Mendelssohn concerto difficutly?

March 25, 2007 at 02:02 PM · Hi!

In the realm of the classic violin concerti (Mozart, Brahms, etc..) where do you think the Mendelssohn Concerto fall in terms of difficutly?



March 25, 2007 at 02:56 PM · rates the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in e-minor as a level 8 out of 10. Keep in mind, that they are grading the pieces on a solely technical level. Mendelssohn is a very difficult piece to play, especially the cadenza. Good luck Mendelssohn-ing :-).


March 25, 2007 at 03:47 PM · Hi,

The Mendelssohn is much harder to play well and pull off than most people realize. To give you an idea, Mr. Pinchas said something to this effect on a CBC series program where he talked about the Mendelssohn - he has not played it publically in 10 years because he does not feel that he is in the absolute most top form needed to play it. He still practices it though whenever he has to teach it.


March 25, 2007 at 03:50 PM · To: Jennifer DeLaney

From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

Dear Jennifer, et al: Fellow member, Mr. Vincent Skowronski, is the source for a Master Class article which appears in the current March 2007 issue of STRINGS magazine. The perhaps provocative item deals with the Mendelssohn E minor violin concerto, i.e., the approach to its first movement CADENZA. The contents are intended to offer a few suggestions and insights that might prove informative if not helpful to those fiddlers addressing this work that, summarily, has been "butchered and malplayed by so many people."

The article is available ONLINE from the STRINGS magazine website, the SKOWRONSKI website ( -- Press & Reviews) and/or GOOGLE.

"Give it a brake," indeed! And our best to everyone.

Skowronski: Classical Recordings

March 25, 2007 at 04:53 PM · I'm working on the Mendelssohn right now and severely underestimated its difficulty. To put it mildly, to play the Mendelssohn in tune, you have to be a shifting prodigy and an octaves guru. It's a lot of fun, though! I can finally play the first page up to speed...

March 26, 2007 at 12:31 AM · This piece is too often given to students not quite ready for it. That said, there are a lot of technical/musical problems that can be addressed by a good teacher, if the student and teacher are up to it.

I currently have two advanced college students working on this and my challenge to them is to go beyond the intonation and technical problems to come to an interpretation which is not like the cd they have been listening to and in fact come up with something that they find more convincing or at least different than what is on the CD. This is a hard project since the piece has been recorded so much.

March 26, 2007 at 10:34 AM · In my experience the Menndelssohn and the Bruch concerti were amongst the first major concerti assigned.

March 26, 2007 at 11:33 AM · I know a few people who have played Mendelssohn as their first major concerto. The first one played the first movement for sixth months, and it still wasn't perfected, the second person has been playing the concerto for almost 3 months yet can only play the first two pages. I could have done Mendelssohn as my first major concerto, but my old teacher advised me to do Bruch, which I think has benefited me tremendously. I agree that people don't take Mendelssohn seriously enough, it seems almost like a contest with who can play it first. People seem to want to play it so they can say "I'm working on Mendelssohn". I personally think that it's more important that you can play it well than when you play it. If my teacher permits me, I think I would like to learn Mendelssohn this summer when I will have 6 hours to practice every day. But first my teacher and I are going to take a lot of time to practice technique, and then I want to finish the last movement of Bruch. It's one of my favorite pieces, so I want to play it well.

March 26, 2007 at 12:09 PM · I recall being disappointed when my intructor suggested the Bruch before the Mendelssohn - but it was well worth it.

March 26, 2007 at 05:11 PM · My teacher started me on the mendelssohn shortly after christmas, im currently playing the whole first movt, fairly up to speed. I honestly don't see the big deal everyone makes of it, technically and intonation-wise, i dont think its really that diffficult cos its very melodic, so it sticks in your head easily, makng it harder to play out of tune (in my experience anyway). Interpretation, is another thing all together, but im finding that by listening to the anne-sophie mutter and joshua bell recordings, and seeing nicola benedetti playin it in concert, its coming together gradually in my mind, making it much easier to play.

To refer to someone earlier comment about being 'an intonation wizard and an octaves guru', or something like that, im far from either, but my teacher has had me playing scales in 3rds and 8ves for 7/8 months or more at this stage, so when i came to them in this piece, i was honestly relieved! the work i put into those tricky painful scales, finally had practical benefit....they were then pretty easy! :-P

Maybe its lack of preperatory work that is making it difficult for people?

March 26, 2007 at 06:05 PM · I started the piece in June, and am "polishing" all three movements for a recital in April. I'm so glad to hear that I'm not the only one with intonation problems with it! The notes themselves really aren't that difficult, imo, but to play everything musically is sooooo hard....

March 26, 2007 at 08:35 PM · Well if anyone can get to the standard that Alfredo Campoli set on his Mendelssohn & Elgar VC CD with Sir Adrian Boult on a difficult to get Beulah label, then he/she must have made it.

March 26, 2007 at 10:08 PM · That is a hard piece. I just got a recording for it . But it's fun to play. Don't worry how hard it is. Just have fun with it.

March 27, 2007 at 07:50 AM · Do most people do 1-4 octaves on the first page or fingered octaves (eg. 1-3, 2-4)? I've been practising it with 1-4 octaves mostly. Occasionally I give the fingered octaves a try out.

March 27, 2007 at 10:25 AM · When I played this I did 1-4 octaves. I didn't have the fingering octaves under my belt yet...

March 27, 2007 at 12:36 PM · Easy to butcher, hard to play well...(Bruch concerto too)

March 27, 2007 at 12:39 PM · Might be interesting to listen how e.g. Pinchas Zukerman played Mendelssohn at age of 23:

First movement

Second movement

Third movement

Carlo Maria Giulini conducting.


March 27, 2007 at 12:52 PM · i always do 1-4 on the octaves

March 28, 2007 at 02:09 AM · What is the correct way? Could you post a recording?

March 28, 2007 at 10:48 AM · Hi - Listened to Zukerman's performance - even Z with his excellent technique does not manage to play the opening passage in tune. It is a very difficult concerto to bring off. My ideal is still Campoli with Boult on Beulah (CD). Minor intonation flaw at the end of the 2nd mvt but the rest of the performance is really great. Campoli must have played it about 900 times in his lifetime.

March 28, 2007 at 10:50 AM · If you guys send me an e-mail to, I can make a file of the Campoli/Boult version for you (3rd mvt only) & send you to your e-mail address within the next few days.

March 28, 2007 at 11:40 AM · Heifetz made excellent recordings of the Mendelssohn. I have an astounding live performance of Heifetz playing it with the NY Phil. He played the last movement in this performance faster than his studio recordings! Erick Friedman's recording on RCA with the London Symphony and Ozawa is super. Hilary Hahn made a very nice in tune recording of this piece a few years ago. What a great artist she is.

To answer the original question on how hard this piece is, yes it is deceptively difficult almost like Mozart. The first page is very exposed, those intervals have to be right there. This is a hard piece to play in tune.

March 28, 2007 at 11:49 AM · Nate - is that the Heifetz, NYPO, Cantelli version?

Not aware of the Friedman/Ozawa version myself. You should hear the Campoli/Boult. Your e-mail please?

Regards - Lee

March 29, 2007 at 02:18 AM · Hi Lee, yes that is the live recording of Heifetz I have. Friedman recorded the Mendelssohn with the London Symphony for RCA, I'm not quite sure if it was released on CD. I have the LP here, on the other side of the record is the Tchaikovsky VC played by Friedman with the same group. RCA did release this recording on CD with the Piano Concerto played by John Browning.

March 29, 2007 at 07:40 AM · Nate - noted. Will send you tomorrow. You prefer Apple format or Windows Media Player? Lee

March 29, 2007 at 11:59 AM · Lee - windows format sounds great. Thanks a lot!


March 29, 2007 at 12:58 PM · Hi,

There is a Heifetz live with NY Phil under Toscanini available (which I have). Is this the possible one refered to here? I wasn't aware there was another live one out there...


March 29, 2007 at 01:16 PM · Hi Christian,

Yes that is a completely different recording altogether with Toscanini.

March 29, 2007 at 01:51 PM · There is also a Heifetz last movement only filmed in 1939 with a kids' orchestra.


March 29, 2007 at 05:47 PM · Has anybody heard the silverstein recording?. I heard a little clip on and it sounded very good.

March 29, 2007 at 07:16 PM · Yes Willie, I have heard the Silverstein recording quite a few times. It's a wonderful performance, he can really play!

March 29, 2007 at 08:19 PM · Wait till you guys & girls hear Campoli with Boult. Your jaws will drop and stay down permanently. Your e-mail addresses please? Regards - Lee

March 29, 2007 at 08:25 PM · I am not that impressed with the Campoli recording. He sounds a bit dull in some "easier" passages and misses some of the long lines. At least in my opinion.

I like him much better in shorter lollipops :)

March 30, 2007 at 05:14 AM · Matthais - maybe you listen to the other Campoli CD (with van Beinum) - which is very poor - relative to the Boult. Lee

March 30, 2007 at 10:14 AM · And here comes how Dmitry Sitkovetsky handels this concerto:

I. Allegro molto appassionato

II. Andante

III. Allegretto non troppo - Allegro molto vivace


March 30, 2007 at 12:58 PM · Lee - I might have confused them, I havnt listened to it in a few years.

March 30, 2007 at 02:49 PM · Mendelssohn is absolutely one of the very hardest concerti out there...there is so much that can go wrong (like the third movement to Sibelius), and it has to be crystalline and pristine (like the rhyming?)

practice scales for this piece!

March 30, 2007 at 03:12 PM · Ack, Mendelssohn is so have to be as pristine as if you were playing Mozart, as expressive as Tchaikovsky, and as understatedly-romantic as a Chopin nocturne. Also, the intonation is a bitch.

March 31, 2007 at 09:14 PM · Mattais - You'd better listen to your versions before you comment - otherwise, you'd put people off a really great version. You want a copy of the 3rd mvt of Campoli-Boult? Lee

April 1, 2007 at 05:21 AM · You are so correct Lee :)

April 1, 2007 at 08:10 AM · Dion, I take it you have the Campoli/van Beinum. Mattias - I will send you the file tomorrow (do you prefer Media Player format or Apple format?) Regards - Lee

April 1, 2007 at 08:13 AM · If I am feeling down, I just need to play Campoli's Mendelssohn VC, Leonid Kogan's Tchaikovsky VC and Michael Rabin's stereo St Saens Op. 28. After these performances, I am just lifted up.

April 1, 2007 at 01:38 PM · Lee - windows please :)

April 2, 2007 at 07:40 AM · Sent you the file Nate & Mattais. Any comments, Lee

April 2, 2007 at 12:45 PM · I enjoyed the recording Lee, thank you. He had a very nice violin, do you know what kind of violin Campoli used Lee?

I noticed that Campoli played this last movement more on the string than Heifetz.

April 2, 2007 at 01:40 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

To: Nate Robinson

"I noticed that Campoli played this last movement more on the string than Heifetz."

For those seemingly few fiddlers who have managed to create a truly fabulous bow technique for themselves, we find that most will play the so called violin 'spiccato' stroke more ON the string rather than OFF. The result, to a critically keen listener, will immediately be self-evident, i.e., that frightful, gritty, thoroughly irritating edge to the sound will disappear. What manifests itself is a plumpier, rounder, more buoyant mass. The intrinsic clarity of the 'spiccato' itself should, ideally, not be sacrificed. Certainly, there are many 'variations' on this theme.

According to a STRINGS magazine article,....."Skowronski hesitates to recommend any recordings that demonstrate what he is talking about,........" buts adds, "don't look to other violinists for good examples. Take your inspiration from what Mendelssohn put in the score."

Here's to 'more-bounce-to-the-ounce' for all.

Best regards,,

Skowronski: Classical Recordings

April 2, 2007 at 07:33 PM · Be aware that there are 3 Mendelssohn violin concertos. :)

April 2, 2007 at 08:47 PM · Alex--

Three meaning: d minor, e minor, and vln/piano concerto, or is there another solo one?

April 3, 2007 at 01:30 AM ·

April 3, 2007 at 01:31 AM · Hi Mattias, How was the sound clip? Did you enjoy it? Cheers - Lee

PS: Another video clip coming to your e-mail.

April 3, 2007 at 11:00 PM · Greetings,

Mattias my boy, Campoli played on a Stradivarius dated 1700 called 'the Dragonetti,'


your doting dad


April 4, 2007 at 04:45 AM · There is some confusion here, Buri - as there are 2 Dragonetti Strads - one of 1700 and another of 1706. Is that right? Which did Campoli play on?

April 4, 2007 at 05:02 AM · He played the 1700 one. Frank-Peter Zimmermann plays the 1706 one which did not belong to any other known violinist before, afaik.


April 4, 2007 at 08:29 AM · Hi - On the Busoni VC CD, FPZ seems to play the 1711 Strad violin that used to belong to Kreisler. Did he play the 1706 Dragonetti Strad before this? Regards - Lee

April 4, 2007 at 08:56 AM · Yes, you are right, meanwhile he got on loan the Stradivarius from 1711, which once belonged to Fritz Kreisler, and which is sponsored by the WestLB AG, the same bank which was already providing the 1706 Dragonetti.


April 4, 2007 at 11:18 AM · Ah so! I see the light now. Thanks, Lee

April 4, 2007 at 08:54 PM · FMF & other esteemed experts, What violin did you think Campoli play back in 1954 (the year he recorded the Mendelssohn with Boult)? Cheers - Lee

April 5, 2007 at 12:44 AM · Most likely the 1694 Baillot-Pommerau, since he got his Dragonetti around 1961 only.

I wouldn't stress the importance of the instrument actually played, however. I have been witness to just too many double-blind trials where both experienced luthiers and esteemed violinists failed miserably in identifying "upper class" instruments by listening to them live.

There is no doubt that professional violinists rarely fail in identifying "good" Strads and alike by actually playing these instruments and good luthiers by actually looking at them. But it is also true that instruments in the hands of a great soloist sound much more like the player wants them to sound than the builder and/or maintainer of the instrument wants them to sound, proper maintenance assumed.

It would be quite another thread, why esteemed teachers keep telling poor students how important the "class" of instrument is in terms of their student's career outlook.

In any case one of the double-blind trials has been held for and in front of French public TV, I happen to own the DVD recording of this whole exercise. I wish lots of young violinists-students would have a chance to watch it before ending up in nervous breakdowns for not getting a "valuable" instrument. Too much commercial interest of too many people involved in selling an instrument has created a terrible hype around certain violins. Terrible because it deviates attention far away from real music and provides too much of an excuse for players and teachers alike. And terrible because it gets violinists into financial trouble for no real reason other than using the instrument as kind of pension fund. And terrible for teachers who on one hand have to fight for proper fees from students who on the other hand are willing to spend a couple of hundred thousands on a violin.


April 5, 2007 at 06:45 AM · FMF - I'll send you a file of the Campoli last movement too. Enjoy! Lee

April 5, 2007 at 06:52 AM · Thanks a lot!


April 5, 2007 at 08:20 AM · Did you just simply love his playing of the last mvt, FMF? Lee

April 5, 2007 at 08:34 AM · Lee, for obvious reasons - as stated before in other threads here - I never comment on the performance of violinists. But I shall certainly enjoy the insight your clip will provide.


April 5, 2007 at 09:29 AM · OK FMF - will send you the files tomorrow. Cheers - Lee

(Have to run - my "boss" has invited me over to his place to try some violins).

April 5, 2007 at 09:30 AM · Lee,

I'd like a copy, too, if possible. QT. Thanks!


April 5, 2007 at 09:35 AM · If desired I'll put the clips up on one of my own servers and will publish the links here; instead of Lee mailing a multitude of large messages around. How about that?

I am just waiting for the clips to arrive.


April 5, 2007 at 03:46 PM · That'd be awesome if you could, because I'm interested in hearing it too. Thanks a bunch! =)

April 5, 2007 at 04:31 PM · Lee - ol d h j d33£333##¤

April 5, 2007 at 08:05 PM · Sorry - Mattais - what is your message? Lee

April 5, 2007 at 08:07 PM · Hi - I will try to send to FMF in about 4 hours time (earliest). There will be 2 clips - Mendelssohn VC 3 mvt Campoli-Boult (on a NLA Beulah CD - and original Decca recording) and a video clip of Campoli playing a short extract of Sarasate's Gypsy Airs coupled with another piece which I don't know - it is in a trio form (piano, violin & cello). Regards - Lee

April 6, 2007 at 06:28 AM · Now, here are the four media files as Lee mailed them to me:

Mendelssohn's VC First movement

Mendelssohn's VC Second movement

Mendelssohn's VC Third movement

Video trailer

These files will be available for a few days only, since they sit one of my personal servers as a courtesy to members.

Some of you (depending on your PC software setup) might need to right-click on the links and download the files before you can play them locally.


April 6, 2007 at 04:35 AM · If I were Felix Mendelssohn, I would sanction the way Campoli plays my Violin Concerto Op 64. Apart from 1 (questionable tuning) note at the end of mvt 2, it's just simply wonderful. Cheers & enjoy it - Lee

April 6, 2007 at 06:34 AM · I'd like to know you guys & girls thoughts on Campoli's version please. Thanks. Cheers - Lee

April 6, 2007 at 12:07 PM ·

April 6, 2007 at 03:33 PM · Hi,

"If I were Felix Mendelssohn, I would sanction the way Campoli plays my Violin Concerto Op 64. Apart from 1 (questionable tuning) note at the end of mvt 2"

I am really sorry, but I feel that I need to say this: with all due respect, why is one missed note important to single out in a performance?

April 6, 2007 at 01:11 PM · This is just to inform you: The US Dept Of Justice (internet node just decided to download the First movement. Are we having lawyers-violinists here in the forum? Or did Mr Campoli miss some payment deadlines? Any insights? ;-)


April 7, 2007 at 08:18 AM · Unless some more requests arrive here in the forum or in my email inbasket I'll take the Mendelssohn VC samples off the net coming Monday morning my time after about 18 finished downloads requested from Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, all over USA and Hawai.

Any feedback, so I know whether it's worthwile to setup such or similar downloads for members in the future?


April 7, 2007 at 09:53 AM ·

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