Masterclass: Daniel Hope on 'Winter' from Vivaldi's Four Seasons

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The British violinist offers ideas on how to conjure a frosty chill through your violin playing. From the January 2015 issue

From the first entry at bar 4, keep the left hand trilling constantly and articulate the dotted slurs using the bow to give a queasy, wintry feel. I ask the orchestra to play ponticello from the beginning, and then I crescendo through bars 10 and 11 to the solo entrance at bar 12; for each solo entrance after that (bars 14 and 17), I give more and more. When the violin solo begins in bar 12 (example 1), the score instructs us to tremble from cold in the icy snow, in the harsh breath of the horrid wind. I use ponticello and play with rubato, not completely rhythmically, like a whirlwind. It’s important to define a tempo at bar 13, so that the orchestra knows where to come in.

At bar 20 (example 2), we need to ‘hit’ the string to achieve a beating sound. The semiquavers (s) are grouped in fours with dots under a slur, and it’s important to do these bowings – four downs, then four ups. The trick is not to start on the string but to throw the bow and use the natural bounce, letting the bow fall backwards and forwards. If it’s uneven, it doesn’t matter: the effect is more important. Th is bowing helps us to paint the scene for bar 22, where according to the text we have to run, stamping our feet. Use the weight of the bow at the frog and really lay into these notes, especially at…

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