Détaché and sonatina

Connie Sunday said: Apr 11, 2013
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

In teaching and in writing about string pedagogy, I try to be as accurate as I can and not make errors, but I wonder about these two. (Awful to think I might have been telling students the wrong thing, for decades!!):
Here are the definitions I share with students and published in my book (!):

(1) Détaché: Impossible to define this, as there are so many varieties. Basically, up and down; a change of bowing direction with some articulation. Does not necessarily mean staccato (though sometimes defined as such); can be heavily accented or not.

[It should be noted that détaché does not mean “detached.” Détaché is in French what is called a “false friend”; it looks like an English word (remember that about 80% of the words in French are also in English), but is not at all the same thing. Détaché simply means separate bows. Another example of a “false friend” is the verb in French, demand. If you say, “Je demande” you only say I ask, not I demand…which has been known to play havoc with diplomatic translations!]

…..I may have been misinformed by a teacher, or an author, or I may be misremembering, but this is what I thought was correct. However, it does stay staccato in every lexicon I’ve examined.

(2) Sonatina: I thought this was a work for children, with two (or three?) movements, rather than four, but this morning on NPR there was an airing of the Dvorak violin and piano sonatina, and it clearly was not a work for children (or perhaps very brilliant children).

Your thoughts appreciated..

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Wendy Caron Zohar said: Apr 11, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

Hi Connie,

  1. From my conservatory, graduate and post-grad training and readings on the history of music, and history of development of violin technique, I have learned that détaché refers to separate bows, taken on the string, as opposed to slurred notes, or any of the strokes which take the bow off the string. The term Detaché comprises a wide category that can include many styles of strokes; martelé, staccato, marcato, grande détaché, lancé, etc. It is important to note that there are many schools of violin pedagogy (Russian, Belgian, etc.), each of which may interpret and teach strokes of the same name, a bit differently. Together with that there is general consensus around terms such as staccato or martelé (hammer).

  2. ‘Sonatina’ generally connotes a small or ‘lighter weight’ sonata, in which there are usually 3 rather than 3 or 4 movements. The movements are shorter and the thematic material is usually lighter and less developed than what you’d find in a sonata. There are many examples of Sonatinas that are part of the serious literature, not necessarily easy or intended for children.

To name just a few well known ones—though there are many others:
the Dvorak Sonatina you mentioned; Schubert’s 3 Sonatinas (some of the most delightful music he wrote for the violin piano duo); Bartok Sonatina (piano); Busoni, Alkan, and Ravel Sonatines (also piano). Sonatinas have been written for most instruments by different composers.

Hope this helps, as a start!


Wendy Caron Zohar

Michelle McManus Welch said: Apr 11, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Lindenhurst, IL
42 posts

A Sonatina is a small sonata, a work in a sonata form. I don’t think it is specifically a work for children; in fact, most sonatinas I’ve run into were fairly complex.
I’m too tired to hunt up my Grove dictionary in the basement. Below is the free online dictionary’s explanation which is I think fairly accurate.

son·a·ti·na (sn-tn)
A sonata having shorter movements and often less technically demanding than the typical sonata.
[Italian, diminutive of sonata, sonata; see sonata.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Thesaurus Legend: Synonyms Related Words Antonyms
Noun 1. sonatina—a short and simple sonata
sonata—a musical composition of 3 or 4 movements of contrasting forms
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.

Michelle Mc Manus Welch

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