Jason DePue's Top 10 most difficult pieces for violin

June 29, 2015, 10:19 PM ·

Jason and Zach
Jason DePue (left) with his brother, Zach, a while ago!

I received an e-mail Monday from violinist, violist and mandolinist Jason DePue, who is a member of the first violin section of The Philadelphia Orchestra and also brother to Zachary, Alex and Wallace DePue, all wildly accomplished musicians themselves in their own rights, who occasionally play bluegrass ("grassical"?) music together. (You may know Zach also from Time for Three).

After spending some time perusing Violinist.com, Jason was inspired to share his Top 10 list of what he considers to be the most difficult pieces for violin. Here is what he had to say:

"Personally, after 30+ years of playing and performing on violin, here is my top ten list (in no particular order), of the most difficult works that involve violin, at least from my view:

1) Suzuki Book 1 (ie mastering the basic concepts)
2) Bach Sonatas and Partitas
3) Mozart Concerti
4) Brahms, Beethoven and Mendelssohn Concerti
5) Paganini Caprices
6) Vitali Chaconne
7) Bartok 6 String Quartets
8) Bartok Solo Violin Sonata
9) Ysaye Solo Sonatas
10) Chausson Poeme

The only works I have yet to perform from this list include: Mozart 1, and 2 Concerti, Beethoven Concerto, Ysaye 1, 2, and 5, and Bartok quartets 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Regarding the Suzuki Book inclusion, some people may criticize the fact that one would have this on a top ten list. I include it on my top ten list because I DO feel that if one masters the basic concepts in Suzuki Book 1, it can be applied (and IS applied, whether professionals admit it or not), to the most difficult works in the literature."

What would be on your list?

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Below, Jason DePue plays the 24 Paganini Caprices (May 2009):

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June 30, 2015 at 06:23 AM · I think his take on the foundation being laid in Suzuki Book 1 is spot on.

June 30, 2015 at 09:24 PM · Since you mentioned Suzuki Book 1... here's a different sort of Top 10 list:

Top 10 benchmark pieces in the Suzuki books

Twinkle Variations

Gossec Gavotte

Boccherini Minuet


Vivaldi A minor Concerto

Bach Double

La Folia

Fiocco Allegro

Bach Concerto in A m

Mozart Concerto 4 or 5

July 1, 2015 at 04:43 AM · Firstly, bravo to Jason on his great Paganini accomplishment! The problem with assessing this sort of list is that we are comparing apples, oranges and bananas. What is extremely difficult for one player suits another far better. Heifetz called the Mozart and Beethoven concerti the most difficult of all - "and I'm talking technically, too" he added.

I get the Suzuki idea. I use other books for beginners usually but the principle is the same. When I demonstrate a long whole bow on an open string, fairly slowly to a student, is when I feel most naked. No vibrato or flashy passages to hide behind. Will my bow be steady, my tone pure? We ignore basics at our own peril.

July 3, 2015 at 10:50 AM · I like the inclusion of La Folia and Gossec Gavotte, which is a hard piece to be faced with at the end of book 1. I'd also include Etude because of all the string crossings, and the Seitz's. So to my list:

Twinkle variations


Gossec Gavotte

La Folia (requires stamina this one!)

Seitz 1, 2 and 3

Bach A minor

Mendelssohn in E minor

Bruch violin concerto

Beethoven's Spring Sonata

Brahm's Violin Concerto (Concerto agains the violin, which I am determined one day to attempt just because I've heard it's hard!)

July 4, 2015 at 09:47 PM · If you don't have that solid foundation, everything is impossible. I think Suzuki Book I and the Mozart Concerti just make all your weaknesses really obvious!

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