April 15, 2011 at 6:09 PM
In my conversation with violinist/pianist Ayke Agus about Jascha Heifetz, she mentioned to me that some of her favorite works for violin and piano are the miniatures that Heifetz arranged and transcribed of tunes like "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" and many more.
She bemoaned that modern recitals often don't adhere to the tradition of programing more of these kinds of pieces during the second half.
This made me think about what I most enjoy playing in recitals, and what I most enjoy hearing in recitals. Of course, I'd advocate a well-balanced recital. Rachel Barton Pine has said that a good program should satisfy like a good meal: an appetizer, a main course, dessert, maybe a little after-dinner drink.
That said, we have choices in creating this meal. And, if we feel like it, we could do all showpieces, or all solo Bach, etc.
So what is your favorite kind of music for a recital? I must confess that I'm very in love with the sonata literature -- Brahms, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Ravel… There are so many wonderful sonatas, and I enjoy the fact that the piano has such a major role in many, for example, the Franck.
A concerto can provide good meat-and-potatoes in a recital, and a showpiece can balance out a recital that is leaning too far to the serious side. Solo violin works can provide a sonic contrast; on the other hand, you might want to bring in other instruments and play chamber works.
The possibilities for "dessert" are endless -- you could use something like a Heifetz arrangement, or a Maud Powell miniature, or Meditation from Thais. This would also be an acceptable place for testing your own compositional skills ("Poker Face" for solo violin?).
So vote for your favorite genre below -- it may simply be your favorite at this moment in time. And you can use the comments to discuss what you feel is missing in the recitals of today, what you feel works and what you feel doesn't work well.
After likening violin pieces to courses of a meal, being asked what I prefer is like being asked whether my favourite part of a meal is the appetizer, the main course, or the dessert. They're all part of the experience, although the main course is what the appetizer leads up to and the dessert tapers off from. Given only one choice, I'd have go to with the main course (i.e. the concerto).
Having said that, though, last weekend we stumbled across a radio station that happened to be playing all of Bach's partitas and sonatas (BWV 1001-1006). Three hours of Nathan Milstein - yum!
There are so many varied ways to plan a recital program, it's so hard to choose. I think my favorite program would start off with a fast Bach movement as the appetizer. Then I think a sonata/concerto fits in great as the main course. After that a good showpiece fits in to add a little fun in. Finally a slow Bach would bring the recital to a close. As for encores I think your first should be the one that shows off your skills (Ysaye, Paganini, etc.) and then I love to end with a more serene piece to close it out.
All of the above?
I like to hear things I don't know, old or new.
As an amateur violist, I don't do formal solo recitals. When I do perform solo, it is for church, and for that I'm looking for anything that is 5 minutes or less that is appropriate. Sometimes it is a movement from solo Bach, a short piece for viola and piano, or maybe even a single movement from a concerto. I have yet to come across a 'show piece' that is 5 minutes or less that I can manage that is appropriate for church.
The viola recitals I've been to tend to focus on a sonatas, a suite of short pieces, and a show piece. This is a good mix, and one that has introduced me to pieces that I've never heard of or considered studying before. Concertos for violists are performed infrequently. A shame since they are quite interesting.
No favorites. It's up to the performer. Everyone has something to say.
The only recitals I've performed have consisted of one piece, that I worked on for a long time. I can't really imagine preparing that long of a program of solo works myself. I also have not attended many recitals, but I really like the idea of short pieces and miniatures. It is hard for me to sustain attention through several long pieces, especially solo works. I do fine with symphonies I like, even if they are 40 minutes to an hour long, but I can get bored listening to a single performer after 15 minutes or so unless they mix it up a little bit.
Many contemporary violinists - especially the younger ones - don't know miniatures and/or don't know how to play them. Many (most?) don't listen to them (or to anything). Many students spend eons of time and tons of energy on concertos although they will almost NEVER play them with orchestras. Many (most?) students haven't the foggiest knowledge of the Golden Age violinists or the history of performance practice. Many (most?) don't read books, they hate music history, and speak/read only one language. This explains lot.
Like Mr. Gibbs noted, three hours of Milstein solo Bach is unbeatable. I feel Bach provides all the variety, and solo playing all the warmth. I'll never forget, regretfully, having to stay home to do homework, in Sioux Falls SD (about 1964), while Milstein was in town playing a recital. At least I was in the Omaha Symphony when he played the Mendelssohn (in 1975) and played the Bach Preludium as an encore!
Several years back, when M. Vengerov was using the Kwesseter (sp ?) Strad lent by one of the generous folks from the Strad Society, that lived near me, I attended his recital....sort of to honor the donor of this great instrument......He did the Tschaik with the Bflo Phil and a solo recital at Univ of Bflo.....After a lengthy program with mulitple standing ovations he put on a display of his memory by asking for requests from the audience....sort of: Stump The Violinist....While there were many violinists in the audience, some of whom requested bizarre pieces, Vengerov apologized that the pianist hadn't memorized the accompanyment, and went off playing everything as asked for another 30 minutes or so....This was not only a display of fantastic technic but photographic memory......In talking with his benefactor who also played in the local community orchestra, we were discussing memorization, and I recalled the Mischa Elman claimed it took him about a year to add major works to his repertoire......Vengerov was beginning to study the Glazenouv concerto that Sunday, and claimed he'd have it ready for performance by Saturday....ONE WEEK ! But then, we mere mortals can only idolize the likes of Heifetz, Milstein and the amazing crop of violinists on the current scene.
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