December 22, 2008 at 12:57 PM
My violin-a-thon is over for now, and I've been missing my viola again. A couple of months ago I broached the subject of doing a viola concerto with my teacher. The piece is a concerto in D by Anton Stamitz. I heard this piece 25 years ago when I was in Berlin, studying at the Leo-Borchard-Musikschule. At the time I was in the first violin section of the student orchestra, accompanying the viola soloist, who had won a competition in order to play the solo. I loved this piece. I can't explain it, then or now. I moved back to the US, went to college, and never heard it again.
There is a famous viola concerto in D by Karl Stamitz that, as far as I can tell, is part of the standard student viola repertoire, along with the Telemann. When I first started playing the viola, I picked up the Telemann and fooled around with it a little bit. I even worked the 2nd movement into what passed for "performance shape" at the time and played it at sample lessons when I was looking for a teacher. I like that piece, but it seemed a little too simple and also overplayed. Mostly, it just didn't grab me as something I wanted to spend my limited practice time on. I may revisit that idea some day, but I went looking for other pieces. One of the perks of being an adult amateur, I guess: you can pick music that does grab you.
So I found a recording of the famous Stamitz concerto, assuming it would be a blast from the past, and take me back to my Berlin days. Hmm. No. Same period, could even be the same composer, but not it. When I first became a member of violinist.com, I asked around a little bit and Neil Cameron offered some helpful suggestions, even recommending a recording from an Amazon search. I listened. Also not it. I finally found some sheet music online at Shar, a concerto in D by Anton Stamitz, brother of Karl, that I bought sight unseen, figuring I could return it, or maybe it would be something I'd want to learn, even if it wasn't it. But it was. It, I mean.
However, in the giddy aftermath of having found it, I stumbled through it on my rental viola and realized that I was not ready. Telemann was one thing, but this was something else entirely. It was, for example, very high, going into treble clef a lot. As a violinist first, I don't mind that in principle. But still, yikes. My very own nosebleed section. My respect for this long-ago competition winner went up another notch.
In any case, more than 2 years and a teacher later, I am now feeling ready to tackle this piece. It still looks high, but more like a good challenge, and especially, good for ear training. Lots of arpeggios, too. I still can't find a recording, good, bad, or indifferent. But I'm looking forward to taking on something meaty over the vacation break, and to bringing back my memories of Berlin.
Enjoyed reading this, Karen, and I also loved your Korg chromatic tuner story (and the responses), but alas, it had been archived by the time I got around it. So, here's a double "enjoyed reading this" for you!
Go for it! The fact that there is no recording is, in some sense, a blessing. No preconceived notions. By the way, Karl wrote at least one very good violin/viola duet, which I recommend. Have a good holiday and New Year with your concerto (and family)!
I brought the Stamitz to my lesson today, and while my teacher doesn't know it, she certainly knows the style and period and other pieces like it. She agreed that it would be a good piece for a number of things I want to work on: ear training, playing high on the fingerboard, learning how to be in the right place in the bow at all times.
But then we still spent the first half of the lesson on the 3-octave D major scale, with and without the Korg tuner. Just getting back to viola after a couple of months of exclusive violin is a challenge. I was consistently flat on the Cing. And it wasn't so much my ear as my not believing that it could possibly be that high. But it was.
why does your ear need training? Has it been peeing in the prunes again?
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