Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/programme note of viola


Dear Clare, I'm 11 years old, doing Trinity ATCL viola exam and having trouble finding some programme notes about the song onata in F by Giovanni Battista Grazioli.Do you mind to advise me anything about the piece that I could include in the programme notes. Thanks alot!

Hello Yi Pi Wan, and thanks for being patient.

Programme notes don't need to be long - I usually think in terms of three paragraphs: composer, piece, description.  Not many people will have heard of this composer (I certainly haven't) so you could start by writing a paragraph about his life.  There's not a lot of information but I've found you a couple of websites, so you should be able to write a paragraph about him. and - these are in Italian, but if you cut and paste them into you can get a reasonable translation into either English or Chinese.

He mainly composed sacred music (as you'd expect from someone who spent his whole life working at St Mark's Cathedral), but his first published compositions were secular, for harpsichord (he was an organist so he'd probably play them himself).  Ops 1 and 2 are solo sonatas; Op 3 (published 1781-84) are for harpsichord plus obbligato violin. (I hope you realise he didn't originally write your sonata for the viola - someone has arranged it.  Look on your copy and find out who it was - if it was someone well-known like Lionel Tertis it's worth mentioning.)

So this isn't a sonata for viola plus accompaniment - the two instruments are very much equal partners.  It's a trio sonata, in fact, for two melodic lines (= harpsichord's right hand and violin/viola) and basso continuo (= harpsichord's left hand).  Find out about the importance of trio sonatas during the Baroque period if you haven't already done so, and that's your second paragraph sorted.

Now for the piece itself.  (Don't refer to it as a "song" - there's no singing involved.)  As I've not seen the music I can't talk about it, but as you've learned it you shouldn't have any problems telling your audience, who have never heard it before, what to look out for.  Your typical trio sonata's in three movements, allegro-adagio-allegro and 99 times out of 100 the last movement's a giga (look up "gigue" but be aware there's a musical difference between the French "gigue" and the Italian "giga" - you want the Italian version).  Talk about how the two melodic lines work together (imitation) throughout the piece and describe each movement briefly.  I don't know if there's any technical feature like double stopping or spiccato involved, but if there is, mention it too!  

Hope this helps, and good luck for the exam.  

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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