Bruckner symphony no 7, 1st Mov, Fig e




Fig 1 Bruckner 7, 1st mov Fig E


Musical setting

Bruckner Symphonies are massive structures – huge works for large forces, often with long passages where the tension is built gradually. The passage above is one such example, from the first movement of no7, one of the more popular symphonies



How to prepare


This is a tricky passage which tests technique, preparation and musicality. Specific issues are:-

String crossings – As with many of the excerpts this is a classic shift vs string crossing dilemma. In many cases the string crossing is unavoidable – in others there is a choice. I would rather shirt then cross strings as a rule, for example I use extended fingerings for the min 3rds in bars 126 and 128. Also I play the maj 3rd in bar 135 thumb + 3. My fingerings for 143-144 are designed to avoid string crossings – this includes use of the thumb on E natural in bar 144. There are many instances were string crossings are unavoidable, so Ex 1 is useful to get the bow close to the target string (from 2nd to 3rd note, the two semis, eg from F# on the D string to B on the G string in bar 123)

Bow distribution – it is uneven, and there is a tendancy to use too much bow in the single quaver at the start of each bar, with the risk that this note will jump out too loud. This must be avoided by playing this quaver short and travelling. Ex 1 is good for working on this

Bowing – the string crossings would be easier for lower strings up-down rather than down-up, but the opposite is true for the upper strings, and we know who wins this battle in the orchestra!!

Tuning – it is harmonically “interesting” and can be tricky to keep true pitch in your head. I find it easy to stray sharp in the last few bars, so need to work with the tuner to keep key notes in tune, especially from bar 141

Dynamics – as always, its easy to overlook dynamics with tricky technical passages. The player who demonstrates a full dynamic range shows they are technically on top of the excerpt. I try to play the pp passages over the fingerboard and with half the hair. Key points are:-

Bar 128 – huge cresc in last two beats only from pp-f

Bar 131 – not too p as there is a drop to pp coming up in bar 133. My fingerings use higher positions for the pp, to help make the dynamic change and to get in position for bar 135

Bar 135 – sub f but not too loud as the passage continues thro ff to fff at the end

Rhythm – its easy to rush the louder sections, avoid this, keep strictly in time. Another banana skin in this excerpt are the pairs of semis – it is very easy to rush them. The tempo is not fast, which makes the risk of rushing even greater

Nasty sections – the ones that I find need the most work are:-

bar 130 – this is a shocker. It has the lot, string crossings (the first two notes are 3 strings apart, the next two are slurred string crossings, the last 3 are shockers) big shifts, a slurred high 4th. Exercises 2-7 are designed to help get round these problems. The key technical issues are:-

i. keep the first note short, start the shift early so it is less rushed. This would be much easier on a 5 string bass, as F# could be played on the B string, avoiding the big shift

ii. I used 3-2 fingering for the C#-F#, the 2nd and 3rd notes. The hand must be turned so that the fingers are at 45 degrees to the string, ie pointing down towards the players R foot. This is to avoid the F# being too sharp, which is a risk with this fingering. There are alternatives, but a high 4-4 bar is risky and hard to get smooth and there is not enough time to get the thumb on C# to avoid the string crossing, so I feel my fingering is the best of a bad lot

bar 134-135 – subito f, the F and A, 2nd and 3rd of 135 are tricky, either as a high string crossing, or to get in position with thumb on F as I play it. It is often the case that the problem with a passage that is wrong is not the notes that are wrong but the preparation beforehand. I find that I stand a better chance of getting my thumb on F for the 2nd note of bar 135 if my 3rd is stopping an A at the end of the previous bar. Ex 8 is designed to make this happen. This keeps my L hand in position. When I play the open D at the start of bar 135, my 3rd is holding an A, stopping the F with my thumb is likely to interfere with the open D. After the D, I put my thumb on F, and raise my 3rd finger.

bar 141-end – tricky harmonically, its easy to stray sharp. My fingerings are designed to avoid string crossings, which will hopefully keep the pairs of semis in time



How to prepare (long term):-

Chose a starting tempo, say crochet = 66, and work thro the exercises until they are fixed:-

Ex 1 – get the bow close to the G string in the first bar, before playing the D. Ditto the D string in the second bar

Ex 2 – practice getting into position to get the C# and F# in tune, which I check with a chromatic tuner. The key issue is the hand position, with fingers at 45 degrees to the strings

Ex 3 - 7 – quick shift to the C#, keep the bottom F# short to start the shift as early as possible

Ex 8 – get the LH on A ready for the open D in bar 135 and more importantly the thumb on F natural

Play the passage at that tempo

Go back and fix anything that didnt work

Increase metronome marking once the passage is mastered at that tempo, up to crochet = 92

In the audition warm up room

Work on bar 130 slowly, building it up in tempo

Practice bar 134 for the transition into bar 135, getting into position for thumb on F nat

What is being tested

LH bars, string crossings, rhythm, shifting, dynamic range, tuning

Notes written on the part

Extension – closed

Dynamics – scan the part to check, mark to emphasise key changes

Don’t rush semis, especially in f dynamic

Pitch – arrows down at the end to avoid going too sharp

Tempo – arrows back at 135 to avoid rushing, crochet = 92

Rhythm – important to keep in time even where there are tricky string crossings



Updated 22/4/2012

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