What concerto to play next?

Edited: July 18, 2017, 10:00 PM · Hi! I’m working on choosing my next concerto. I recently finished playing the Mozart 3 in G with the Franko cadenza, and I played it pretty well. I’m working on the Bach Sonata 2 in a minor (Grave and Fugue), and it is going pretty well. My teacher gave me the choice of these concertos:

Saint-Saens Concerto in b minor
Lalo Symphony Espagnole
Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor
Vieuxtemps Concerto 4 or 5
Kabalevsky Concerto
Khachaturian Concerto
Glazunov Concerto
Dvorak concerto in A minor


She tends to try to move me and other students onto pieces that we aren’t ready for. Do any of these concertos seem way out of reach? Would you mind pointing out some on this list that you think aren’t going to be too hard for me to play (I’d have a few months to get them performance-ready). Thanks!

Replies (31)

July 18, 2017, 8:50 AM · I have no idea, but which concertos do you like best? You might be able to pick out the insane difficult ones (at least I could to quite a degree). Maybe you should get a new teacher...
Edited: July 18, 2017, 10:27 AM · Except Kabalevsky, most other concertos in your list are out of reach and certainly not likely to be performance ready within a couple of months. Also I noticed the omission of Bruch. Have you already studied/performed it?
July 18, 2017, 9:22 AM · "She tends to try to move me and other students onto pieces that we aren’t ready for."

With all due respect, this does not sound like a good teacher. Like Ella said, maybe you need to get a new one.

July 18, 2017, 10:02 AM · Sung Han, I haven't studied the Bruch yet. Helen and Ella, I have found it weird that she puts people on pieces they aren't ready for. She only tends to do this for one event, our Solo and Ensemble. For the rest of the year, she usually gives people more reasonable pieces. I really like all other parts of her teaching besides this. This issue usually can be mitigated if I take control of song choices. I'm leaning towards the Kabalevsky after looking at the sheet music. Thanks for everyone's suggestions/advice.
July 18, 2017, 10:16 AM · My teacher taught me Bruch and wants to teach me Wieniawski before going into Mendelssohn. I practically begged her for Lalo 1st movement right after Kabalevsky (which we didn't really finish and she wanted me to move on from it because it was getting stale) and while Lalo is not as hard as it seems, I still put in quite a bit of work to complete it. There's a lot to learn from Bruch and if you're up for some challenge, it would be a fantastic choice.

I think most people do Mozart-Kabalewsky-Bruch.

Edited: July 18, 2017, 10:28 AM · I'm all for occasionally pushing students out of their comfort zone, if it serves a solid educational purpose. But I find it difficult to understand why your teacher compels students to publicly perform pieces that are clearly way out of league.

p.s. Fugue in Bach Sonata 2 is a daunting piece. What other Bach S&P pieces have you played?

July 18, 2017, 10:41 AM · My guess is that the local Solo & Ensemble judges are the sorts that give the highest scores to the most difficult pieces, even if the pieces are clearly badly played because they are beyond the student's skill.
July 18, 2017, 10:43 AM · I would agree with the general consensus, because I personally did the Mozart concerto no. 5 and Bruch concerto after the Mozart no. 3. I would recommend those two for sure-It is a much easier alternative (yet still challenging enough for your skill level). I for example did the Bruch first, then Mendelssohn, and am now doing the Wieniawski no. 2 and Bach Sonata 1 Adagio. For me, that was a pretty natural progression, and I personally am doing quite well with it at a relatively nice pace.

I used to have a teacher who would give me excerpts from Mendelssohn and Bach's Partita in d minor Chaconne when I was doing beginner concertos myself, so I get how you feel! I'm glad you asked, because those concertos you listed are quite difficult and would most likely give you a LOT of trouble.

Hope this helps!

July 18, 2017, 11:04 AM · Sung Han, I briefly worked on the Bach Partita in E Major last year. The Fugue is daunting but going pretty well! I've also sightread the first movement of Bach Partita in D Minor for fun. I caught on pretty quick to that one.
Lydia, we have had some crazy judges at solo and ensemble. I think at the middle school level, what you said is true. At the high school level it is getting better.
Su Han, I've looked at the Bruch and Mozart 5. I think I'll wait on the Bruch, and maybe play Mozart 5 next spring.
Edited: July 18, 2017, 12:28 PM · Kabalevsky seems to be the entry point for the list of concertos you've shown. It's comparable to Mozart 3 -- easier in some ways, harder in others.

It's frustrating when your teacher wants to push you up some kind of imaginary ladder before you're ready. When I was a teenager -- and I am not joking -- my teacher gave me Mozart 3 after I struggled with Accolay A Minor for a couple of months and maxed out on it well before it was polished. I should have been playing Seitz and Handel.

July 18, 2017, 1:16 PM · Lydia said: "My guess is that the local Solo & Ensemble judges are the sorts that give the highest scores to the most difficult pieces, even if the pieces are clearly badly played because they are beyond the student's skill."

I adjudicate for the state level of solo and ensemble in TX and Lydia's comment does not apply at least to me. I have given low ratings to ill prepared difficult literature (like Mendelssohn concerto), and given high marks for less difficult pieces that were spectacularly well prepared. I even gave a #1 (this is the highest out of 5) to Fiocco Allegro because it was so perfect and musical.

July 18, 2017, 1:34 PM · That is exactly what a judge should do, but unfortunately judges who do what Lydia said do exist. But even if the judges give higher marks for more difficult repertoire without regard to playing quality, I do not see this as a justification for giving a student a piece they are not ready for, because that could really mess up their technique.
July 18, 2017, 1:42 PM · Bruce, in my experience the State judging is far more knowledgeable than our local events, which tend toward the feel-good and which do indeed often reward difficulty without consideration for quality.

One year my best high school student (had made All-State Symphony first violin section) was judged locally by a former college student of mine who was not nearly in the younger student's league. Ridiculous.

July 18, 2017, 4:52 PM · Glazunov and Dvorak are sort of outliers on that list. I'm finishing up the Mozart 3 with the Franko cadenza as well, but I am doing all the movements, I do not know if you are. I recommend playing all 3 movements. I've found that the 2nd and 3rd are a bit easier than the first. I'm doing Kabalevksy after the Mozart, so I'd recommend it.
July 18, 2017, 5:18 PM · I think it's acceptable to challenge students, but not to the degree of overkill. I think quality of performance is the #1 thing to consider when judging, though piece difficulty could be a small part.
July 18, 2017, 5:28 PM · Don't the quality of performance and piece difficulty go together? Playing a piece that is too difficult will result in a poor performance, and playing a piece that is at the level of the player will likely result in a decent performance.
July 18, 2017, 7:40 PM · That's true.
July 18, 2017, 8:26 PM · Only sort of. That's the case if your judges are good (say, you get Bruce as your judge, not Mary Ellen's ex-student). Some judges give disproportionate weight to the difficulty of the work (or if they're not a violinist, how difficult the work sounds) over the quality of the playing.

Anyway, I second all the recommendations for Kabalevsky.

July 18, 2017, 8:43 PM · +1 for Kabalevsky. And props to you for pre-empting the inevitable (and appropriate) suggestion that your teacher will know best.

That list is all over the map in terms of difficulty and while Mozart is very difficult to play well, it doesn't sound as though your teacher is the type to hold you to a super high standard of technical polish.

Not on the list but worth exploring would be something like de Beriot 9.

July 18, 2017, 8:49 PM · I like De Beriot 7 better.
July 18, 2017, 8:50 PM · OP, if you did the Sam Franko cadenza, Bruch is doable. You may have to practice G minor double stop scales in thirds, octaves etc. concurrently.
July 18, 2017, 9:41 PM · Thanks for all of the advice and responses everyone! After listening and checking out sheet music, I've pretty much decided on the Kabalevsky. I'll keep in mind all of the other piece suggestions that people posted for the future. Thanks again!
July 19, 2017, 11:41 AM · First movement of Lalo might be a stretch worth doing, and based on that you get a better idea on if Kabalevsky or Bruch would make more sense to do next.
July 19, 2017, 8:01 PM · Kabalevsky is much easier than Lalo.
July 19, 2017, 11:09 PM · Much much easier.
July 22, 2017, 10:20 PM · You may want to find out some of the less demanding concertos here: https://goo.gl/UtPpq6
Edited: July 22, 2017, 11:22 PM · Ditto Mary Ellen's advice.

If you must play a concerto after Mozart 3, do Kabalevsky first. The first movement of Lalo might be approachable after that, assuming your scales and etudes (should be Kreutzer mainly at this point) are in shape.

The Mendelssohn, Dvorak, and Vieuxtemps concertos are unrealistic if Mozart 3 is the most challenging thing you've polished to date. Have you worked on scales in regular+fingered octaves, tenths, and thirds?

Edited: July 23, 2017, 11:38 AM · Gene, I regularly work on scales along with thirds, sixths, and octaves. I'm doing Kreutzer right now.
Edited: July 23, 2017, 1:33 PM · Mary Ellen--exactly, if Lalo goes well, go to Bruch. If not, put in on the shelf and do Kabalevsky and then either come back and polish up Lalo or do something else in between those next, depending on how Kabalevsky went. Sometimes pushing moves you to the next level, sometimes not, that's why your advice to ask your teacher is usually the best advice=)
July 23, 2017, 2:32 PM · I think you have missed my point. Lalo is not a gateway to Kabalevsky. Kabalevsky is a stepping stone on the way to Lalo. I am not a believer in gigantic jumps in repertoire, though if the OP is really working on the Bach Sonata #2 fugue, her teacher obviously is.
July 23, 2017, 8:14 PM · Lalo is also more difficult than Bruch, and it is a significant step up from Kabalevsky.

Honestly the whole list other than Kabalevsky is pretty crazy.

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