Ten-minute piece by living American composer

May 3, 2007 at 06:46 AM · I wanted to play a piece by Lera Auerbach, but it is taking FOREVER to get here (she is published by Sikorski in Germany), and I'm worried I won't get it in time.

So, I need a ten-minute piece by a living American composer. If it helps, my other rep is the Prokofiev 2nd concerto, the Debussy Sonata, Mozart K. 306, and the Grieg C minor Sonata. I guess I would hope for something either unaccompanied or where the piano part isn't too crazy for a read through or two with a staff accompanist.

Thanks in advance.


Replies (33)

May 3, 2007 at 06:56 AM · Which competition, Maia? If the piece needn't be overly avant-garde, I strongly suggest something by Philip Lasser. His works are cutting edge in the sense that they're neo-romantic rather than experimental. You know, using horribly outdated and overvalued elements like melody and harmony rather than trying to find "interesting" sound effects on the instrument and requiring five pages of introductory notes on the New Notation employed. He's got a violin-piano piece called "Berceuse Fantasque" where the piano part isn't too difficult, although it might still be inadvisable to have a staff pianist sight read it AT the competition.

But a word of warning. I played it for a president of a major European competition at a preparatory lesson before "his" contest. He advised me not to play the work in competition because "we need something modern." I pointed out that the work was written in the late 1990s, to which he replied "Yes, but it sounds beautiful." In other words, it sounding beautiful was a strike AGAINST the work for competition consideration.

Curious, no?

May 3, 2007 at 07:41 AM · The Red Violin caprices are fun. I'm not sure if that satisfies the requirement, since they aren't overtly in a modern style.

May 3, 2007 at 09:21 AM · I ordered yesterday her Lonely Suite for Violin solo (Ballet for a lonely violinist) at Sikorski, the sheets should arrive tomorrow. Would fit perfectly for you with 9 minutes. If you want to take a look in it, please leave a mail-address here or write me a mail to MischaJan at gmx.de (one of my spam-accounts). Unfortunately often the private message feature here doesn't work. :/

May 3, 2007 at 01:17 PM · One of the Carter Lauds? Last I heard, he was still alive, though into his nineties. Although they might be too short, now I come to think of it.

May 3, 2007 at 01:30 PM · I see the possibility of a technicality looming...

May 3, 2007 at 01:53 PM · Mark O'Connor wrote a series of unaccompanied violin caprices that might fit the bill.

May 3, 2007 at 03:01 PM · How about a few of Earl Kim's caprices? They were written in 1980 for Perlman.

Emil, are you serious? Is it really that bad at competitions?

May 3, 2007 at 03:32 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

"Is it really that bad at competitions?"

Mr. Wright: Things were not as yet that Machiavellian (nor that obvious) when Mr. Skowronski participated in the IV Int'l Tchaikovsky Competition, but try this on for size: A wealthy father of a certain pianist matriculated in the competition shipped a Steinway Grand over to Moscow for his daughter to "feel more comfortable with" during her anticipated ordeal with the competition trials. Ole Dad was rumored to have intimated that, if his daughter perhaps progressed to a certain level of 'contest accomplishments,' he might consider leaving the piano in Moscow after the conclusion of the contest as sort of a 'parting gift' to the conservatory. (Too much of a hassle to ship it back!) Luckily(??), the young lady was apparently not quite up to the challenges of the repertoire and was, summarily, sent packing. This, of course, greatly relieved the Chairman of the Piano Jury, Mr. Emil Gilels.

To quote Mr. Ripley, "Believe it............or not."

Best regards,

Skowronski: Classical Recordings

May 3, 2007 at 05:17 PM · Mischa,

That's EXACTLY the piece I wanted to play at the competition. I ordered it online and it said it could take 6 weeks to be delivered. Where did you get it?? I think you asked me to email you... if so, I will.

Emil, that is a pretty good (albeit sad) story. I was already concerned that my program was "too lyrical" in the recital portion, but hey -- *I* don't have a problem with that. :) (Actually, that's partly why I chose the Prokofiev as my concerto.) By the way, the competition is the NFMC, which I gather from their website you won a while ago! :)

Thanks for your responses, everyone. Haven't heard of many of those pieces before and I'm definitely interested in checking them out.



May 3, 2007 at 06:02 PM · Hi Maia,

my girl friend wanted that piece (in fact, female composers seem to become her spleen of the year!), so I phoned with Sikorski yesterday, since their enigmatic web site says, this piece is to be rent, but not how it can be rent. However, the man of the sales division said, it can be bought. It's a bit puzzling, I checked my order and their confirmation twice: seems to be ok.

It should had been arrived today, I really hope, it will work fine, as soon as they arrive I'll scan them at our local scan shop.

May 3, 2007 at 10:58 PM · Maia, for the NFMC I would definitely stay closer to the more lyrical contemporary piece. So Lasser's Berceuse is ideal. I can ask him whether he'd have a problem with my photocopying it, if you wish. Say the word. And good luck! Also, consider the Bloch Suite No. 1 for the contest. I played it at the Paganini competition in 2002 and it seemed to go over well. You can even hear the clip from one of my summer blogs for 2006 and decide whether the character of the piece - and the difficulty - is something in which you might be interested.

Dion, I'm not sure that my story is necessarily indicative of a competition mentality. I think that the president's thinking was roughly "people who do well at competitions will have to play incomprehensible dreck at some point in their careers, so we want to see how well they can rise to that challenge." But it IS curious that the ability to make sense of nonsense is seen as an essential skill rather than the ability to find beautiful contemporary music. Something that will NOT scare roaches, for a change.

(edit: just re-read the original question and thread title and saw that I'm an idiot. Bloch took American citizenship but he is only living in the sense that "genius is deathless", in the words of Bulgakov. So, no Bloch, I guess.)

May 4, 2007 at 01:24 AM · Emil,

In light of your previous post: do you think the Prokofiev 2nd is too "crunchy" for the competition? I could play the Barber. The competition is June 25th... and seeing as I won't really get to preparing for it intensely until the last week of May (big orchestra audition on the 21st), I don't think I'd have enough time to blow adequate layers of dust off the Tchaikovsky. :)

Now I'm curious about Lasser. Any Mp3s to be found? If not, I would love to take a peek at the music, if that would be ok.



May 4, 2007 at 04:57 AM · Maia:

I kind of like Harbison's "Songs of Solitude." There are four of them. The total piece is over 10 mintues, but you could play 2-3 of them and meet the time requirements. Then again, they may not want that.

There are some recordings out if you want to hear the piece.The music is readily available.


May 4, 2007 at 06:17 AM · Check out Sad and Ancient Phrases by Dan Coleman - his website is www.dancoleman.com

It is a touch over 10 minutes, but is a great piece. Dan is a wonderful composer and person and a joy to work with.

Good luck!

May 4, 2007 at 06:54 AM · Isn't Glass american?

May 4, 2007 at 07:45 AM · Yes! And, oh-my-golly, I LUV his Violin Concerto (among other works!)!!

May 4, 2007 at 08:42 AM · Maia, my friend, if you want to win this little contest play Four Rags, by John Novacek. It's some of the most captivating American violin and piano that I know of, and it's exactly 10 minutes long, and show-stopping stuff. You can hear it live in the studio at this link. Scroll down about half way. It starts about 25 minutes into the program, but you can fast forward.


May 4, 2007 at 04:27 PM · Thanks for the link, Jim! Just ordered her CD, really wonderful pieces, a real must!

May 4, 2007 at 09:33 PM · That *is* a cool piece, Jim...

... and thanks Mischa for being the nicest person ever and passing the Auerbach along!

I will definitely look into many other of your suggestions.

Thanks again.


May 5, 2007 at 12:30 AM · You could consider the first movement of the Meyer Concerto that Hilary Hahn plays which I believe is around 10 minutes. I LOVE that concerto!!

May 5, 2007 at 03:08 AM · is the sheet music for the meyer out yet?

i thought it wouldn't be out for another year or two

May 6, 2007 at 04:50 PM · George Rochberg Caprice Variations is a solo piece with 50 variations on Paganini 24th Caprice. You can pick and choose which of the 50 variations you wish to play to put together your own piece of any length. Styles of the variations range from avante garde to classical period.

May 6, 2007 at 04:56 PM · Maia, I talked to Philip Lasser yesterday and he promised to send me an MP3 of the Berceuse. Have you already submitted your program to the NFMC? If not, what's the time frame we're dealing with? (i.e. should I be bugging Lasser frequently or do we have some time to play with?)

A fellow Yalie doing the same competitions? Wow! I suddenly feel so...mainstream.

May 7, 2007 at 03:26 AM · Vincent, your story makes the situation seem even worse! *smh*

Now i'm REALLY glad i'm not a professional violinist. Oy vey!

May 7, 2007 at 07:32 AM · Could Barber work at a competition? It doesn't really show enough from a violinistic point of view if other people are playing the standard concertos. Maybe I'm wrong... but I haven't ever heard someone using Barber for a competition.

May 7, 2007 at 07:45 AM · Pieter, problem 1 is that you'd need to rent the parts. Which, for a competition is usually a good enough reason (extra expenditure) to avoid the piece. Last time I checked, the full parts rented for $600 and this, for some Eastern European competition, can actually represent serious money.

Problem 2 is rehearsal time. The competition orchestras have two or three concerti they just KNOW someone will end up playing. Sibelius is a good bet. So's Shostakovich, these days. So's Tchaikovsky, usually. Beethoven is more rare. But even Beethoven is easy for an orchestra to recall. However, just make it into the finals of a competition playing the Elmer Fudd Concerto for Kazoo and Violin and see the looks of vitriolic hatred from the ranks of musicians whose rehearsals you've just turned into a living hell. Not to mention the fact that you'll have a single rehearsal, maybe two if you're amazingly lucky, to put the concerto together for a final round where you're going after gold.

Now, in such a case, would you want to play a fascinating piece which might break down in a horrible train wreck at any moment? Would you want to stand there and sweat that the conductor, or the overworked orchestral players, will stumble and trip? Would you want to know that behind you there is anything less than absolute stability? Or would you rather play a concerto the orchestra is probably bored with (I assure you, Fudd's masterpiece will also interest them not at all) but for which you know that you've got rock-solid cliff-face behind you and that you needn't spend a moment's thought on how to catch the conductor or the orchestra no matter what happens?

May 7, 2007 at 05:50 PM · Emil, that's what I guessed. However, I think when you're dealing with the larger competitions like Indy or Montreal, whehre there are great orchestras, their rep is a bit bigger. I mentioned Barber because Maia contemplated doing it instead of Prokofiev. I have played Prokofiev g-, and I don't think I'd try to do that in competition... putting it together with orchestra probably isn't easy and given the circumstances you just outlined, I'd never want to do that with this piece.

May 7, 2007 at 06:35 PM · Between Prok 1 and 2, on one rehearsal with an unknown quantity for a conductor? Definitely 1. Although I prefer 2 as a concerto, I'd hate to have any worries about the last two pages of the last movement.

May 8, 2007 at 05:03 PM · Hi guys!

Interesting discussion.

Obviously, there's no question that the Barber doesn't show as much violinistically as the Prokofiev 2nd. I asked about it because I wondered (based on one of Emil's previous posts) if the Prokofiev would be too "inaccessible" at this particular competition (not to mention the fact that between working my job and preparing the recital program, I won't have time to blow fifteen layers of dust off something like the Sibelius).

A certain experience I had also made me want to ask... I'll never forget when I was at a competition which shall remain nameless (a decent one not on the scale of Indy/Montreal, but then again, neither is the NFMC) and it was down to 2 players -- one played the Stravinsky fantastically, and the other played a less challenging but more crowd-pleasing, "lyrical" concerto so-so. At the end of the final round, all the semi-finalists went up to the person who played the Stravinsky, saying "wow -- fantastic -- you have nothing to worry about." There was really no contest: natural, perfectly controlled and executed, interestingly interpreted Stravinsky vs. often scratchy, out of tune, moving-around-affectedly, always-the-same-wobblyish-vibrato standard concerto. Well, the person who played the more crowd-pleasing piece won (and yes, they went to equally prestigious schools with equally well-known teachers). We could only guess that it was because the judges went with the audience, who lept to their feet after the mediocre performance of the easier and more approachable concerto.

Emil, I thought the NFMC was accompaniend by piano in the final round -- am I mistaken? (And did you get my private message?)

Have a great day (it's officially summer in CA!!),


May 8, 2007 at 05:44 PM · Maia, I didn't get your private message. Feel free to send me one directly at SqWoland@aol.com.

As for the pros and cons of the Barber vs. the Prokofiev, I didn't know whether the NFMC had changed their format since I was there in 1993. But for when you ARE playing with an orchestra in a final round of a competition, I do stand by my rationale regarding the Barber or, for that matter, any even marginally non-standard concerto. Of course, since you're playing with a staff pianist, the same reasoning might apply to the Barber (i.e. that the pianist might not have played it as opposed to the Prokofiev). But for the record, I definitely don't hear the Prokofiev as too "crunchy", or in any way inaccessible a work. Very tonal, lyrical, showy and rhythmically engaging. What more can even a non-professional listener, let alone a professional jury member, ask for?

May 8, 2007 at 07:32 PM · I definitely love the Prokofiev and think it speaks for itself; glad to know you think it is more appropriate than a "fluffier" piece for this competition! :) I'll resend my private message later. Thanks, Emil!

May 8, 2007 at 08:55 PM · For Lera Auerbach's music. You can order it directly at her website www.leraauerbach.com

This would be much faster than contacting the publisher in Germany.

May 8, 2007 at 09:47 PM · Joan Towers Platinum Spirals would work nice and it is seven minutes long....

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