The Joy of Feuillard - A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 16 - Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #27-33)

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 16 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #27-33)

Happy New Year! I wish you all a happy and healthy 2019 – with great intonation and beautiful sounds on the cello!

Today’s adventure in Feuillard-land will continue with some more dotted rhythms, and then return to the sautillé and up-bow staccato strokes that were first addressed in No. 32.

Variations #27 and #28:


These two variations continue with the staccato dotted rhythms from last week, but this time with hooked bowings. As I mentioned in the past, I ask the students to play each  variation completely in the lesson. In part this is for developing skills of concentration and relaxation. But also because every note on the cello has different properties and we are trying to make them all sound the same. There are no short-cuts in learning these principles, and our job as teachers is to be patient and provide a nurturing, supportive environment in which the students can develop their skills.


Variations #29 and #30:


For these variations I like to ask the students to play again with a “lilting” sound (like we did in Variations #19 and #20). That means releasing more and floating on the longer notes, and using a more gentle articulation. Iestyn had already used this stroke in the first movement of the Goltermann Concerto #4, and in the Dvorak Humoresque.

Variations #31 and #32:

These two variations work again on the sautillé stroke that was first encountered at the end of No. 32 (Variations #25 and #26). It has been several months since Iestyn worked on those variations, and he has clearly absorbed the main technical issues involved:

  • using an active upper arm and a passive wrist
  • finding the right part of the bow for the bounce at any given tempo
  • getting the right contact point for a good sound
  • letting the bow bounce by itself, and staying out of the way
  • finding the right height of the bounce for evenness
  • staying relaxed
  • being able to coordinate vibrato with the stroke for a better sound
  • getting the tempo to be faster

In this performance in the lesson Iestyn was able to get the tempo up to 75=quarter note, which is much faster than he had been able to play the sautillé variations in No. 32. As I mentioned to him when we worked on those earlier variations, our goal is to get to 80 in order to be able to play the Elgar Second Movement at the tempo indicated by the composer. With a little more time Iestyn will undoubtedly reach that tempo – and I look forward to hearing him play the Elgar in a few years!

Variation #32 is a bit more complicated for coordinating the left and right hands, and it is still a “work in progress” for Iestyn.  Although the main beats are all down bows,  the bowing direction reverses on the subdivided part of the beat because of the triplets. One has to be careful that the left hand is together with the right hand, and recognize that the subdivided part of the beat is on an upbow. It is good to slow it down and stop on those upbows until they are ingrained in the body. It is also sometimes helpful to feel the upper arm moving “in” and “out” for those subdivisions. I recommend practicing this with the left hand leading; and then with the right hand leading. It feels different to us when one hand or the other is “leading” – and we have to figure out which one results in a better performance. This Variation was still a “work-in-progress” for Iestyn.

Variation #33:

This is the final variation in No. 33, and it works again on the issues first seen in No. 32 (Variations #22-24): the up-bow or down-bow staccato (or “hooked staccato” or “slurred staccato”) However instead of repeating the same notes with the staccato stroke, this time the variation requires more coordination between the left and right hands. Once again Feuillard first presents a concept in a “simple” version, and then adds complexity later.  Iestyn has absorbed the basic technical issues from his experience with the earlier variations, and he played it well in his first attempt.

I reminded Iestyn about the Heifetz “Hora Staccato”, and suggested that he listens again to the Locatelli sonata for “inspiration” about this stroke. I also suggested that he should continue to work on both the sautillé and staccato strokes so that when he approaches pieces such as the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations he will have the tools needed to be able to play them.

I would like to thank Iestyn for being the “guinea pig” in all the videos of Feuillard No. 33. He has made great progress in his bow technique.

With the New Year, next week’s blog will begin the critically important work on string crossings, with the Feuillard No. 34. We will examine the different parts of the arm that can do these vertical motions, and analyze the four bowing figures that are the basis for all string crossings. My pre-college student Tristan will be featured in the videos as he begins his work on these variations.

*If you have questions or comments about The Joy of Feuillard, Dr. Robert Jesselson can be reached directly at rjesselson@mozart.sc.edu.


About the Author:

Robert Jesselson

Robert Jesselson is a Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches cello and plays in the American Arts Trio and the Jesselson/Fugo Duo. In 2013 he was named as the Governor’s Professor of the Year by Governor Haley and the SC Commission on Higher Education.

Dr. Jesselson has performed in recital and with orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America, and the United States, and has participated in the Music Festivals at Nice (France), Granada (Spain), Santiago (Spain), Aspen (CO), Spoleto (SC), the Grand Tetons (WY), and the Festival Inverno (Brazil). His performance degrees are from the Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik in Freiburg, West Germany, from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Paul Katz, and the DMA from Rutgers where he studied with cellist Bernard Greenhouse. He has been principal cello of the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Orquesta-Sinfonica de Las Palmas, Spain. In 1983 Dr. Jesselson was in China for a six-month residency, one of the first Western cellists to visit that country. During that time he performed as soloist, gave master classes, and taught at several conservatories (including Beijing, Shanghai, and Canton). In December, 2001 he led a delegation of string players and teachers to Cuba to begin professional contact with Cuban musicians. He has also taught at Sookmyung University in Korea, Sun Yat Sen University in Taiwan, University of Auckland in New Zealand, at the Royal College of Music in London and recently in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. His recent CD of new music for cello and piano is called “Carolina Cellobration” and is available on CD Baby and Cellos2Go.

Dr. Jesselson was the national President of ASTA, the American String Teachers Association, from 2000-2002. During his tenure as president he initiated the National Studio Teachers Forums (2000 and 2002), started the National String Project Consortium (with sites now at 44 universities and grants of $3.1 million), and began the planning for the first stand-alone ASTA national convention in 2003. He was the founding Executive Director of the National String Project Consortium, and is currently on the NSPC Board.

Dr. Jesselson is former conductor of the USC University Orchestra and the Columbia Youth Orchestra, and he was the cello teacher at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts for 17 years. For 15 years he was the director of the USC String Project, building the program into one of the largest and most prominent string education programs in the country. His pioneering work on this program was recognized in an article in the New York Times in December, 2003. ASTA awarded him the “Marvin Rabin Community Service” Award in 2009 for his work with the NSPC and teacher training. He is the recipient of the 2015 USC Trustees Professorship and the 2010 Mungo Distinguished Professor of the Year, the highest teaching awards given by USC. He has also been awarded the 2002 Cantey Award for Outstanding Faculty, the 1992 Verner Award, the 1989 S.C. Arts Commission Artist Fellowship, the 1995 Mungo Teaching Award, and the first SC ASTA Studio Teacher Award in 2005. Next summer Dr. Jesselson will be teaching cello at the Green Mountain Music Festival in Vermont and at the Cellospeak Festival. He plays a 1716 Jacques Boquay cello.

Robert Jesselson website: http://in.music.sc.edu/fs/jesselson/index.html
Articles by Jesselson: http://in.music.sc.edu/fs/jesselson/articles.html