Brian Barone’s July with Giuliani kicks off today. I thought it’d be fun to take part, so here I am. Below is a video of my interpretation. This was recorded after working on the piece for about an hour.
The mood of the piece should largely be determined by the first measures tempo and dynamic markings. Vivace suggest a reasonably quick tempo with a light, lively character while Mezzo-forte suggests a nice, strong sound. Light with a full sound.
The form of the piece is simple binary. Though editions vary (see here, here, and here), I think this piece is very certainly in cut time. The suspensions on strong beats and the general feel of the piece lends itself to two beats/impulses for each measure and the harmonic rhythm of the entire piece aligns with that.
The repeated notes in the pick ups into measure one are particularly expressive, in the same way the last two beats of measure two into the first beat of measure 3 (repeated G’s) are expressive. I would like to hear more of a crescendo into the C on the downbeat of measure 1, then the resolution of of that first suspension nice and quiet. Same for measure four: crescendo through the repeated G’s into the downbeat and relax into the suspensions resolution. Each suspension should have an accent on the dissonant note and a relaxation (diminuendo) into the resolution – that should be the main feature of the open bars.
The pick to measure five to measure eight is the next section and changes character a bit. Name the bass sticks out to me. We’ve gone from quarter notes to half notes in the bass and that’s very striking.
The large ascending gesture from measures 9 to 12 begs a crescendo, followed by a diminuendo from measures 12 to 15. Again measures 9-15 changes the bass, and Giuliani is kind enough to mark sF for us on every beat during this section. That’s significant, he wants that chromatic bass line to come out, so let it! I think it’s also important to let the melody sing out, but to my ear the focus during this section is in the bass.
Measure 16 changes the character yet again, and the bass returns to the quarter notes from measure 1. To my ear this creates a bit more tension in the music as the bass picks up, this tension is resolved during the final measures. There should be a crescendo through measure 16 (again repeated notes in the melody!) in preparation for the curiously loud ending.
The ending is very striking to me, usually pieces end quiet, but this one Giuliani marks loud. There should still be a bit of ritard starting in measure 17. I put it on beats three and four, but that’s open to interpretation as well.
On the Technical Side of Things
Lots of shifts, and the fingerings in the editions linked above are very good. I would say to use guide fingers wherever possible, but also don’t forget to prep fingers over strings as that does help. The first measures are more easily accomplished if you leave a half bar down. Whatever the fingering, the goal is to get a very legato, connected sound. Change fingerings as necessary to achieve that.
So how does my interpretation stack up to the above observations?
It’s not great. I would classify the playing above as mediocre at best. The suspensions and resolutions need more subtle accents and resolutions. I think the overall tempo is okay (maybe a bit quicker), but it needs more lightness. Some technical difficulties need to be smoothed out, but that comes with time more than anything else (needs more than an hour of practice). In general, I think the interpretation is not refined enough. Part of the greatness in the classical style is the subtlety, and I don’t have that captured yet.