12 Etude-Caprices in the Styles of the Great Composers
Nov 13, 2010
Interview with Composer
Diane - What inspired you to take on such an enormous and unique project?
Amy - I suppose my greatest inspiration for this project was the feeling that I wanted to create a body of literature that would give intermediate students more stylistic insight and preparation for the exploration of solo, chamber and orchestral works they would soon be encountering in these settings. Not only would the study of my etude-caprices ultimately save students and teachers time when approaching the works of the great masters, but it would also be a uniquely enjoyable way in which to synthesize technique and musicianship.
Diane – I was particularly excited to see the Ravel and Copland Etudes. I specifically remember having to learn these styles “on the fly” through orchestral playing without any formal training!
Diane - Do you have a process for delving into each composer’s style of writing?
Amy - The quest for each composer’s individual signature within the appropriate historical context required that I become totally immersed in his music. It was an utterly consuming and fascinating process where for a week or two, I’d play and listen to everything I could get my hands on: concerti, sonatas, short pieces, parts to orchestral works, etc. I have to admit that there were plenty of doubtful, soul-searching moments, but ultimately, I’d wake up in the morning speaking what I felt to be a language akin to that of the composer of choice. Then I’d know it was time to “set pen to paper” and begin each etude.
Diane - It’s clear you chose a composer from each era. How did you decide on which composer to write about?
Amy - That’s a very good question. It was a difficult choice to make, and actually, my list went through some changes as the book progressed. I guess that having taught for a little over forty years has developed my vision for the directions in which young violin students of varying levels are headed. I wanted to consider not only the upcoming solo repertoire that would be in the near futures of intermediate students, but also the kinds of chamber and orchestral literature they would be encountering when auditioning for summer music programs and festivals or playing in their local youth orchestras. Additionally, it was important that there be enough contrast between one etude-caprice and the next for the student who would move progressively through the book. I think that the composers I selected work well together on many levels. For some students, this will be the first contact they will have with a particular composer. It is my hope that this introduction will be rewarding enough to encourage further exploration into the music of these great composers.
Diane - Could you elaborate on the pictures and illustrations?
Amy - I particularly enjoyed hunting for and selecting the paintings and photographs that are in my book. They came from antique books as well as modern resources including the internet. In my search, I wanted to find representative works from each period, but I also wanted to be sure that they would compliment each of the original etude-caprices in a way that might inspire discussion as to their stylistic correlations. Essentially, I chose paintings or photographs that I thought would give more insight into the personalities and backgrounds of each composer on whose music I based the etude-caprices. It was my hope that I could use the styles of the various paintings to influence performance techniques of pieces in their corresponding periods. I feel that the more historical perspective and depth we can have, the more convincing we can make our playing, and the more life we can bring to our music-making. Exposure to the multi-faceted visual arts enriches understanding and communication skills in a most enjoyable and memorable way.
Diane – I have fond memories of a history class I took in high school. The music, drama, English, and art teachers all collaborated. It was great learning all of the arts history at the same time instead of having to try to correlate it later.
Diane - Besides intermediate violin students, who else might find your book beneficial?
Amy - The versatility of my book has made it very attractive to teachers and students in a variety of situations. Having taught at NY’s School for Strings as a bridge between Suzuki and traditional methods, I feel that this book would work beautifully in similar settings. Not only are experienced teachers using the etude-caprices as study pieces, but they are also using them as concert pieces and “choice” competition works. Young teachers are finding that the uniquely designed measure by measure practice guides accompanying each etude-caprice are helpful in reinforcing their teaching skills. Teachers of college and conservatory pedagogy classes are also finding this book useful and stimulating. In addition, recently, it was brought to my attention that adults who are wishing to return to the violin after having been away from it for some time are using my book as a positive approach to reviewing and strengthening their technique and musicianship.
Diane - What have you been composing lately?
Amy - Most recently, I have been working on a project that actually began ten years ago. My Requiem Mass was originally written to be performed in a very intimate setting. It was scored for soprano, violin and viola. However, when I founded a small chamber orchestra called, Akron Baroque in 2006, it seemed that it was time for a growth spurt. In 2008, we premiered six movements as scored for soprano and chamber orchestra. It was wonderfully received. This past year, though, we introduced our new chamber choir. I knew when I heard this wonderful ensemble, that it was time for yet another incarnation of my mass. So, I am busily in the process of expanding it once again, this time for soloists, choir and orchestra. Our commissioned performance will be in 2012, and I’m hoping that a recording will follow.
Diane – Thank you so much for giving us an insider’s view. Students, teachers, composers, and history buffs can all gain from your wonderful collection of Etude-Caprices!
Etude-Caprice in the Style of Bach video
Etude-Caprices in the Style of:
Bartok, Dvorak, Prokofiev, Tartini video
AMY BARLOWE, violinist and composer, received her B.M. and M.M. degrees from the Juilliard School after studies with Ivan Galamian and Margaret Pardee. Her chamber music coaches include Josef Gingold, Felix Galimir, Samuel Rhodes and Earl Carlyss.
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