restricted access 12—Left-Hand Technique
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109 Just as there is a type of right-hand technique that facilitates the execution of otherwise -awkward passages in Bach’s solo polyphony, there are certain concepts of fingering that I recommend in order to facilitate vocal clarity, tonal homogeneity, and melodic fluency. The difference between fingering that’s appropriate in Bach’s polyphonic works and in standard, post-Baroque music is the result of changing aesthetic notions. Leopold Mozart did indeed recommend staying on the same string, where possible, to maintain the tonal color in a melodic line. However, whereas this effect is certainly desirable in the case of Bach’s fugue subjects, using positions higher than first can actually disrupt a Bachian melodic line or make notes sound abruptly duller. The simplest advice I can give is to stay in the lowest possible position until it’s absolutely necessary for musical or technical reasons to use a higher one. Running up a string merely to show off one’s technical prowess is shallow and pointless, especially considering the level of virtuosity already required to be able to perform these works. Here’s a ludicrous example from a mid-twentieth-century edition of the G-minor Adagio: Quite apart from the empty virtuosity, from the vocal point of view playing the E-flat on the D-string and then switching over to the A-string for the next note in the melodic line, a fourth lower, thereby introducing a brighter color in mid-phrase, disrupts its homogeneity. Abrupt changes of color in melodic lines, then, are to be avoided; gradual changes such as happen in scales or arpeggios or during sequences are normal. Open strings may be used wherever context permits: in scales, however, the modern practice of using open strings ascending and fourth finger descending is undesirable in this music. Notice, if you will, how this causes the ascending E, especially, to stand out from the texture: the sudden change of color draws attention to that note. An open E used in a descending scale, however, blends into the overall color and the string-crossing is smooth and unnoticeable. chapter twelve Left-Hand Technique f ff f mp dim. p cresc. mf f c &b b b b ≤ ≥ Ÿ 3 4 2 , ≥ n b &b ≤ ,≥ b # n # " &b , &bn n # Ÿ &b ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ &b A combination of and ∑ ∑ &b Ÿ Ÿ, n Ÿ &b 1 1 1 ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ &b III 1 1 II 1 ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ œ j œ J œj œ œ n œj œ J œj œ œ œ b œ œ™ œ œ œ œ™ œ b œ b œ œ œ œ œ n œj ‰ œ J œ J œ œ œ œ ‰ œ œ n œ œ œ b œ œ J ‰ œj œj œ b œ œ J œ J œ n œ #J œ œœœœœœ œ b œ œ œ b œœ œ b œ œ œ b œ œ œ œœ œ n œœ œ™ œœœœœœ œ R œ b œœœœœ œ b œ œ n œ œ œ œ œ œ # œ œ œ™ œ œ œ œ œ™ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ b œ œ b œ n œ œ b œ œœ œ œ # œ b œ œ n œœ œ œ j œ J œ™ œ b œ n œ œ n œ œœ œ œ œœ œ b œ # œœ œ # ™ œ w œ j w œ j w œ J w Œ Œ Ó œ œ œ œ œœ œ b œœœœœœ œ œ œ œ # œœœœœ œœœ™œœ œ # œ J œ J œ œ œ b œ ‰ œj œ œ # œ j œ œ œ b œœœœœ œj œ œ # œœ œ b œœœœœœœ œ œ nJ œ ‰ œ œ # œ œ œ J œr ‰ œœœ œ n œ r ‰ œ œ œj œ j œ œ œœ œ n ™œœ J œj œ #J œ K r®Ù œ œ n œ ‰ œ b J œ J œ J œœ œ b œœ J Ó œ J Ó® ‰ œœœœœ œ b œ œ J œœ œ b œ œ J ‰ œ J Ó Ó 110 The Accompaniment in “Unaccompanied” Bach The Role of Vibrato In approaching music of any period, it is important for the violinist to ponder on the function of vibrato as an expressive tool and not merely an element of tone production . The automatic use of constant unvaried vibrato, applied without concern about its appropriateness or effect, is lamentable and is, in any case, a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of music. Vibrato’s origins are lost in the history of style, but from the early Middle Ages when it was first written about until the second decade of the twentieth century, vibrato was understood to be an ornamental device used to enhance the expression of particular notes in the overall context of the music.1 It is essential, therefore, for the violinist to develop the ability to use vibrato of varying speed and width in order to have as complete an expressive palette as possible . This seems to have been standard element of violin pedagogy in the eighteenth century: Leopold Mozart2 and Tartini3 provided systematic exercises; Geminiani4 furnished a sampling of styles of vibrato to be applied according to the particular affect desired. However, in the absence of more precise information as must have been conveyed by demonstration—a lost tradition—we are obliged to use our creative instincts. The guidelines, then, are similar to those for trills. The speed and amplitude of the oscillations should match the character of the affect: fast trills and vibrato should never be used in slow movements.5 The duration should not only be determined by note length, because the addition of vibrato to a long note, especially when the note...