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Here is a small extract from Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 49, II Andante con moto tranquillo:

C5 C5 C5

Until I can redo the screenshot, these notes should be marked as staccato too

I am a bit confused about where I should change the bow:

  • The slur symbol indicates that the bow direction should stay the same
  • The passage starts with an up-bow, and ends with a down-bow

These two points seem to contradict each other. Should I start with an up-bow, and play a down-bow for the last note, or how should I interpret this? The next 3 notes in the passage are an octave lower, with exactly the same bow directions.

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Here is an image from two different editions of the trio, I don't know which ones of those two is Mendelssohn's original one:

enter image description here

How you play it can make a difference in how it sounds and feels. But since the cello is playing the same thing in unison with the violin an octave lower I suggest that you and the cello player make an agreement on how you will play this.

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I'm not actually a violinist, but I have seen other scores with these notes marked as staccato (still slurred), which would make more sense with those bowing directions (you could stop short on the first note, continue the down bow on the second and finish on the up bow). Interestingly I have also seen professionals bow this in alternating directions (down, up, down). Seems like it might just be open for a bit of interpretation.

Update I just stumbled across this Wikipedia page about the Portato and it is exactly what you are talking about. (I don't often find music notation that I've never heard of before, so this is pretty exciting for me! :D)

enter image description here

"Portato is a bowing technique for stringed instruments, in which successive notes are gently re-articulated while being joined under a single continuing bow stroke. It achieves a kind of pulsation or undulation, rather than separating the notes."

  • Oops - they are marked as staccato in my sheet music. As far as I know, staccato markings don't alter bow direction though. – marcellothearcane Sep 13 at 21:55
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    @marcellothearcane I've just observed professionals playing alternate bow directions. I'd follow your score. Shouldn't be too bad with the notes staccato. – WillRoss1 Sep 13 at 22:00
  • Do they retake the bow for the second group immediately after? (down, up down, lift, down, up down)? – marcellothearcane Sep 13 at 22:01
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    Had to find a video of it on youtube. In this particular case, no, they play down, up, down ... up, down, up (youtube.com/watch?v=zFBxuf7BBqE&t=807s&t=13m30s) – WillRoss1 Sep 13 at 22:11
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    @marcellothearcane The slur indicates same bow direction, the staccato dots indicate the articulation. But musicians don't always follow the bowings (slurs). Note that on the video which was posted they play a rather soft staccato which fits the character of the music. – Lars Peter Schultz Sep 13 at 22:51

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