Chaconne by Tomaso Vitali (attributed)

May 8, 2005 at 05:21 AM · I have a recording of it by Sarah Chang and I'm totally entralled. Of course, I'm a new student of less than a year so almost everything sounds difficult. How difficult is is on a scale of 1 - 10? I started at 42 and wonder if I will ever be able to play some of these songs. Thoughts?

Replies (38)

May 8, 2005 at 07:13 AM · Harder than Vivaldi.

Easier than the Bach Ciaconne.

It is hard to compare this piece to a romantic conerto because they take different skills in my opinion. I had a student play this piece very well, but was a bit lost on the Bruch. I think to do the piece justice, you should be already working out of Kreutzer and Flesch. It is hard to say on 1-10 also, because what is 10? Is 1 twinkle? Anyhow. Great piece.



May 8, 2005 at 11:54 AM · Hi there! I'm studying the Vitali Ciaconna (Chaconne) right now, and it's taking me quite a while. I'm at the level where I'm doign kreutzer's and some sevcik's, etc. To give you some hope - my teacher tells me that it's more of a showpiece, and it is meant to sound difficult and enthralling. However, the technique required is not the hardest in the world. Lots of luck!

May 8, 2005 at 06:11 PM · This commonly performed version of the Vitali Chaconne is heavily edited by Ferdinand David. If you like the piece but find the technical bits difficult, try the "most authentic" version published by Bärenreiter in the Hortus Musicus series. Although that isn't the most original, since the Vitali's manuscript is nowhere found, it does give you a hint of how close to the original this piece should be played.

May 8, 2005 at 05:31 PM · It's a really great piece! I learned it about a year and a half ago and it's been a frequent piece to include on my recitals since. It gives you a chance to be musical and to show off the technique of the violin. That thing I found the hardest about this piece was probably the right hand technique as opposed to the left. There are lots of different bowing challenges that come up and that made the piece hard for me.

There is no reason, with hard work and dedication why you shouldn't be able to play this piece at some point.

Good luck, and have fun! If you can, try to get your hands on the Heifetz recording with organ. There are a few differences in the piece edition (including a more extended cadenza at the end) but it gives you a really different sense of the piece.

May 8, 2005 at 07:12 PM · Vitali is a very obscure figure; I have always loved the intensity of this piece but it has always seemed rather mysterious to have this piece with an underlying baroque feel and all sorts of romantic-showpiece qualities. Someone mentioned that David edited it (I would think a good thing, if only because of how he was instrumental in the Mendelssohn concert turning out the way it did); but did david "discover" the piece or was it already in the repertoire back then? It interests me how an obscure baroque work become a widely beloved violin showpiece, especially when nobody has any clue about the composer himself... a rare occurrence.

I have always assumed it to be quite hard, but I never tried playing it.

May 8, 2005 at 08:20 PM · There's a publication by Schirmer that's easier than the Ferdinand David version. I took parts from the David version but not all of it. I would say you have played Scene de Ballet and Bach concerto 1 before attempting this piece. Like mentioned above, the right hand stuff is a real challenge.

May 8, 2005 at 08:19 PM · Thanks for the insight. Sounds like there's hope for me. When I said I was a beginner, I meant it. I'm on Suzuki and Sevcik 1 but making progress. My original goal when I started wasn't very specific so I didn't get specific results. I now know what I don't know (if you understand that) and am putting more time into practice. I have a great teacher so I feel like I'm on my way. Being an 'A type' personality (I prefer to think A-) I got a little frustrated with my progress. I can see this is a life-long journey. Off to practice...

May 8, 2005 at 10:32 PM · I will be starting the Vitali soon along with the Bartok Romanian Folk Dances, after I complete the Dvorak Sonatina, Viotti No.23, and Bach g minor Presto. Hopefully that gives you a sense of the difficulty of the piece. Lol because I'm not so sure myself exactly how difficult it is.

May 8, 2005 at 11:51 PM · The Chaconne is an absolutely wonderful piece, though I tend to doubt it's authenticity (tenths and octaves in 8th position?) I wouldn't say that it's the most terribly difficult piece to play technically, but to articulate everything and get all the proper nuances is so frustrating. Sevcic and Flesch will be a great bit of help when working through the sections in thirds and 6ths and octaves. Just remember to have fun with it!

May 9, 2005 at 02:08 AM · Mark, you made me curious... It is really interesting if Ciaconna was performed before David edited it. What I know, that some musicologists think that Ciaconna belongs to David. But if we keep in mind that Vitli was violinist and composer and his father was a composer too(as well as violinist and violist) who was master of dance genres, like ciaconna and passacaglio, so his son, Tommaso most likely wrote this composition himself.

And about version... I think, the most difficult and also the most interesting version of violin part belongs to Charlier.

Candace, keep your goal and don't give up, be patient, you need some time (several years) to reach the level which fits to Ciaconna.

Good luck.

May 9, 2005 at 04:17 AM · Kenny,

Was the original version much longer and easier than the David-edited version? Which publishers use the David edited version? IMC?

May 9, 2005 at 04:23 AM · It's coming back to me. There's a hard version and easy version of this.

May 9, 2005 at 06:24 AM · The "most most most original" is lost, which is Vitali's manuscript. The closest-to-original version you can get is the Bärenreiter edition. It doesn't contain those silly octaves or high runs. It's a completely different piece, in terms of style. Most of the variations are the same or similar, while they are in different order to the commonly performed virtuoso version.

And yes, the IMC version is edited by F.David.

May 9, 2005 at 02:15 PM · It sounds like I'm several years away from this piece. In the meantime, I'm going to speak with my teacher about my progress. We seem to work on whatever I want to work on. He's a stickler for technique (which is a good thing) but shouldn'there be more structure to the approach. I can see he's a great teacher with GREAT skill. He plays for the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia and does a lot of other work (commercials, conducting of a youth orchestra, etc.). I feel like it's an aimless approach. What should I expect from my teacher? He was referred by another music teacher and I know he has the credentials.

May 9, 2005 at 04:58 PM · Ok, question on playing the chaconne - at measure 77 we find the slurs, with the second half of the slur all staccato notes. How are these supposed to be played? Do I keep the bow on the string and just do them staccato normally, or do I do a spiccato/sautille (what is the difference??) kind of thing. Thanks!

May 9, 2005 at 05:08 PM · In spicatto the bow bounces and in sautille the wood bounces but not necessarily the hair. I think it's basically what spicatto turns into if it's fast enough. Some teachers don't even differentiate.

May 10, 2005 at 09:10 PM · There is a recording of the 'original' (or as close as possible) score, done by Eduard Melkus. It is a totally different piece; there's even a set of variations in E-flat major which is totally cut out of the David edition. It then morphs into E-flat MINOR before going back into more familiar variatons.

None of the 'original' variations sound any more difficult than the commonly knonwn ones, but I have never seen the score.

Otherwise, I like Fodor and Oistrakh, not to mention, myself! :):)

Sorry, couldn't resist!

May 11, 2005 at 03:43 AM · This piece was made romantic by none other than Ferdinand David...the piece played in it's intended fashion will bore most of the people reading this to tears. Cheers to David! PS I have the first edition engraving of this piece arranged by David! HOT STUFF

May 11, 2005 at 04:37 AM · It's pretty hard.

May 11, 2005 at 06:35 AM · Jonathan, I'm afraid I personally do not agree with that.

David's version was heavily edited and completely altered the style of the piece. He simply "rewrite" the piece and made it a showpiece, and destroyed all the beauty from the original version.

Long time ago when I first saw this piece of music on a shelf in a music shop, I pulled it out and had a look. At that time I knew nothing about this piece and its composer. I thought, huh? Vitali's date, and the style of this piece? Impossible to be baroque at all.

If anyone enjoy playing baroque music, ignore the David version and go grab the Bärenreiter.

June 1, 2008 at 09:53 PM · Hi!

Where can I find an Orchestra score of Vitali's Chaconne?

I am planning a solo performance and would love to play this piece with my orchestra, but I need the orchestra sheet music.

can anyone help ?



June 1, 2008 at 10:02 PM · Candace: Depending on what kinds of pieces you make a 10, the Chaconne is either a 9 or a 10. It's a gorgeous piece though, isn't it? I wish I could play it all the way through.

Aurora: As far as I know, it was originally written for organ and violin, but has since been arranged for piano and violin. I've never heard a recording of violin with orchestra accompaniment.

June 2, 2008 at 02:24 PM · I don't know of an orchestral version, either. My dad brought this to me (he was an organist) when I was a junior in high school, hoping that I could play it. I was a decent enough violinist--very average, probably mid-Kreutzer at that stage, doing Viotti 23 (if memory serves me). The Vitali was much too difficult for me and my low work-ethic at the time, but I achieved it my 3rd year of college (too late to play with dad, who had passed away).

Beautiful piece, very passionate.

June 2, 2008 at 03:41 PM · The origional score is for violina alone with an half written out ostinato. The piece lasts for about 3 minutes.

The violin piano arrangement (almost totally rewritten) is a hundred years later and by David first, the organ part is even later.

The first orchesrtal accompaniemnt is from the last century. There are several.

June 2, 2008 at 04:42 PM · Sorry I can't help with locating the orchestra score....

Seph.... Sarah Chang has done it with an orchestra before.

Here's a string orchestra doing it!

June 2, 2008 at 05:41 PM · CD: Sarah Chang, "Sweet Sorrow"

My 17 yr. old daughter played it 2 years ago...she is now doing Lalo, Bruch, Novacek, just finished Kabalevsky. She thinks it's comparable to some of these. A GORGEOUS piece, but a real workhorse. She did it from memory and the piece is slow....seems to me that it was over 10 mintues, and once you begin playing, there is NO PLACE with more than about 3 beats rest for the entire piece. So make sure you tighten your bow before you start, because there is no place to do so once you begin! (This last is a reference to daughter's competition this last weekend. Began playing Kab. with collapsed bow, and had over 4 pages before she had a break where she could correct. Needless to say, it impacted her articulations a bit:)).

July 3, 2008 at 04:22 AM · I thought I would check here for answers. I have seen in the Kalmus catalog a couple of different arrangements of the Vitali with orchestral accompaniment, including one by Respighi.

I have a student playing the Charlier arrangement entering a concerto competition. Which orchestral version is correct? Are one of the Kalmus versions good, or do I need to look further? I remember from years ago that someone played it with our youth symphony, so I know the accompaniment exists. Thanks.

July 3, 2008 at 12:16 PM · Hello Candace,

In answer to your question about your teacher's "aimless approach," I have two theories.

1. You have not sat down and laid out clear, short and long term goals with your teacher. therefore since your an adult learner, he does not know what to do or where to go with you. For a young child, the teacher and parents make that decision. All my teachers ask me what are my goals, because unlike a young child, we actually need to really think about such things.

2. It could be your teacher does not take you seriously as a student, so he just gives you stuff to satisfy your appetite until you give up. I have also experienced this. However, it was in part because I had not set clear enough goals for myself and my instructor.

So, in conclusion, sit down and talk with your teacher with a clearly laid out plan in hand.


July 3, 2008 at 01:47 PM · I bought Respighi's orchestration but I myself edited it quite a bit since I learned Auer's solo version (and preferred it!) :) But if I'm remembering correctly, by editing, I really mean cutting out a lot of measures and skipping around since the order of variations were different.

July 3, 2008 at 03:54 PM · David basically re-wrote this 18th century piece, which he found in a library in Dresden, as a 19th century showpiece. (David exhumed and arranged other music from earlier periods, but historical accuracy was not as much a priority in his era as it is today, and he and others felt free to rewrite older music according to contemporary tastes.) The Charlier version added some pyrotechnics later in the 19th or early 20th century. I believe the Schirmer edition is the David version; the Carl Fischer edition reflects Charlier's additions.

Having looked at the Baerenreiter/Hortus Musicus "original" version, I personally much prefer what David did. But David's version shouldn't be thought of as a "Baroque" piece--it's a 19th century work that is meant to be evocative of an earlier age, like Tchaikovsky's Roccoco Variations, or Fritz Kreisler's "arrangements" of 18th century music. Nothing wrong with that.

November 19, 2009 at 10:29 PM ·

This piece was not written by Vitali at all, having been thoroughly investigated by Andrew Manze.  Arthur Grumiux {sic} has recorded it beautifully in his own arrangement, but Heifetz,  performed it with organ in his debut concert in Carnegie Hall in 1917 in the arrangement by Respighi.  Heifetz has recorded it with organ in a scintillating performance.

I would say that at 42, and starting to learn the violin, it would be an exception if your could play music of this level, and your teacher should advise you to concentrate on a more realistic gaol.

I wish you every success.


November 20, 2009 at 12:20 AM ·

I think that for late starters, (me included), it,s not true that we "can't" but we have to accept that we'll have to work hard (overall in our life, sure we'll have studies or those who want babies etc) and to excpect + accept to take much more years to achieve our things compared with a professionnal or a gifted.   I already did an arithmic that told me that a few hours a day is, in many years, the same thing (in terms of hours) as a master in music. Sure of course, your first years don't count in this arithmic since the one who did the master too spend years practicing as a kid... Also be sure to have a competent teacher or the arithmic starts over from 0 when you find a good one that undoes every bad habit you learn... But in 30 years, you could probably play it, who knows? (I wish you before)

I'm not saying all the big concertos and repertoire but a few things of the professionnal repertoire is possible (maybe just one mvt of a few concertos, or one chaconne etc)

I started at 14 (could almost tell 16 though) had 21 today and am about at the Mozart "level" and Rhode studies if I can express it in terms of pieces. My next challenge will be preludium and allegro by Kreisler.  Maybe I'll play Vitali Chaconne (one of my favorites) at my 40 th or 50 th birthday. My teacher said "one day" I'll give it to you but when is the question : )  I would love Devil Trill's sonata too but this will be for my 90th birthday if I survive and the earth is not destroyed!!! And it's just as valuable to play well at a late age. There are tons of vidoes of good violinists at a late age on youtube and nobody says "berk' if they play well. Well, we must never say "Berk" openly since it is not respectful anyway : )  Those who always seek "young" performers don't really want to listen to the music... I think.

And also, if you want to sound good, it's ok to tell this to your teacher

" look, it can take years, I don't care, I want to sound good and play it well!'  Everything as a price but I guess it depends how much you want it and how long you are ready to wait.  So maybe it's too early now but if you work hard, you have chances to do it before passing out (sorry if this seems rude to say) Nothing is sure but you have chances. If it takes 10 years to play this for a moderately gifted student (just an example I don't know the real info), it will maybe take us, late starters, 30 years to achieve the same if we consider that we are all a bunch of "old stiffs, unflexible and not as talented"  : )

Some can tell, but your thinking doesn't apply if a late starter wants to play the 1st mvt of the Brahms Concerto. Well, maybe if one practices this first mvt for 20 years!  (maybe not a good "balance" and I don't know if I would be as courageous but it is an "possible" option : )


Just eat plenty of veggies to live old!

November 20, 2009 at 02:51 AM ·

I haven't read all the responses, but a composer by the name of Vitalino did compose the "Vitali Chaconne." I've got a facsimile of the original. It was "revised" by later violinists to include passages in octaves and various other virtouso material which are totally unrelated to Baroque violin writing.

November 20, 2009 at 03:04 AM ·

Interesting fact! I though that just Vitali had composed this. 


November 20, 2009 at 05:55 AM ·


>I would say that at 42, and starting to learn the violin, it would be an exception if your could play music of this level, and your teacher should advise you to concentrate on a more realistic gaol.

I`m not sure if David meant `rea;istic goal` in the sense of playing it now or some time in the future.  However,  I would expect an adult beginner with a stromng comittment to the isntrument who works consistently and with inteklligence to play that work within three or four years.  Therefore in my opinion it is at least in some sense a very realistic goal.

The point about goals is that one -has to - have a long term goal like this.  One then works backwards towards the present in regualr units creating smaller goals which are essentially steps en route.   At the smallest leevl they involve what one is going to practice in the enxt ten minutes or less...


B uri

November 20, 2009 at 06:48 PM ·

"your thinking doesn't apply if a late starter wants to play the 1st mvt of the Brahms Concerto. Well, maybe if one practices this first mvt for 20 years!"

The first and third movements may be out of the question, but the second movement of the Brahms concerto is not extraordinarily difficult.  Not that it's easy, but its difficulties shouldn't place it beyond the long-range aims of a committed adult beginner.  And it's very satisfying--when you're not playing with an orchestra, you get to play the oboe part at the beginning.

November 20, 2009 at 08:14 PM ·

To Buri and Bill  (B and B : )  Good to know about the Brahms 2nd mvt and the Vitali Chaconne!


November 21, 2009 at 03:18 AM ·

Just for the record, the arrangement Jascha Heifetz recorded with organ is not the Respighi version which is not quite as flashy as what Heifetz recorded. I know the liner notes claim it is the violin organ version by Respighi but I borrowed the Respighi version from the University of Tempe, Arizona and performed this version with organ and it does not match up with Heifetz's version. He plays it with organ accompaniment but it is not Respighi's version.

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