Learning Beethoven concerto in D major

December 8, 2006 at 06:03 AM · I'm beginning to study the Beethoven violin concerto, it's almost like a sacred piece, to be approached with reverence. Anyone have any hints, suggestions and comments on how to start? How easy is it to memorize, given all the sequences. Is it a fun concerto to play or a lot of work? I just finished Mendelssohn and that is quite fun and light-hearted. Beethoven is interpreted more seriously and harder work?

Replies (18)

December 8, 2006 at 01:36 PM · Hi Clare,

I just learned the first movement and am going to play it for a jury next week. Beethoven Concerto is a very special piece. It's full of scales and requires an exactness in intonation - you can't hide. The opening octaves were the most difficult part for me, but I figured it out - it's a matter of coordination and having the right hand position in all positions of the violin. This piece requires a clean shifting technique.

As far as memory goes, I had some problems at first with the similar passage on the first page and second last page of the first movement. I kept mixing up the sequence (One starts on E and the other starts on A). After performing the piece a few times, it sorted itself out when I learned "logically" where the fingers go.

For cadenzas, I'm doing one by Joseph Silverstein. It's absolutely beautiful. You should find it! My teacher cut out the middle section of the first movement cadenza though, because it's way too long, compared to others.


December 9, 2006 at 03:26 AM · Daniel, thanks for the tip on the cadenza. I'm nowhere near it right now. I'm still studying the first two pages. My edition has the Leopold Auer cadenza.

Right now I have a question on the turns in measure 84. My teacher is on vacation for a month and I'm just starting to read it. The third turn has me puzzled. It starts on the G# has a natural sign to the left of it, ends on the B natural. Can someone tell me which note the natural sign next to (not below) it refers to? Nothing sounds right, for sure, the note says G#, A is already natural (D major), and f natural sounds funny (since it is D major key).

If someone can write out the sequence of notes (including the turns) it'll help me.

e natural (turn with sharp below) G#

b natural (turn with sharp below) open e string

G# (turn with natural sign left of it) b natural

G# (turn with no signs) a natural

Please let me know which notes are in the turns, especially the 3rd one that puzzles me.

thanks, Clare

December 9, 2006 at 04:17 AM · Claire, are you sure that is measure 84? I have the Henle edition, and in the 85th measure of the solo part, which is actually measure 173, there is the sequence of notes you describe. The Henle edition does not have a natural sign on the third turn. I learned the third turn G#-A-G#-F#-G# to the next eighth note B...does that make sense?

December 9, 2006 at 05:08 PM · Anne, thanks for the description. It is the measure you're talking about (I started counting from when the violin starts, and could have miscounted). My edition is from CD Sheet Music, and I believe these are Schirmer. I will play it the way you describe. The natural sign to the left of the turn doesn't make sense and is probably a misprint or something publishers put into their edition so they know if it got copied.

I've heard that maps do this also, put in a street that is not there, so they can check if someone copied their maps.

December 9, 2006 at 05:31 PM · Oh my, I didn't know that cartographers and map publishers put in mistakes on purpose! That might explain why I am "Directionally Challenged".

December 9, 2006 at 08:15 PM · Hi Clare,

I hope you have a great time with Beethoven! I would highly recommend that you buy a different edition, though, for several reasons -- one of the first being that those turns are incorrect in the edition you have.

The natural sign was probably there to remind you that the A in the turn should be A-natural, not A-sharp. But here's the thing: the first two turns should not have sharps on the lower notes. The sequence should be: E-F#-E-D-E-G#, and then B-C#-B-A-B-E.

If the edition you have has that mistake, it may have others as well.

December 10, 2006 at 01:36 AM · GO Bethoveen! Bethoveen rocks... Sorry Couldn't resist

December 10, 2006 at 03:25 AM · Michael, that D natural in the first turn is interesting...the Henle edition has a # sign over the first turn, implying the notes: E-F#-E-D#-E to the next note, G#. I learned it with a D#. Also, the fingerings in the Henle edition are by Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and he puts a "2" over the eighth note E (the main note of the first turn), furthur suggesting a D#. I didn't use a lot of his fingerings when I learned this piece, but I did use that one.

What edition do you use?

Also, Clare, there is a nice little book by Robin Stowell called "Beethoven: Violin Concerto", published by Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-45775-0, that is really worth having.

December 10, 2006 at 08:50 AM · wow, thanks. Which edition should I take a look at? Is the one at virtualsheetmusic.com worth looking at?

December 10, 2006 at 07:54 PM · Anne, you sent me running to my music cabinet to check my Henle part! Interesting note about what I found, though: the "newly revised" Henle edition doesn't contain the sharp. It's edited by S.A. Kojima, a Beethoven researcher.

The parts that I've always used are heavily marked-up photocopies of an old Breitkopf edition. It doesn't have the sharp there either. But where I learned this originally was at a Silverstein masterclass. The reasoning is that unless otherwise specified, the notes of the turn should be kept within the key, and also that the D# doesn't fit with the E7 chord that's beneath you. Obviously, not everyone seems to agree with that (the recordings I have are fairly evenly split), but it makes sense in terms of the chord progression.

December 10, 2006 at 08:31 PM · You guys are confusing me! I have the International Edition and there's a 2 over the E. When I first sightread it for my teacher, I assumed that it meant to stay in 5th position, so I played it with a D natural. Fifth position made it awkward to play the last turn however, so my teacher demonstrated. I noticed that he played it with a D# in first position. Apparently, his edition (edited by I don't know who) has the sharps written in. So I learned it with the D# and the A# instead. o_O So now you're telling me it is a D natural? I'll have to ask my teacher about it this week.

December 10, 2006 at 11:53 PM · Michael, the plot thickens!

My Henle is copyright 1982. I learned this concerto in 1989/90...from a Silverstein student! So now I guess the D# has been corrected?

Linda, I played the first turn in half position, with the D#, and the second turn in first position with an open A.

I checked my two favorite recordings, Kreisler/Barbirolli/LPO 1936, and D.Oistrakh/Kondrashin/MPO 1965 (live) and both play D#...Hmm...

December 11, 2006 at 02:01 AM · Ooh, good luck Clare, and hope you have fun. I am SO into the Beethoven VC (listening to it, mind you, not playing it) right now. I think it's the winter weather. Hope you have a good time with it.

December 11, 2006 at 07:54 AM · Wow, looks like a mini-controversy on that sharp. It makes sense that if the third turn is a natural, then the other two turns should probably not be sharped? Well, I'll wait for my teacher and see what he says. Thanks Terez for the good wishes. It'll be a long study for sure, so much going on there. And lots of scale practice.

December 11, 2006 at 10:27 PM · Thanks for the info from the new Henle, Michael! I'm currently working on this piece as well, from the 1982 Henle, and I have to say I like the idea of D natural a lot more than D sharp to stay within the chord progression... It also happens to be quite a bit easier to quickly find 1st position from 6th rather than 1/2 position. Not that I'd ever let a technical consideration inform a musical decision... ahem ;-)

How are you guys approaching the "suggested" slurs in the constant 16th-note passages, for example m.134-141 or m.182-194? I've heard somewhat convincing arguments that in this case the urtext may not be the best source - that Beethoven himself may have considered the piece unfinished, in terms of markings of details like slurs and articulations, and he would have expected the performer to "fill in" the slurs as required by stylistic conventions of the time.

On the other hand I heard Tetzlaff give a convincing performance on the radio, and from what I could hear he left pretty much everything unslurred. Hmm...

December 12, 2006 at 01:24 AM · Anne

Whoops! Did I say 3nd turn? I meant the second. I play the third and first just as you describe though. ;)

December 12, 2006 at 04:59 AM · Jesse, in measures 134-41, I did the suggested bowings except in measure 138, which I did all separate. In measures 181-94 I also did the suggested bowings, except in measure 183, which I did four sixteenth notes slurred, not eight. That is also the measure that my teacher drew a skull-and-crossbones, and wrote "Don't Rush"!

I think Christian Tetzlaff is an amazing musician, and a great violinist (and I am dying to hear him live), so steal from the best! I haven't heard him play Beethoven...does he use his own cadenzas?

December 12, 2006 at 06:52 AM · @Anne

1st: above my notes on that bar my teacher wrote <--- for slow down =)

2nd: Tetzlaff uses the cadence, Beethoven wrote for the piano version of the concerto. He transcribed it for the violin, it's a kind of duet or flirt between violin and timbal. I heard him twice playing it - really great. If you like Tetzlaff, buy the recording, you'll love it.

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