Pieces you must play before you die

April 17, 2007 at 02:39 AM · A piece is great to listen to may not be all that much fun to play, but there are pieces that we violinists feel so lucky/privileged to be able to play and they make all the hard work worthwhile, whether other people like them or not. Do you have any such pieces?

Replies (71)

April 17, 2007 at 06:21 AM · not the only piece but the first one that comes to my mind is wieniawski-legend. i really hope i can find an opportunity to play it again for an audience with my husband on the piano. up to now no such occasion came up :( *sigh*

April 17, 2007 at 06:45 AM · Bach's 6th Cello Suite (transposed for viola). Started working on it a few years ago, and will continue for a lifetime.

April 17, 2007 at 12:30 PM · Bach's Solo Sonatas and Partitas be it....yes...the ciaconna..that it for me;)


April 17, 2007 at 05:33 PM · Sarasate Zapateado, Zigeunerweisen, Into & Tarantella, Playera, Habanera, and basically all of his pieces.

Wienawski Polonaise in A Major, not a big fan of the one in D, Scherzo Tarantelle.

Elgar Salut D' Amor, La Capricieuse.

I bet I will post this and then think of 800 more.

April 17, 2007 at 07:15 PM · THE piece for me has always been the Tschaikowsky Concerto since I got the old Oistrakh rcording when I was 10. Whether it will happen...life is an adventure and the Tschaik is my windmill.

April 17, 2007 at 09:20 PM · Brahms B major trio, late Beethoven string quartets, Chaconne (properly), Bartok quartets, Schubert sonata...and definitely more, but I'd be incomplete without these ones.

April 17, 2007 at 09:24 PM · Playing the Sibelius.

Better than Heifetz himself.

Hop to it.

Ahh, and the Ysaye sonatas.

Shostakovich and Prokofiev concertos too.

April 17, 2007 at 09:24 PM ·

April 18, 2007 at 12:49 AM · My To-Do list is almost as long as my reading list. Even though I can play all of the Gavinies Etudes, I cannot play them all at tempo. Number 11...bleh.

I would also like to work on the Nielsen concerto at some point.

Because my To-Do list is so extensive, that I really just try to play whatever I am working on as well as possible, for me.

P.S. Me too Jay, with the Oistrakh, but I was 12. It was so exciting for me to learn that piece, and I am still crazy for it!

Oh yes, I forgot that I really need to do justice to Nielsen's "Preludio e Presto per Violino Solo". As of right now, well, it will take some time.

April 17, 2007 at 11:38 PM · I second the Bach Chaconne.

April 18, 2007 at 04:29 AM · Brahms Klavierstucke Op. 118.... to bad i have yet to master my A Major scales :(

April 18, 2007 at 04:42 AM · Beethoven and Mendelsson concertos

basically all solo bach

April 18, 2007 at 01:12 PM · "Every single Bartok piece ever written"...

Dammit, Joshua, you beat me to it! That's (not surprisingly) what I was going to say! :)

April 18, 2007 at 03:18 PM · You will for sure, want to include some Paganini.

April 18, 2007 at 03:20 PM · Oh no, Al! Just when I was hoping no one would mention him...

April 19, 2007 at 02:38 AM · I would love just once to perform in Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony no.8 (Sinfonia Antarctica).

April 19, 2007 at 05:35 AM · My list is:

Meditation from Thais (probably the only realistic goal on my list :P )

Bach Unaccompanied Sonata in C, Partita in d

Paganini Caprice #9

Saint-Saens Havanaise

Ravel Gmaj Sonata

Faure Sonata

Bartok Sonata for solo violin

Hey, it's fun to dream, right? :)

April 19, 2007 at 10:29 AM · I'd like to play these before I die:

- Sonata No. 1, Partita No. 2 and 3 (Bach)

- Kreutzer and 1 other Sonata (Beethoven)

- 1 or 2 Sonata (Mozart)

- A few of Spanish Dances, Carmen Fantasy, Zigeunerweisen (Sarasate)

- Intro & Rondo Capriccioso (Saint-Saen)

- Lark Ascending (Vaughan Williams)

- Summer and Winter concertos (Vivaldi)

- a few of the Suites for cello (Bach)

Others that I'd like to play but wouldn't rollover my grave if I didn't:

- Paganini

- Wieniawski

- Brahms

- Bruch

- Ysaye

- Le Grand Tango (Piazzolla)

- Cello concerto in E minor (Elgar)

Music I'd like to play after I die, reborn with a lot more musical potential would be those big concertos by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Sibelius etc.

note: The list above is not exhaustive, and may be changed from time to time

April 19, 2007 at 06:20 PM · Bartók Solo Violin Sonata...!

April 19, 2007 at 06:42 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

To: Ms. Maeve O'Hara


Best regards, S:CR


April 19, 2007 at 07:08 PM · Josh--I second the comment about Paganini burning in hell. He probably is in heaven though, just laughing at all of us!

July 15, 2007 at 09:46 AM · the entire Tchaikovsky violin concerto in D

July 15, 2007 at 11:30 AM · I am going to learn a Stamitz viola concerto in D, but not the famous one that everyone knows. Instead, it is No. 4 by Anton, not Karl, one that I played the first violin tutti part to, in an orchestra accompanying a violist who'd won a concerto competition when I was a student in Germany many years ago.

I didn't know it at the time, but it stayed with me for 20 years, and is the piece that piqued my interest in playing the viola, and I haven't been able to find a recording of it. Shar did, however, have the sheet music for something that sounded correct and after looking around extensively on the internet (and posting here), I took a chance and bought it, sight unseen, last fall. It is the right piece, the one that I remember, but it is also too hard for me at my current level of viola skill.

The bigger issue to me though is that like most concertos of that vintage, it really benefits from orchestral accompaniment. What I would really love to do before I die is to play it (or any concerto, for that matter) with an orchestra. I've never had that opportunity.

July 15, 2007 at 03:30 PM · C'mon Yixi, chime in there. It should be you first since you asked the question. As for me, I'm ascending to the cosmic metronome rather dying with the music that touches me, and only my bones will be left behind.

I'm too green to have distinct opinions on this, but probably standard things that I can achieve.

July 15, 2007 at 04:19 PM · Albert, I’m here to learn from others. My list is still developing. Some day it’s very long, including all the major concertos and Bach sonatas and partitas, as well Ysaye’s sonatas. I’ll learn so much from each piece and the experience will be amazing, IF, I’ll be living long and healthy enough to do them all. Recently, I experienced a hurtful loss of a friend due to sudden death which reminds me life is all too fragile and how much I should appreciate what I’ve already achieved. The title of the thread implies that it’ll be somewhat a shame if one hasn’t played something before one dies and now I feel this is problematic. That’s said, I want to be able to play all 6 Bach S & P beautifully in this life. That’ll be quite nice.

Recently, I heard Bach's Toccata and Fugue in a minor reconstructed and played by Andrew Manze. Now this piece is on my wish list as well.

July 15, 2007 at 04:48 PM · That seems reasonable. I too lost another friend to Oxycotin yesterday--suicide. I hope you do play your sonatas.

July 15, 2007 at 04:23 PM · I'm so sorry to hear this. I don't have anything intelligent to say...

July 15, 2007 at 05:24 PM · Oh I'm sure.. Thank you.

July 15, 2007 at 05:29 PM · I'll get in line and list the Bach "Chaccone", the Kreutzer Sonata, the Beethoven Violin Concerto along with the string quartets. Brahms violin concerto and his Sonata in G major are up there on my list as well. Could go on...We are a privileged lot to have so many great works to choose from!

July 15, 2007 at 07:01 PM · Albert and Yixi - so sorry to hear about your losses.

Its so hard to choose only a few pieces for this kind of list, but here are a few that come to mind

- Part: Spiegel im Spiegel

- Vaughan Williams: Lark Ascending

- Brahms, Beethoven, and Barber violin concerti

- Mahler: Symphony 9

- Brahms: G Major Violin Sonata

- Beethoven: Symphony 9

- Meyer: Bass Quintet

- Grieg: The Last Spring

- All Solo Bach

July 15, 2007 at 06:31 PM · Chaccone would be on my sheesh-gad list as well. I think it will be beyond my reasonable abilities though, at this moment--and perhaps in the future.

Thinking about Chaccone, I thought about the kids rock'n'Double'Bachn shared over in the blogs by Caeli I think. Being a later-starter, I think, no I'm sure, it will be things I can really play well rather than the Haiku of perpetual challenge? ..

First Suzuki series with supplements, then we'll see. I'm pretty easy--if it's resonant, has good overall shape, I'm actually pretty satisfied. I was doing my relax-it festival warming up a little while ago playing a little folkish medley I'm putting together, and well, as I said. This is not to say somehow, that I'm limiting myself either, though I am realistic.

I think, as a generalist, with generalist but pretty developed sensibilities, actually I'm glad, that music is not those things we convince ourselves with using sophistication, that simply inspires us that should lead the way. The music should lead the musician as well? I've been lost in a Picasso, but find much more lucidity in the universal spirit of lullaby.

General structured direction yes, but then the realistic cliche value extracted from the existential moment? Well, I know what I'm talking about. And again as a generalist, I have this luxury.

Thank you Ruth.

July 15, 2007 at 06:38 PM · The Brahms concerto seems to be on everyone's list. It was on mine, some thirty years ago, and I did play it. Like any love affair, mine with that piece had its terrible moments as well as its ecstatic ones. If it has brought me anything, it is more appreciation for violinists who play the concerto really beautifully.

Now my sights are set on Glazunov; that will be a long term project too! It's better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

And I love playing Bach.

Thank you, Yixi, for starting this thread.


July 15, 2007 at 06:40 PM · "It's better to travel hopefully than to arrive."

That is the whole point of doing anything: the arrival is necessary for the traveling to be hopeful, but the end is just the means.

July 15, 2007 at 07:00 PM · I'll have to be sure to hear the Brahms Concerto.

July 15, 2007 at 09:50 PM · Someone is playing Brahms concerto at the Vermont Mozart festival. See Darcy's log.

July 15, 2007 at 07:42 PM · These non-solo pieces are high only my list to play:

Bach: Double Concerto in d mionr

Beethoven: Archduke Piano Trio

Beethoven: Triple Concerto for violin, Cello and Piano in C

Brahms: Double Concerto in a minor

Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante

Schubert: “Death and the Maiden” String Quartet No.14

July 15, 2007 at 08:47 PM · Well, this is interesting. I'm having the exact OPPOSITE frame of mind lately, actually. I print out folders and folders of music that I think I will be thrilled and excited to learn. Some of them I actually get far enough along in the learning process to be digging through the grit and grime that I've slopped all over the small details and nuances of each phrase and note (or more likely, chord)....and then I totally loose interest in it. The time between being interested and loosing interest has been growing increasinglyl shorter.

This is on the viola. On the violin, I could just play and play and play. I have been working on the ciacona (is there a proper spelling for that, by the way, I've seen it a ton of different ways) and am now just barely to the hymn-like section where it switches to Major. And I am feeling good the whole time I'm working on it, even if it is frustrating me. I don't stop until my left hand starts to bother me (injury last year on a tendon sheath between third and fourth finger, so now very very careful when that part of my hand starts to feel crampy).

I'm also quite excited about the Shostakovich concerto no.1. I've played the burlesque in recital and the first mvt. of his 2nd concerto for auditions, but never the pseudo-cadenza 3rd mvt. of the 1st con. by Shosty.

So...another thing is that concertos are really dreams anyway, aren't they? Unless one is a concertizing soloist playing with orchestras touring? I know myself and my playing and for most of the warhorses, I suck. No matter how long I work on them. They don't seem relevant to me except as audition material. What I really dig my heart into are sonatas and unaccompanied works.

If anyone has a list of viola-wonder-pieces that feel good to play, are rewarding, and have a good chance of becoming one of those pieces you feel you can own in you....please let me know. I've gone through these ones so far without much luck:

the Reger Sonatas op.131 1,2,and3. Lovely to listen to....not fun to play...not just because they are hard, but because there's not really any place to have those musical moments as a player...hm.

Hoffmeister...not for me.

Stamitz....I hate the opening.

Walton....pretty cool piece, but makes little sense without accompaniment...

the Bach Cm is the one I play just for fun and enjoy eveyr minute of it...but it isn't considered "hard" enough...(I despise that kind of piece-grading).

The cello suites are one of the reasons I wanted to learn viola. I tried learning cello but I wasn't suited for it, as a violinist...but you can't just play Bach suites all the time.

The MEndelssohn sonata looks like something that would be one of these great play-before-you-die pieces. My copy is illegeble, though. The Brahms Sonata has it's moments and then it has a lot of time between those moments where you're just holding on and hoping another one arrives before you give up...

Today, though....Wow. I listened to the Shostakovich Viola Sonata op.147. I downloaded it and am going to take a try at it today. Makes today worth being happy about.

YEa. So...I could make a three page list of violin pieces, but as for viola literature...um...

does anyone but violists even know about the repetoire? I think it is a secret...hidden but there...somewhere.....

Yours verbose-ily,

Jennifer :)

July 15, 2007 at 09:33 PM · Jennifer, what about Martinu’s Rhapsody concerto for viola?

I know what you mean by playing concerti but not being a concertizing soloist. But there are tons of stuff we learn from all the major concerti, whether we ever perform them or not, no? Having a concretizing soloist as one’s teacher really helps in this learning process, I think.

I’m all too familiar with the feeling of losing interest after going through all the small details. The on-going learning has to be there and has to be interesting. Usually I can teach myself a piece to the point of playing in tune and in tempo by memory, but then my teacher will help me to polish and fine tune it. To me that’s where the most exciting learning starts. I don’t get to the point of losing interest these days thanks to my new teacher, from whom I’ve got so much to learn in each lesson and her performance.

July 16, 2007 at 02:18 AM · Yixi said:

"Having a concretizing soloist as one’s teacher"

Well, I have a stone mason helping with this aspect, the concrete and all, and yes we mix alot. But, it's usually the heat that drives you under.

July 15, 2007 at 10:43 PM · I'm highlander: you have to cut away my head to kill me so for the moment I don't care this thread.

July 16, 2007 at 12:55 AM · Jennifer,

Have you heard of or tried the Benda Grave on viola?


I just found this on youtube recently when I was looking for "Coming Back to Sorrento" (something a passerby requested of me while busking, and I'd never heard of it), and I was blown away. I definitely want to learn it on viola.

I'm not that crazy about the famous Karl Stamitz concerto either, but the Anton Stamitz viola concerto #4 in D has a wonderful opening. Anton Stamitz is no Haydn, but the beginning of this piece is Hadyn-esque-ly free and joyful. It just makes me happy to think about it.

And another one that I'm psyched about learning on viola is Rebecca Clarke's Passacaglia on an Old English Tune. Clarke wrote other meaty viola pieces, but I'm kind of naiive still, violaly speaking, and I think this Passacaglia is the most accessible, so if I had to pick just one from her and really learn it to own it, that would be it.

It's funny, I've been trying to play the violin again for the past few days and I feel just the opposite: I'm losing interest and I'm so much more psyched to play the viola that I may just go back to it.

July 16, 2007 at 02:49 AM · I only want to play the Brahms concerto third movement!!!

July 17, 2007 at 02:23 AM · Thanks Yixi and Karen! I'll look those up tonight. I'm so tempted to play Bach's ciaconna arr. for viola, but since I'm learning that on the violin right now, I think it would ultimately make both renditions a bit....hm...hazy? Nope. MESSY!!!



July 17, 2007 at 02:33 AM · Jennifer, I heard you playing Franck sonata and it was beautiful! I can’t want to hear your Bach Ciaconna.

I’m not a weepy person but Nobuko Imai’s Martinu Rhapsody brings tear to my eyes. After I heard that piece, I really wish I could play viola. Alas, I’m 5’2 and a viola is just not made for my size.

July 17, 2007 at 09:49 AM · Let me scratch my lower part!!!

It's an habit in Bari when someone talk about death

July 17, 2007 at 06:27 PM · I second Geoff's Klavierstucke Op. 118. Unfortunately my piano skills don't extend that far but it is SOOOO awesome.

I would like to play the Bartok solo sonata, as well as Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 and Bartok Concerto No. 2. The Sibelius is on my list as well, which I'm currently working on, but I'm NEVER going to be able to play it the way I would like to.

August 9, 2007 at 12:12 AM · I'd love to learn the John Adams Violin Concerto someday!

August 12, 2007 at 06:34 AM · I agree with all of you who say the Ysaye sonatas! I guess number three is played a lot, but I personally love number 5. The end of the first movement makes me wanna die, be born, and have sex all at once...

There are so many pieces I wanna play! Like Shostakovich quartets, Bartok quartets, little pieces by Schubert and such... especially the Elgar concerto (last movement is so great!) I think the best thing about being a musician is that you're always discovering and falling in love with new pieces. It's a little something that can make you happy, no matter what =)

August 12, 2007 at 04:49 PM · I recently heard Daniel Hope's Britten VC. Oh boy, that will be such a cool piece to play!

August 13, 2007 at 07:11 AM · I have seen this thread many times, and I hesitate to even think about what I would like to do before I die. It's almost as if it feels like as soon as I think it, I will curse myself to die unachieved of my goal. Of all my goals, I never think of death as the deadline. I have no idea when I'm gonna get tagged out, anyway. I'm sneaking along, dodging dirty looks from Death while hording up the minutes in a clumsy armload.

August 13, 2007 at 02:32 PM · Emily, a Chinese Taoist said that we are moving towards death as soon as we are born. The unknown due day for me is a means to an end.

August 13, 2007 at 03:49 PM · Bela Bartok's last words (according to some sources): "The problem is I have to leave with my suitcase full..."

August 13, 2007 at 04:25 PM · You're not really living unless you're dying.

August 13, 2007 at 04:56 PM · Muss es sein?

August 13, 2007 at 10:09 PM · Ja...

August 13, 2007 at 10:58 PM · Es muss sein!

But apparently that was a joke about payment owed for parts: "Es muss sein! Ja ja ja ja! Heraus mit dem Beutel!" (a canon he wrote around the time: 'It must be! Yes yes yes yes! Get out your wallet!')

August 13, 2007 at 11:11 PM · Yeah, I know. Talk about disillusioning...

August 13, 2007 at 11:56 PM · Disillusioning about what? And what's your excuse for not being disillusioned about it already?

August 14, 2007 at 01:13 AM · Disillusioning that what sounded like a deep profound expression of existential torment was actually an in-joke about a tightwad music publisher, and my excuse for not already being disillusioned is simply that I am a dumb, naive, idealistic daydreamer with my head permanently in the clouds and a pair of rose-colored glasses implanted into my face.

August 14, 2007 at 01:19 AM · By the time you're 40 you'll be smart, perceptive, pragmagic, feet on the ground, and possibily have torn your own eyes from their sockets. Then comes the second childhood.

August 14, 2007 at 03:06 AM · Good on you Maura! Disillusion is often a sign of lack of imagination, just as a conclusion is a sign that one is tired of thinking. I'm guilty of both.

Emily, I'd rather say you start to really live once you've accepted the fact that you know you are dying.

From the age of fifteen on, I have been intent upon learning; from thirty on, I have established myself; from forty on, I have not been confused; from fifty on, I have known the mandate of Heaven; from sixty on, my ear has been attuned; from seventy on, I have followed my heart's desire without transgressing what is right.

-- Confucius’ Analects

I wasn't aware of your confusion,Jim:)

August 14, 2007 at 03:13 AM · Well, I'm just 39, as you might have guessed.

August 14, 2007 at 03:30 AM · I'm living to a hundred and twenty--that's a lot of music. I'll have to let you know Yixi, if you are still around.

By then, I should be able to afford a modest yet nice Italian violin.

August 14, 2007 at 03:49 AM · Let me know anyway, whether I'm around or not.

No, Jim, I don't guess people's age. Who cares as long as you don't let the kid inside ever grow up.

August 14, 2007 at 08:50 AM · Yixi, you translated me perfectly!

August 14, 2007 at 10:53 AM · Mara, I felt just the same way when I discovered that story. My Romantic ideals of Beethoven - gone! But that contrast between profound and profane (with a healthy dose of mundanity thrown in) is proving to be much more fun, don't you think?

August 14, 2007 at 01:13 PM · The kid inside you growing up... That's so trite!

August 14, 2007 at 02:27 PM · Jim, take two chill pills and call us in the morning.

Megan, I do agree...I always love a good profound/profane juxtaposition. :)

August 14, 2007 at 03:06 PM · Jim, I expect to grow into my role as certified cynic/wisecracker by about age 39, but I'm sure you know we all have to have those difficult trite phases at some point! ;)

August 14, 2007 at 03:24 PM · Now I feel like a bull at a tea party in a china shop.

I should just bust a hole through the wall and leave.

August 14, 2007 at 09:09 PM · No! Jim, don't go! Bulls aren't nearly as quick on their feet, or as funny...

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