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Mahler 1st Solo Specifics

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by bulmer, Mar 22, 2003.

  1. bulmer

    bulmer Guest

    Oct 1, 2002
    I was hoping some of you could share your experiences playing or listening to the Mahler 1st solo in audition situations and answering some specific technical questions. I believe that the musical result is always the best indicator of technical success, but in that light I am wondering about the following and the potential to spur an immediate "Thank you! NEXT!" from the audition comittee...

    - changing bow direction mid-measure (especially from the 3rd measure on as indicated by Zimmerman) as opposed the written phrase

    - playing all on the G string vs string crossings

    - little or no vibrato to sound more lamenting

    Thanks for your feedback!

  2. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    I've played this in an audition. Measures 1 & 2 I changed bows halfway through each measure. All other measures were played in one bow. I've played the whole thing on the G string before, but I think I've also crossed to the D for the low A. I'm almost positive I used the string crossing in the audition. Little to no vibrato is a good idea. It isn't a bel canto style solo, so lots of vibrato makes it sound like you're looking for intonation leeway.

    It's a terrifyingly simple solo. It should be easy as pie, which makes you that much more afraid of hitting a wrong note - because you'll look like that much more of an idiot. Regardless though, these finer points of string crossing and bowing aren't of primary concern. First and foremost here is intonation and tone. If you're looking to avoid "Thank you!", then just play it in time and in tune and with confidence. I doubt you'll be sent on your way just because you chose to cross strings in the 7th measure. So do whatever helps you to make it sound at your best, that's my two cents.

    I could also be incredibly wrong, so perhaps some other more knowledgable folks will share their thoughts as well.
  3. I guess I play it with rather little vibrato and achieve most of the expression with bow speed.

    I start up bow and play 2 bows per measure. Starting on the G string for the first 2 bars. Bar 3 is on the G string while I either play bar 4 the same or play the F on the D string the second time (staying in thumb pos). Bars 5 and 6 I play in thumb pos across the strings (finishing on thumb D). The octave A's in bars 7 and 8 are on the D string - the first as a harmonic, then press the string down for the lower one then straight across to the G string for the D. (although sometimes I'll play the high A in bar 7 as a stopped note on the G then play it as a harmonic the next time for an echoe effect).

    Of course all these bar numbers are excluding the 2 bars tymp intro (i.e. bar 1 of the solo is really bar 3).
  4. Baron von Basso

    Baron von Basso

    Nov 3, 2002
    I've heard a story of somebody doing it almost all in harmonics. But that had to have sucked.

    I like staying on one string, but it depends on the effect you want I guess. I also change bows in the middle of the first 2 measures. Dont' swing the dotteed eigth/sixteenth. Tempo is critical.
  5. bulmer

    bulmer Guest

    Oct 1, 2002
    Thanks for your input everyone....looks like the really slow all-harmonics version is *out*
    Steve :rolleyes:
  6. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    If you can find the recording of Mitroplolous/Mineapolis Orch 1940, that has a really great solo in it. It's supposed to sound very bleak, muffled, dead and dry, after all it is a funeral march.

    More conductors are getting the entire section to play it as a soli (as it was originally intended.) Do not use vibrato, aim for a consistent sound, and "hint" at expression just through the speed of your bow without any crescendo's.

    Play the intro 134 if you can to avoid any slides...Make sure the high A is in tune, if you can't nail it perfectly with the octave jumps rather play it as a harmonic.

    The schmaltzy uber vibrato is going out of style. More bass players are becoming aware that this solo is not meant to sound beautiful, it's really supposed to be an ugly menacing sort of little echo from the back of the hall.

    For audition purposes play it very straight and do not drag. Also play it at a faster tempo, something like 68 to the quarter note.

    I also like using two bows to the bar, starting up is good, and don't clip notes; make sure they're very sustained.

    Avoid fingering that sounds jerky.

    A mute may not be necessary depending on your bass and the hall, try it both ways.

    Good luck

    Oh yes, I almost forgot, the original manuscript has commas between the bars, this basically means that the beginning of each bar should have a good start/presence versus leaving a hole in sound.

    Lastly here is the fingering I like to use.

    All on G string: 13431,13431,4+1,4+1,121+421,121+421,2(g string)1(d string)1(g string),1harmonic (d string) 1 closed d string 3 harmonic d string.
    Depending on your string height going across to the D string for certain parts may work to your advantage (less shifts), just make sure you're in tune. Also bars 5 and 6 can be played with chromatic fingering as well quite nicely!
  7. Very interesting information. Thanks for all the versions. I've been very lucky twice in my life; I once played this solo in Jordan Hall with the Civic Symphony of Boston, then watched my own daughter play it in Prague this past June with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra (GBYSO)
  8. Verth


    Jul 28, 2007
    la Jonquera,Spain
    Howz 'bout tunin' yer G up a tone?

    Workz for me.


  9. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    The solo, and rehearsal/discussion of it, starts at around 1:22:

  10. JayR


    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    It's fitting this thread just got bumped, I've got an audition for one of the (paying) training orchestras here in LA on friday night, Mahler 1 is on it and I've been puzzling over how I want to treat it. I think I've tried every fingering I've seen suggested anywhere, and I'm pretty comfortable with all of them (except possibly doing the last two bars sul G, because that's retarded.) The vibrato thing is definitely been my main concern. I had been doing the 5th and 6th measures across the G and D but shifting to 2 for the bottom D instead of using thumb to vibrate. However, to a certain extent, I'd almost rather hear the bottom of the phrase without vibrato, but in a lesson I was told if I didn't vibrate that D I'd look like a fool.

    How do you guys feel about that D senza vib? I don't really have any problem executing it technically either way but for the life of me I can't really decide which is the better musical choice.
  11. koricancowboy


    Jun 10, 2003
    Wow! You should check out the video Eric linked to. It shows a retarded bassist in the retarded Berlin Phil playing it just that retarded way.:scowl: Honestly man, thats a pretty bold statement as most Europeans I have encountered play it that way. I think it's an American versus European ideal thing. IMHO.
  12. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Here's some more videos:

    (goto 2:35)

  13. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    Sure, that makes it easier; but are you going to re-tune your bass for one solo in the middle of a giant work? Alternatively, you can learn how to play solo as it was originally written.
  14. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    The first video featuring Rainer Zepperitz and the Vienna Philharmonic is unbelievably out of tune.

    The fifth video with Vincent Pasquier is BEAUTIFUL, but I don't think it really captures the concept of the solo. It should sound stark and without vibrato, not warm and lush.

    The 2nd video is very simple, but incredibly eerie, I personally love that recording.
  15. p.nemeth

    p.nemeth Guest

    Rainer Zeppertiz has never been a member of the WP.
  16. JayR


    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hey, I wasn't judging, I was just saying it was the only fingering choice I haven't given serious consideration to, since playing that low A on the D string seems, to me at least, to be a overall better decision any way I look at it. Wasn't trying to bash the Europeans. If they can nail the octave shift every time, hey, why not. In my experience though it's just way too easy to miss the note by a smidge and turn the last two bars into one of those awkward bass intonation moments.
  17. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    Thanks for the correction. That bass player looks a heck of a lot like Rainer Zepperitz, and I heard he freelanced with the WP on occasion. Back to the topic, his solo was incredibly out of tune...
  18. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I am not an orchestral player but I every now and then I'll play this solo for fun and I have consulted orchestra players about it. My understanding is that the D to A to D should be played on the G string with a bit of portamento. Certainly sounds groovier to me that way. I hear there are people who can play the solo and pizz the timpani part at the same time.
  19. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    Slides/Portamento are very uncharacteristic of this specific solo. If anything most people try and completely avoid any noticeable sounds of shifts. Once again: Deadened, and muffled. It isn't supposed to sound beautiful and sonorous. Some people feel that the solo should have a certain "Schmaltz" to it, that makes sense for certain aspects of the third movement where there are references to jewish melodies (especially with the cafe-band marching), but the intro solo was intended to sound stark, ugly, and incredibly chilling. I think the Mitropolous recording is a very good example. If you're looking for an uber schmaltzy 3rd movement check out basically any recording with Bernstein.
  20. Verth


    Jul 28, 2007
    la Jonquera,Spain
    Well..since the person who had the question was talking about an audition I felt I could give him/her a slight suggestion about re-tuning.
    Call it cheating? Are beta -blockers cheating?
    Will the jury notice.......probably not (if you tune backstage beforehand)and it's played in tune.

    By the way, you think Vincent Pasquier doesn't "capture the concept??!!"
    So what IS "the concept" Calvin? Your "Concept" supercedes Eschenbachs' "concept"??
    Is it written ANYWHERE on the score "senza vibrato"? or "schlecht" (german for UGLY)
    Is that how you'd play it Calvin?.. "unglaublichte Schlecht und überhaupt FALSCH??"

    Probably is.


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