November 11, 2016 at 06:31 AM · Hi everyone,

I'm participating in a violin solo festival, where I'm to play three pieces.

One has to be a concerto (which will be the Mozart No. 4), and two have to be standard solos from violin repertoire.

I picked my slow piece, which is to be Meditation from Thais by Massanet. However, I want to know what piece would contrast well with the Meditation to make a better concert program.

Something fast, yet not too difficult.


Replies (32)

November 11, 2016 at 04:42 PM · How about the A major polonaise brilliant by wieniawski?

November 11, 2016 at 05:42 PM · Monte's Csardas is always fun! And it fits your two criteria.

November 11, 2016 at 08:28 PM · That Wieniawski is far harder than the other works.

I'd pick something that seems more virtuosic, though. Csardas is indeed good. You could also do Ten Have's Allegro Brillante, perhaps. Or a short Kreisler work.

November 11, 2016 at 08:46 PM · How about a Bach solo piece from the sonatas and partitas? G minor Adagio or D minor Sarabande, or E major Preludio come to mind. Of course it depends on the audience.

November 11, 2016 at 09:01 PM · Czardas is a perfect choice; it's about the same level as the other works you are playing and it is a lot of fun.

Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro also works.

The Wieniawsky Polonaise Brillant is an entirely different level of difficulty and doesn't fit with your other pieces. It's too hard.

November 12, 2016 at 01:41 AM · Is it?

Is it because everybody is scared of octaves and staccato volant, because it didn't seem to be bad when I looked over it just now? :)

November 12, 2016 at 01:44 AM · Could Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5 work?

November 12, 2016 at 02:57 AM · Wieniawski and that Brahms are currently out of my level.

If I suggested those to my teacher, I'd be shut down faster than you can say "Zigeunerweisen".

November 12, 2016 at 03:10 AM · Csardas never goes above 3rd position. The Wieniawski A-major Polonaise goes all over the fingerboard, across all strings (including high on the G string), frequently, at velocity. The octaves and the staccato are the easy part.

November 12, 2016 at 03:41 PM · Czardas does go above 3rd position. You have the sul G at the beginning where you go to 5/6th position for the A and B. You also do some more sul G as well.

November 12, 2016 at 04:41 PM · Yes, you're right on that. But the difficulty level is vastly below the Polonaise overall, objectively. There's no real comparison.

November 12, 2016 at 05:24 PM · But, what about the Polonaise?

Surely it is not the high positions, which become natural after you start using them, just like in Czardas?

Is it the chord structures and progressions that give people trouble?

November 12, 2016 at 05:47 PM · Yeah, the polonaise is more difficult.

November 12, 2016 at 07:31 PM · Okay... good thing I find rising scales in doublestop intervals easy, as per I have found: Once the first pair is in tune, as with octaves, simply guide your hand up and down.

As long as you are relaxed, your hand simply knows the spacings from all the scales you played, and adjusts to it somewhat automatically. :)

Hope this helps

November 12, 2016 at 08:50 PM · Csardas has relatively minimal upper-position work. Yes, you can do some 5th position if you want to, but I think the highest note is the 4th-finger 3rd-position D on the E string. It's a solidly intermediate piece. Nothing wrong with that.

The Polonaise is an advanced work, on par with the technique required in Romantic concertos.

Yes, no individual particular technique is hard once you've mastered that technique. You could say this for just about any piece in the repertoire. We gauge difficulty for how many such techniques you need to have mastered in order to play a work, more or less.

The Polonaise requires the ability to flawlessly shift quickly and easily all over the fingerboard, including the very quick virtuosic slide up to a harmonic. It has quite a few double-stops (though they're not especially difficult ones as such things go). There's a broad mix of bowing techniques, including a lot of up-bow staccato. In short, it makes a ton of technical demands that Csardas does not, which is why the pieces are rightfully judged to be at very different levels.

You might have a better argument if you were comparing the Polonaise against, say, the Wieniawski Scherzo-Tarantella. Both works lie in roughly the same difficulty range but they have different challenges. I consider the Scherzo-Tarantella to be significantly more difficult for myself than the Polonaise, but that is due to my technical strengths and weaknesses, plus the fact that the Polonaise yields pretty easily to minimal practice time, whereas the Scherzo-Tarantella requires quite a bit of drill to teach your hands the patterns so they are automatic at speed. 10 hours of practice put the Polonaise pretty solidly in my fingers, but was insufficient to get me to full tempo with the Scherzo-Tarantella. My teacher, conversely, thinks the Polonaise is more difficult than the Scherzo-Tarantella.

I think it's kind of arrogant to say that playing scales in double-stops is easy and automatic. It's not for most people, and saying so does not help them one bit. For pretty much everyone, getting it to the point where it does feel automatic is the result of a significant amount of practice time. Scales in octaves frame out the hand well, but when you get into repertoire, the demands of the passage often mean that your idealized scale-drilled technical solution is not really viable in context. In particular, you tend to frame the hand differently for thirds than you do for octaves, for instance.

November 12, 2016 at 11:58 PM · Really? I though that the "hand adjusts" held true for everybody.

It's the general advice given for octaves and such, and I don't see why the hand should not be able do the same for other intervals such as 3rds, 6ths, and 10ths.

Sure, you have to adjust the spacing for these intervals based on the scale, unlike octaves, but the basic concept remains the same, no?

Perhaps it is because I often do lost of chromatic one-string scales for fun, which may explain why the spacing was very quickly internalized.

If so, just practice chromatic scales, and you are set all over the fingerboard. Everybody wins! :)

PS: Sorry if I offended anybody...

November 13, 2016 at 04:55 AM · I am not at the level where I can play it yet, sorry to say, but it does seem true that chromatic scales up the string teach your fingers all the various "position" spacings very quickly and automatically, to the point where after doing for just a few weeks or so, I could pretty much always hit the notes in any random spot, because the chromatics just trained my fingers very efficiently.

PS: Paganini practiced his scales by using chromatic scales up and down, saying it was a way to gain 10 years of intonation practice in 3 (though it seems more like it cuts the time down to a few months), :)

PPS: How would watching a video of somebody play a scale help intonation. It isn't shifting, where you have an actual visible example to follow, but simply engrained muscle memory that is not visible to the naked (or any other) eye. :D

November 13, 2016 at 04:59 AM · I don't think that the hand "naturally" adjusts for octaves. You can drill the octave frame of the hand until it feels automatic. There's nothing "natural" about it. It's learned. (Ditto the frame of the hand for fingered octaves.)

For most passages of sixths, you can keep the hand in its normal frame, though depending on the work, weird things can occur that will result in this being lost.

For passages of thirds, the hand is typically balanced differently. Depending on the particular sequence of thirds, how you place your hand will differ.

You also have to remember that for virtuosic music, you will often not shift using the octave frame. You'll reach forward and back into other positions for speed, which will completely distort the standard frame of the hand. That's true in the Polonaise, for instance.

It's enormously unhelpful to just tell people that X is easy, especially when it is (a) not true in an objective sense, (b) not true for that person, and (c) not true in the context of the conversation. It also makes you sound like a smug jerk, which is why you are being told to post a video that proves that you're as good as you are claiming to be. (I'm inclined to agree. Demonstrate.)

November 13, 2016 at 05:00 AM · I see you (A.O.) posted while I was writing my reply.

If you're not up to playing at this level, how you can you possibly claim that it's easy?

(Lots of things can be learned by watching someone play on video. A sufficiently experienced player can even watch with the sound off and have a pretty good idea of what's going to come out of the instrument.)

November 13, 2016 at 05:02 AM · Yeah, I'm sort of keen to see effortless, perfectly-in-tune scales in tenths, on video.

November 13, 2016 at 02:14 PM · This thread has gone off topic due to me misunderstanding a certain point (learning ease of doublestop scales), and I really don't want it to be a bashing thread that attacksme, as I did not mean to offend anybody, so can we kindly get back to recommendations for a piece for the OP?


November 13, 2016 at 02:33 PM · How about the Mazurka from "Obertass"? That's a lively number, and I think it's a lot easier than the Polonaise. And, you don't hear it all the time.

There is a youtube of Isaac Stern playing the Polonaise on the Jack Benny Show. It sounds impossible. Likely that's why Stern chose it. The whole episode is about violin playing and it's very fun.

Czardas is fine but you need to play it extremely well -- and tastefully -- because it has the stigma of being badly abused and caricatured by everyone from little kids to street performers. Will your judges be saying, "Oh boy, let's hear the Czardas," or will they be saying "Oh no, please tell me I don't have to listen to THAT again."

November 13, 2016 at 06:24 PM · The OP is already playing Mozart 4 and "Thais". By that point it's already Greatest Hits of Student Violinists, so it's not being made any worse by the choice of Csardas.

Honestly, for contests, playing what everyone else is playing doesn't really hurt you.

November 13, 2016 at 06:37 PM · Well, Thais Meditation wouldn't have been my first choice for a slow piece either, but I think that if you've got a competition coming up, then you play what you can play REALLY well, and if that's Meditation, then so be it. I think that ANY piece that is in neither the Suzuki books nor the Barbara Barber books is going to automatically have been performed far less often. Slow pieces requiring comparable skill (just based on my own personal experience) are the Paganini Cantabile, the Canzonetta from Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (a bit harder), the Veracini Largo (rather easier), and the Romance from Weiniawski Concerto No. 2. Perhaps, however, it is considered unwise to pair movements from two different concertos.

And by the way, my own personal nickname for the Czardas is "The Full Monti."

November 14, 2016 at 06:02 AM · There's always Vivaldi's Seasons. Kreisler. Csardas... at this level it'll be slightly difficult to find a whole lot of show pieces which are fast contrast to the Thais. Somebody suggested Bach but, again you run into the issue of trying to be contrasting, plus I'd avoid Bach unless it's explicitly required. What does the teacher think? What kind of contrast are you interested in? You could contrast periods, tempos, etc...

Far as people suggesting pieces that they've never played, I'd hope those same people do not rely on just listening or watching a video. It takes time to get up to the level of Wieniawski, Paganini, etc... One should never underestimate just how difficult a piece can be no matter how simple it looks or sounds. I'd recommend making sure you can play said pieces before listing them off to somebody who is playing Mozart 4th and even stated they were above their abilities. Otherwise it comes off like one is listing off random pieces just to boost themselves up instead of being helpful.

Good luck with your competition.

November 14, 2016 at 06:22 AM · The Romance from Wieniawski 2 has got that tricky bit with thirds near the end that makes it harder than Thais by a small but significant margin.

November 14, 2016 at 05:11 PM · I only mentioned that one (Romance from Wieniawski 2) since I won a competition with it when I was in middle school. I didn't fare too well with the thirds because my childhood teacher didn't ever teach me how to play anything really in tune (seriously) but apparently the judges were suckers for schmaltz. It wasn't a very high-level competition. The prize was a partial scholarship to Blue Lake. I felt bad because some time later, the girl who came in second told me her parents couldn't afford to send her to the camp without the scholarship. She enjoyed some revenge, though, when she beat me in the 8th grade spelling bee, and gloated quite thoroughly.

November 14, 2016 at 09:37 PM · At the requested level you have things that sound more difficult than they actually are. The Ten Have, for instance, has quite a few double-stops, but they are usually fairly straightforward -- often with open strings.

Similarly, Mollenhauer's "Boy Paganini" is very doable at this level (easier than Csardas, I think), and has some flashy-seeming tricks like a bit of left-hand pizz.

In other words, they are works that a violinist wouldn't consider to be a showpiece, but a non-violinist can be fooled into thinking they are. :-)

November 15, 2016 at 12:05 AM · I would choose Ten Have over Boy Paganini; I think it's slightly harder, certainly longer, and is more interesting ("interesting" in this case being a relative term). But at this level I would still rather hear Czardas, overdone though it may be. It's overdone for a reason--it's actually fun to play and to listen to.

Somewhat harder than Czardas but not out of range of Mozart 4: the Bartok Rumanian Dances.

November 15, 2016 at 02:05 AM · I suppose the Bach E-major Gigue is too easy? It was coupled with the 1st movement of the Mozart G-major for Associated Board Grade 7 many years ago.

I think Mary's suggestion of the Bartok Roumanian Dances (I think that's how it used to be spelled before we met Romanians for real) is a good one. They contrast massively with both the Mozart and the Massenet, and they differ from each other widely in difficulty - I'm sure you can omit one or two of them, e.g. the one with slurred fingered harmonics, without too many ill-effects (When we performed 4 of them at a charity concert, one of the audience told me he liked 2 and 6 best - 2 on its own would be too easy for you I think) - Mary, what do you think?

November 15, 2016 at 02:57 AM · I wouldn't play 6 without 5 but 5 and 6 together are a lot of fun. 1 and 2 are the easiest and I would only do those as part of a performance of the entire work. 4 is beautiful. 3 (the false harmonics) is learnable for anyone capable of playing Czardas.

The entire piece (all six dances) is about 12 minutes long IIRC. If that is too long, I'd probably go with 4, 5, 6.

(ps my friends call me Mary Ellen)

November 15, 2016 at 03:14 AM · How about Souvenir de Sarasate by W. Potstock? It is included in Barbara Barber's book 3. Not too difficult, very enjoyable, and sounds lively.

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