Repertoire for a Senior Solo

September 12, 2016 at 12:30 AM · Hey Guys,

Right now I'm a Sophomore in high school, and I'm starting too consider what piece I would like to play for qualification as a senior soloist. Getting a senior solo is very competitive (but possible) so I spoke with my teacher on what I should focus on in order to secure a spot. She mentioned that a lot of times standing out as a violinist is hard, and even though their are usually only 7-8 applicants, it comes to the fine details that separate one from another. They pick 4, because we do 4 concerts a year. Right now, I'm learning the Mendelssohn violin concerto, but I find myself struggling to not over romanticize the phrasing, as Mendelssohn was a classical composer.

My teacher says this is a very normal phase in a musicians life, as it is the time when one's musical interpretation evolves into higher concepts that go above 'What sounds good' and 'What the composer meant to write'.

Leaving that aside, I was thinking that the piece that I want to choose should not be too orchestra heavy, as many of the players lack solid technical support, even though it is the highest orchestra.

Any suggestions of suitable repertoire?

Sorry if this seems very unscripted.

Thank you so much,


Replies (25)

September 12, 2016 at 12:32 AM · Maybe tchaikovsky? Sibelius? I'm actually 13 and those two songs are my main goal before I go to college.... So?

September 12, 2016 at 12:37 AM · Even though I have two years, I don't know if I have what it takes, especially to pull it off with grace and emotion. It is a goal, but probably not as a high schooler. Also I feel like the above pieces put a lot of stress on the orchestra, which I don't really think is a good idea. Do you see what I'm saying?

September 12, 2016 at 01:13 AM · Bruch G minor is a wonderful romantic concerto. What other concerto pieces have you worked on?

September 12, 2016 at 01:15 AM · When is the competition? You probably want to start working on your competition piece around 6 months to a year in advance of it (more time allows you to stop working on it, play something else, and then come back to it, which can be beneficial). So I imagine you have a year and a half or so before you have to pick a piece?

Is it an entire concerto or a single movement? Are works for violin and orchestra (like Zigeunerweisen) acceptable or does it have to be a concerto?

It is paradoxically easier for a not-great orchestra to accompanying a Romantic work than a Classical one (and Mendelssohn definitely counts as Romantic here, by the way), because it requires less absolute precision and bad intonation is less obvious. Bruch No. 1, Mendelssohn, and Barber (1st or 2nd movement) are well within the ability of a mediocre high school orchestra to accompany. (An excellent youth symphony can play darn near anything, though.)

I recall you intend to audition for conservatory. You might want to make the concerto the same one you intend to use for college auditions, or if you've got a showpiece for auditions that has an orchestral accompaniment, the same showpiece. You were thinking Tchaikovsky or Sibelius or the like for college auditions, weren't you?

September 12, 2016 at 01:52 AM · You're working on Mendelssohn now, so pretty soon you'll have that polished. With a concerto like that "in the bag", you would have a good hedge to aim for something more advance. I would think it's not prudent, however, for this one competition to take you completely off the course of the order in which your teacher thinks you should learn repertoire.

September 12, 2016 at 02:05 AM · I'm not sure what you mean by "struggling to not over romanticize the phrasing". The usual problem with Mendelssohn for a student violinist is technical issues, e.g., intonation and bowing. Do you play the entire concerto as the senior soloist?

September 12, 2016 at 02:14 AM · Speaking in terms of the school orchestra I'm in... Our accompaniment for the Sibelius or Tchaikovsky doesn't look like it would not go over very well. But I don't think you should decide what you should play based on the accompaniment. You'd be surprised at the capability of others to step up when they need to. Have you talked to your teacher about this? She probably knows what will suit you best.

September 12, 2016 at 02:28 AM · Sibelius can be hard for the orchestra (and conductor). Lots of places to leave a soloist hanging out to dry. Tchaikovsky is just as hard for the orchestra to make perfect, but it is much more forgiving of small and medium-sized blemishes. Mozart is very transparent and shows all sorts of flaws, but there are fewer decisions about tempo/rubato for the conductor to mess up.

Other choices-- something like Saint-Saens #3, Lalo Symphony Espagnole or Wieniawski #2. Or do you already have anything besides Mendelssohn in the can?

Also, do you need to do the whole thing, or just one movement? And would a concert piece like Chausson's Poeme be acceptable?

September 12, 2016 at 03:04 AM · Hey Guys,

Sung, I have completed the 1st and 2nd Bruch movements enough to have a decent recital. I'm not as fond of it, and looking at the score, especially for the 1st movement part, their is a lot of stress on the first violins at the tutti. Also, places such as the eight notes leading to the open g string in the second page, often times is slowed down very much, but based off of what my teacher says, the notes themselves are quite slow (quarter notes) so it is unnecessary to slow down, and over romantices what Mendelssohn's actual intention was. My technique is quite graceful, and surely is one of my strong points. Interpretation, however, isn't.

Lydia, really anything is accepted, as a few years ago a student did the Saint Saens Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, and another one did Carmen Fantasy by Sarasate, but mostly I have seen concertoes used in their audition. I do have two years, which obviously is a lot more that six months, but I want to keep this on the back burner just as something to work towards.

Paul, I don't plan to have my teacher fully change my course, but I do want to add another concerto as time progress, perhaps a check point or a milestone to work towards.

Bailey, I understand what your point is, and I will tottaly note this. Either ways, I wasn't planning to choose my piece SOLELY over the orchestral accompaniment, however, it is a contributing factor.

Stephan, I don't think I'm leaning towards Mozart, because Mozart is much more exposed, than say Symphonie Espagnole or Saint Saens and it is generally not something I feel passionate about, musically. I've been really interested in Saint Saens #3 Mvt. 3. What do you guys think?

The requirement is that it has to be a movement, and it can be a third movement unless it is a show piece, (than it is the entire thing.)

Thank you so much for the replies,


September 12, 2016 at 03:09 AM · Oh and Lydia,

I'm not sure if I was contemplating Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, because it was a huge technical stretch. I changed my mind quickly after having a conversation with my teacher. But yes, I'm probably going to want to use that piece (if it is a concerto) for my college audition.



September 12, 2016 at 03:11 AM · (Sorry, I wrote this before I saw the OP's replies.)

In a competition where the prize is playing with the orchestra and the conductor is on the judging panel (and even more so when the conductor is the sole judge), it is absolutely important to consider programming decisions, which will include the conductor's assessment of the feasibility of accompanying the work, and sometimes budget (more modern works may require part rental, and the orchestra might not have the budget to rent the parts).

I played in a very good youth symphony that managed a Tchaikovsky accompaniment just fine, and I've been in community orchestras that didn't have trouble, but it's not trivial, and the 3rd movement is kind of a pain for the violins. If you did a Tchaikovsky 1st movement, the orchestra could probably manage the accompaniment. A consideration there is that the Tchaikovsky is really long (both as a whole and for the 1st movement specifically), and in limited rehearsal time, that can be a problem.

Broadly, you want the orchestra to be able to manage without needing to "step up" too much. It's easier to focus on playing well yourself when the orchestra isn't distracting you with slips or destabilizing your sense of the center of pitch (or just making it tough for you to sound like you're playing in tune because the orchestra's pitch has wandered off-course). It's also more fun spending the rehearsals playing through and working on musical issues, rather than the orchestra needing to scramble to learn the notes.

September 12, 2016 at 03:13 AM · Achuth, you wouldn't happen to know Sebastian from the viola's would you !?

September 12, 2016 at 03:14 AM · I'm agree with you tottaly, Lydia. :)

September 12, 2016 at 03:15 AM · No, I'm sorry I don't. Do you know what chair he sits?

September 12, 2016 at 03:15 AM · If you enjoy Saint-Saens No. 3, by all means learn it. It's not much of a step up from Mendelssohn, and it's an acceptable audition concerto, too. I've never accompanied it in orchestra, though, so I'm not sure how difficult the orchestral accompaniment is.

By the way, you're in the Chicago area, aren't you? Don't forget the CSO concerto competition. :-)

September 12, 2016 at 03:16 AM · I'm looking at the score right now :)

September 12, 2016 at 03:17 AM · He sits in the middle of the section. I believe he sits chair 7. He was principal Viola for the debut orchestra last year I believe. He's a sophomore as well. One of my best friends.

September 12, 2016 at 03:17 AM · The tuttis are a little bit more intense, but it overall seems much simpler than, say, a Tchaikovsly tutti.

September 12, 2016 at 03:17 AM · I will make sure to say Hi!

September 12, 2016 at 03:17 AM · I will make sure to say Hi!

September 12, 2016 at 03:18 AM · Sorry double post

September 12, 2016 at 03:20 AM · Lydia,

I think I want to learn the entire concerto, just because. I'll talk to my teacher and see what she thinks about it.

September 12, 2016 at 03:21 AM · Thank you guys, so much for the help. I will for sure let you know what my teacher thinks. :)

September 12, 2016 at 04:09 AM · You should learn the entirety of whatever concertos you're studying. It usually makes sense to go in order, starting with the 1st movement, because the work develops musically throughout and therefore learning will feel more coherent if you start at the beginning.

September 12, 2016 at 04:14 PM · I'm finishing Mozart 5 first movement, and I didn't think I was going to do all three movements, but I'm having a change of heart. Mostly because I think Bruch would be next and my daughter is working on that now, so I'm seeing how hard it is! Doing the rest of M5 will buy me some time. Or maybe I'll do Kabalevsky in between.

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