Is J.S. Bach Gigue from the second partita in D minor a good audition piece?

September 5, 2017, 5:28 PM · Is J.S. Bach Gigue from the second partita in D minor a good audition piece for an orchestra. Its for a semi - professional youth orchestra. I've been told that Bach is aways a good choice for an audition - particularly a solo piece.
Thank you!

Replies (40)

September 6, 2017, 1:26 AM · What does "semi-professional youth orchestra" mean? Unusual for a youth orchestra to be paid at all - do you mean "some of the people in it expect to go and study at conservatoire?"

But generally yes it's a good piece for this kind of situation, and it often seems to show up in conservatoire-entrance-level repertoire lists, so it's probably a good one.

September 6, 2017, 1:40 AM · yeah thats what i meant hehe
September 6, 2017, 3:26 AM · yup, go for it (unless you have anything more challenging prepared, of course - if you've got a decent Mozart or Romantic concerto to play, then the concerto would be better)
September 6, 2017, 3:52 AM · Usually both is asked.
September 6, 2017, 4:17 AM · It would be a pretty demanding youth orchestra that wanted both....
September 6, 2017, 5:55 AM · That is not a very difficult piece – you would really need to play it perfectly if the audition is for a high-level youth orchestra. What is the most recent concerto you have learned? How well can you play it?
September 6, 2017, 6:01 AM · Chris, if it is a better youth orchestra Bach is usually not to be played alone. This piece is the simpliest of the partitas and sonatas, a Mozart concerto at least would be good to have too.
September 6, 2017, 6:36 AM · Short answer, without knowing anything about the orchestra, probably not. Concerti are appropriate. If it's a high level orchestra, Mozart might not even be enough. Saint-Saens or Bruch, I would think.

Does the orchestra ask for excerpts? If so, what are they? That tells what level your Concerto needs to be.

And where is your teacher on this?

Edited: September 6, 2017, 8:24 AM · A Mozart concerto *played well* is extremely impressive and certainly not less impressive than a Bruch g minor, first movement. The key phrase in that sentence is "played well." Alas, Mozart is frequently given to students too soon because some teachers mistakenly think of Mozart concertos as easy. They are not easy; they are harder to play well than pieces that may be perceived as more technically difficult (e.g. Bruch) because Mozart difficulty is in the right hand and in the brain.

A student who can play a beautiful and musical Mozart (assuming it is also in tune and in rhythm) is a student that I would have no hesitation in recommending for the highest level youth orchestra. But in my experience, the majority of students "doing Mozart" should not be.

There is a reason why some professional orchestras require a Mozart concerto as part of an audition.

September 6, 2017, 9:20 AM · I'm going to club myself with my carbon fiber bow if I hear one more audition with a mangled Bruch G minor opening.

The best part is asking students, "what it the rhythm of the first measure of the violin solo?" and their immediate response is "well, this is my artistic interpretation." Really? That's not the answer to question I asked... :P

The concept of a half note tied to an eighth note followed by three more eighth notes seems like an entirely foreign concept to some of these kids. And "ad libitum" doesn't mean "destroy all sense of rhythmic relationships."

September 6, 2017, 9:21 AM · That's a completely bogus response to that question, Gene. LOL
September 6, 2017, 10:01 AM · Mary Ellen, I cannot agree more!
Gene, I have to agree with this, too.
September 6, 2017, 9:30 PM · Repertoire choice really does depend on the orchestra. I recently helped a former student choose which youth orchestra he should audition for. There were several in the area, he had just relocated and hadn't found a teacher. Just by pulling the recitals of the violinists in one particular orchestra told me that his very lovely Mozart V would under no circumstances get him in as his peers were playing Sibelius and Ysaye and all other sorts of craziness.

Your teacher really has to help you on this one. We don't know enough about your level and the level of the orchestra you are trying to join to give you good advice.

Edited: September 7, 2017, 4:58 AM · The problem with the D Minor Gigue is that it's got a pretty small range of techniques on display. I think at the high school level I'd be more impressed with a well-played D minor Sarabande than the Gigue.

Julie's idea of looking for recital programs of the current players in the ensemble is clever. If their signature piece was Accolay you might be just fine with your Bach.

September 7, 2017, 6:46 AM · I'm curious if, for youth symphonies, the folks hearing auditions on Bach ever wonder if this kid sounds fine in the lower positions that Bach uses, but is uncomfortable with the stratosphere.
September 7, 2017, 7:08 AM · Laydia, this happened to me at an audition in my youth. I played Bach g-minor Adagio, it went well for my state at this time. We were told to prepare one piece completly.
Next thing that happened: They put a score in front of me with some ugly high parts from a Dvorak symphonie. They told me they usualy dont ask for this, but they would like to know if I can go up my strings.
Although my personal opinion is: if someone can play a good second position and has the finger flexibility for spider chords and can form the sound by the position of the bow relativ to the bridge (which you can all show in Bach), he should be able to go up his string and I would trust him to be able.
For better orchestras you need to perform a violin concerto anyway.
September 7, 2017, 11:27 AM · "I'm curious if, for youth symphonies, the folks hearing auditions on Bach ever wonder if this kid sounds fine in the lower positions that Bach uses, but is uncomfortable with the stratosphere."

If I'm hearing a youth orchestra audition on something like the d minor Allemande or Gigue, I generally assume that's the student's maximum technical level--an assumption which has been borne out time and again by the student's excerpts. The students who can play the harder Bach movements well are also learning concertos, and they audition on the concertos.

September 7, 2017, 12:59 PM · My husband played a movement from the cello suites for his university orchestra audition and the conductor actually thanked him. I guess she was getting tired of hearing everyone ripping through the same three concerti with varying levels of success. It didn't hurt his seating. Of course, he played it cleanly. I'm pretty sure we had excerpts too, which were basically the technical passages from the Mahler symphony we were playing that year. I guess context is everything.
Edited: September 7, 2017, 3:55 PM · Solo Bach played extremely well is impressive.

The typical d minor Allemande in a youth orchestra audition is...not stellar. At least not in my experience.

September 7, 2017, 4:25 PM · You're making me want to go practice the d minor Allemande to make it more stellar. But I promise not to audition with it. :-)
September 7, 2017, 5:28 PM · What excerpts are you playing for the audition, and are there any other solos you're working on now (concerti, showpieces, etc.)?
In my experience with youth orchestra judges (I'm a junior in high school), they'd much prefer you to present a piece that can show off the extent of your ability- not just flash, but a strong foundation in rhythm and tone.

Do you have a well-polished Mozart concerto under your belt? The panel would much rather hear it than a majority of other pieces because it shows a strong foundation in rhythm and bow control as a whole, even if the left hand is supposedly "easy".

Edited: September 7, 2017, 5:41 PM · Lydia in ordinary-type youth orchestras maybe that's how to steer yourself into the seconds! Not in any kind of serious orchestra obviously.
Edited: September 8, 2017, 2:26 PM · What about a medium-difficulty movement of solo Bach vs. a lesser concerto? e.g. would Gavotte en Rondeau from Partita 3 be preferable to the Kabalevsky concerto or Viotti #23

Edit: Thanks for the advice. To clarify, I am not the OP, but since my question was closely related to the discussion going on I figured it would be better to not start a new thread.

September 8, 2017, 7:12 AM · @Gene Wie - what are the characteristics of "mangling" the Bruch, in your view? :)
September 8, 2017, 8:04 AM · Evan I still think you're better off with those concertos. A cleanly, beautifully played Gavotte en Rondeau is an impressive piece (I'm working on it at present!), but it doesn't have razzle-dazzle.
Edited: September 8, 2017, 1:52 PM · The typical d Allemande is never stellar, whether its an audition, or it's a performance of a famous soloist. The typical Allemande

I was handed the Allemande when I was thirteen, performed it in front of a committee a few months later, and it was ok and typical. Now -almost at twenty seven - I keep discovering new things, and of course my 2017 Allemande has nothing to do with the 2004 one. It's an underestimated part of the bach sonatas and partitas, like the Gigue of the same partita, just because students can get through the score easily. But that's not Bach, inmho. If however they are played in a different than typical manner, then it's another story.

Edited: September 8, 2017, 2:19 PM · OP,

This is for audition, right? Ask yourself one question: Which piece shows the technique and style that are more relevant to a typical orchestra repertoire? A Kabalevsky VC or a Bach solo piece?

If you put yourself in the judges' shoes or heels, I think the answer is pretty clear.

September 8, 2017, 2:44 PM · Hermes,
I once heard a the Allemande by a concert master of a German orchestra after a not bad performance of the Beethoven violin concerto he gave. While the Beethoven was ok the Allemande performance was so unbelievable good I never played it myself since than.
September 8, 2017, 7:52 PM · Marc, thank you for the input....Sometimes these parts are amazing indeed. They can go far beyond the norm
September 8, 2017, 8:19 PM · Are there any good movements, for auditions that require Bach, from the 2nd Partita besides the Chaconne?
September 8, 2017, 11:57 PM · @Chris Keating - Taking the term "ad libitum" as permission to change the rhythms that the composer wrote. Sometimes the three eighth notes (Bb/D/G) that follow the opening G are so distorted the work is unrecognizable.
September 9, 2017, 6:01 AM · If an audition requires Bach, there are better choices than the d minor sans Chaconne. I won my job with the E Major Preludio. G minor adagio and fugue; Andante from the a minor sonata also come to mind. But if you're choosing from the d minor, I would suggest Courante or Sarabande if you can play them well--they are a little harder than the Allemande and Gigue.

However, you should never play anything for an audition that you aren't capable of mastering.

Edited: September 11, 2017, 4:55 PM · The E major Preludio or Gavotte en Rondeau has gotten me into quite a few youth orchestras back in the day.

The d minor partita is in my view a lot harder to pull off.

September 12, 2017, 6:10 PM · Mary Ellen Goree, sorry for the late reply but the current concerto i am studying is the second movement to the Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor. I think the gigue is a very easy piece to play but very difficult to play musically well and even technically.
September 12, 2017, 6:13 PM · The excerpt i was given is Mozart so i won't be playing any other Mozart for sure.
September 12, 2017, 6:16 PM · Paul Deck - i in fact played Accolay as an audition piece a couple years ago
September 12, 2017, 6:23 PM · i have polished the Bach and everyone i have preformed it for including my teacher thinks that it is at a high level and shall suffice in showing my skill. especially my bow control. i think my excerpt displays my ability in shifting into high positions quickly so i might be fine... hopefully :)
September 12, 2017, 8:12 PM · Good luck Camilla. The Gigue might be looked down upon as an easier movement and not as technically challenging as show pieces, but it's great enough to stand between the Sarabande and the Chaconne, and its emotional and musical qualities can be appreciated by anyone when it's played well.
September 13, 2017, 6:03 AM · yes, good luck!

The thing about auditions is that you can only take what you've actually got, so people talking at length about the theoretically perfect audition piece doesn't help much if the audition's next week :)

In six months or so doubtless you'll have the Mendhelssohn or something similar in a state where you can take it to an audition.

September 13, 2017, 6:08 PM · thank you Chris and J Ray. :)


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