Light & Fun Recital Piece Suggestions?

May 19, 2018, 7:01 AM · I recently was invited to give a monthly recital series in Cincinnati. There is a cellist, a pianist and a vocalist (tenor) that I am encouraged to collaborate with, at least for some of the concerts. I am also welcome to perform solo violin pieces. I am free to pick any repertoire, but was asked that it be a mix of ‘serious’ classical music along with lighter fare (jazz, oldies, hymns, holiday music, fiddle tunes, musicals, Great American Songbook, etc.)

Does anybody have suggestions for audience-pleasing pieces for any combination of the mentioned instruments, (violin, voice-tenor, cello, piano) that would be easy to put together with only one or two rehearsals?

Also fun and charming violin solo or violin & piano pieces?

I will be working on a Masters Degree at CCM while presenting this recital series, so I’m sure I will include a lot of the ‘serious’ rep I will be studying and preparing for school recitals, such as Chausson Poème, Bach chaconne, Paganini Caprices, Waxman Carmen Fantasy, etc.

The audience will be a diverse group of seniors, approx ages 60-90!

Replies (18)

Edited: May 19, 2018, 12:51 PM · For your light classical, I'd turn to the salon pieces -- Drdla's "Souvenir", Elgar's "Salut d'Amour", and so forth. Shostakovich's Romance from the Gadfly is another good work along these lines, although not strictly speaking a salon piece.

For the non-classical / light classical for a group, I'd go buy the "Music for Three" volumes (Leroy Anderson, Gershwin, etc. plus there's an American Songbook volume), and some Hal Leonard Publishing books of musicals and whatnot.

May 19, 2018, 10:51 AM · For that age group, the Beatles have many fun pieces that sound great on the violin.

Salon pieces, don't forget Kriesler and Frank Bridge...

Edited: May 19, 2018, 3:15 PM · For a while I used Drdla's Souvenir and Serenade as an encore combo. I think people enjoyed them more than my more difficult encores. I got many compliments about them and inquires as to what they were. They have some moderately difficult double stop passages but nothing too challenging.

I would always play souvenir first and instruct my accompanist to begin the serenade piano intro just as the applause for souvenir was dying down. It was pretty effective.

I need to get those pieces out again one of these days.

May 19, 2018, 3:51 PM · Csardas by Monti is great for violin and piano. Light, pretty and a ton of fun to play. Sarasate's Intro and Tarentelle is pretty hard but is a surefire crowd pleaser.
May 19, 2018, 4:05 PM · Yeah, Introduction and Tarantella is great but the problem with that piece is that it can really get away from you, a la Scherzo Tarantella. Both you and your accompanist need to be as solid as granite, and that's not the easiest thing with the nerves that pieces like that can stir up.

I would recommend several "house" performances in front of family and friends before venturing out into the wild with that piece.

May 19, 2018, 9:22 PM · The last time I played for my mother's assisted living center, I did Czardas, Meditation from Thais, To a Wild Rose, Adoration by Borowski, and I can't remember what else. I also always play Broadway tunes, patriotic tunes, and hymns for them.

I would not recommend the Waxman Carmen Fantasy for this sort of thing.

May 20, 2018, 5:19 AM · Haydn and Beethoven composed folk songs based on British tunes in your very lineup (voice & piano trio). Some are pretty entertaining and catchy like this Irish song for instance. Your tenor at least will love it.

For piano trio:

Arensky wrote a little gem with the Elegie from his first string trio. Most lovely.

Then there's Paul Schoenfield's Cafe Music, way too long, ok, but maybe 2 of the easier movements?

Other than that: Shostakovich's 2nd Valse (from one of his Jazz Suites), a bit of Piazzolla, J. Offenbach and J. Strauss. Apart from that Rubinstein's Melody in F.

Good luck!

May 20, 2018, 4:25 PM · You could also look into some of the bluegrass/folk/Americana stuff. Ashokan Farewell is always popular. More recently I've played Edgar Meyer's "First Impressions" (https://youtu.be/DYF7VcvkY3E) which the congregation loved (and the piano part of really easy.)
May 20, 2018, 4:49 PM · I've always thought Hungarian Dance No. 5 was fun and crowd pleasing.
May 21, 2018, 3:37 PM · Dave Rubinoff's Fiddlin' the Fiddle (violin and piano - probably out of print but I have a copy - should be obtainable, perhaps interlibrary loan.) Also in the long out of print category is a set of variations by Eddie South on Paganini 24!

Piano Trio by Julia Smith is rather jazzy.

Howard Boatwright's songs are really for soprano and violin (written for him and his wife Helen) but I'm thinking Love is a'Teasing might work (not looking at it at the moment.)

There are many piano trio arrangements of tangos by Piazzolla.

Hansdieter Meier Shuffle Boogie is a ton of fun.

Lots of Leroy Anderson for violin and piano - Blue Tango, Jazz Legato, Jazz Pizzicato, etc.

Rebecca Clarke's Chinese Puzzle, speaking of pizzicato.

Bolcom Graceful Ghost Rag

For violin and cello, Rick Sowash has a bunch of cute, charming, not difficult things. One I remember is called A Convivial Suite. He will send his music free to anyone who contacts him. And he's in Ohio, I believe, so that might help should you do any grant writing.

While you're doing salon pieces, look on imslp at pieces by Pauline Viardot, Cesar Cui, etc. There are also many lesser known easy Kreisler pieces.

Good luck - this sounds like lots of fun!

May 21, 2018, 3:37 PM · Dave Rubinoff's Fiddlin' the Fiddle (violin and piano - probably out of print but I have a copy - should be obtainable, perhaps interlibrary loan.) Also in the long out of print category is a set of variations by Eddie South on Paganini 24!

Piano Trio by Julia Smith is rather jazzy.

Howard Boatwright's songs are really for soprano and violin (written for him and his wife Helen) but I'm thinking Love is a'Teasing might work (not looking at it at the moment.)

There are many piano trio arrangements of tangos by Piazzolla.

Hansdieter Meier Shuffle Boogie is a ton of fun.

Lots of Leroy Anderson for violin and piano - Blue Tango, Jazz Legato, Jazz Pizzicato, etc.

Rebecca Clarke's Chinese Puzzle, speaking of pizzicato.

Bolcom Graceful Ghost Rag

For violin and cello, Rick Sowash has a bunch of cute, charming, not difficult things. One I remember is called A Convivial Suite. He will send his music free to anyone who contacts him. And he's in Ohio, I believe, so that might help should you do any grant writing.

While you're doing salon pieces, look on imslp at pieces by Pauline Viardot, Cesar Cui, etc. There are also many lesser known easy Kreisler pieces.

Good luck - this sounds like lots of fun!

May 21, 2018, 4:47 PM · You can also collaborate with the tenor on

Alain Ridout - Ferdinand the Bull for Violin and Speaker

Edited: May 21, 2018, 5:02 PM · If you can find it:

"Violin pieces the whole world plays"

Whole world series #5

Over 60 pierces of wonderful violin music of varying difficulty. It's where I found Souvenir and Serenade. I've used it so much. Unfortunately its pretty old.

It lists Brahms under "modern music" lol

Edit - I just checked and it seems to still be available.

May 21, 2018, 5:43 PM · Hi,

I remember doing a program for this kind of audience a few times that went over particularly well titled "Around the World in Music." We had included the first two movements of the Handel D Major Sonata, the last movement of the Mozart K.376 (which is kind of operatic), De Falla's Danse Espagnole, Gershwin Summertime and It Ain't Necessarily so, the Brahms Sonatensatz, and some other things that I forget (I think something Russian).

If you are looking for things for violin and voice, there are several works by Bach that would work, and there is also some early 20th century English music as well.

Hope this helps...

Cheers!

May 21, 2018, 9:47 PM · Only to add to your "fun" pieces and considering your audience:

- Heifetz arrangement of "It ain't necessarily so". I am sure they will remember and love it.

- The tango "El choclo". There are many versions and you can work it very well with cello and piano so you are inclusive.

I really believe that those two are a delight for senior listeners.

May 21, 2018, 11:28 PM · There is a piano trio arrangement of "Danny boy" by Fritz and Hugo Kreisler that you might like.
May 21, 2018, 11:37 PM · And a fun little encore piece for violin and cello is Sibelius Raindrops.
May 22, 2018, 8:44 AM · You guys are awesome! These are all wonderful suggestions. Just what I was hoping for. The director of the concert series did tell me not to shy away from the ‘serious’ pieces like Bach chaconne, Waxman Carmen etc that I will be studying at CCM. He said there is a ‘legion of die-hard classical fans’ that love long, dense stuff. In his words, ‘bring it on!’ He just requested that I balance out the dense stuff with lighter fare. I think these salon pieces will be perfect.

Just checked out Cui. Had no idea he wrote so much for violin. Wasn’t he one of the ‘Big Five’ along with Mussorgsky and others? The name rings a bell from long-forgotten music history classes. Hahah time to brush off the cobwebs!

Side note: has anyone ever found the music for Sea-Shell, originally by Carl Engel but arranged by Zimbalist? I once heard someone perform it and found it really enchanting, but can’t find the score in any music library.

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