A Viola Romance – thoughts on playing Bruch and the Viola’s Big Sound

By Louisa Orton (RS Lead Violist and Soloist in Bruch’s Romanze)

The Bruch is a lovely piece to play. It really lets the viola sing.  I see it as very much a romance between the viola and the orchestra – there’s a lot of dialogue. There are some beautifully lyrical passages interlacing the solo viola and clarinet parts in particular. As with all good romances, it has its stormier passages.  I think there’s definitely some foot stamping going on in the viola part in the middle section!  Then a few nervous sounding false starts before we finally manage to get back to the calm of the recapitulation.  That’s what’s going on in my head – hope I can get some of it across!

I started as a violin player, but taking up the viola had been in my mind for a few years – working with some inspiring viola players in various orchestras and there is always a shortage. I got the chance in my string quartet when our viola player bought a new violin and wanted to play it more. And I’d just finished studying, so needed something new to learn.

I love the extra resonance of the viola and the ‘bigger sound’. My own viola is a smaller model, but it makes a big sound!  The best tip I was given on viola playing when I first started came from the wonderful Alison Lynn who told me to “give it some welly!”