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L. Moja Sonata (Excerpt)

L. Moja Sonata - Full Piece Recording 

Composer: Leonardo Moja (1811-1888)


I haven't found much about this composer, and honestly am not even sure how to say his name.  He was apparently Italian, which makes the "j" in his last name a bit of a head scratcher as Italian doesn't have "j" in it's alphabet.   I'm not sure if it's Moe-jah or Moe-ha.   There's nothing on Wikipedia about him to start from, but I did find the chamber music publishers website Silvertrust which indicates Moja was born in Milan and studied the cello.   Most of his work consisted of cello and chamber music.

Date: 1875 (published)

Original Instrumentation: Violin, viola, cello

Why this one:

I was looking for a string trio to add to the project.  I searched the IMSLP "For violin, viola, cello" category and basically at random scrolled down to S.  The first one I looked at was 5 Skizzen by Julius Eichberg, which looked interesting but already had a recording on youtube.  Right below it in the list was the Moja Sonata for String Trio.  So basically dumb luck plus the fact that after sifting through the parts it looked achievable.  




Key:  D minor

Time: Part 1: 6/8 Larghetto 

           Part 2: 4/4 Allegro Moderato

The piece is one movement in two parts, a slow Larghetto in 6/8 meter and an Allegro Moderato in 4.   I suppose the Larghetto could be conceived as the introduction, with the main body of the piece being in the Allegro Moderato.   The melodic work in the Larghetto is split fairly evenly between the three instruments while the Allegro is more of a melodic dialog between the violin and viola, with the cello playing a supporting roll to both.  There are two places where all three instruments are going full bore in the Allegro at 5:17 and 9:24, and those are two of the most difficult sections of the piece.   


As is becoming par for the course, I shorted this piece somewhat, electing to skip a repeat about 1/3 of the way through the Allegro Moderato.   

There were four discrete parts of this piece that I drilled incessantly from the time I selected it, as they were very technically challenging.  They are the two sections mentioned above where all three instruments are hammering away on 16th note runs at 5:17 and 9:24, and one fast acrobatic section in both the violin and viola at 3:59 and 4:04.   

Beyond those sections the main difficulty of the piece was a reading challenge in the viola, as it frequently switched into the treble clef from the usual alto clef, and the cello whose bass clef I still overall struggle with far more than the alto / treble clefs.   The cello had the added challenge of a section in the Larghetto that was written in tenor clef, which I am even worse at than the bass clef.  That section fortunately isn't very long, and I ended up just memorizing it rather than try to read and map it to my fingers on the fly.    

There's also a nasty sounding triplet section in the violin at 6:14 which, while it took me a bit to figure out the most efficient fingerings, overall sounds much harder to play than it actually is.

I recorded the violin part first, then the viola, then the cello.   The violin part was overall the most challenging, but I did it first because the reading difficulties mentioned above meant I wasn't ready to play the viola or cello parts by the time I finished the violin.    

I recorded the violin part in late July, and wasn't ready to record the viola part until September.  There was another two month gap before I was able to do the cello part, but that wait was mostly a scheduling conflict; only about 3 weeks of that was me learning the cello part which was the easiest of all the parts and took me much less time than I anticipated.

I recorded the Larghetto in 3/4 time at BPM =105, as ProTools is a little quirky about 6/8 time signature.   So rather than record at eighth note = 52 (Larghetto) I recorded it as quarter note = 105 with the pulse being on the quarter note.  I then did the Allegro Moderato also at BPM=105.  (I was relieved to find that a snippet that Silvertrust Editions uploaded with the score, which I did not discover until after I recorded the entire piece, was about the same tempo that I used.)



I recorded the violin and viola in 18-30 measure sections, rather than doing one continuous take to preserve my focus and sanity.   I did the cello part which, again, was considerably easier than the other two, in three long sections so I wouldn't have to navigate a page turn in the middle of recording.

I'm pretty sure I hit a wrong note in the cello at 6:37, but because of all the accidentals going on in the section, it doesn't stand out.

Post production on this was rather minimal, with just three spots where I had Mike lower the volume of the mandolin when it was playing a supporting part but was drowning out the mandola, and maybe three parts where some unison notes were out of time with each other.

I'm still struggling with balancing the dynamics between the parts during the recording itself, which I suppose is understandable given how I'm recording them, but it would be nice to be able to finish the tracking and just be done with the piece.

If you listen closely at 6:13 you can hear my stomach gurgling.  I hadn't eaten on the day I recorded the violin part and the mic picked it up.

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