Strings only, please.

January 23, 2008 at 07:33 AM · I'm in an orchestra at school and we never collaborate with the band kids because my orchestra teacher... well... we'll leave it at that. ;) Anyway, I love the St. Paul's Suite (Holst), Elgar's Serenade for String Orchestra, and the Holberg Suite (Grieg), but who plays them? I really want to see them performed by a professional orchestra, but how? These works are so charming and I would hate for them to be overlooked (even if they are "lighter").

Also, what are some other good pieces for just strings?

Replies (24)

January 23, 2008 at 07:55 AM · Strauss Metamorphosen for 23 strings.

There's a youtube recording of kids playing it at Aspen, it's pretty good.

January 23, 2008 at 09:20 AM · Though not as famous as the Tchaikovsky and Dvorak serenades, Leos Janacek's Serenade is one of my absolute favorites, and there's a thrilling recording by the LA Chamber Orchestra. I also really like the string orchestra version of Arnold Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht.

January 23, 2008 at 10:50 AM · Mendelssohn - String Symphonies (especially) no.10-12

Mozart - Adagio & Fugue in C minor

Bartok - Romanian Folk dances

Schubert/Mahler - Death & The Maiden

Elgar - Introduction & Allegro

RVW - Tallis Fantasy (maybe too big in scale)

Britten - Franck Bridge Variations

Britten - Prelude & Fugue for 18 Strings

Britten - Young Apollo (technically very demanding, plus you need a pianist)

Mahler - Adagietto (a pianist can do the harp part)

Finzi - Romance for String Orchestra

Finzi - Prelude for String Orchestra

Pieces above, like the Britten, Finzi, aren't always played and I personally think they should be heard more often. There is also the Ysaye Exil! for Strings without bass, but you may need to write out the parts yourself, where only the miniature score is available at the moment.

January 23, 2008 at 01:07 PM · There is a beautiful little piece by Josef Suk, "Meditation on an Old Bohemian Chorale", that can be played by either string quartet or string orchestra.

January 23, 2008 at 01:15 PM · Here's another Serenade for Strings for string orchestra - score and parts freely downloadable on that page.

January 23, 2008 at 06:54 PM · Ernst Bloch Concerti Grossi (one with piano, one without)

January 23, 2008 at 07:03 PM · Baroque!

January 23, 2008 at 07:56 PM · Besides some of the above, our HS orchestra strings played:

Bach - Double Concerto

Barber - Adagio for Strings

Suk - Serenade

Hindemith - Kammermusik (I *think* it didn't have winds, most of the time we played normal orchestral rep)

Lot of Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel

January 24, 2008 at 04:05 AM · Too bad you're not in Boston - you could see A Far Cry perform the Holberg Suite next week! Along with Golijov "Last Round", Shostakovich 1st Piano Concerto, and Beethoven Grosse Fugue.

A Far Cry is an unconducted string orchestra - we have a bunch of videos on youtube - just search "afarcry" ... perhaps, if next week's video turns out, we'll be adding some Grieg to our youtube lineup!

[shameless plug: cheap tickets are available at!]

January 24, 2008 at 08:16 PM · Yes-I'm surprised that noone had said the Holberg yet!

January 24, 2008 at 08:20 PM · How about Britten's Simple Symphony and the Holst St. Paul Suite? Also at least one of the Resphigi Ancient Airs and Dance Suites is for strings.

January 25, 2008 at 06:10 AM · I can't believe you all left out my favorite favorite strings piece!!! "The Last Spring" by Grieg. His "I Love You" is gorgeous as well. This CD looks promising:

Here's a few more that come to mind:

Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances

Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Gorecki: Olden Style Pieces

Tckaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

O'Connor: Appalachia Waltz

January 25, 2008 at 06:23 AM · There's also Tchaikovsky's String Serenade, Divertimenti by Mozart, Serenade by Dvorak...well that depends if the kids can handle a program consisting of thet...

January 25, 2008 at 03:48 PM · I can recommend "3 Visages" by Christopher Culpo, who is a composer and pianist originally from the USA living now in Paris (see In three varied movements. I performed this work in June 2007 with Orchestre 2021.

January 25, 2008 at 08:19 PM · John Adams--Shaker Loops

David Diamond--Rounds for Strings

These aren't pieces for a young string orchestra (in most cases), but they are good string orchestra pieces.

January 26, 2008 at 02:21 PM · I don't know the age/advancement of the students in your orchestra, but before you blame your teacher too much, you should know that there are valid reasons in many situations for running a string orchestra, besides the obvious issues of school schedules. A few examples: 1)If strings start younger or a larger percentage study privately, the difference in advancement can make finding doable pieces problematic. 2)Young groups aren't studying in the same keys for elem./MS/JH. Strings use sharps, winds use flats. Learning wind-friendly keys is a challenge on strings because the finger patterns fit the natural shape of the hand less well, string-friendly keys require complicated fingerings for winds. And both groups experience some resonance impairment. 3)If your school is big into marching band/field band, the band teachers may be promoting the instruments that comprise those groups. There is always a gap of weeks/months before wind tone & volume for the stage can be restored after a marching season. 4)While string players have the strength & support of numbers in a full orch., wind players are all essentially soloists. This is new, challenging and can be intimidating for pretty much all band members, except perhaps double reeds. Not that I don't like & support the idea of full orchestra for young players. There are many composers & arrangers putting out works that are more friendly to young groups. In some places, directors start an FO up by offering it for a short, specific "down time" in the school and concert schedule, evenings maybe?, recruit volunteers, teachers, community people, etc. FO should not be a string-person venture, either. Team-teaching, alternating as conductor with the band teacher makes great sense. Sue

January 26, 2008 at 04:23 PM · Oh, I don't mind playing in a string orchestra at all! I love it. I was just wondering which professional orchestras (if any) are predominantly string orchestras.

January 26, 2008 at 05:50 PM · Sue's post is interesting and useful. I hadn't thought of that flats/sharps thing. Certainly my string-playing children play flats as often as sharps so this may vary. Perhaps the bigger problem is that winds don't play what they read, or, a bflat trumpet plays bflat when he reads C and so parts have to either be transcribed, or the players have to know how to sight translate (doubtful in JHS!). In my own experience in JHS and HS, we had "orchestra" and "band" as separate entities, but most orchestra practices were strings only (if my memory is correct). We had full orchestra practices too, but the wind players in the full orchestra were only a small (high quality) sampling of the full band. Also the percussionists were from the band.

January 27, 2008 at 12:36 AM · Nobody's mentioned Bartok's Divertimento! That's some of the best fun I've had playing.

January 27, 2008 at 05:38 PM · "Crisantemi" (Chrysanthemums) by Puccini. Beautiful, and doesn't sound too difficult.

The only thing I could find on YouTube is a string quartet performance:

January 27, 2008 at 06:03 PM · For fun there is also the Peter Heinrich Happy Birthday Variations.

May 22, 2012 at 07:52 PM · In the last couple of days I've put a couple of movements of my Serenade for Strings on youtube with score to follow along:

May 23, 2012 at 12:19 AM · Corelli "Christmas" Concerto.

March 3, 2014 at 06:39 PM · Here's a work for string orchestra that I arranged last year, performed by "La Follia" (Alsace Chamber Orchestra): Bed-Time Fairy Tale by Arnold Trowell (1887-1966).

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