Music Repertoire Advice

May 3, 2009 at 08:16 PM ·

Hey all,

I am wondering what I should play after I can play the Concerto in a minor No.9 by Beriot adequetly. I really really want to play the Mendellsohn's Concerto in e minor, but my teacher says that I must learn at least one more concerto that encompasses many violin techniques so I can be ready to play the Mendellsohn Concerto. Is there a concerto or a violin piece that you guys can reccomend to me. I usually get to pick whatever song that is within my level at this time period because my violin testing for the California Merit are over. I like to play challenging songs and yet are fun like the Beriot, but I usually dislike music that must be precise and so meticulous like the Mozart Concertos. Thanks for the insight and the help!

Replies (26)

May 3, 2009 at 09:48 PM ·

Beethoven violin sonatas might be a good choice.  All of them are great, but my favorites are #1, #5 (Spring), and #9 (Kreutzer)

May 3, 2009 at 09:49 PM ·

Well, I played the first movement of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole before I played Mendelssohn, so that might be something to look into, but my teacher probably had a specific reason to assign them to me in that order. Actually there were a couple of other more flashy pieces that I played after the Lalo and before the Mendelssohn, but I wouldn't advice those at your stage.

Did your teacher make any suggestions?

May 3, 2009 at 09:51 PM ·


I would say the Lalo is about as tough as Mendelssohn; it was for me at least. 

May 3, 2009 at 09:52 PM ·

I just saw Smiley's suggestion. The Beethoven sonatas would probably be a better fit for you than what I suggested.

For what it's worth, my teacher tells me that back in Russia they would have to play through most of the major Romantic concertos before they would get assigned a Mozart.

May 3, 2009 at 09:53 PM ·

Smiley, I agree.

May 3, 2009 at 09:56 PM ·

my teacher told me to play a Kabalevsky concerto, but I looked at it and it didn't look so exciting. I thought about Bruch or Ziguenerweisen by Sarasate. My teacher told me that Mendellsohn was one of the hardest and challenging concerto's for the violin.

May 3, 2009 at 10:08 PM ·

Bruch is a good one too...

I would advice you to take your teacher's advice to heart. Sometimes I've started working on a piece mostly because that's what my teacher wants for me, and invariably I end up loving those pieces. A lot will change once you actually dig into a work.

May 3, 2009 at 10:11 PM ·

 If you haven't already, find a good recording the Kabalevsky concerto. It's a fantastic piece.

May 3, 2009 at 10:44 PM ·


yep. It was good enough for Oistrakh.



May 4, 2009 at 02:15 AM ·

Saint-Saens 3rd is another one you might look at.

May 5, 2009 at 03:07 AM ·

Wait on Mendelssohn. I played Bruch over two years ago and I still have not played Mendelssohn. I am thinking about learning it after I finish Wieniawski 2 (I have also played DeBeriot, Praeludium and Allegro, Lalo mvts 1 and 4 and Mozart 3 and 5). The thing about Mendelssohn is that it is so hard to make it sound really special. A lot of people play it when they are not ready and as result they spend a long time on it without really making progress. Mendelssohn requires excellent good intonation, fast fingers, and a clean, developed sound. The notes should not be an issue. I understand that you really want to play it, I also used to be eager to jump ahead and learn hard repertoire. However, if you wait a few years Mendelssohn will be so much easier to learn and it will sound a lot better without being frustrating.

May 5, 2009 at 04:40 AM ·

Thanks for your advice guys. I went to my teacher today and she I told her that I really wanted to play Mendellsohn. I have created a schedule for myself, first Kabalevsky, the Beethovan Sonata No.9, then some concerto Weid something lol i forgot then finally Mendellsohn. Thanks for the responses and help.

May 5, 2009 at 06:40 AM ·


I`m sure you know what you are doing but the Beethoven sonata seems a ittle out of place. Do you have a good piano player to work with?  Its very much a collaborative effort.  A really meaty sonata that shows up all bowing deficiencies and balances your program well might be the Handel d major which is also les s problematic from the piano players point of view. 



May 6, 2009 at 02:50 AM ·

Does anyone know where to download free classical music? I don't have the money to buy music. THank you.

May 6, 2009 at 03:53 AM ·

Hi Buri,

Permit me to butt heads with you again; something we've been doing a lot of lately (in a gentlemanly way of course).  While I agree that the piano part in the Beethoven is just as important as the violin and you need a good pianist to fully appreciate the piece, I would take Beethoven over Handel any day. 


May 6, 2009 at 06:27 AM ·


we@re not butting heads.  Your suggestion interested me and I wondered what the reasoning behind it was. 

I do note that the Beethoven deliberatly wrote Piano and violin sonatas which says quite a lot aout the priorities but accept that the Kreutzer would sound a little empty without a violin;)  But I can`t help feeling you are recommending the work largely on the basis of getting greater enjoyment from it which is a perfectly reasonable point of view to have.  However,  from a point of view of teachign both technique and musicainship the Handel sonatas are enormously powerful works which is why, I think Auer flatly sates that the violnist who doesn`t know at least three is not worthy of the name. This is all too often true these days.  This is not to say the Beethoven would not be beneficial ut the Handel santas are notoriously good at showing up flaws in bowing and generla technique which have a direct application to improving concertos.  I don@ think you were on this site at the time but Emil Chussodovsky once told an anecdote against himself about how he was already a somewhat established young soloist with a few years of Julliard (?) under his belt when he went to a very strict teacher who ,  to his disbelief handed him the d major sonata.  He adds that for the first time he was really forced to lsiten to every note.

Not only are the Handel invalubale in this sense they are also more economical.In contrast the Kreutzer is rather sprawling  and requires a lot of just playing with piano to make sense of. This tends to mean that the violnist is not applying the same reletless crticism to every note in the same way one cna work on the Handel a la Chussodvsky.   In essence,  I think it more the kind of work an already poslihed player shoudl be tackling. It is actually arther unusual to see it as a recommeded piec eof study for a young player who is just getting to grips with major concertos.  Number one would be a better option.  That can function similarly to the Handel and is a very useful gateway into the later sonatas.

However, at the end of the day this quesiton is always about the need sof the individual student engaged in dialgue with the person who actually knows their playing.  We are merely engaged in hypothetical head butting.



May 6, 2009 at 12:48 PM ·


You are correct, I am giving a large weight to the enjoyment factor.  And I think I might even agree that Beethoven #1 has more to offer in the way of technical development, but the Kreutzer is a marvelous work and is so much fun to play.  Surely this is an important consideration when choosing repertoire. 

We have countless etudes and scales to teach technique.  And we continue the development of technique in our performance repertoire, but I believe a critical element of performance repertoire is the sheer enjoyment of playing them.  Robert is excited by the Mendelssohn, not because he wants to develop his technique, but because he loves the music.  Nothing will motivate a student more than being excited about what they are playing.

In my younger days, my teacher chose all my repertoire, some of which was not particularly to my liking.  Actually, I HATED some of the stuff I learned.  It was misery to go home after my lessons to keep working on the same piece week after week, and I hated it to start with.  I'm not saying the Handel is bad, but my personal preference would be for Beethoven.  To me Beethoven offers the same excitement factor as Mendelssohn, while Handel doesn't. 

May 6, 2009 at 02:30 PM ·

Just want to share some of my insights.

It's easy to get focused on techniques while learning and practicing etudes. But it's difficult to listen to the notes and listen to the music at the same time (if you know what i mean). Very often when I'm playing certain songs I tend to hear the musical part but I ignored the technical part, because I wanted to enjoy.

A little less joy on the music, it'll allow you to have more room to focus on the techniques, and yet in the end you'll still need to work on the musical part of the song which will put the techniques in use. Unlike etudes, a song will involved various kind of techniques and will require full attentions to switch among them, as opposed to just 1 or 2 techniques at a time.

Not to say you can't learn anything from beethoven, but it's rather boring to practice beethoven's sonatas without the piano, I wouldn't call it enjoyable, not at all. Unless you have your own personal pianist, or your family members who can play those piano parts willing to work that with you often. But still, both piano and violin have to work together, it's not like you're the soloist all the time. The piano has to take over from time to time, violinist has to learn to become accompanist. It's the matter of both pianist and violinist grow together along the music.

And lastly, sorry if my phrasings are weird, just trying to deliver my thoughts in words.

May 6, 2009 at 05:46 PM ·

I don't actually think deBeriot to Mendelssohn is a huge jump technically, but maybe musically it's pretty large.  Bruch might be a better choice to do first (I did Mendelssohn first and actually regret it somewhat because when I come back to Mendelssohn there are strange habits left over). 

You might also consider a Rode or Spohr concerto.  They're great music and are very violinistic, which the Mendelssohn concerto is as well.  Also, the deBeriot is stylistically different from Mendelssohn while Rode is in my opinion a little closer and might make the transition easier. 

I think the Wieniawski concerto is more difficult technically than the Mendelssohn by far, with the fingered octaves, rapid up bow and down bow staccato (if you do what he marks), all springing stroke last movement, etc.  I also value Wieniawski musically so I don't like when people treat it (or actually any concerto) as a preparatory piece to "real" music.  To make the second movement really special, you have to sacrifice some technical ease to manipulate the tone color and it becomes harder than it sounds. The legato passage in the first movement with all the chromaticism might make a great study though.  If you can play that perfectly  legato and with good phrasing and tone the legato passage from the Mendelssohn will seem much less awkward. 

I personally wouldn't go for the Kreutzer sonata.  It is musically very deep and requires essentially perfect basic technique.  It's not hard to play badly, but why do that to Beethoven?

May 6, 2009 at 09:00 PM ·


Joseph, very good thoughts on Rode and Spohr.   Not sure I agree about the Wienaiwski being harder than Mendelssohn.  I think its good music too,  but te aspects you mention are n some senses discrete trick (although left hand right hand coordiantion in the last movement is perhaps more fundamental....;)).   As a kid I had no trouble with the ingered octaves or stacctao bowing and actually palyed that concerto well.  Had I worked on the Mendellsohn it would have showed up a slew of inadequacies- not only msucial but technical.   At risk of sounding patronizing one does become more aware of the techncial diffiuclties (realy inseparable fromn the musical) that the Mendelsoshn poses.    It goes form being a medium level mountian in ones youth to the Everest of old age.

Smiley, you are so right about enjoyment. The thing aout sonatas though is that they are not always the bets route forward and there doe shave to be at leats some learning path. I tell my studnets over and over to busk through the sonata repertoire with a good pianist- all of it. Practic eit where necessray but have fun doing all the Mozart,  Beethoven,  Italian baroque etc or whatever you can make a decnet shot of at your level. It is work outside the sphere of cocnetrated concrto work but absolutley invaluable.



May 7, 2009 at 01:27 AM ·

Maybe your right.  I learned Mendelssohn and Wieniawski at about the same time and performed the Wieniawski much better (or the Mendelssohn much worse =) ), but for me at least the down bow staccatto marked in the last movement has proven elusive...I wouldn't be surprised if I never get it.  Also while I can do chromatic glissando I've never been happy with how it sounds...

May 9, 2009 at 06:45 AM ·

In my opinion, definitely do the Bruch before the Mendelssohn since the Bruch covers a lot of technical and musical concerto foundations. The Mendelssohn I still haven't tackled because it's one of those pieces in which I'd rather hear than play... I humbly regard it as one of the "epitomes of violinism," so to speak. xD... but don't let that encourage you of course! It is a wonderful piece and sometimes just cannot be ignored.

I second the Beethoven sonatas, especially the two of the most famous ones: 5 and 9, though the latter could be done at a later time for optimal results. But how about looking into Stravinsky's Italienne Suite or Bartok's Romanian Dances? Those are, in my experience, included in the CM repertoire levels 8-10. Both pieces have that passion factor us youngsters are addicted to. :) And if you're into the really fast, exciting stuff... Flight of the Bumblebee...?

By all means, revisit some of the Mozarts sometime after you are satisfied with romanticism. You may be surprised how different they sound the next time you read through them!

Best of luck,


May 9, 2009 at 12:00 PM ·

>My teacher told me that Mendellsohn was one of the hardest and challenging concerto's for the violin.

Hi Robert,

I don't want to discourage you, the Mendelssohn is certainly challenging, but in terms of sheer technical difficulty, there are pieces that are much, much tougher.  The violin is infinite.  One never achieves complete mastery, perhaps with the exception of Fritz Kreisler. 

Heifetz, one of the greatest violinists that ever lived, was asked in an interview why he never recorded the Paganini Caprices.  He responded that he was never ready.  If a prodigy can devote his entire life to the violin and still be "not ready," it certainly leaves a lot of room for improvement for the rest of us mere mortals.



May 9, 2009 at 12:35 PM ·

Well I think it depends on how well you have played DeBeriot, but Bruch may be a good option. On an interesting note I actually played DeBeriot after Bruch (I switched teachers during this time period). As a result DeBeriot was technically very easy for me and I played it very well, got a concertmaster spot when I used it for an audition against people who probably played pieces that were much harder than mine. I guess this can be applied to Mendelssohn, if you play it at a time where it is technically easy for you, you will be able to play it much better. I was reading the Mendelssohn one day after working on some of the fingered octaves in Wieniawski 2, and I noticed that it felt much so more comfortable than when I had read it before playing Bruch two years ago.  After working on other pieces, I now feel that if I were to learn Mendelssohn, I could do a very good job of it. Working on scales and etudes during this time really helped. As a result my intonation has become extremely accurate (which can also be annoying because now I get really bothered when a note is a little out of tune). So I would suggest to maybe try Bruch, you don't have to go overboard with the scales and etudes, but keep a balance, they really help.

May 9, 2009 at 01:29 PM ·

Smiley- Heifetz would later be filmed playing the paganini Caprices...... Youtube has him playing a few, as to whether he played all 24 I do not know.  I thought I had a CD of him playing all 24 but if so it would be way later in his life........ In essence what you say is true.  Their are well known pieces that many of the greats did not play, not feeling that they could yet do them justice from their view point.

May 9, 2009 at 08:35 PM ·


Heifetz never redorded all 24.



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