This is serious music, not like the little Haydn duets I pulled out and played through two weeks ago. One of my treasured CDs is a recording of Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zuckerman playing violin/viola duets, the first of which on the CD is K423. As you might expect, their performance is to die for.
Now, let us be perfectly clear. There is no discernible musical relationship between what I am doing and Zuckerman's playing of the viola part in K423. Or rather, there is, I suppose, something like the relationship between the Form of a Bed and a drawing of a physical bed, which, as Plato tells us, is at a third remove from the Form. Still and all, as I get the sixteenth note runs under my fingers and work out manageable fingerings for the double stops, I begin to achieve some facility, and as I play through the movement, in my head I can hear Perlman playing the violin part along with me.
Why, you might ask, do I bother, inasmuch as I will never play this one duet well enough even to perform it for anyone else, let alone match the performance of Perlman and Zuckerman? It is rather hard to explain. One reason is that studying something like K423 gives me an insight into what Mozart was doing that I, at least, cannot acquire merely from listening to it. Oh, I can hear when Mozart moves into the development section, and when he returns to the statement of the original theme, but it is quite different actually to feel the sense of recognition [and relief] as I reach the restatement after a page and a half and get to play again the notes I have already mastered.
I have taken to starting each rather brief practice session by playing the series of twelve three-octave major scales, C major to B major. [Well, to be honest, I cannot quite play the very last notes of the third octave of the B major scale since I am so high up on the A string that my left hand is wrapped around the body of the viola like a boa constrictor, my thumb locked under the neck of the instrument. Fortunately, no one ever writes those notes for a viola part.] On the first day of practicing, I play every note on a different bow. The next day, I play two notes on a bow, the day after that three notes on a bow, and so on until on the twelfth day of practicing I play the series of twelve scales twelve notes on a bow. [Seven notes on a bow and eleven notes on a bow are rather tricky to keep in your head.] If I am being really serious, as I was back when I lived in Massachusetts, I then spend twelve days in the same rotation playing natural minor scales, then twelve days of melodic minor scales, and twelve days of harmonic minor scales. Finally, I play one day of scales in which I play the C major scale one note on a bow, the C sharp natural minor scale two notes on a bow, the D melodic minor scale three notes on a bow, the D sharp harmonic minor scale four notes on a bow, and so on through three rotations, ending with the B harmonic minor scale twelve notes on a bow. Later today I will play the major scales three notes on a bow. There is something very peaceful about those scales. [Fortunately, I am no longer in psychotherapy, because if I ever told all of this to an analyst, I would be diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and put on medication.]