Kabalevsky and other student concertos.

September 14, 2016 at 05:29 AM · Hello! The Kabalevsky Violin Concerto is one of my favorite pieces. I am excited to play it as my next concerto, and maybe use it for college auditions. I was wondering if anyone had any tips on the piece (ALL 3 Movements).

I also would like to know what exactly makes a student concerto a student piece. I've heard Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski concertos called student concertos, the same for Rode and Kabalevsky. I personally believe they are not student concertos. Is there a set point where they become "real" concertos? I feel that student concertos would be like the Rieding/Seitz, Accolay, and Haydn G Major.

Lastly, for college auditions, how does Mozart 3 go for a standard concerto?

Replies (42)

September 14, 2016 at 05:45 AM · For college auditions, what is an appropriate piece depends very much on where you are applying. The Kabalevsky will not get you into a first- or second-tier music school. It is considered a student concerto because it is not very difficult and it is seldom performed on the professional stage. That being said, I like the piece a lot and teach it often, though I find the 3rd movement far less interesting than the 1st. My number one practice tip for you is SLOW practice and lots of it. And by "slow" I mean SLOW. Make sure you know where to land on every shift and that you are playing every note in tune before you start to speed it up.

Mozart 3 is a standard concerto and is much harder to play well than many students think. Most people auditioning for a first- or second-tier school play something technically harder (Tchaikovsky or Sibelius, maybe Mendelssohn or Bruch for a second-tier school) but it's actually easier to hide imperfections in a big romantic work than in Mozart, assuming one can handle the technique.

What is your goal with a music degree? What does your teacher have to say about your ambitions?

September 14, 2016 at 06:30 AM · Out of curiosity - what would you consider first tier vs second tier vs lower tier conservatories?

I'm curious where you would say Oberlin, or SF Conservatory stands.

September 14, 2016 at 06:36 AM · I would describe Oberlin and SF Conservatory as first-tier. Second-tier...schools like SMU or UT-Austin--they have excellent faculty and produce some very fine graduates but aren't quite as competitive as the schools at the top.

Of course there are gradations within the larger tiers as well. Everyone knows Oberlin is less competitive than Curtis.

September 14, 2016 at 07:23 AM · Do you think Tchaik/Sibelius are the only 2 you could reasonably audition with to get into a first tier like those 2? (IE not the top of the top like Julliard/Curtis but still competitive) Probably not Bruch for first tier but it seems like Mendelssohn is kind of in between, would you agree?

I found this video of someone prescreening their SF Conservatory audition for a Masters degree, playing the Mendelssohn, and they said that they were accepted in.


What else could you audition with for first tier schools?

Thanks for answering the questions by the way, I've always been curious about this kind of thing.

September 14, 2016 at 10:09 AM · I want to be earn a performance degree and double major in performance and pedagogy. I feel Kabalevsky isn't difficult enough for auditions, this could be my opinion. I am not 100% doing Kabalevsky yet. I could probably do something different. Compared to Kabalevsky, how hard are Rode concerto 7, DeBeriot 9, and the Conus concerto? I've heard that these are student concertos.

September 14, 2016 at 10:59 AM · My teacher has also said that after Kabalevksy or what ever I do after the Mozart, I can start Bruch or Mendelssohn, so I could end up using one of those as well.

September 14, 2016 at 12:27 PM · If you can't play Tchaik or Sibelius, then you can't play Tchaik or Sibelius. Better to play a good Lalo or Mendelssohn than to butcher the Tchaik.

I don't know much about it, but I would think that for a college or conservatory audition, you would definitely want to avoid pieces that 13-year-olds are playing essentially flawlessly on YouTube.

As for your second major, how about pre-pharmacy?

September 14, 2016 at 02:04 PM · "Probably not Bruch for first tier but it seems like Mendelssohn is kind of in between, would you agree?

I found this video of someone prescreening their SF Conservatory audition for a Masters degree, playing the Mendelssohn, and they said that they were accepted in."

That is very nice playing; it doesn't surprise me that the video passed the pre-screen. Mendelssohn is harder to play well than many people think--it's similar to Mozart in its intonation demands. I can't be sure but the background suggests it was recorded at Oberlin...? I haven't been back to visit the campus for nearly twenty years.

September 14, 2016 at 05:08 PM · The Kabalevsky was written to be able to be played by students, although it's a nice work, and it was played and recorded by professionals like David Oistrakh. Here's one of my teacher's 13-year-old students playing the first movement with a youth orchestra (start at 17:40 on this video), after something like a month learning it: VIDEO. I post this as an example of a "normal kid" good performance.

Rode 7 and DeBeriot 9 are pretty much purely student works these days. They have their technical challenges, though. Conus is a full-fledged Romantic concerto and it's not easy, but mostly taught to students these days; it's never gotten popular as concert-hall fare. Wieniawski 2 is moderately difficult and Wieniawski 1 is extremely difficult; Vieuxtemps 4 and 5 are both difficult. But these four concertos are more show-off competition works than concert-hall fare these days, though Hilary Hahn has championed Vieuxtemps and I think 20 years ago there were more people playing Wieniawski 2 in the concert-hall.

September 14, 2016 at 06:28 PM · How likely is it that a student doing Mozart 3 could go on to the Conus?

September 14, 2016 at 08:07 PM · That is entirely dependent on how well the student is able to play Mozart 3 and what other sorts of repertoire the student has studied.

September 14, 2016 at 09:55 PM · Out of Kabalevsky, Rode 7, and DeBeriot 9, which would probably be better for auditions?

September 14, 2016 at 10:28 PM · Isn't music pedagogy usually a graduate-level thing, not an undergrad major? In other words, you would get a BM in violin performance, and then go on to get a master's or doctorate in music pedagogy?

So in the case of any three of those works, you'd be trying to audition into a performance program with late-intermediate student repertoire. Avoid that if you can.

Based on the other thread you posted, you have another 2 years to prep for college auditions. Going from a well-played Mozart 3 to a competent Bruch might very well be possible in 2 years, I think. You don't want to spend 2 years working on this Kabalevsky. Learn it, move on, see where you are when it comes to actually picking a piece for auditions.

September 14, 2016 at 11:24 PM · I realize that those 3 works are not good for that. If I had to play one of them for an audition for violin performance, which one would be the best?

September 15, 2016 at 03:34 AM · When he said pedagogy I think he meant music education, which is a fairly popular BA level program at a lot of places. I had a job whilst in college accompanying music-ed majors at their lessons and recitals and master classes. It was lucrative and very easy because I chose to work exclusively with voice students, all of whom are essentially beginners at the age of 18. I met quite a number of fine and interesting people doing that.

September 15, 2016 at 04:04 AM · I found this piece that doesn't seem too difficult.

Lalo Violin Concerto Op. 20 in F Major.

How hard is it? There is a recording on YouTube that has sheet music along with it.

September 15, 2016 at 05:13 AM · Lalo is much harder than Kabalevsky; it's comparable to Bruch g minor.

Please consult with your teacher on repertoire.

Edited to say what? I saw Lalo and immediately went to Symphonie Espagnole. Not familiar with an F major concerto, but you should still take your teacher's advice.

September 15, 2016 at 01:12 PM · From Jacob's earlier threads, he's interested in pedagogy, not public-school music teaching (the music education degree), from the looks of it.

Neither Lalo's F-major concerto nor his Concerto Russe get played much. Stick with standard repertoire for auditions.

Jacob, does your teacher have other students auditioning for conservatories this year? And in the previous years? What did she have them play, and how successful were they?

September 15, 2016 at 09:35 PM · I don't think most of her students are high school age. I know of only a few students who are advanced. She said she did Bruch with one of her students and one of her current students is playing the Beethoven Romance in F. I found a college that is not to difficult it seems. I'll ask tomorrow during my lesson. I doubt she has students going to first tier conservatories.

Here is the undergrad audition requirements from a local college:


The Kabalevsky is listed as standard. Yay!

September 15, 2016 at 11:03 PM · Is there any option to study with a teacher reasonably nearby (call it within an hour's drive) who does have experience preparing students for conservatory auditions, and more broadly, for future careers as performers?

Also: You were mentioning in the other thread that you're starting to practice 2-3 hours a day, but you were planning on more. When do you think you're going to start doing 4 hours a day, every day?

Beyond managing to get into the pretty wide funnel for being admitted to a school somewhere, you have to worry about the narrow end of that funnel in terms of getting to the point where you graduate with a skillset that enables you to earn a living. You have to worry about the kids your age who are already playing Tchaikovsky (or even Mendelssohn) and are still beavering away for 4+ hours a day, widening that gap between them and you each day. Intensive effort towards gap-closure is necessary, meaning you have to work several times as hard as players who are already more advanced, for probably the next decade of your life.

September 15, 2016 at 11:29 PM · There are not many teachers in the area I live that I can have lessons with on a consistent basis. My current teacher is the best option available to me. 4 hours a day will probably start before the end of this year. I realize that hard work is needed for where I am, but I might end up taking a gap year to focus on violin. I will probably at least be doing Bruch or Mendelssohn before I graduate high school according to my teacher. I enjoy playing almost more than anything else, so hard work is not something I am worried about.

September 16, 2016 at 01:41 AM · Lydia has good advice. My concern for you, Jacob, is that you don't seem to be surrounded by people playing at a competitive pre-professional level and so you don't have a complete picture of how you fit in. Anything you can do--attending master classes or youth concerts (especially if you can get to Bloomington), going to a national summer music festival, anything that puts you in contact with higher-level students--is a good thing, both because it will speed up your progress and because it will be a dose of reality that will help inform your decisions over the next few years.

September 16, 2016 at 03:21 AM · Jacob, also seriously consider spending your summers somewhere that they basically lock you in a room and you practice as much as possible. Meadowmount mandates a minimum of 5 hours a day, I think, and it would give you some perspective on the skill of other students.

I'll point out that the end of the year is 4 months away -- basically a whole third of a year away. There are 107 days left this year. By staying at 2 hours a day instead of 4 hours a day, for just those couple of additional months, that's 214 hours of potential practice you've burned. That's basically equivalent to learning a whole concerto to a performance standard.

So you have to ask yourself: What's preventing you from doing 4 hours a day, every day, starting tomorrow?

Even if you can't have weekly lessons with a better teacher, I would suggest that you strongly consider discussing the matter with your current teacher and seeing if someone who does prep students for conservatory students can work with you once per month.

By the way, it's worth posting a video of your Mozart 3. You'll probably get useful commentary that informs your choices. Just film it with your phone and upload it to YouTube. Don't try to get a "good take" or whatever. How you casually play is best to see.

September 16, 2016 at 03:38 AM · Four hours in the morning and one in the afternoon at Meadowmount. Great place! Quite selective, though, so anyone who wants to go better get to it as far as practice. It is also not cheap.

September 16, 2016 at 03:56 AM · What is Meadowmount? I feel like I've heard of it before. I'll try to create a YouTube account and upload a video. I thought about how much practicing I should do and I came to a conclusion. I'm going to practice as much as possible. Once I get done with homework for school and any chores I need to do, I'll practice for the rest of the time I have and take food/drink rests.

September 16, 2016 at 04:07 AM · Meadowmount is a camp established by Galamian.

Split your practice session up. You don't want to do four hours in a block. Do an hour in the morning (get up earlier), and an hour before you do homework.

September 16, 2016 at 04:14 AM · Meadowmount looks too difficult to get into right now. I will probably do the IU summer music clinic again this year. I did receive a pamphlet from youth orchestra about a violin boot camp held by a violin teacher who went to IU and plays with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. It seems like a supplement to lessons and is on Saturdays. It seems to be more than just lessons. The teacher is Noelle Tretrick Gosling.

September 16, 2016 at 04:19 AM · I think the fact that one has basically nothing to do but practice at Meadowmount is great, and there are some high-quality instructors, but overall, I would advise against the place. I understand that it has been around over 70 years and those who commented on it above may have gone when the place was in its prime. I think it has probably changed a lot since Galamian was alive. Although there are some high level players, there are a lot of practices that, I would say are questionable, if not outright harmful. A friend I met there left less than halfway through with no refund on the basis of disability discrimination and ended up suing. There was also an incident where a former director prostituted a student in exchange for tuition ( Read here: http://nypost.com/2008/06/09/perv-suit-hits-top-music-academy/). To say the dining area and kitchen are unsanitary is an understatement, and I was one of the lucky ones not to get food poisoning while there. When it rained, water leaked into many of the rooms, and because no one came to fix it, mold grew. The ambulance takes 15 minutes or more to arrive, and the first responders are mostly volunteers with no training whatsoever. As for the practicing, I did say that one can very easily practice the whole time, and that is not bad at all, except that students under 18 are treated like delinquents rather than serious young artists. If under 18, you literally are not allowed to leave your room between breakfast and lunch, except for a few designated break times, not even to go to the bathroom. Get caught going pee, and you get an "x", which is essentially a warning, and getting a certain amount either leads to different privileges being revoked, or being kicked out all together. You also cannot use the bathroom at night and the under 18 dorms are alarmed from 10:30pm-7:15am. You are also required to be supervised at all times and this means filling out a very detailed schedule of where you will be on campus and any deviation could get you kicked out. You can get kicked out for having benign OTC products such as a first-aid kit, or crossing the street. If you think you will perform, think again, as only a select few get to do so, and most performers have either attended several years of study with the same teacher year round. If you go, you will ask yourself what you are actually paying for. I was fortunate enough not to have to pay and felt sorry for those who did. There are other programs (Heifetz, Indiana String Camp, etc.) which afford lots of practice time, and simply being forced to do it will do no good when you are on your own and need to have the discipline come from within. If you absolutely insist on studying with a teacher there, see if you can arrange off-campus housing, but I must say I have warned you if you choose to stay on-campus.

September 16, 2016 at 04:27 AM · Doing an orchestra camp won't help you much. Arguably it's almost a waste of time, because what you need to be doing is focused work on becoming a better player. Spending all day in orchestra rehearsals and working on orchestra music might be fun, but effectively what you're doing is robbing yourself of that X number of hours each day that you could be practicing.

IU Summer String Academy is a different matter, though. (Mimi Zweig is an amazing teacher.)

September 16, 2016 at 04:36 AM · That also seems difficult to get into. I'd love to do it, but don't know if I can apply and actually get in.

September 16, 2016 at 03:09 PM · If you don't yet have the rep to apply for IU, I really suggest you go down there (or I suppose it could be "up" for you, not knowing where you live in Indiana) for the student concerts this summer, which are open to the public. It will be enjoyable and educational. Not every state has a world-class music school; in fact, few do. It is an amazing resource that you should take advantage of in any way you can.

September 16, 2016 at 03:45 PM · If I recall correctly, they allow auditors as well. You can go and watch the masterclasses. You will probably learn a lot just from that.

Back when I was a kid, too young for the strings program, my teacher took myself and my mother to IU as auditors. Really made an impression on me.

January 14, 2017 at 01:47 AM · I'm gonna resurrect this to ask what people think of Saint-Saens Concerto No. 3 as an audition piece. I don't hear it talked about as often and I'm curious what people think of it in terms of difficulty and if it would be reasonable as a conservatory audition piece. It seems to me it's harder than Bruch but maybe 'easier' than Mendelssohn? And why is it talked about so much less than Bruch/Mendelssohn, or am I imagining that?

January 14, 2017 at 06:17 AM · I agree Saint-Saens 3 is harder than Bruch; perhaps marginally easier than Mendelssohn. I don't know why it is performed less often--it's a beautiful piece. I've been away from the conservatory audition world for a very long time but I would guess that its acceptability as an audition piece would depend very much on how well one played it, and where one was auditioning. I'm pretty sure it would not suffice for Juilliard or Curtis.

January 14, 2017 at 08:29 PM · Saint Saens has very awkward passage work, but played well can show off the ability to create different moods and tone colors. Mendelssohn has the disadvantage of being quite long. Regarding that, do not expect to stop after the cadenza. I had a situation recently that a student looked hopeful after completing the cadenza and I told him to go on simply because he was expecting us to stop him. What happened after that was not pretty. If you want to get into Juilliard or Curtis do Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Brahms, or better yet Bartok 2.

January 15, 2017 at 01:27 AM · Yea I was thinking more SFC, Oberlin, Eastman, etc rather than the very very top.

It's definitely a beautiful piece so it's really surprising to me that it's not talked about very much when talking about Bruch-Mendelssohn level pieces, or performed often.

January 15, 2017 at 01:32 AM · Saint-Saens 3 isn't programmed as often, either. Bruch and Mendelssohn are hugely popular with audiences.

I thought it was somewhat harder than Mendelssohn when I learned it (in my teens). Not in terms of the left hand, but more in terms of color/style and right-hand technique.

January 15, 2017 at 01:43 AM · In terms of leading up to the Saint-Saens, would Mozart 5, Kabalevsky, and Bruch be a good concerto background to start learning Saen-Saens? Or would you throw another concerto in there? Obviously every player is different but I'm asking in general.

January 15, 2017 at 03:27 PM · Most major concertos have their own distinctive technical challenges.

In general, once you reach the Bruch level, you should have more or less mastered the basic range of technique necessary to play the violin. After that point, it's all refinement and specific challenges (which may include virtuosic tricks of the Paganini variety).

Ideally, when you study a major concerto that you're ready to play, most of it will probably get learned fairly quickly, and your practice time will mostly get poured into a handful of passages that are really difficult and/or contain new techniques.

If you have a really fluent left hand -- agile, articulate, well-shaped, fast and precise shifts, good intonation -- it will help no matter what you're playing. If you have the patience, that's best learned in etudes and exercises.

January 15, 2017 at 09:51 PM · You can judge a student's general technical level by the pieces that they've played, subject to whether or not those pieces are actually appropriate to their level -- but on the assumption that they're played well (relative to that general pedagogical level), it's a pretty good gauge.

Practice time doesn't matter as much as accomplishment, but you can generally judge a student's seriousness by how many hours a day they practice. Anything less than two is inadequate for someone with pre-professional ambitions. For anyone catching up, maximizing practice hours -- up to 4 a day is generally productive -- is pretty vital, and is a solid indicator of whether or not someone is passionate enough about the violin to remain committed to a professional course of study.

Anyone who doesn't love practicing 4 hours a day probably ought to be looking for another profession, regardless of how good they are.

(Yes, there are top pros -- Perlman and Milstein, most notoriously -- who aren't/weren't diligent practicers, but both of them essentially mastered the violin in childhood, and both of them spend/spent their days with their violin in their hands, without it being formal "practice time" per se.)

January 16, 2017 at 12:28 AM · Adding on to that, I think it's important to work up to practicing a lot. When I started getting serious I was playing maybe 2 hours a day, and then one day I tried 4 and felt so exhausted mentally and physically that I could barely practice the next day. Now I'm up to 4 - 4.5 hours a day no problem but I'm definitely catching up lost time and need (and want) all of that time practicing.

Part of it is set up too, I can't practice too long without my neck/back hurting a bit despite having good posture (my teacher said that I have good posture at least) and I think it has to do with my super long neck. I'm slowly finding a solution to it so I can be comfortable playing but it's frustrating being held back by (lack of) comfort. I just ordered a Kreddle so hopefully that will help, because I've found that the most comfortable position is with the violin as low to the collarbone as possible, and then something to fill the space between my jaw and the violin. Normal and even slightly raised chinrests won't cut it for me.

January 16, 2017 at 03:13 AM · Nothing will teach you that you play with too much tension like playing for longer periods of time, too, along with the set-up issues that Miles raised.

Learning to pace yourself is a skill unto itself. Certainly in music school you will be playing long hours (personal practice, orchestra rehearsal, chamber music, etc.). But professionally you can end up with multiple gigs in a day, and still have to practice that night for stuff you're doing the next day (for instance, you might take a last-minute gig subbing in for a player who's sick or the like, forcing you to learn music on very short notice).

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