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In a lot of Paganini's violin compositions, there are bolded but sometimes not bolded capital letters like A, B, and C. I look at the note that it is above and it doesn't click for me. In Nel cor piu non mi sento (1st variation), there is a marking, "A1" below the staff and under the note g-sharp, which I really don't understand. Somewhere along the ways of many compositions there is a Roman numeral with a lowercase letter, sometimes with a dot underneath that letter, below the staff. I know that the numeral means the string but what is that letter next to it for? These are really advanced markings I'd assume and I couldn't find what they are in music dictionaries and such, so I'd like to know what all these symbols mean.

score published by B. Schott und Söhne 1829

Excerpt from score published by B. Schott & Söhne, 1829

score published by Schott, 1909

Excerpt from score published by Schott, 1909

score published by Editio Musica Budapest, 1968

Excerpt from score published by Editio Musica Budapest, 1968

score published by unknown

Excerpt from score of 24 Caprices, op.1, publisher unknown

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    Can we get pictures of the letter markings, please? Based on your description, I doubt they're rehearsal markings, unlike one answer below. – Dekkadeci Jul 2 at 7:39
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    Hi, welcome, etc. -- in cases like this, it's a good idea to check out alternate editions of the piece to see what's notated there. Of course, you should post both an image and the name of the edition you are referring to. – Carl Witthoft Jul 2 at 12:59
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    I added a few images I found online of what i think you're describing; feel feel to remove or replace them if they don't show the correct markings. – Your Uncle Bob Jul 2 at 23:11
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Comparing editions, we can see that one of them marks so-called "artificial harmonics" with the open-diamond mark. The other edition has "A3" there which presumably indicates the same pitch to be played (A three octaves up), and indirectly this requires artificial harmonic compared with the written note there.

I don't recognize "Vi-" (and there's no fifth string :-) ), but perhaps it's some shorthand for the same bowing technique indicated with "saltato," i.e.

on the violin, a springing, jumping or bouncing bow, sauté (French), gesprungen (German): however, see also saltellato

With thanks as always to Dolmetsch

All the "IIa," IVa" are string-choice indicators.

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They're probably not rehearsal letters because those are helpful only when there's more than one performer, while this is a solo.

In the half dozen editions and arrangements of Nel cor piu non mi sento that I found online, some modern, some ancient, none included such symbols. So these symbols are unlikely to be musically important. They may be peculiar to that publisher.

Edit: They mark which string to play. Here's an example.

  • I agree that all the IIa, IVa, markings are string choice, but I find it a bit unlikely that one edition would switch between "Ia" and "A3" notation. – Carl Witthoft Jul 3 at 12:18
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Sounds like they could be rehearsal letters.

Thought I'd explain it myself, but the cited article is already pretty clear.

A rehearsal letter is a boldface letter of the alphabet in an orchestral score, and its corresponding parts, that provides the conductor, who typically leads rehearsals, with a convenient spot to begin at places other than the start of movements or pieces. Rehearsal letters are most often used in scores of the Romantic era and onwards, beginning with Louis Spohr.

Hope this helps!

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    This answer was posted before the edit. Seeing the images of the score, it's clear this isn't correct in this case. – 89f3a1c Jul 3 at 21:09

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