Etudes 101 | The Kreutzer Sessions: 'The Road Home' Nos 27-40

Gwendolyn Masin, Peter Sheppard Skaerved


During this winter/spring season of Etudes 101, Gwendolyn Masin and Peter Sheppard Skærved continue their journey through Rodolphe Kreutzer's Etudes. In this series they will be investigating numbers 26-40.

To some, the Kreutzer Etudes are dull exercises. Not so with Peter and Gwendolyn. They have the uncanny ability to illuminate the corners of these milestone Etudes in such an exciting manner that history, performance practice and pedagogy become one unit.

Peter writes: ‘It’s a joy to return to our exploration of Kreutzer’s wonderful pieces. Working sequentially through the whole cycle offers so much. First of all, if we trust what Kreutzer is asking of us, the pieces are a window on the idealistic approach to the violin, as celebrated by the three great disciples of Giovanni Battista Viotti. Secondly, he challenges us to find the balance, the integrity, of musical and technical demands and ideals. Thirdly, the first edition, freed of the ‘improvements’ of recent editors, offers a remarkable primer for the performance practice of the generation of what might be called the ‘Revolutionary Violin’, from ‘portes-des-voix’ through to bow-distribution. Do join us as we re-embark on this adventure’!

Reference to the order of the etudes (these differ amongst the myriad editions in circulation) is made by way of the first edition. Publisher info: Paris: Cherubini, Mehul, Kreutzer, Rode, Isouard, Boieldieu, n.d.(1805). This can be found, for example, on IMSLP.

This weekly 45-minute get-together explores ways to achieve better results from daily practice by revisiting the foundations of playing. Gwendolyn and Peter offer preliminary exercises, explanations and achievable goals, injecting meaning and impact to what is often times considered the most dull and dreary moment of any practice.

These sessions are interactive, suitable for intermediate and advanced players. There will always be time for you to ask questions.

You can find recordings of the first 26 studies by going to our recording page.

1st March:

No 27. D major – Graceful String Crossing

No 28. B flat Major – Virtuoso String Crossing

Each of Kreutzer’s cycle of caprices explores the expressive and dramatic potential of specific groups of techniques and virtuoso devices. Nos 27 and 28 reveal the range of possibilities offered by string crossing devices - from high drama to gentle melancholy.

8th March:

No 29. G minor – ‘Appassionato’: Dramatic reverse-bowing ‘saccades’

No 30. F Major – Double-Stopping: expressive unisons and pedals

Caprice No 29 explicitly uses the dramatically-jerking ‘saccade’ technique to evoke impassionate, even bad-tempered moods and tempers. From Caprice 30 onwards, Kreutzer increasing moves to the exploration of multi-voiced writing, in this case to reveal what can be done with falling gestures drooping from plangent fingered unisons – an echo of Tartini’s much-admired writing.

15th March:

No 31. F Major – Two-part playing (attention to resultant tones and voice-leading)

No 32. D Major – ‘The Spring’: descriptive mood/landscape painting in three parts

Solo violin writing in two parts enjoyed a vogue in late 18th century Paris: Caprice 31 uses the technique to access and explore the rich seam of resultant pitches that result. No 32 is uses the ‘by the spring’ genre, in three parts, for pastoral scene-setting.

22nd March:

No 33. E flat Major – ‘Eroica’: Martial/battle-scene writing

No 34. E minor – Portato saccades in melancholy two-part writing

It is important to recognise how important ‘battle-scene’ imitation was for composers until well into the 19th century: The ‘heroic’ key of E flat Major is an important clue! And in Caprice 34 Kreutzer uses the melancholia associated with E minor to show more expressive potential in the ‘jolting’ saccade bowing.

29th March:

No 35. F minor – Dramatic sudden crescendos in reverse bowing

No 36. D Major – The pastoral ‘by the brook’ genre: two-part imitation

No 37. A Major – Melody and accompaniment. Perhaps a ‘Werther’ type Romance

Description and imitations continue with this 35 and 36. In no 35, carefully notated crescendo-outbursts are used with ‘backwards’ bowing (which Paganini would also use in his Caprice XI) to depict bad-tempered outbursts. No 36 returns to imitation of the countryside, the Poussin-type stream-in-the-woods. Caprice 37 is, for Kreutzer, a rare exploration of ‘melody-with-accompaniment’ solo writing: this almost feels like a voice with instrumental accompaniment. But there is nothing baroque about the resulting affect, which is closer to the romantic effect of the novels of Goethe and Laclos, which redefined expression from the 1770s onwards.

5th April:

No 38. B flat Major – Return to Tartini: Trills and birdsong

No 39. F Major – ‘Study in Three parts’, or perhaps, a duo with continuo

No 40. D minor – Two-part fugue: a homage to Viotti?

Caprice thirty-eight is back in the countryside, where Tartini-style trilling summons up flocks of songbirds. It is fascinating, and often unnoticed, that Kreutzer chose to perorate his cycle with complex chordal writing and counterpoint. He was aware of his teacher Viotti’s ‘Suonata’ in two parts, which includes a large D minor two-part fugue, and that the last Caprice is a homage to this, and to Viotti, long exiled to London.


Classes held via zoom, limited to small numbers. This event has multiple classes. Missed a class? You can still purchase a ticket to access the recording.

All times are displayed in your timezone: America/New_York Edit Timezone

All sessions: €80.00 Individual sessions: €15.00