Anne Bennion and Alexander Woods, Department of Music
For my project, I learned and performed Bach Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor on baroque violin and performed it in a community recital. In the Baroque era, the violin was strung with gut strings and played with a shorter, lighter bow. This instrument was ideal for the Baroque style of music which calls for quick articulations, and a more buoyant tone. But overtime the instrument evolved into the modern violin which has greater tension in steel strings tuned a half-step higher, and played with a longer, heavier bow. This allows the violin to produce a larger sound, but the increase in tension on the instrument requires a change in the musician’s technique. Twentieth century playing styles of long strokes and continuous vibrato, but performing baroque era music calls for different techniques.
I studied with Alexander Woods throughout my project to learn these historical music techniques. This grant allowed me to travel to New York City to receive instruction from Julliard professor Robert Mealy and attended a Baroque concert in New York City. In this lesson, I learned that baroque playing is much more improvisational. Professor Mealy encouraged me to be fluid with my tempo and aim for the peaks of phrases. He also helped me find a deeper, richer core sound with the new style of bow by using a slower stroke. I then learned the sonata on a baroque violin with help from my mentor. I also rehearsed and performed Handel’s Messiah with the Baroque Ensemble and London- based choir Tenebrae. This experience helped me learn to lighten and quicken my articulations, I learned the proper style for trills, and when to sustain through phrases. My mentor performed with us and I learned a lot from observing and listening to his style of playing. I performed Handel’s Messiah in the Salt Lake Tabernacle with the Baroque Ensemble. This was a major highlight of my musical life. We were performing with incredible professional singers in a hall with excellent acoustics. We were well prepared and played our best. It was a very spiritual experience to perform such sacred music in a beautiful space for a large and appreciative audience.
Throughout the semester I practiced daily to prepare for my final performance of Bach Sonata No. 2 in A minor on Baroque violin. The learning curve was steep and sometimes frustrating. I felt like a beginner as I worked through squeaks and out of tune notes. This experience was spiritually rewarding because practicing felt like work that was refining my character. Bach is my favorite composer, and studying this piece in depth increased my love and appreciation for his genius.
Finally, I performed the sonata in a house concert for a large group of friends. This was also a big highlight for me because I could share my favorite music with my closest friends and neighbors. It was an intimate setting which seemed fitting for the style of Baroque music. I decided to record the sonata in our University studio so that I could remember the experience and share it with people who were unable to come to the recital.
Overall, this experience was very rewarding and enjoyable. It was very fulfilling to see the transformation that comes from persistent effort and expert instruction. I feel motivated to continue studying baroque violin and I plan to keep preparing to audition for the Historical Performance Master’s program at Julliard after I graduate. I feel very grateful for this grant, my
mentor, my family and friends and all those who helped me along the way to have this challenging and joyful experience.