Three Violin Demonstrations

Molto Expressivo

Mr. Taylor first demonstrates the expressive style of playing that Jefferson would have applied to the lovely theme. The expressive mood is established partly through the use of vibrato—moving the finger back and forth rapidly to impart a delicate wavering quality to each note. Expression is also heightened by subtle changes in loudness within the limits of each phrase—one of the advantages of the new Tourte bow. We may assume that Cruzatte would not have played expressively, as Jefferson would. He then shows us how Jefferson would have had to shift the position of his left hand up and down the fingerboard in order to execute one of the wide-ranging, ornate variations in Corelli's composition.

You will hear Mr. Taylor use the the term with which Corelli's era has been labled—Baroque (pronounced bah-ROHK)—an Italian word meaning "irregular in shape," which refers to the elaborate ornamentation and embellishment that was typical of art, architecture, and music during the years between 1600 and about 1750. Probably, Cruzatte would not have shifted his left hand through as many different positions, for the music he played would not have required it.


Tuning Up

Mr. Taylor speaks of the difference between standard tuning in our own era, and standard tuning during Jefferson's time. Jefferson would have checked the tuning of his harpsichord or piano using a tuning fork—a metal device invented in 1711 that was manufactured to vibrate with standard pitch when struck—then tuned his violin to match that of the keyboard instrument. Other instruments involved had likewise to tune to the keyboard instrument. Cruzatte, on the other hand, wasn't a "team" or ensemble player, so matching a standardized pitch was unimportant to him. He undoubtedly would have tuned the strings of his fiddle to one another "by ear"—by listening to the intervals resulting from bowing adjacent strings—but he would cheerfully have tolerated at least slight differences in the overall tuning of his instrument caused by fluctuations in humidity or temperature.


Different Strokes

A variation of La Follia played with a modern bow held in the old-fashioned gamba manner. Jefferson would no doubt have used the gamba grip before he acquired his new Tourte bow in Paris. The new style of playing rapid notes with a "bouncing" bow required an overhand grip with a three-fingered fulcrum—thumb, middle finger, fourth finger—on the handle or "frog," as demonstrated in the two previous examples.

Notice that Mr. Taylor is not using a chin rest. Until Jefferson received his first one, he would have braced the instrument against his neck or his collarbone. (Cruzatte would have braced his against his chest or, if his instrument were small enough, against the crook of his left arm.)


Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Challenge Cost-Share Program