How long until Sibelius?

May 9, 2016 at 02:50 PM · I know it varies but can anyone tell me based on your experience how long until I will be able to tackle Sibelius?

I'm currently on Suzuki book 6 and am almost finished with Kayser. Playing 5-6 hours/day.

Replies (70)

May 9, 2016 at 03:19 PM · I am not ready for this piece, but I have watched a lot of students over the years and the ones I have seen performing the Sibelius concerto have first performed the following:

Bach A Minor (entire concerto is in Suzuki Book 7)

Haydn G Major, 1st mvt (2nd mvt is nice, 3rd mvt not so interesting)

Some combination of romantic show-pieces such as Meditation from Thais by Massanet, Paganini Cantabile, Scene de Ballet, Czardas by Monti, Tchaikovsky Canzonetta (the concerto movement), Salut d'Amour, etc.

de Beriot No. 9 and/or Viotti 22/23

Mozart 3 (whole concerto)

Kabalevsky C Major Concerto, often just the 1st mvt

Sarasate Gypsy Airs

Kreisler P&A, Liebesfreud, S&R

All of Mazas, at least a third of Kruetzer

Most play Bruch G Minor before Sibelius too, and some play a few movements of the Vivaldi Four Seasons and probably several Bach solo S&P movements as well.

Okay not ALL of that but I would say a reasonable fraction of it. The thing is that you really want to concentrate on the quality of what you do, preparing your pieces to a fine polish with nuanced expression and excellent intonation and articulation, because that is really how you improve your fundamentals. Suzuki Book 6 is not trivial. Make sure the Handel Sonatas and La Folia are really clean.

May 9, 2016 at 03:24 PM · Playing the violin is a highly skilled form of micro-athletics, and, as any athlete will tell you, the body and brain need regular and frequent rest from the activity in order to regenerate and reorganise. Hence, I believe that 5-6 hours/day is far too much. If your practice/playing is of the right thoughtful quality necessary to ensure progress then a 2-3 hours/day is sufficient (with an occasional maximum of 4). It is only too easy to fill 5-6 hours with practice without recognising that at least 50% of that time is being wasted in unnecessary repetition of something that has already been mastered or, and much worse, you may be practising and embedding mistakes in your technique without knowing.

If you're going along the Suzuki road, as many do with success, then the remaining books need to be thoroughly assimilated, with particular attention to getting the two Mozart concertos in books 9 and 10 to something approaching a performance standard. I'd guess you'd be at least 3 years away from that. After the Mozarts there are then other concertos that need to be mastered before you can consider yourself ready to tackle the Sibelius. Let your teacher be your guide!

May 9, 2016 at 04:50 PM · What Paul said is good. Also, most people play Mendellsohn before Sibelius, and some people say you should do all of Tchaikovsky before Sibelius as well. Also, it would be a good idea to do a Beethoven Sonata/Brahms Sonata, in my opinion.

May 9, 2016 at 09:21 PM · Another thing would be to look at the different techniques involved in Sibelius and determine your degree of skill in each area with the help of your teacher in addition to assessing based on the repertoire list above. Simply skimming through all of the above mentioned pieces and etudes without careful attention won't cut it.

May 9, 2016 at 09:42 PM · Quite honestly, IMHO, 5-6 hours are fine, if done well. Ten minute break between hours ("50 minute hours") helps a lot, especially when practicing for long hours. Plan out your 5-6 hours so no time is wasted, and sticking to this as most as you can, so every minute is well-used.

Also, some people can concentrate easily for many, many hours, while others may lose focus far earlier. Once you can't focus, it's time to move on-though one can also train the brain to remain engaged by gradually increasing the workload (going from one hour per day to 5-6 may come off as a shock to our brains/bodies.)

If someone was reporting to me weekly practice sheets, I would honor 50 minute sessions as whole hours, as in my opinion these breaks are part of healthy practicing habits.

(Though I agree 3 hours is a healthy minimum, for those lucky enough to afford the time.)

There's no tried and true method "towards Sibelius" other than regular violin training, and figuring out whether you are ready for it or not. Many other Romantic Concerti should likely be tackled first, though.

May 9, 2016 at 10:45 PM · Thank you all for the excellent responses. Paul I appreciate all the detail I will be saving that to use as a guide.

Re: practice time, I have only been playing for 1 year and as an adult (30s) I feel like I have some catching up to do. I have gradually increased the time to 5-6 hrs as my physical and mental stamina have increased. I usually split it into 3 blocks of 2ish hours throughout the day. Trevor, none of the time is wasted I am extremely focused. Not really going the Suzuki route just use it for pieces and a rough guide of my level; general breakdown is 2 hours scales/technical, 2.5-3 hours studies, 1-2 hours repertoire.

May 10, 2016 at 12:29 AM · Nice goal! I was playing Mendelssohn and Beethoven (Bachs & Mozarts, of course) when I was 16. That was 66 years go. Sibelius was never a goal - I think I had better sense - for me, anyway - after looking at the score.


May 10, 2016 at 05:08 AM · I should mention, even with the best of training, time, and luck on your side, it will take some (likely many) years to get "there", so please be patient and enjoy the journey. Fortunately, most pieces of music are worth learning at some level, so it should be an enjoyable journey indeed.

May 10, 2016 at 05:25 AM · Thanks Frieda, already having 2+hr lesson/week and wouldn't want to subject my teacher to any more of me than that.

Adalberto I am loving the journey but it's nice to have a goal or some direction to head in.

Andy, I feel the same way about it, and that's probably part of the appeal.

May 10, 2016 at 02:15 PM · I think the lists people have given are, for the most part, insufficiently aggressive. The Sibelius is one of the more difficult of the standard concertos. Prior to tackling it, most people would have done the whole preparatory sequence leading up into the professional repertoire (Kreutzer, Mozart concertos, etc.), followed by the first tier of romantic concertos (Bruch/Mendelssohn/Lalo/etc.).

May 10, 2016 at 08:12 PM · I just had a good chuckle seeing some lists. Not to mention there's some extremely naïve views on just how difficult Sibelius is. To answer the original question, If you're in Book 6, then you have quite a few years of training to reach the technical proficiency for required of Sibelius.

When students get to the level of Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Sibelius it's almost always whichever one they prefer at that point. You'll learn Tchaikovsky eventually, but it's is not some prerequisite to starting the Sibelius.

To touch on lists, they're silly to cement. It'll all depends on the students, how fast they're progressing, problems, etc. You need to be flexible. That goes for students as well. You can't jump from piece to piece because "you're bored" or you want to play something else. You simply shouldn't rush through the learning process. It's a process for a reason. Lydia is correct when people would have done a sequence leading up to tackling the Sibelius, but sequence is not the same as some random list.

And it doesn't matter if you practice 1 hour or 10 hours. It will always be HOW you practice, divide your time and your focus. Sawing away without any care for hours on end is not only a bad habit, but you will most likely develop some bad habits doing so.

Please, take any lists with a healthy helping of salt. Even the one listed at the beginning of this thread is a perfect example of naïvety when someones goal is to play Sibelius.

Also, set the bar lower for your goals. Especially if you're an adult just beginning, you have a body working against you vs. somebody in their teens who grew up with various muscle memories. It'll be a constant uphill battle to get to the level of even being able to play Mendelssohn respectably.

Good luck!

May 10, 2016 at 08:24 PM · I think it's important to enjoy the process and the journey. If you feel that it will have been a waste of time if you never get to the point where you can play the Sibelius, you probably want to be doing something else with your time.

Suzuki book 6, assuming solid technical competence (good tone, good bow control, precise left-hand with accurate intonation), in one year, is very good progress, though.

May 10, 2016 at 10:34 PM · Ok I realize some of the responses were optimistic but I suppose what I was wondering is whether I will be able to play it in 3-5 yrs or more like 10ish. Evidently it varies and sometimes the answer is not at all. Will keep that in mind.

Its a strange and wonderful experience learning violin as an adult because in no other aspect of adult life does one (I) really learn and progress at something in this way. So my default reaction is always 'well I'm never going to improve from here' and then I'm constantly surprised (and thrilled) when I notice the changes.

Thanks all for taking the time to respond.

May 10, 2016 at 11:08 PM · I agree with Lydia about enjoying the process. If you've only been at it for a short time, though, the main thing -- by far -- is learning to play properly. A young student has time to fix things but adult students can't really afford to be taking steps backward. It's really important to have a teacher that understands you don't want to let things slide, take short cuts, or settle for second best (which is NOT the same as second fiddle!) just because you're not bound for conservatory.

May 10, 2016 at 11:29 PM · KD, I have big dreams somewhere in the back of my mind, but I tend to focus a lot more on the challenges right in front of me. I think that with smart work and a more "scientific" approach to practice, us adults can keep getting better and better. So while you are in Suzuki, every step you take gets you closer to those big concerti, but you will start to realize that the real pleasure is playing all the beautiful music where you are. I just started on Wieniawski 2, which I never thought I would get to work on, and hopefully will actually perform some day.

As violinists, we are really blessed with so much beautiful repertoire (I think pianists are even luckier). You will slowly be getting to more and more music that you can really enjoy, so have fun with each step and maybe one day you will get to Sibelius. Even if not, hopefully you did a lot of beautiful stuff.

6 hours is a lot. It could be great, but one thing to consider is whether you can adjust your practice habits so that you can do as much in 3 hours. We can always tighten up our practice and attention. It's also important for us to be aware of tension and practice in a way that we won't burn out.

I just read this piece written by an important Polish Pedagogue, Tadeusz Wronski about structuring practice. I thought it was pretty cool. My mom has the whole thing in Polish, which I will have to check out.

Here is the link: Wronski on Practice


May 11, 2016 at 02:42 AM · 5+ years or more is likely, and possibly never. And keep in mind that if you want to play the Sibelius, you should train as if you were preparing for conservatory; you'll need that technical foundation.

May 11, 2016 at 03:36 AM · Why would anybody think there is a considerable chance that he will never be able to tackle it? It seems that he has a lot of free time ( or isn't sleeping ), seeing that he is able to commit 5-6 hours a day.'To me it seems lack of practice time is probably the biggest obstacle for adult beginners and is one that does not seem to apply to him. It also seems his teacher is spending a lot of time with him, meaning he/she may not bring as much ageism to the table as some instructors, meaning expectations are likely not an issue either. I would say make performing Sibelius a goal and work with your teacher to set reasonable, yet challenging sub-goals/deadlines to maintain accountability. That should also help give you a rough estimate of the time remaining.

May 11, 2016 at 06:45 AM · Lieschen I suppose it comes down to whether certain things are physically possible to attain beyond a certain age. For example a professional tennis play (eg Michael Chang) may win a grand slam at age 17 after 10-12 years of serious playing. I could start now and do everything he did but never come close to that standard. Perhaps the speed and dexterity required for pieces like Sibelius is not possible for everyone unless the body is trained from a young age. Or perhaps it is, I will find out and let you know.

May 11, 2016 at 01:10 PM · KD I don't think it's about YOU never playing the Sibelius. These posts are always so personal but if you read the answers they are set in fairly general terms. My impression is that the Sibelius concerto is considered one of the hardest. I really wouldn't know, because I'll never play it, and it's hard to tell just from listening to it what the technical challenges are. Julian Sitkovetsky makes it sound easy! But if it is that hard, then it would be something one would work on as a conservatory or even graduate student. Logically, then, preparing to play the Sibelius would, as Lydia wrote, closely mirror preparation for conservatory admission.

And as for Michael Chang -- didn't he also win serving underhand? You don't see that every day either.

May 11, 2016 at 03:27 PM · Don't misinterpret my saying to set the bar/goal lower especially when staring out as some side remark whether you or anybody else will never play Sibelius. It's easy to get distracted by that long term goal. Do by step. Instead of saying "Sibelius is my goal." Aim for say, Bruch orifyoure just in Book 6 then aim for perfecting a technical problem you have (and there are many at that level). And as always, talk talk talk to your instructor and let them help you with assessing where you are, what you need to work on, where you want to be 6 months to a year from now. You not only need to have perfected the technical requirements of Sibelius but also the musical aspect of playing, a lot of which learned through much easier pieces be them showpieces or concertos.

Also, it really is important to learn what you can and cannot do as adult. It's why learning tends to be more casual due to real life obligations and the fact is, you're old. Playing the Violin isn't the most natural instrument. You've got to develop muscles you've never used. Be realistic.

Not all conservatory students even touch Sibelius or one of what I consider the Big Three (Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Sibelius). You'd be surprised.

May 11, 2016 at 04:33 PM · I think it was implied before by some comments. But in case you don't have yet, get a copy of that concerto, and start studying the notes, the phrases everything, without your instrument. Just analysing it, reading it like a book, with or without simultaneous listening to a recording you prefer.

That way, since you are an adult and have a clear view of you schedule, your available time, and your progress, you may spot some things that you can get your hands on even from now, or as soon as possible, and then realise hoe much time you need to get there. For instance there are plenty of harmonics, and many octave passages quite similar to octave scales, and I don't see a mere reason why as an adult you should not work on such things from now on, provided that you are comfortable in shifting and your intonation is clear.

I would not say never. And the only thing (as also mentioned above) I find reasonable is that there is clearly a process from suzuki 6 to sibelius, but a list? Please...I understand many people say never because it is absolutely normal for a musician to never play on of the big concertos. However since you are expressing this inquiry, you seem to really like the piece and want to tackle it. Motivation, is a really big thing, not only in your case but in this journey in general.

Eventually, you will realise that when you start playing and messing around with it (with you violin this time :) ) its "musicality" and "phrasing" could be a bigger issue that just tackling the notes and the passages. That's why I thing that mentally working with the piece from let's say today, could be a good idea. It's just my personal and humble opinion, but yes this could be more technically demanding than other concertos, especially some romantics, or those of Mozart, but in terms of interpretation, it's a whole new world.

Good luck, it's always great, encouraging and inspiring to see motivated people setting high goals :)

May 11, 2016 at 06:45 PM · The OP had mentioned in a previous thread that he was developing left-hand tendinitis, which is a sure sign of not just too much playing, but also inappropriate technique.

As an adult in your 30s, your body will not recover from injury the way a child's will. Be very very careful that you do not set yourself up for chronic problems.

May 11, 2016 at 10:35 PM · The cause of the tendinitis was identified as being from a specific movement which was hyper-flexion of the first joint mostly on the index finger. It was typically from a position such as, for example, holding down 4th finger on the a-string and stretching to f-natural on e-string, or something similar. I have remedied it by increasing hand/finger flexibility so the joint doesn't need to bend as much. But injuries and recovery time are still a major concern, the body just doesn't cooperate like it used to.

Hermes, I will get a copy of the concerto to study, thanks for the suggestion.

May 11, 2016 at 11:50 PM · The journey won't be easy (much less short), but it's certainly not impossible. Take care of yourself, though, and never forget that the "no pain, no progress" rule often applied to athletic activities DOES NOT apply to any serious violin study.

May 12, 2016 at 12:57 AM · K d , Glad you overcame the tendinitis issue. Whatever involves pain or sore on muscles, tendons or nerves could be quite complex just to be easily attributed on a certain habit or something wrong in one's technique. For example, I had no issues for the past 20 years, when one day I found myself struggling with a mild form ulnar neuritis. I suspected that it was stress and strain in my elbow from playing. I visited a few doctors and physicians and it turned out to be my wrong body posture when sitting at my office.

However as Adalberto said, you do not need pain. If something bothers you, you need to consider the whole situation and think differently :) .

May 12, 2016 at 04:57 AM · Here is another perspective: violin playing is one of the few fields where being in your 30s is considered ancient. Others I could think of would be other Western classical instruments, chess, athletics, dance, and modeling, but other than that things seem generally a lot more forgiving. Violin is unnatural and complicated, but adult brains and muscles are a lot more plastic than people give them credit for.

May 12, 2016 at 05:12 AM · Here is an interesting article about adult brain plasticity.

May 12, 2016 at 06:35 AM · Yes, but I also heard, that with Sibelius (I never tried, but I like the piece very much, to listen to it other talented people playing it) medium bow pressure (M.P) is essential. But things get to be uncovered much later about the concerto, I heard :) Maybe not even about the first movement, but You hear so many very good level renditions, that you begin to wonder if it exists at all..... i mean there is so much to interpret it in so many different ways, other bad habits can be really caught on :) best, good night

May 12, 2016 at 06:49 AM · you begin to wonder, if bad practicing habits take a revenge on the rendition :(((((

May 13, 2016 at 08:17 AM · k d, I am also a newer student and love love love Sibelius. I was eyeballing some old violins on a website and there are samples being played. Once I heard the first page from Op 47 there was nothing else on my mind.

I have the music but don't expect to ever be able to play it well, though I am going to have a go at some lines I can manage sometime in the near future. It will quickly show where I am deficient. Why not?

May 13, 2016 at 09:41 AM · James, I totally agree. Play and enjoy.

Listen to the vengerov/barenboim version on youtube, it's my favorite at the moment.

May 13, 2016 at 05:29 PM · It's longer than that for the typical child starter. Leaving out all the ones who will never actually make it to Sibelius level, it's a concerto that they're much more likely to play during conservatory or even grad school. Figuring that your average conservatory-bound kid starts playing at around age 5, that's 15+ years to Sibelius, and much of that spent practicing 2-4 hours a day.

You'll get exceptionally hard-working or talented kids doing Sibelius in high school, but probably towards the end of high school -- call it more than 10 years into playing. (I'm excluding prodigies from this.)

Many adult amateurs who started playing in childhood and continue to take lessons in adulthood never reach the Sibelius point either.

May 13, 2016 at 06:53 PM · For those of us who started playing the violin in late adulthood the Sibelius might as well be the other side of a Black Hole - although I have played in the second violins for a performance by an international star, so all is not lost (I was in the Event Horizon, to continue the metaphor).

May 13, 2016 at 07:00 PM · Is it just me alone? I found Tchaikovsky and Beethoven much harder than Sibelius....

Well k d, I think it is not impossible for one to progress real fast if he has time and knows what he is improving on. If you started from scratch and got to play suzuki book 6 in 1 year solidly, I would optimistically say that within 4-5 years you would be there tackling Sibelius with the condition that you would always be as commit as now.

May 13, 2016 at 09:01 PM · Greetings,

I respectfully think you are asking slightly the wrong question which relates to goal setting.

I -do- think you can set the Sibelius as a -long term goal.- There is no point in asking for a time specification (except it wont be four or five years I`m afraid) . The purpose of having along term goals is that you can then work backwards and set medium term goals toward sthat objective. Having set those you can set short term goals which may be retro engineered from this month down to the next ten minutes.

This method of setting golas is a super efficient way of making your practice more focused which is why Galwey talks about it so much in the inner game of tennis.

Forget the &%$# time question. Just know it is your goal and that you are moving towards it clowly and steadily, day by day, year by year. Who cares about how long it takes?

Violnists who think about development in terms of time are usually focusing on completely the wrong things.

Incidentally, your practice breakdown is diligent but too technique oriented. Cut back on the scales and do more music. You won`t play the Sibelius unless you can approach it with a high level of musical/artistic development.

Best of luck,


May 13, 2016 at 09:12 PM · Well, no. Techniques get harder as you progress. You get into learning and perfecting spiccatos of various kinds, staccatos, variations of vibratos, chords, double stops, harmonics, octaves, 10ths, etc...The likelihood you can progress at the same rate unless you're a wunderkind is far fetched, though if you keep the determination going then it shouldn't be too far out of reach in say, 10 years.. This is a far from what is remotely taught in Book 6. It's easy to progress quickly if you're determined in the first and second year, even to an extent your third year and we have no ideas how the original poster sounds, so they could simply be rushed through things with some pretty poor playing as is quite common.

The Violin is a long term instrument. People who get it into their minds believing you can tackle major works within an extremely short timeframe will just be let down.

I always found Beethoven tougher than Tchaikovsky or Sibelius, with Brahms a close second but as usual, it depends on your strengths and weaknesses.

May 13, 2016 at 09:45 PM · in fact,

if you were my student right now i would give you a practice regimen more like this.

Scales- One hour following the directions in the Simon Fischer manual. Probaly suggest you do one finger one steing scales....

Etudes- and execrcise. Absolutely no more than an hour.

Music- 2 hours

One hour- Study, reread, absorb and reread Fischers the violin lesson. If you genuinly understand Nd apply this book your long term goal will be much closer. It s the ultimate adult learner book. truly ground breaking.

One hour- listen to violinists. especially Heifetz, Oistrakh, Kreislrr, Szigeti, ZZmmerman, Hahn, Kavakos , Repi

n and Vengerov.

Without this last work yu will not have the internal vocabulary to tackle the Sibelius down the road.



May 13, 2016 at 10:02 PM · I think a lot of disagreement about how long before etc is to do with the level at which you want to play it - in four or five years, if you keep working and progressing at the same rate, could you slog through it? Probably. Would it be comfortable, fluent, something that non-related people would want to listen to? Probably not. Similarly, sure, there are kids doing Sibelius in high school, but most of the time they're not at a level that does justice to it as a piece.

May 13, 2016 at 11:52 PM · Well, if someone is looking at a major conservatory like Julliard, Curtis, NEC, etc., then a pretty polished Sibelius in high school ( or something of similar difficulty ) is pretty much par for the course unless you can pull of something considered less difficult absolutely immaculately. One definitely has to keep revisiting pieces in order to refine them though, and one would certainly hope that the renditions improve with experience.

May 14, 2016 at 01:34 AM · Most of the time, when a high school-or-older student is taught Sibelius (or Brahms or Tchaikovsky), the expectation is that they're going to play it very competently. Otherwise, why bother? That student could presumably instead be taught a credible Mendelssohn or Saint-Saens or Khachaturian, say, or some concerto of somewhat higher difficulty but isn't at the peak of difficulty (Prokofiev, Dvorak, etc.). By the time you get to a certain level, there's no point in butchering repertoire you can't play when there's plenty of repertoire you can play artistically, and patiently work your way up to the most difficult pieces.

May 14, 2016 at 02:32 AM · Frieda, by tackle I meant the stage at which I will be able to start learning it with the intention to play it competently and musically, without it being so difficult that I'm wasting my time.

Stephen, I neglected scales for almost the entire first year so I'm making up for it now. At this stage i find the breakdown to be ideal but will tweak as I go.

May 14, 2016 at 03:52 AM · I think that in 4 or 5 years, you will probably not even be able to slog through it (i.e., play it without comfort or fluency or in a way other people would want to listen to). There are physical techniques that the most difficult concertos require just to get the notes.

Competently and musically is still in the 10+ year timeframe, I think.

May 14, 2016 at 04:26 AM · I agree that Mr. Fischer's books in general will be invaluable to "30 year old violin study", especially since he actually believes (unlike many "old school" individuals) that age doesn't matter that much-and I strongly concur.

The muscle thing (kids vs adults) has been greatly exaggerated. Only adults with great physical problems will have trouble adapting to the instrument, given patient and intelligently guided work. Moreover, MANY, MANY kids also have problems learning the violin, as it's not really a natural workout for the body (though of course the aim is to make it feel as natural as unimpeded, healthy breathing.)

May 14, 2016 at 02:15 PM · Unless you are an accomplished virtuoso-level violinist, reaching this goal will require working with a teacher who can not only play at the level you aspire to but provide you with all the training necessary for your trouble spots. I had a cello teacher with capabilities like that who taught play the Haydn D Major cello concerto between year 1 and 2 of my teen-years cello studies. So it can be done.

However, during those same years I was also playing the violin (having stopped lessons when I was 12) and without guidance I waa playing through a marvelous book of 10 violin concertos (now long out of print) called "Standard Violin Concertos" (published by Broadcast Music, Inc. - and later by D. Appleton-Century Co.). If you do attempt to purchase it from e-bay or Amazon Marketplace, beware that you are likely to receive only the piano part and not the long-ago worn out violin part. For this reason, I am listing the concertos in this book, which you can access on

Bach, A Minor



Bruch G Minor

Lalo Symphonie Espagnole

Mendelssohn E Minor

Paganini D Major



Wieniawski D Minor

Those years spent doing these may not have turned me into a virtuoso capable of playing the Sibelius, but I became one hell of a sight reader and that served me well for the following 65 years of amateur orchestra playing.

In early June one of our local amateur orchestras (Mill Valley Philharmonic) will be performing a concerto concert including the concertmaster and principal 2nd playing the SIBELIUS and BARBER concertos, respectively - I hope to get to it. I played one set with that orchestra 16 years ago and I play with several of the tutti players in other ensembles.


May 14, 2016 at 05:43 PM · That must be a pretty swanky amateur orchestra.

May 14, 2016 at 07:12 PM · It's a pity that the magnificent Elgar VC is so often omitted from lists. It is well up there with the Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius, at least. The performance to listen to is by the 16-year old Yehudi Menuhin with the orchestra conducted by Elgar himself; 80 years later it is still hard to better.

Talking of amateur symphony orchestras, one I play in is the Long Ashton Orchestra near Bristol, England - known internally to its members as the "L.A." (can't think why). Not a large orchestra by some standards but there are at least five members who perform concertos with the orchestra, and we don't always have to rely on outside soloists. In recent months the leader (concertmaster) performed the Bruch G minor, and the principal cellist Lalo's cello concerto (the pair are now thinking about the Brahms Double). The principals of the brass and woodwind sections have also played concertos with the orchestra.

May 14, 2016 at 07:33 PM · Yes I do think it is a long terms project. Thanks. Otherwise, Paul, I think playing very fast G# scales in all positions helps, as of making it a large bulk of our planettime. Sorry, practime ;-)

May 14, 2016 at 07:34 PM · practice-time, sa-ba-dibadoooo ;-)

May 14, 2016 at 10:13 PM · "reaching this goal will require working with a teacher who can not only play at the level you aspire to but provide you with all the training necessary for your trouble spots."

Andrew I believe my teacher can do the latter, not the former, but I don't see why it would be necessary. It's certainly not in the sporting world.

May 14, 2016 at 10:25 PM · In the music world, it is true that the teachers at the very highest level cannot play at the level of their greatest virtuoso pupils -- but they generally play (or played, if they are older) at a very high level.

If you are going to learn a concerto like the Sibelius, you need to take lessons from a teacher who can play it themselves at a high level of competence. Otherwise they simply won't be able to tell you what to do and demonstrate how to execute it.

May 14, 2016 at 10:37 PM · Sorry for my comment earlier, by tackle, I mean you could try playing and practicing without thinking that its technically impossible to play. It doesn't imply that you could play Sibelius flawlessly after 5 years. For adult beginner, I don't see a point to be well equipped before starting working on what you want to play.

After all, you are not going to solo in front of an orchestra. Why restrain yourself? If you can produce good sound, competence with scales, double stop, and arpeggios, I don't see why you can't try playing Sibelius. Regarding musicality, it is crucial but it is also not very strongly correlated to techniques. Listen to recordings, attend concerts, and quite importantly, get a good violin to be able to explore the colours of sound.

k d - You need a good teacher would should be able to play a piece you are learning. If he can't demonstrate how should the passage be played, it would be quite troublesome isn't it? For me, couch in sport is like a conductor. They can do many things, except preventing you from playing out of tune.

May 14, 2016 at 11:55 PM · You want to be equipped to play a piece simply because it is hard to really enjoy doing it if it is a constant struggle, and also to have a little dignity. You also risk forming bad habits if you spend most of your time butchering.

May 15, 2016 at 05:13 AM · Yes, technology, well, a lesson from a teacher who's a decent old fellow (knowing Sibelius by history) start around 150 euros, so the more You stick around with this illusion that you absolutely need a teacher every week to correct your errors is minor :)

May 15, 2016 at 05:17 AM · butt of course, You're right, you need good equipment to have a chance .)

May 15, 2016 at 05:20 AM · or, You could get a cocktail, a cigarette, and just be happy :)

May 15, 2016 at 05:29 AM · I'll shut up on these things and promise to talk about interesting things, but also, I think it is normal to mess up the measures too (playing upbeat) when tuning is not okay :)

May 15, 2016 at 04:34 PM · "It's a pity that the magnificent Elgar VC is so often omitted from lists. It is well up there with the Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius, at least. The performance to listen to is by the 16-year old Yehudi Menuhin with the orchestra conducted by Elgar himself; 80 years later it is still hard to better."

Because it's not on the level as Brahms, Beethoven, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky... not even close. Musically, as well as technically it's fairly lacking. It's claim to fame is the duration of it being one of the longest concertos out there. It is one of the pieces you learn well after you've left school and are bored, wanting to try something different... then realize it's more of a marathon than a great piece.

Not to say Menuhin, and to an extent Kennedy do not do it justice. But there are better, more rounded pieces a student should dive into before the Elgar, unless you're a Cellist of course.

May 15, 2016 at 05:07 PM · In no other genre are we as fixated on a select group of "masterpieces" as the "best of all time never to again be paralleled". Sure Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, snd Sibelius were incredibly skilled, but thinking they and whoeverelse belongs to the warhorse cannon should be liked by all, and that everything else is subpar doesn't make sense. Everyone has their own tastes. This warhorse fetish is part of why great living composers are having such a hard time becoming household names. We can look to other genres to see that their canon is constantly evolving and learn from this.

May 15, 2016 at 05:20 PM · Ouch! I find the Elgar at least as satisfying as the Tchaikovsky; I love them both.

May 15, 2016 at 06:55 PM · As a Brit I think I can say with confidence that the music of Edward Elgar has long been held in especial affection in the UK.

I am a life-long cellist (although in recent years more of the retired variety), and I remember performing the Elgar cello concerto with my school orchestra in my far-off school days. I must admit though that today I'd prefer not to recollect some aspects of that performance too closely ...

May 16, 2016 at 01:30 AM · A little off-topic, but yes, while I love the Sibelius myself, there's SO MUCH music out there-and frequently not even that obscure a repertoire-that often gets neglected due to the "warhorses are the best!" mentality, or pure and simple $$$ (concerts/recordings-wise). This is further compounded, IMHO, by traditional teaching approaches in which we see certain works as advancing milestones, and where many other amazing works are deemed as "student pieces" (even Vieuxtemps 5 often gets the moniker)-plus the inherent competitive drive of the "business."

I also like the great Brahms Vln Cto., but there is an embarrassment of violin repertoire riches to delve into. We are very lucky in this, as long as we don't rely in someone else choosing for us what the only "real/musically deep" works are.

I don't believe that, by appreciating other works, one takes away from the excellence of the "great" concertos. Many of the supposedly "lesser" pieces have their place, and are worth exploring at the very least.

(All of this which isn't related to the OP's question-nothing wrong with loving the amazing Violin Concerto by Sibelius.)

May 16, 2016 at 01:55 AM · Lieschen Müller,

I'm assuming you're referring to my last post but, nobody I've seen said one has to like Sibelius, Tchaikovsky or Brahms. But Elgar, from a technical standpoint IS subpar to the previously mentioned three. Especially when you compare the Violin Concerto to his Cello Concerto. I personally cannot listen to Tchaikovsky as I've gotten to dislike the piece as a whole over the years, but that doesn't mean I cannot see how technically and musically above Elgar either. There will always, always and always be 'steps' so to speak, of pieces. One cannot deny that, nor can anybody really change the order of steps unless they have the experience with each piece, and even then that's iffy.

Far as "warhorse fetish" is considered, there's nothing wrong with that. But, thinking living composers cannot, how did you say ... "become household names" due to these select concertos being considered to pinnacle of virtuosity and technical brilliance as even remotely a reason is silly thinking.

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto wasn't as widely popular in his own lifetime until Van Cliburn famously won the competition in '58? '59? Brahms tore up thousands of scores in his own lifetime. Beethoven's Violin Concerto had a failed premiere, and was only rediscovered some 40 or so years later. Barber's concerto premiere has an extremely messy history, Sibelius' Vln concerto underwent a few revisions, etc.. Many now famous composers were not very successful (nor were they household names) while they were alive.

Living composers now have probably a tougher outlook, since Classical Music as a whole is far from mainstream or popular compared to say, even 100 years ago. Lest we also forget, a vast majority of composers nowadays are writing pieces which are both tough to even listen to for the public, and can have a tendency to be abstract and/or very poorly written scores. Public perception plays a huge role as well. There's quite a difference between something played continuously on the radio or streamed or whatever kids use today, than composing pieces which the radio/whatever would never air. You cannot blame today's music issues on some fabled warhorse canon, though.

Anyways, that's enough on Elgar as off topic as one can get. To get back on topic and the last I'll touch this thread, no 5 years after picking up the Violin is too little timeframe to learn what is needed for Sibelius. And no, those people trying to push the idea of "just try it little by little" mantra are obviously inexperienced. You wouldn't start playing the piano and attempt a Liszt, Chopin or Tchaikovsky concerto thinking it's going to go great... this is how you you make learning a chore very very quickly and get people to quit, including themselves. It's bad advice. Especially when half the people do not even know what is needed to even approach a piece of this magnitude. Very silly.

May 16, 2016 at 02:26 AM · Music listening/performing shouldn't be relegated to a "select" few masterpieces that "make the cut", lest we end up with a very limited (and over time, exhausting) repertoire. Moreover, only YOU, the musician/music lover, should choose what is great/fun/whathaveyou music for yourself.

In fact, I believe this "warhorse" phenomena is real, though I would not say is anything new and has been going for a long time now (many pieces that Mr. Heifetz played are no longer "in style"... he probably had "bad" musical taste as well, one would assume.)

May 16, 2016 at 03:37 AM · Many of those pieces are works that only Heifetz championed. That's not really especially unusual -- many newly-composed works never find much of a permanent home in the canon.

But two of those works -- the Korngold violin concerto and Waxman's Carmen Fantasie -- have very much entered the modern canon. Arguably the Rosza violin concerto has as well, although it doesn't have the popularity of the other two.

And of course many of Heifetz's own arrangements are now part of the standard canon of recital works for violinists.

May 16, 2016 at 04:44 AM · exactly. Also, renditions can be very useful in ways of "tackling" a cannon. Canon, sorry. I never used to get the first chords of the Chaconne right, but in the Carl Flesch appendix, I understand the chords better. I'm not sure what's the difference, because i lost the other rendition (I know where it is, but cannot check that now().

May 16, 2016 at 04:58 AM · One of he benefits of not having a bad teacher (having a good one is of course infinitely better) is that You can map out the "repertoire" as of your current technical projection, so when you can play something you like, and technically handle, then you might look for something a bit harder. And we know how large classical literature is, so it just goes on and on :)

May 16, 2016 at 05:13 AM · I mean, dudes, Sibelius is tough here :)

May 16, 2016 at 08:08 AM · At this level, we are surely not "looking for something a bit harder", but taking the listener on a fabulous journey, full of lanscapes, characters and sensations. (Elgar included..)

May 16, 2016 at 02:36 PM · Once you get into Suzuki bk 6 territory, you can't expect you'll progress at the same speed relative to other players. At that level, the average player is working harder. In terms of the work you're putting in, you'll be more "average" so your progress won't appear as fast to you. Relatively.

This is the point where you probably need to take more time with pieces and technique.

I tend to just look up to the next rung of the ladder. That's enough motivation for me. Although I can understand the curiosity about what the road looks like up ahead.

May 16, 2016 at 04:34 PM · I looked up the repertoire for Suzuki book 6 and can tell you how long it took me from that point to Tschaikovsky: 16 years. Probably not great news, but you may well go faster. This was divided up as: teens-20s, 6 years of lots of practice hours per day, long break from lessons(40 years!), 10 years of much less practice per day. As others have indicated, once you enter the land of the very hard, it is a different ball game, one that many very competent players choose not to play. Congratulations on your progress and enjoy the many beautiful works that are ahead of you!

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