by all “schools” of violinists, these twenty-four studies remain, to-day, firmly imbedded in the affec­tions of all earnest players of the violin. In musical, as well as technical, design they have not yet been outrivaled. Conceived with great piety of purpose, and executed with masterly skill, they will long con­tinue to remain a monument to Rode’s genius before which all artists will stand with uncovered heads.

Strange to say, however, few pupils have more than a feeble appreciation of the instrumental worth and musical beauties of these great etudes. And, what is yet more regrettable, an incredibly small proportion of our younger players make a serious effort to master the technical problems which Rode has so skilfully woven into musical designs. More often they regard Rode as one of the necessary evils of technical development, and, at best, they take up the study of the etudes with a sigh of resignation.

For this impious attitude the teacher is surely responsible. Nearly all serious students respect their teacher’s opinions; and if a teacher’s ideas are fre­quently and forcibly expressed, the pupil’s deference alone will ultimately result in respect or admiration for those things which he is taught are admirable.

It has long been a cherished plan of mine to pre­sent an analysis of Rode’s Caprices to students of the violin. Having always been of the opinion that pupils are not wholly to blame for their thoughtless disregard of Rode’s masterpieces, and being convinced that the majority of violin-students require special help to enable them greatly to profit by the ideas set forth in these etudes, I shall begin, in the present issue of The Etude, such an exposition of Rode’s musical and technical ideas as will, I hope, meet the needs of many of my readers.

A few introductory words, however, bearing on the general design and practical side of my proposed work, seem desirable, if not really imperative.

I propose, in general, to take each one of the twenty-four Caprices and minutely investigate Rode’s musical and technical intentions. But this does not mean that I shall enter into, and enlarge upon, every possible detail. It is reasonable to take for granted that all players who are capable of grappling with such etudes have an intimate knowledge of the fun­damental principles of violin-playing. My chief effort will be in the direction of elucidating questions in connection with advanced violin-playing, and calling the student’s attention to such things as he is likely either to neglect or misconceive.

Also it is necessary that the reader should thor­oughly understand that there are many questions related to violin-playing which only actual illustra­tion can make adequately clear, and that all written effort to instruct the musical mind is necessarily less successful than that which the proficient player is capable of making with his instrument.

The main objects of the first Caprice are the de­velopment of the trill and the détaché stroke. It abounds in difficulties which few pupils have the tenacity to master; but the persistent player will be astonished and delighted with the results of patient endeavor.

The brief introduction is a lesson in tone rather than in technic; but it must not be inferred from this that its technical difficulties are insignificant. To insure rhythmical accuracy, the pupil should count eighths rather than quarters. A fine, singing tone is requisite throughout these fifteen measures, and the utmost care should be bestowed on the indi­cated dynamics, etc. In the latter connection, it is well to mention right here that the pupil must strictly observe all marks of expression. It will be found that nearly every one of the Caprices abounds in accents of peculiar musical significance, which, properly observed, materially increase the technical difficulties.

Many pupils experience considerable difficulty in playing the second measure with rhythmical accuracy. The simplest and surest means of overcoming such a difficulty is to count the sixteenths instead of the eighths.

In the third measure, the group of grace-notes, as also the three staccato notes, require special atten­tion. The former are generally played with such nervous rapidity as to destroy repose and symmetry; and the latter are too sharply detached for the tempo and general character of the introduction. The staccato-dot is one of numerous arbitrary signs which easily mislead the average player. As a rule, it is heedlessly employed, and the player should therefore be guided entirely by the tempo and the character of the composition.

The first Caprice proper (marked Moderato) is an invaluable lesson in the aétaché stroke. All the triplet figures must be played with a supple wrist, strongly detached at the point of the bow. No at­tempt should be made, in the beginning, to play this extremely difficult etude in the correct tempo. The necessary speed should be acquired gradually and with the utmost caution in order to develop the nec­essary strength and flexibility of the wrist. Then, too, the up-stroke will require special effort, inas­much as this etude is designed to develop equality of strength in all detached down- and up- strokes.

The trill should be exceedingly brilliant, but not of the customary length. In fact, Rode does not demand a trill proper.

The pupil will do well, however, to play an actual trill while studying this Caprice in a slow tempo. Later, when control and flexibility of the wrist have been acquired, and when the requisite quantity and energy of tone have been developed, a prolonged trill is unnecessary. It is even impossible if the Caprice is played in the tempo indicated by Vieuxtemps: a quarter note equals 120.

There yet remains something to be said in con­nection with the interpretation of this Caprice. It contains, of course, fewer opportunities for the dis­play of fine musical feeling than do many of the others; but here and there the player can adequately demonstrate the possession of musical judgment. The twenty-fifth measure, for instance, is character­ized by a modulation to A-flat major, and a corre­sponding modulation in character of tone greatly en­hances the musical effect. Beginning with the twenty-ninth measure the stroke should gradually acquire more vigor till the thirty-first measure is reached, when the bowing should resume the forceful and energetic character which marks the rest of the Caprice.

In all of Rode’s Caprices the pupil will find op­portunities for the display of individuality and mu­sical judgment. It is not enough faithfully to re­produce the ideas set down by Rode or his various editors. Nor is it always possible for the composer accurately to indicate every dynamic and change of musical idea which he may have in mind. An addi­tional something is always required or desired; and that something is the exposition of individual thought and feeling.

(To be continued.)

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You are reading The Rode Studies. from the May, 1902 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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