• Meghan Lyda

ILMEA Cello Audition Guide: In the Hall of the Mountain King

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Welcome to part 2 of my 2020 District 1 Junior ILMEA Junior Orchestra cello audition guide! In part 1, we discussed audition basics. Take a look if you’re new here!

Today, we’ll be looking at the first excerpt on the 2020 Junior ILMEA audition list, which is from an arrangement of Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King.

Cello? Check.

Music? Check.

Pencil? Check.

We’re ready. Let’s go!

If you need to download the excerpts, they are available here: ILMEA FAll 2020 Cello Audition Excerpts

Here are some fingerings to get started. Feel free to copy them into your music:

In the Hall of the Mountain King, Grieg arr. Monday m. 15 - end of m. 30 Quarter note = 88-96


Practice with a metronome to avoid rushing. Quarter note = 88-96.

Character and storytelling: we want to play softly, but not in a muffled or weak way. Think of someone whispering, but with urgency. Their consonants are clear, even though their voice is soft. It should sound like danger is just around the corner. (In fact, it’s a hungry mountain troll!)

Now let’s go through tips and tricks for each measure.

Measures 15 - 23

  • Pizzicato while holding the bow

  • Clear pizzicato: Make sure your left-hand fingers stop the string all the way to the fingerboard, especially 4th finger (the weakest finger)!

  • Resonant pizzicato: Pluck the string about 2-3 inches from the bottom of the fingerboard for the best piano sound.

  • Intonation: Extend correctly. Make sure there is a whole-step between 1st and 2nd finger, and half-steps between 2, 3, and 4 during extensions.

  • Accents: soft mp and strong accents!

M. 16

  • Left hand: Keep 2, 3, and 4 where they are, and just move 1st finger from B to C to B.

M. 20, 24, and 27

  • Half position! Your hand shape stays the same (no extension) but moves ½ step towards the scroll.

M. 21

  • Accents (or not!): don’t be fooled. The first E natural in m. 21 sounds like it should be accented, but it’s not.

M. 22

  • No accent on the G half note in measure 22!

M. 23

  • Switch back to arco!

  • Secco means “dry” in music. Make your staccato super short by using less than 1 inch of bow and stopping the bow in the string between notes.

M. 27 - 31

  • Poco piu mosso: slightly faster tempo. Add around 10 bpm to your metronome here.

  • Dynamics: drop the volume to piano.

  • Full-value quarter rests. It’s very tempting to shorten them which will cause you to rush. The metronome is your friend here. Or should I say metrognome?

  • Rhythm: 32nd notes are very quick! Two 32nd notes = one 16th note.

Now the story of the piece, which we talked about at the beginning, should really be coming through.

This is why we focused on clear pizzicato, along with secco and staccato. The accents add surprising jolts that keep the listener on the edge of their seat. The poco piu mosso in measure 27 is even more unsettling, and it’s a clue to what’s to come in the rest of the piece (an even faster tempo.)

If you’ve done your job, the listener will feel like they’re left on a cliffhanger!

Here’s a video of the original version of this piece for inspiration.

We’ll be discussing the two Mosier Waltz of the Wicked excerpts next. Have your parent enter their email below if you want to be notified about part 3!

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