grade 2 violin

Grade 2 Violin

In this post I will take you on a tour through the Trinity Grade 2 Violin syllabus for 2020-2023. We’ve done the same for grade one. To make the most of this resource, you will need the Trinity Grade 2 Violin Syllabus, which you can buy it at the Trinity online store. This book is copyright, and you will need to present it in the exam. Once you’ve bought it, you can explore these pieces in detail.

In the exam itself, you must present three pieces, along with scales and exercises. However, there’s no harm in learning more than three. Not only will this greatly improve your playing, but it will also enable you to choose from a range of pieces that you have mastered. You’ll then be able to put your best foot forward and get the highest possible score for your exam! Here are the pieces:

Grade 2 Violin: Air

Learn about the Piece:

What is an air?

An air, or aria in Italian, is a song-like piece for an instrumental ensemble. It usually includes a solo passage for one instrument, supported by an ensemble of other instruments. To play an air, you must imagine you are singing the piece. In fact, you should try to sing it before you attempt to play it.

Who is the composer?

This one was written by Gottfried Finger. He was a composer from Moravia, a region of Eastern Europe. His life spanned the late 17th (1660) and early 18th (1730) centuries AD. This puts him firmly within the Baroque period. While he isn’t a very famous composer, he was a skilled player of the viol. This is a string instrument that you balance on the knee. Unlike the violin, instruments in the viol family have frets, like a guitar.

This air is in G major, because it has one sharp. Most of the bars have a rhythmic pattern consisting of a crotchet, two quavers, then two more crotchets. In many places, we see a bowing pattern with two consecutive up bows. To do this, you must ration your bow carefully and ensure that you don’t use up the whole bow on the first one.

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Grade 2 Violin: Menuet

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Baroque-Jazz Fusion

This piece is an interesting arrangement. The original composition on which it is based is a Baroque piece by Petzold, BWV Anh. 114. You can find it in the collection Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. The great composer compiled this notebook for his wife to play. It’s a large collection of dances and songs for harpsichord. This instrument is the ancestor of the piano. Unlike the piano, which uses hammers, the harpsichord uses a mechanism that plucks the strings. This gives it a guitar-like sound. Here is a harpsichord like the one Bach would have known:

What the arranger has done with this arrangement is to adapt the piece. Instead of harpsichord, the accompaniment is for the piano. And instead of Baroque style, the arranger has injected a jazz style into the piece. As you listen, you will hear the familiar melody, but you will notice that it feels very different. There are characteristic syncopations, off-beats and dense, jazzy chords. It’s sure to turn heads!

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Grade 2 Violin: In the Quiet House

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This is a dreamy, jazzy number by contemporary composer Christopher Norton. It features lush jazz chords in the piano, with the violin making lazy quaver patterns. There are several places where the piano echoes the violin. This makes for easy listening, but it’s harder than it looks: wherever you have a quaver followed by a tied crotchet, make sure you don’t make a big accent on the initial quaver. This piece needs to be smooth throughout.

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Grade 2 Violin: At Work

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This piece is lyrical, contemplative and strongly minor. It evokes the feeling of being at work when you’d rather be somewhere else. It’s also quite slow; the Italian word “andante” tells us to play at a moderate walking pace. To play this piece, focus on long, consistent bow strokes. If you can, add a bit of vibrato on the minims. Also, make sure you are able to ration your bow; there are some places where we have to get three slow crotchets in the same bow. Finally, beware of accidentals (sharps and flats). These come up in various places, coaxing us out of our dreamy D minor.

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Grade 2 Violin: Swingin’ Strings

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Swing

The term “swing” has a technical meaning in music. When a composer indicates that we should swing, this means that we should play quavers in a different rhythm. In stead of playing two quavers of equal length, we elongate the first and shorten the second. This gives the music a smooth, forward-moving feeling, almost like a gallop. Swing is a style of jazz that comes from the United States. It arose in the 1930’s, a time of decadence and hedonism. The music has an almost drunken quality. This comes from the tendency to emphasise the off-beat. This kind of music always keeps you guessing!

The most common instrumentation for this style is the big band format. This is an ensemble including trumpets, saxophones, trombones and percussion. In this piece, we have a fun little selection from the work of Gabriel Koeppen, a contemporary cellist and jazz musician.

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Grade 2 Violin: Dublin Time

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Ros Stephen

It’s nice to play music composed by someone who is alive in our times. Ros Stephen is a violinist and composer from the United Kingdom. In addition to compositions like the one we are learning, she designs music and sound effects for various types of media. You can learn more about here here.

Jig

This piece, Dublin Time, is an Irish jig. This dance genre is common to Irish and Scottish culture. If you’ve ever seen this dance, you’ll know that it emphasises nimble footwork, with arms either straight at the sides or behind the back. This one is in D Major, which makes rapid scale passages easy and comfortable to execute. It’s a rollicking ride and both the violin and piano get a chance to shine.

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Grade 2 Violin: The Leaving of Liverpool

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The Background to the Song

If you play this piece, and play it well, there won’t be many dry eyes in the room. It’s a very moving song that tells the story of a young man who is leaving Liverpool in England for California. Now, in the times when this song first appeared, probably the late 19th century, travel was not what it is today. To get from Liverpool to California, you would have to cross the Atlantic Ocean by ship. Then, you would have to cross the entire North American continent by wagon. This wasn’t a journey you would make more than once. So the young man is bidding farewell to his country and, of course, to the girl he loves. This makes for a very moving piece of music that reaches across the centuries and grips the hearer.

What is the Genre?

The song is a folk song. This means that it does not have a single composer. Instead, it arose within a community and spread. In particular, this song came about in a harbour somewhere in the North of England, and it was used as a sea shanty. This is a specific genre of folk song that people sing when doing manual work on ships. As you can imagine, working on ships is gruelling work. In order to get through it all, and to bond with their peers, sailors and labourers would invent songs that they could sing in groups. These songs have to be easy to sing and easy to remember. The Leaving of Liverpool is both of these. However, it also manages to be very beautiful.

The Arrangement

In this syllabus we have the song in D Major, with two sharps. The arranger is Edward Huws Jones. He was a British violinist and music educator who arranged and composed many pieces for young string players. His arrangements are all rich and varied. This one is no exception. To play it convincingly, focus on playing as if you are singing it: long, smooth bowing throughout.

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Grade 2 Violin: Bourrée

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An Obscure Composer

Not many people have heard of Johannes Schenk. While he was a very accomplished musician in his day, he was not a very prolific or prominent composer. However, he does have the honour of having composed the first opera in the Dutch language. He titled it Bacchus, Ceres en Venus, a reference to three Roman deities. This was very much the spirit of the age in which he lived. During this period, the latter half of the 17th century (1660), Western Europe was gripped by a fascination with Ancient Rome.

Another interesting quirk in Schenk’s biography is that he was a clandestine Roman Catholic. A few days after his birth, his family baptised him in a hidden church. In the wake of the Reformation, the Protestant church in the Netherlands imposed heavy penalties on Roman Catholics. As in many other countries in Western Europe, people who belonged to the Roman church could not access professions and had to hide their faith in order to get by. We can imagine that it would have been quite difficult for Schenk to have made his living as a court musician.

Bourrée

In this selection we have an arrangement of a bourrée that Schenk wrote. This is a type of dance that originated in France. It is almost always in double time and begins with a short anacrusis. This is a Greek term that refers to the short series of notes that come before the beginning of the first bar. It gives the dancers an opportunity to hear the beat before they begin the steps. Today, the term bourrée also exists in the language of ballet, where it describes a short, quick step.

This particular bourrée is in D minor. We must remember to place the B flat on the A string and on the G string. There’s also no piano accompaniment. Instead, it is a duo for two violins. You’ll notice that the teacher part and the student part have a lot in common. For most of the piece, they simply play the same notes, but in alternation. This is a very clever, witty and elegant piece of music that will show off your technique in the exam.

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Grade 2 Violin: Coleg y Brifysgol Abertawe

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Swansea

This piece has a rather interesting title. While I won’t attempt to pronounce it, it translates as “University College Swansea” in the Welsh language. This is a beautiful Celtic language that has been spoken in the British Isles for thousands of years. Thankfully, there is something of a renaissance underway, with schools offering tuition in Welsh for native speakers’ children. This particular song was collected and presented by Pat Shaw, who was a specialist in the folk songs of the British Isles.

This piece has no accompaniment, so you’re on your own! This is both a challenge and an opportunity. If you can pull off the brisk quaver runs and string crossings in this piece, you will certainly impress the examiner!

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