A Huge dilemma!

January 30, 2007 at 05:56 PM · I have a question for you all: who here thinks that working on pieces such as the Handel Sonatas or Mozart Concertos is a "easy/intermediate" level-kinda thing?

Because I have been redoing the Handel sonatas (which i LOVE to death) for a recording to send to some summer camps all the while performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto and learning the Brahms VC and somethign peculiar happened the other day:

i was practicing the handel sonatas in a practice room at my high school when my friend comes up to me and says, "why are you playing that? that's like suzuki 5..." and I don't remember what suzuki the sonatas are in, but I took that statement as a "oOo that's so easy" type of thing...

And now I am reluctant to record the handel sonatas because I don't want to show these programs and colleges that I only play "suzuki 5 level pieces" (of course, i have recorded the beethoven VC and sibelius VC)

Should i keep the handel Sonatas on my showcase portfolio or should i get rid of it? I'm so torn because i love those pieces, but if it makes me seem "intermediate-level", then I don't know if it's worth it

Replies (25)

January 30, 2007 at 06:04 PM · Success is built on doing what you love, and doing it well. S'pose you tackle something technically beyond you and sound bad, when you could have played something you love and sounded stellar. And you said you already recorded Bee-VC.

Also off the cuff remarks like that should be taken for what they are.

Finally, the music in the Suzuki material I find very nice and satisfying. How many commercials have you heard snippets from Sibelius or Mahler as the backdrop music? Not that you shouldn't follow an advanced program as a professional, but don't neglect the recognizable along the way--it will serve you well.

January 30, 2007 at 06:10 PM · don't see why Handel shouldn't be used as a nice contrast to Beethoven and Sibelius, especially if you like it and can play it well. it shows a different aspect of your technique/musicality.

At the Indianapolis Vln Competition several years back, one of the medalists played Kreisler's Tempo di Minuetto as an encore and it was beautiful. who cares that some might consider it equivalent to Suzuki 4 or 5?

January 30, 2007 at 06:32 PM · Your friend does not sound like a mature musician. While they can probably play the notes of the piece just fine, I'm willing to bet that your friend's performance lacks musicality and depth.

Don't take his/her advice too seriously. What matters is how you PLAY the music.

January 30, 2007 at 06:55 PM · Hi,

There is nothing wrong with including the Handel sonatas on your recording along WITH something else like Beethoven or Brahms. Demonstrates your wider musicianship.


January 30, 2007 at 08:24 PM · Good lord, listen to some masterful recordings of Handel sonatas. There are widely divergent approaches to these marvelous works (from Campoli, Heifetz, Milstein, Szigeti to Manze and Barton), and which were long a staple in recitals (Elman's for example.) Listening to them played well is a deeply moving experience, and playing them beautifully involves tremendous musical maturity.

Please be kind to your friend. He or she clearly has a fragile self-identity and deals with feelings of inadequacy by attempting to diminish the importance of baroque composers, a tendency that may meet with approbation or at least some minimal consideration by a tiny coterie of similar minded afficianados, but which, when extrapolated to issues of more common import in the world at large, can only suggest a world-view that will result in an embittered and lonely old age.

January 30, 2007 at 08:46 PM · Greetings,

when I auditioned for the RCM many moons ago the set work was a Handel sonata.

Leopoeld Auer stated that two or three are the bacjbone of a violinists repertoire.

In his way they play interview Perlman cited two or thre eof them as part of a good program.

Milstein played the a major at his last recital.

Elman was a pasinoate advocate of them.

If you really want to polsih your tehcnique with some violinistic music get the second movement of the a mmajor double stop section flawless. Even ilstein sounds a little tense on that at times.

The Suzuki thing was just a mistranslation- they were actaully put in book 50.



January 30, 2007 at 09:09 PM · Buri compiled Suzuki 11-50. It's little wonder in Suzuki 45, there's a prune cadenza.

January 30, 2007 at 09:50 PM · I'm just surprised it didn't come earlier...

I adore the Haydn Sonatas! I don't think there's going to be any doubt of your technical level if you send in the Sibelius/Beethoven too. Record away!

January 31, 2007 at 01:49 AM · I love the Handel Sonatas too. I wouldn't hesitate to include a movement on a program I was performing.

If you do plan to put them on your showcase, you might consider getting the Urtext edition and write your own fingerings and bowings to mirror your own artistic statement. That can be a bit dicey, but at least it will display your ability to MAKE artistic decisions (that'll put you ahead of the crowd!)instead of just following the standard Suzuki performance.

I am guessing you are a very sensitive player. You are certainly mature if you see in the Handel Sonatas what others have relegated to "intermediate." Still, knowing this can be an issue for some folks will help you know how you must approach playing the Sonatas.

Play it perfectly. Play it as beautifully as anyone could play it. Don't neglect any style point. Thoughtfully devote yourself to giving the music your most expressive voice. I'm sure you will. It sounds like you're a very good violinist.

And, if you do that, quickly you will see why Handel is too easy for amateurs and too difficult for the professionals.

Good Luck. Here here for Handel.

January 30, 2007 at 10:36 PM · It has always seemed strange to me this passion for labelling music in level of difficulty and by judging ability on the piece being studied.Music is either played well or it is not and surprisingly some of the pieces that seem to be technically easy can be the hardest peices to play well and musically.

January 30, 2007 at 10:44 PM · Greetings,

I was recently running though some passgaes of Mozart 4 before a concert and a truly obnoxious player crept up behind me and said:

`Oh, I played that as a student.`

I looked at him in amazement:

`Was it written then?`



January 31, 2007 at 12:21 AM · I don't know why the Mozart concerto's would be considered student level - especially since they were a pretty standard requirement for orchestral auditions. If you're going to go for auditions anywhere, you should always have some Mozart at your disposal. And some Bach. And...

Anne-Sophie Mutter just recently recorded the Mozart Sonatas, which I have seen often placed around the same spots as the Handel Sonatas (Violinmasterclass.com's graded repertoire puts the Handel Sonatas at level 4, and the Mozart Sonatas at level 5). In an interview, she said the following:

"The sonatas are demanding from first to last. For me, the difficulty of Mozart's music lies not in the passagework but in such things as the rondos. Take the rondo of the E flat major Sonata. To what extent should you delay the upbeat, or should you not delay it at all? The phrasing is the big problem, but it is also the key to Mozart's music."

Mozart's (and to a certain extent, Handel) music may not be technically difficult, but musically it requires a lot of work. If you can present a sound musical performance it doesn't matter if it's technically easy or not - the musicality is what seals the deal and makes these pieces worth keeping.

January 31, 2007 at 01:28 AM · Not from a perfoming standpoint but from a listening standpoint, it was those things with less notes, not more that became timeless.

January 31, 2007 at 02:23 AM · Dear Patrick:

I had qualms about playing "easier" pieces for my audition, but if Frank Peter Zimmerman showed up to Juilliard for a grad audition and played Mozart 1 he'd not only get in, but they'd probably pat him on the head and give him a scholarship. No one cares what you play, it's how well you play it. You can show a lot with "book 5" pieces like the Handel.

January 31, 2007 at 03:00 AM · There is an entire world of expressive technique that most students miss when playing Handel or Mozart. "Easy"!! People who find them easy to play are missing quite, quite a lot. The Tchaikovsky Concerto would be easier to perform well for an audience, IMO.

You will only sound like a Suzuki Book 6 student if you play the pieces like a Suzuki Book 6 student. You will sound like a serious, headed-for-college student if you play them like a serious, headed-for-college student. You will sound like an artist if you play them like an artist. Aim for the artists' rendition! Check out some Rachel Barton for Handel, Zukerman for Mozart, etc.

January 31, 2007 at 06:20 AM · Ouuu... I agree with whomever earlier quoted some passage mentioning the difficulty in expressively playing Mozart.

The Mozart Concertos are most difficult when you think of how much pure musicality you have to pour into every line. The wit of the fourth, the grandeur of the 5th, the playfulness of the first, the strongheadedness of the 2nd, the everyone plays it and now you have to make it better than usual of the 3rd.

To play it with clarity and without fuss, with insight rather than confusion... it's not done on a daily basis. A bit of luck on the day might be needed -- even Hilary Hahn doesn't completely convey Mozart to their full potential on any given day. And that's probably why so many "romantic" musicians like Sarah Chang stay away from performing the M concertos.


Handel the same way. I mean, when Hilary Hahn used to listen to Grumiaux play Handel until she fell asleep for a whole year -- that says something about the importance of his sonatas.

January 31, 2007 at 06:43 AM · One thing to be cautious of when performing repertoire that you have known for many years: It is so easy to fall into the trap of playing old music with old habits. As Laurie suggested, shoot for the artist rendition, which requires a lot of healthy questioning and musical curiosity.

It is easy to sound like a young student if you play on autopilot and let your muscles do exactly what they did when you first learned the music! (Believe me when I say that I speak from experience!)

January 31, 2007 at 03:58 PM · Nicholas--You and Laurie are so right!

Get the Urtext edition and refigure this piece. Stay away from giving a standard Suzuki performance. I wish I would've caught on to this when I was your age. It was a giant leap in my musicianship when I went from "copying" to "creating." (That advice from Nicholas about "healthy questioning and curiosity"--that's the key!)

When you play that way, it shows.

January 31, 2007 at 03:52 PM · BE A PAL, FIND ANOTHER PIECE!

January 31, 2007 at 06:09 PM · "easy for the beginner, difficult for the professional"

February 1, 2007 at 06:39 AM · Well, I think my friend meant, "why would you showcase the handel sonatas when you could play something much more difficult..."

I don't know...i mean the handel sonatas are beautiful and very technically difficult to pull off nicely as well as the mozart so I wouldn't mind putting it on...

So do you fellow violinists recommend me putting the handel sonatas on my showcase? so far i have recorded:

Beethoven Violin Concerto 3rd movmvent (classical)

Sibelius Violin Concerto 1st movement (romantic)

Bach Fugue (d-min) (standard bach)

Paganini Caprice No. 21 (standard paganini)

Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 1st movement (modern)

I think that if I put on Handel Sonata No.2 I should be okay...but my teacher is pushing for me to record the brahms violin concerto coupled with the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5 (turkish)...so I'm not sure...

I'll say this, as of right now, my brahms does not sound good/"professional" at all. It's not polished and has lots of musically-confused passages. I'm kind of thinking that I'm not "wise" enough to perform/record brahms...but I do have a month left to kind of learn it...

February 1, 2007 at 06:46 AM · So now the violin sonatas of G.F.Handel one of the most important Baroque composers are only to be considered as student material.Yuk. The seems that the Suzuki mehthod has changed the perception of music and its interpretation.Does this mean that tha Bach duoble will take a fly out of the window as well?

February 1, 2007 at 12:27 PM · I've had 2 auditions that went great playing a movement from one of the Handel sonatas. In contrast, the worst, most disastrous, most horrible audition of my life was playing the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.

Both experiences happened a while ago now for me, in my student days, but one of the reasons I played the Rondo Capriccioso when I did was that I was motivated by similar concerns to what it sounds like your friend is: I thought Baroque pieces that I was good at and could play well were "too easy" and I thought I needed to show I could play something more challenging, something Romantic with technical fireworks.

I suppose that might be true in some settings. I'm glad I studied and learned the Rondo. It's still one of my favorite pieces--to listen to, not to audition on! And your list has Romantic pieces with technical fireworks anyway.

I'm still trying to figure out this audition thing myself . . . I'm learning viola now and I'm finding the Telemann concerto, a staple of the viola repertoire, to be "easy" in the same way that the Handel sonatas were "easy" on the violin. I've been waffling about if I should use it as an audition piece or not.

But I think that at your advanced level, (and at the more advanced level that I also aspire to although haven't yet achieved), how we deal with this attitude towards Baroque pieces is a crossroads and an opportunity. The "too easy" attitude is an immature one; figuring out and learning how to play these pieces at the artist level is a challenge we have to meet in order to become more mature musicians.

Don't underestimate the power of the fact that you love these sonatas to death. I love them too, and I feel the same way about the Telemann viola concerto. I listen to it almost every day, often more than once. I don't care if it's a played-to-death old warhorse for other people, to me it's always fresh and new and delightful. I think that love will shine through in your playing.

February 1, 2007 at 11:03 PM · Greetings,

more idle thoughts . Play the Handel with a great msuciain on the keyboard. Not just a piano player but someone who really knows music, especially -opera-.These piece are so dynamic, so operatic, so exciting they raise the roof. I hate prissy, piss poor perfromances of them becuase they are baroque and thta automatically means leave your gonads in a jam jar in the trunk of the car.

You can choose to make these pieces real hard if you so wish. One of my favorite example sis the last movement of the D major. Szigeti pointed out that as the bwoing stands, can`t remeber if it is urtext of not there are two 16ths and an eight followed by two quartter notes repeated ad naseaum. This is really rather boring. He did a true virtuoso bowing that transformed this movement. Play the firts three notes as separate bows. Slur the two quarter notes ot get you to the point. Do a fouette style retake of the up bow n between the 8th note and the first quarter note. Get back to the heel, do a retaked between the three short notes and the first quarter. Get back to the point, do that whipped up bow retake again. It sound sfantastic and elegant! and when you get to the middle section you can return to a less dynamic original bowing and it sounds beautiful as a contrast.

These piece are one of the greatets test of imagination a violinist can tackle aside from figuring out my spelling...



February 2, 2007 at 12:26 AM · Patrick,

I agree with what everyone's said. I like to think of it like language: you can learn to speak it, but poetry is another matter entirely.

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