Unaccompanied Folk Pieces
Hi. I've been searching for some unaccompanied folk music for the violin, especially beautiful pieces that are on the slow, lyrical side. (They don't all have to be slow, however. A few moderate or faster pieces would be fine, too.) I already have lots of books with folk melodies only, but I don't want just melody. Ideally, the pieces should have some occasional double stops or arpeggiated chords for harmony. Some nice, tasteful harmonizations would be ideal. If anyone knows of a good collection for purchase, or even of things downloadable from IMSLP or other websites, please let me know.
Volumes of Scottish and Irish (subtly different!) dances and "slow airs" are legion. Not to mention Welsh, Breton and Galician (the Spanish celts!).
For starters try the Petrie Irish Music Collections on IMSLP. I agree with Adrian's comment about "standard" harmonisations ruining the modal quality of tunes. Common modes are dorian and mixolydian, and occasionally the pentatonic or other "gapped" scale. I'd read up about it before attempting harmonising.
Appalachia Waltz by Mark O'Connor is a modern piece inspired by traditional American fiddle music, and it's quite beautiful I think. Many, if not most of the chords utilize an open string, as is commonly done in traditional music, so it's a very good introduction to chordal playing. Originally composed for unaccompanied violin (I believe), O'Connor has reworked it several times for different ensembles too.
Most folk pieces will weight in at 8 to 16 measures. Even with the commonly included repeats, they are brief performance pieces.
Paganini used folk tunes, including popular tunes of the day, in his many pieces for violin and guitar. So did Mozart, I suspect, when he was composing for village bands. In at least one set of pieces the village band in question evidently didn't have a viola, so Mozart wrote an elaborate 2nd violin part to compensate. And then there are the opening measures of the last movement of Haydn's D major cello concerto and the finale of Schubert's 3rd symphony; if they aren't folk dance music then they should be!
I like the audience in your new profile picture Trevor.
Jeff, thank you for that appreciation! See my bio for more details. The photo was taken on film (digital was expensive then). The negative has long disappeared so I had to scan the only existing print with my PC's printer.
Ashokan Farewell. If you look around you can probably find arrangements for two violins.
Though you might need to improvise the additional parts I like Erin Shore a Corrs song. A few songs written by O'Carolan have that nice slow air feel to them.
You might take a look at the works of Darryl Scott, The Stanley Brothers, Jean Ritchie, etc.
I am all for using the multiple national styles of unaccompanied folk "fiddle" pieces at the beginning and intermediate levels. They are more rewarding than the typical little pieces, or simplified classical pieces in the method books. Sometimes a student will discover an alternate genre, and even start to play professionally in that genre with a technique that is lower than their advanced classical colleagues. They are easier to memorize, and don't sound incomplete when played alone. East Europe tunes are great for developing the big vibrato. The "fiddlers" can be very good orchestra second violins; they frequently have superior velocity and bow control. Consider Mark O'Conner's series, he naturally emphasizes american and british isles styles.
You pose a genuine challenge for an arranger. Folk songs are, as someone noted above, often AB form, each part 8 bars in length, each part repeated, and so we get a 32 bar composition already (almost) saturated with repetition.
"With just one fiddle you might find this a demanding opportunity, for you have limited colours and other resources available.
Hi Ginger, keep lurking.
There's lots of us that dig other genres.
Check out the playing of young Scottish fiddler Ryan Young
Some fiddle traditions, especially the Swedish routinely use the duet -"twin fiddle" format.
Sandy Herrault has some arrangements in this vein in her later volumes (Smart Violin Music). She is a member of this site.
David - it's not very clear from your OP whether you want to play folk tunes as an interesting diversion from regular classical violins pieces and exercises, or whether you'd like to play some form of folk with something approaching an authentic feel and idiom.
Well said, Max! Listen to some real fiddlers. There are some great sources on youtube.