In what order do you play concertos?

December 15, 2008 at 10:58 PM ·

In reading various threads in V-com, it seems that there's quite a variety of order in choosing music.  How do teachers choose what's next?  Or how do you, as students, decide what to learn?  Here's what my son, 14, has learned.  It's clear he hasn't done many of the concertos mentioned.  For instance, he's not learned the Bruch.  However, at a recent recital, he spoke with a boy who performed the Bruch (my son performed the Vitali Chaccone) and this boy said he feels he's not ready for the Chaccone, so there's no clear order of difficulty, it appears.  Here's a list of what my son's done. He was a Suzuki student until a year ago when he switched teachers and he went through all 10 books and then some extras. 

Bach Concerto #1 (book 7)

Sonata in G Minor, Eccles (book 8)

Mozart Concerto #3 in G (between books 8 and 9)

Mozart Concerto in A Major (book 9)

Mozart Concerto in D Major (book 10)

Rondo, Mozart

Praeludium and Allergro, Kreisler

Vitali Chaccone (He began this over a year ago with his Suzuki teacher but stopped when he switched teachers and only recently performed it as he began to study it anew with his new, traditional teacher)

Themes and Variation, Corelli

Scene De Ballet, De Beroit

Mazourka, Zarzycki

What concertos might be next for him based on what he's done?



Replies (22)

December 16, 2008 at 01:38 AM ·


the whole busines sof what cocnerto next can only be treated i generalizatins unless you go back to the soviet era in which pieces were ordianed in a specific order and that was somewhat your lt in life.  Piece selecion is very much in the hand sof the teache rbecause it depends on the needs of the studnets- what specific problems need to be addressed and it might be a very general one like musical development or it might be a singing tone or spiccato or we just don`t know. Nor is there a law that says one has to play all the great cocnertos (often much more badly than peopel think ) in your teens inorder to be a wodnerful violnist. I recently read an interview with a great Isreali violinist (ex leader of the mendelssohn quartet whos name i just forgot) who dodn`t paly the Bruch until she wa sover thirty.

Its possible that your sons development has been a little unbalanced.  The Mozart cocnertos are the most taxing and frustrating cocnertos around in many ways which is why Heifetz repeatedly claimed they were the most dififcult. It is nt just a question of technicla facility (mostly left hand).  They are so elsuive only the best artists cna be really convincing in them.  Playing all thrre biggies at an early age is rather a shame to my mind.  Instead one could have done at least a Haydn,  perhpsa Accolay and so on.   I notice there are no Handel sontas there but these are superb for tehcncial development. At least as valuable as doing a major cocnerto at a mediocre level. Thats why Auer said that any violinist who didn`t paly about three of them was not really equipped.

It is,  as I said at the beginning, idle speculation,  but around this time with that repertore the very fine cocnertos such as Rode 7, Viotti 22,  DE Beriot 9 (and scene de Ballet) and the Vieutemps Ballade and Polnaise as well as Wieniawski Legende. Might even need a biiger leap into Lalo or Wieniawski. But maybe this just show how old I am....

On the otehr hand somethign powerful may have just change din your son and he would benifit form the Brahms cocnerto. It really is only the teacher who can put their finger on this.



December 16, 2008 at 01:41 AM ·

Check out Barbara Barber's "Solos for Young Violinists" series....

December 16, 2008 at 02:13 AM ·

Interesting observations, Buri.  My son, of course, was only following the Suzuki pedagogy.  It sounds as if musicians can revisit pieces as they get older.  As I recall, his teacher talked about the lack of maturity in most young players when playing pieces such as the Mozart concertos and the Chaccone.  It seems my son's teacher is very specific about which pieces he gives to students based on what they need to work on.  The Mazourka, his current piece, has some things that challenge my son and I might venture to say he wouldn't have given my son the Chaccone if he'd not asked for it.  It was really difficult because he'd begun to learn it with one teacher and had to relearn a lot of stuff in it. 

And yeah, I'd say, after moving to a traditional teacher, that the Suzuki repitoire is unbalanced.  I didn't know anything else than what his teacher gave him, and it seemed like overkill to do 3 Mozart Concertos but it's done so now he expands his knowledge.  I agree, it's his teacher's call (and my son's if he feels moved to learn some particular piece).  Just kind of wondered about order and now I know....there is none. :-)

I have seen his teacher give the Barber solo books to other students but he's never given it to my son.  My son has Mazas, Hrimaly, Bach Sonata and Partitias, and Introducing the Positions for his 4 exercise books.

December 16, 2008 at 02:59 AM ·


This is an excellent question and I am curious to see what other teachers besides Burri say, although his observations about the Mozart pieces rings very true. I know many young players are just buried with Baroque concertos. Suzuki really pounds the Vivaldi pieces but it is also very satisfying if they learn the whole concerto instead of the bits Suzuki presents. Our teacher progressed our little guys from Baroque into Romantic Pieces including Accolay. One in particular I really enjoyed listening to was O. O'Reiding's Concerto in the Hungarian Style. I would characterize it as a romanic piece and they really loved it. Your son is much older of course so it might not be challenging for him, but there is much to be said about playing different styles in addition to difficulty. They can be easier, but very satisfying to play for students. This Hungarian style piece for example was so dramatic that it is a complete break with the other stuff, albiet not as difficult as many others. I know our teacher picks them for style and what techniques will expand their ability to play. They work on them for a really long time but are always playing duets, like the Teleman duets for fun to keep things lively along with the different Etude books. I will watch this thread with great interest.

December 16, 2008 at 03:28 AM ·

Hi J,

It is interesting to hear of how different students progress through various pieces.  One advantage my son has had is that he was a part of a strings ensemble as well as a symphony, so he's played a huge variety of music.  He done Bartok's Romanian dances but no Hungarian music.  They did a lot of violin duets such as Mandolin Concerto (arranged for violins, of course) and Bach concertos,  and they other stuff such as fiddle music, some Spanish music, and he's played Beethoven and Mendelsshon, but none as solo music. 

I confess I don't even know musical styles or eras-pretty sad, huh?  I just know I have bag fulls of his old music that I'm finally trying to organize! I think I need to go borrow the Teaching
Company's "Hot to Listen to and Understand Great Music"!

December 16, 2008 at 03:52 AM ·

I would say that the motivation for selecting a piece is what the student needs to work on. I have a huge amout of sheet music. And a lot of the major concerti (Tchaik. Mendelssohn, Bruch, Sibelius etc). I don't play the concerti as a whole because I'm not ready for that. But I pick out certain places that I need to work on the technique. For example, the Mendelssohn was one of the first I ordered. Of course when I first got it, I tried to play it but with no luck. Then this weekend I took it out and started working on sections. The first page is horribly sloppy but selections of the 2,3,4th pages and the cadenza are comming along quite well. I've been trying to learn combined string crossings and ricochet bowing for a few weeks/ maybe a month and last night when I was just messing around with it it finally started to click so then I went ot the Mendelssohn cadenza and I could actually play it and it sounded like it was supposed to and my technique was matched with what I've seen in videos.

So my point is that choosing the right repertoire to help you develop is a major step in my opinion and it's helped me a lot. And for example the 3rd variation of the 24th Paganini Caprice helped me keep things like that in tune.

The way the Suzuki books are organized is what made me hate them! They're not necessarily in order as far as difficulty goes and so I just don't use them anymore and that's why I'm looking for a "traditional" teacher.

Good luck and I hope you figure out something that works for you and your son.

December 16, 2008 at 04:05 AM ·


>My son, of course, was only following the Suzuki pedagogy.  It sounds as if musicians can revisit pieces as they get older.

Mmm. I don`t even know if it should be called revisiting.  If it`s great music once you pick it up you live with it for the rest of your life;)   The problem with doing great works when you are not ready is somewhat similar  perhaps to getting married too soon.....

It so often happens kids pick up either negative attitudes to pieces or lose the motivation to explore them more deeply because of starting them too erly.  I was at a rehearsal the other day with a very good amateur player and I hppened to be trying to improve  acouple of bars of Mozart 4.  He said `Oh wow. Mozart 4.  I played that when I wa sa student.`  In his mind that`s all the Mozart will ever be. (Yur son is certainly of a differnet mettle but you see what I mean?)

It is really importnat to set aside time every week to review repertoire once one has began learnign msuic to live with. Not to practice much but just to keep it under the fingers.  Unless this practice is encouraged by the teacher studnets will often tend towards a feeling of purely linear develpment in which Handel is done at age 10, then Bach and its up hill all the way after that




December 16, 2008 at 04:23 AM ·

>It so often happens kids pick up either negative attitudes to pieces or lose the motivation to explore them more deeply because of starting them too erly.  I was at a rehearsal the other day with a very good amateur player and I hppened to be trying to improve  acouple of bars of Mozart 4.  He said `Oh wow. Mozart 4.  I played that when I wa sa student.`  In his mind that`s all the Mozart will ever be. <

I wonder if there is an age factor to this?  Reason why I ask is based on personal experience.  I definitely started some pieces "too soon" technically, and then played them again later (from a year to decades).  However I never found myself slipping into a non-chalent mode.  The opposite happens instead:  my mind and fingers being already familiar with a piece opened up new musical horizons that I could focus on instead.  Example: playing Eine Kliene was a different experience as an adult than as a child.  As a child it was all I could do to keep up wihthout mangling the piece.  As an adult I overcame many of the technical hurdles and was able to enjoy exploring different bowing techniques, emphasizing the dynamics, and "playing" with others well. 

The same sort of thing when I first started learning Bruch.  First time through was filled with technical challenges.  A year later, focusing more on finer techniques.  Today, I can play it from memory and let the music "speak" more. 

December 16, 2008 at 05:11 AM ·

Funny, my son has just requested to do some recordings with an accompanist of select pieces of the Suzuki repitoire from books 6-8 as well as a fiddle tune, Appalachia Waltz, so it appears he's not tired of any of the music he's played as he knows darn well he's never played anything perfectly or even without mistakes.  His Vitali Chaccone had 4 major intonation misses, his Mozart recording done 1 1/2 years ago had plenty of mistakes but he's a kid that's hard to slow down and plows ahead, much to both his teachers' chagrin.  So, by going back and playing songs afresh, maybe he's self correcting and slowing down his way. 

December 16, 2008 at 05:48 PM ·

As a parent it is difficult to judge your own child's progress because you are so proud of everything they do. Curious. I never think of intonation as something that will "kick in" later on a piece. Do you? I regard the skill of performing as different than the skill of playing which involves much more as there is the whole psychology of getting up in front of a bunch of strangers etc. Mistakes are something that happen to kids, but in my opinion, that can be a performance deficit versus a intonation deficit. So the hard part is to figure out which it is. A performance deficit might be not having the skill/experience to manage yourself in front of an audience, nerves, distractions, self discipline etc. More of a state of mind thing than a intonation issue. A actual deficit seems like it would be more of a the issue of not hearing there is an intonation issue. Slowing down is more of a self discipline issue assuming you have demonstrated you can do it sometimes.

I know a few kids who have pound through those Suzuki books but have a lot of little issues with the intonation, shifting, bowing and sound quality but the teachers let them pound through the stuff and move onto the Bruch, Mendellson etc, but have little quality in the sound. I can only assume that the teachers think things will pull together later and the mistakes/issues are less important that what the student gains from the excersise. I am not of that way of thinking but I assume there are many ways to achieve goals and Suzuki has an approach that clicks with the student or not. My kid became very frustrated with being pushed through so many songs so quickly. They thought they sounded bad and they were probably right in retrospect. For example, the teacher would let them slide into tune, which she thought was appropriate for their age (5/7). They hated that sound. I was so proud I would have loved anything they did at that early age so I was not a great judge.

December 16, 2008 at 08:44 PM ·

Hi J,

You described exactly what happens with my son.  Places where he has to jump into position, where he never missed in practice, he got so nervous, he overshot the mark.  In another place, he said it was new fingering and he just missed it-things like that.  As a Suzuki student, his ear is very good, I think. (I think that because I have a good ear and I can't stand when he plays anything the least bit out of tune-pretty critical, huh?)  So, what I mean by intonation issues is that he has a good ear and it's surprising when he misses something and it's usually because it's technically very difficult.  This may be why he practices old pieces.  Now they seem much easier to him because technically, they are.  I would think the challenge of teachers is finding the right balance.  For a student like my son who has strengths (great memory, very good ear, very intellegent player) but weaknesses (slower hands, inconsistent or weak bow arm), do you hold a student back to where they loose interest playing the same song over and over or do you let them play challenging pieces knowing they aren't going to play them perfectly but they love what they play and do and you can be working on the technical stuff as they go?  I have no idea.  I just know the violin is a part of my son and his teachers get some of that credit because they knew how to work with him even if he's not a prodigy. :-)  I'm not always proud of him, no.  He can be a lazy player and he never practices enough but I have decided to let him be and let him reap the consequences with his teacher.  He loves to play and that's what's most important to me.

As far as teachers pushing him through songs, I really never saw that.  It was always my son who would rush through but his Suzuki teacher felt that he was going at a reasonable pace as she saw kids from other studios being rushed far too quickly and she would have to move them backward to pick up technique they missed. 

Thanks for the thought provoking comments.

December 17, 2008 at 01:43 AM ·

I had just written a long comment with details and the order of the pieces my teacher prefered and so on... but it got deleated accidentally and I do not have the courage to write it all over. So, I just wanted to say that she would 100 % agree with Buri's view!  But for your son, I can not give you any advice. I am not a teacher and maybe he is really good and is ready for these. I just know that Susuki people are generally experts to play big technical things without profound technique and maturity (because even amateurs can hear it)but I am sure there is exceptions and good things in this method too.


December 17, 2008 at 03:15 AM ·

Anne Marie,

I hope you consider sending them again.  I value your opinion and experience.

December 17, 2008 at 04:24 PM ·

Thanks. I will try to sum up. First, the little pieces by Dancla that develop much basic. (stacattos, spicattos, tempo) After Vivaldi (G minor and A minor often) to develop solidity and confidence I think), the six variations of Dancla (chosing those who fit the students need). Some of them develop the musicality. After Seitz (no 5 I think), Thais, Accolay, Bach (A min and E maj), Beethoven Romances, Mozart concertos, de Beriot things, I don't know after. Well, she choses in these a balance program for each student. I am not saying than she never does something else but I know she loves these for prdagogical reasons.  For studies, the classical ones, Kreutzer, Kreisler, Wolfhart, Rhode, Mazas etc. and various types scales, arpegios, double stops, dominant 7th and diminished  of course. One thing she does is always gives (minimum) one classical and one romantic concerto to develop two different things. 

I will take note of the Hendel variations and the Haydn concerto! What Buri said about Mozart is true though.  It is not a "student" piece really (as it is often seen) and thus, it is the most tricky music I have been exposed yet.  (Even if the score looks easy).  (I'm not claiming I am perfect either....!)

I guess each teacher has its recepie and we are those who taste the cakes to see if they are good. If we die, then the teachers change their recipies!  I am happy to not have a young teacher for this reason!



December 17, 2008 at 11:36 PM ·

Thank-you for taking the time to share, Anne Marie.  I really appreciate it.  I've not heard of Dancla-one more name to look up.  This is all a sharp learning curve for me.

I'm glad my son has an experienced teacher, too, and even one who studied with Delay, so I have to think he knows what he's doing with my son.

December 18, 2008 at 03:44 AM ·


Dancla is a cool composer.  I am planning to write about some of his works here soon.

The Dancla refrred to is number one forma set of six theme and variosns on famous opra themes.  It is a great piece and should be a standard teahcing work as well. Indeed, in Kogan`s day when things tended ot be a bit systematic it was de rigeur.  However, charming though it is,  it is prtobably a technicla step backwards from how you describe you son right now.  It certainly isn@t as hard as the Zarzycki.  These are always difficult issies aren@t they? Should one eschew a very good piece of music because at this stage soemthign `more tehcnical` is relevant.  Its a shame but often the lesser of two evils



December 18, 2008 at 08:41 PM ·

Yes, for sure, Dancla is easier than Mozart, Chaconne, Beriot or Bruch  !  But I enjoyed this music and remember my first concert doing one (I was traumatize because it was my first one and this childish fantaisy (the easisest one) is STILL hunting me and this makes laugh my teacher very much)!


December 19, 2008 at 08:28 PM ·

I will have to look for Dancla in my local library or on YouTube.  I think many younger musicians play a wide variety of levels of music, depending on the situation.  For lessons, my son learns the hardest pieces (the Mazourka currently, which he's really enjoying), as well as all the exercise books.  For practices at home, he pulls out a wide variety of levels of music, depending on what he's focusing on, so Dancla might be just really fun for him.  For the weddings and church music he currently doing, the level isn't difficult but being in charge at age 14 gives him challenges-good challenges, I think.

There's a student of his teacher who's learning the Lalo right now so we'll get a chance to hear it at the next recital in February, hopefully.

Thank-you for all the input.

February 16, 2009 at 05:31 AM ·

For a nice, natural progression of scales, arpeggios, etudes, pieces and sight-reading, teachers might want to see the American String Teachers Assoc. (ASTA) Certificate Advancement Program on their web site:  Everything including scales for the first five levels can downloaded for free!   You might want to know that the program is written for violin, viola, cello, double bass, and, just created last week, harp!  Guitar is also coming. 

February 17, 2009 at 05:29 AM ·

That's a great site, Lynne!  There seems to be an endless amount of stuff to learn. 

February 17, 2009 at 09:42 AM ·

I'm sure a number of other teachers on here do this too: a progression of pieces is in a large way determined by the playing skills that a student acquires.

Once they can successfully execute those skills in scales and scale exercises, they can then tackle it in the context of a musical work (the key concept here being "musical").

So for instance, I don't let my students tackle Bruch and Mendelssohn until they can deal with thirds, sixths, tenths, and rapid left hand passages in the keys of the works (there are of course more factors but I'm generalizing a bit here).

February 17, 2009 at 06:34 PM ·

That makes sense, Gene.  I know my son does Hrmaly and Mazas and Bach's Sonatas and Partitas but I haven't a clue what he really knows and what he's deficient in.  I have to trust that his teacher, who has a reputation for being one of the best in San Diego, is working on what you describe.  It all seems overwhelming to me but I'm not a musician!

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