Climbing the Bruch Gminor mountain...

January 1, 2015 at 06:27 PM · There are lots of topics on on repertoire and etude choices and needs - but I'd like to approach this a bit differently.

Lets say you have completed Suzuki book 6, etudes up to Dont and have good intonation and rhythm (so that we don't have to start from scratch). Now your plan is to play the Bruch G minor (as a great target piece) then what additional etudes, studies scales and repertoire do you think one HAS to have completed to be ready technically and musically?

I think its best to approach this as the minimal necessary (to stop it getting out of control).

Replies (19)

January 1, 2015 at 07:04 PM · I think the Bach a minor is in Suzuki book 7, though I don't teach it from that edition...definitely should play that one before Bruch, and possibly the E major as well. Also something that has more technique than Bach but less difficult than Bruch, perhaps DeBeriot #9 and/or Praeludium and Allegro--the ending of P&A is a very good preparation for the triple stops in the Bruch first movement. And a Mozart concerto for musical maturity, plus cadenza for technique.

You'll also want to be very well versed in chromatic scales.

January 1, 2015 at 07:43 PM · My guess is that you've completed etudes through Dont (meaning you've done the contents of op. 35, not the easier 37 or 38), you're more than ready to play Bruch from a technical standpoint. Dont op. 35 is relatively difficult (and full of triple-stops, among other things).

January 1, 2015 at 08:24 PM · A few Rode Caprices cannot hurt.

January 1, 2015 at 08:28 PM · Greetings,

it's an interesting question. The 'easier' Don't is supposed to be preparatory to Kreutzer but in fact in many ways it is often harder. Don't had a unique insight into the essence of violin playing that makes his works very special. Sadly the op 35 is just s little out of fashion.

If you have gone through Kreutzer in depth you can play the Bruch, but the notion of in depth is in itself important. These are not studies to be done and put on the shelf. They have long been the backbone of vvirtuouso players technique for a lifetime including Heifetz and Szigeti, while key pedadagogues in the Soviet Union are notorious for beating advanced students to death with no 2.

The big Don't is for me even weightier than Lydia seems to suggest. Bron called it the means of teaching the big playing necessary for major romantic concertos. Szeryngu used number one as his daily technical work put for much of his career. Notice Heifetz again demanding his students play them in his master classes.

I also adhere to the rather old fashioned view that one should play de Beriot 9 and Spohr before Mendelssohn and Bruch. Again Bron said the de Beriot was the gateway to major concertos. in an ideal world I would prefer to see at least two Handel sonatas played in real depth (not the childhood version) and the -very-important ballade and polonaise by Vieuxtemps.

This list is actually a truncated version of Auers ideas which I have experimented with quite a lot.

Nowadays we tend to assume a rather routine progression where young or semi beginner players scratch through the Mendelssohn, safe and secure in the knowledge they will 'do' the Bruch next and they never really understand what it means to play either in a truly artistic way. in many cases they have become a caricature stepping stone to the Tchaikovsky et al. in other cases talented students who are not quite readty miss the joy of learning them just a little later. See related thread.

Although every work we study can and should pull us up to a higher artistic and technical level I think there is a kind of entry level a player should possess. I feel it but can't define it at all. Maybe something like if they were asked to sight read it they could actually make a reasonable shot at it including faking through the technical stuff;)

When we have to crawl through a masterwork , never quite sure why it seemed okay in the practice room but our teacher keeps us telling us to just practice harder there is something wrong and the work will never become a source of lifetime pleasure for oneself or others.



January 1, 2015 at 10:59 PM · Terrific responses but lets get a bit more detailed. When you write, for example, 'do Kreuzer' is it really meant that you will do every study to completion (performance worthy). I find this hard to believe since I have identified at least one study (#3) that two highly accomplished musicians didn't recognize because it was skipped in their training. Besides, surely not every study in that compendium or in the Donts is really relevant, or shall we say important (since there is always some relevance), to the technique required for Bruch.

While I'm at it, I find Dont 37 a great challenge and very instructive - but it also seems rather repetetive with several studies that seem (to my non-expert eye at least) to develop rather similar facilities. Does one really have to do all of them? Perhaps I'm missing something.

The point is that its easy for an established violinist to write 'do so-and-so' and then for a student reading this to think the entire compendium must be mastered before they can more on. For an extreme example, what if I was to write 'do Sevcik' - you would be at that for 10 years if you did every variation!

Buri wrote: "Nowadays we tend to assume a rather routine progression where young or semi beginner players scratch through the Mendelssohn, safe and secure in the knowledge they will 'do' the Bruch next and they never really understand what it means to play either in a truly artistic way. in many cases they have become a caricature stepping stone to the Tchaikovsky et al. in other cases talented students who are not quite readty miss the joy of learning them just a little later."

Well thats exactly what I'm trying to avoid in this topic - to plot out what should really be done first. But by really I also mean 'reasonably'. At which point is the teacher comfortable with going to Bruch.

I love the idea of the Handel sonatas - my teacher has recommended #4. I've come to realize that while Suzuki may have done wonders for early violin teaching, the introduction of this (and to a lesser extent perhaps #3) as a student stepping stone has undermined its true masterpiece status - really foreshadowing Mozart's concertos.

January 1, 2015 at 11:35 PM · Greetings,

I used to use 4 as a warm up in recitals until I realized it's enormity and switched to the a major which is every bit as deep but not so bloody exhausting. If you are surprised by that I would note I used an extremely energetic non authentic bowing technique in the last movement I heard Szigeti do and was determined to emulate.....



ps have the self discipline to do all the Kreutzer. (but skip a few of the double stop ones;))

January 2, 2015 at 12:30 AM · Hi Elise I am not a teacher but am answering as a lifelong learner. I second the suggestions for a few Rode caprices. Would also recommend a romantic sontata, perhaps Brahms or at least Beethoven. Also would get some experience with the Bach S & Ps, they are great for chords and double stops, complex string crossings, and overall sound. For the Bruch you need a certain degree of comfort with double stops as well as a good rich sound, without the latter there is no point in delving into it.

January 2, 2015 at 12:34 AM · Greetings,

`Well thats exactly what I'm trying to avoid in this topic - to plot out what should really be done first. But by really I also mean 'reasonably'. At which point is the teacher comfortable with going to Bruch.`

looking at the issue from the question of prior works is interesting and worthwhile but it is somewhat artificial, as I know you recognize. In the end it is simply what the student is capable of at that point. For me, if they have a fluid , relaxed bow arm capable of producing a wide range of sonorities and a relaxed vibrato that they can consciously vary, PLUS a keen sense of phrasing and overall structure with , presumably, a good understanding of how to practice nurtured over the years then....Bob`s yer Uncle.

Who cares if they haven`t done Kreutzer, Rode, Dont et al?

The worst thing you can do, in my opinion is give the Bruch to a player with a defective bow arm that still needs some remedial work.



January 2, 2015 at 04:44 AM · Greetings

note here that I am mixing my Donts up as usual. If you can figure out which ones I mean you can play the Bruch. Thus I qualify my remarks about Lydia`s remarks that she is absolutely 150 percent correct as usual. If you can play the difficult Dont , whichever it is, you can play just about anything prior to the 20c. All of those is probably overkill for the Bruch. You should go directly to heaven. Or do the Gavinies for light relieve.



January 2, 2015 at 05:19 AM · Rather than specify which etudes (because there are so many), it's probably more efficient to make a list of the technical skills necessary to play the Bruch concerto, then identify which etudes you should study to cover the ground.

On the first page alone, you have to be able to play rapid arpeggiated figures, scales thirds, sixths, and octaves, and three note chord patterns.

Off the top of my head, that would probably mean some work in Rode 11, Kayser 34, Fiorillo 4, Dont op35-16 and 35-2. But there are many other etudes that work on the same skills, and you should select them based on your current ability level (Kayser is generally easier than Kreutzer or Fiorillo, for example).

January 2, 2015 at 05:40 AM · Bruch sounds like quite a jump from Handel sonatas (suzuki bk 6).

January 2, 2015 at 06:26 AM · I think the last etude book I went through from start to finish was Mazas. After that, my teachers picked specific etudes focused on whatever it was that they wanted to work on, and skipped the ones they thought would be less beneficial.

For instance, I've always had a good trill, so I haven't done any trill etudes unless there's some other skill taught. But I've never developed a good colle' stroke, and so I've played practically every etude that could in any way to be used to teach colle'. ;-)

January 2, 2015 at 06:32 AM · greetings,

unless you are herding sheep, labradors are usually easier to teach.



January 2, 2015 at 03:17 PM · "Now your plan is to play the Bruch G minor (as a great target piece) then what additional etudes, studies scales and repertoire do you think one HAS to have completed to be ready technically and musically?"

I'm with Gene Wie to an extent. It is rather silly to say one must do all X etudes and Y studies before tackling certain works. I believe etudes and exercises should be studied alongside whatever pieces are being worked on. By the time you get to Mendelssohn and larger works, you should have covered a fairly substantial array of Kreutzer, Dont, Rode, Fiorillo and others. I also believe each and every student should have 2 or 3 etudes or exercises they regularly warm up with in their practices, but that's another subject altogether. Also, keep in mind this assumes you've been going through Bach, Vivaldi and others.

It really comes down to the student. How best does the student soak up information? What strong points do they have? What could be improved? What is their weakest point? I can have one student working on Rode, Kreutzer or Fiorillo nonstop, and progress superbly. While another student working on smaller 'show' pieces or concertos with only a couple etudes thrown in to cover whatever techniques they're lacking and make the same progress, if not having a slight edge of the etude oriented student.

The only sticking point I make in regards to which pieces to play next is for Concertos. It's rare I bother with de Beriot but pretty common I'll take a student through Haydn's C Maj and a Mozart or two, one of which could possibly be his Rondo(s) or Adagio. I certainly will not hold a student back if they're excelling at a Concerto and tell them they need to have this, this and that in their repertoire before being able to tackling a bigger piece. This is mostly for conservatory students, but the same applies to those not on a narrow timeframe.

January 2, 2015 at 04:58 PM · It's hard to imagine tackling Bruch without being well into Flesch scales.

January 2, 2015 at 08:24 PM · Greetings,

-it's rather silly to say one must do all x etudes before doing y work

Phew! it's a good job nobody on this thread said that then isn't it?



January 2, 2015 at 11:12 PM · Elise,

When I start thinking about getting ready to tackle a bucket-list piece I do a few things: first I attempt to play it very very very slowly and note the areas that I have problems with. If there are too many problem areas, I set it aside and wait another year to try again. Otherwise, I will look at those problem areas one at a time and see what I have in my etude/scale collection that addresses those technical issues and begin working on them. If there is another easier piece that has a similar technical/musical challenge, I'll work on it as well.

If I were a violinist looking at wanting to play this piece some day, there would be two things I'd focus on first: 1 - Flesch scale system in G minor, with most of the variations (doesn't look like the harmonics are needed here), 2 - an etude that focuses on double stops with different rhythm patterns. There seems to be quite of bit of that going on in this piece.

Good luck and hope to hear it at Interlochen some day!


January 3, 2015 at 12:27 AM · Elise,

this is from the Violin Lesson.

`It is usually best not to try and get to the top of the technique ladderby taking large jumps. Many students play only a few Kreutzer etudesover the years, a couple of Rode caprices , one or two from Dontand then try to play Paginini.. Instead climb the ladder rung by rung. The best plan is to learn -all- (my emphasis) the Kreutzer (following all the work that leads up to them) and then all the Rode. After that, once you are halfway through the Dont op 35 and the Gavinies and Wieniawski, you will already be high up the ladder and can go from there to anywhere.

Return to them frequently over the years. Working afresh on studies you have learnt before is another useful part of the weeks work and you can gain more and more from them each time.`

Personally I think this is more of an agenda for young players aspiring to be pros It may seem a little OTT but this is basically the kind of work it takes to reach the highest levels of playing. I`m not sure it happens much outside countries without Gulags or the equivalent.

I don`t know if he still does it but Bron makes his students do -all- the Kreutzer etudes from cover to cover twice. Once when they are quite young and again when they are much more mature and can focus on them from a deeper musical perspective.



January 3, 2015 at 04:42 AM · When I was in high school I discovered the Brahms concerto and fell madly in love with it. I brought it to my teacher who said "You won't be ready to play this for a long time!" So I promptly went home and started practicing it on my own. The experience was joyful, it was inspirational, and it made me grow violinistically and musically. And of course my teacher was right. I wasn't ready for it. But I did the right thing. I never regretted it and I have since dived right into many pieces that I was not ready for, both on the violin which I play on quite a high level and on the piano which I play much less well.

So, Elise, my advice to you is DIVE IN!. See how it feels to play it, to struggle with the difficulties, and also to enjoy the parts that you can play. Find out if the experience is empowering or frustrating, And in the process you will find out which particular etudes you need to study in order to play it at the level that will satisfy you. And you will be able to decide if it is worth it. Don't forget -- you are playing the violin for your own fulfillment, not to meet somebody else's standards.

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