Could I play the Sibelius?

January 29, 2017 at 05:48 AM · First off, I would like to thank everyone for your responses on my last discussion post - I ended up winning the competition and had a lot of fun.

My question is: in about six months or so, could I hypothetically play the Sibelius Violin Concerto?

For reference, I've been playing around seven years. I've played the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and the Mozart Concerti. Due to the Mendelssohn, I feel like I've got ocatves and double stops under my control. However, my technique with runs in general could use a little work.

My teacher basically just lets me play whatever piece I want, which is why I'm asking here.

EDIT: the repertoire is lacking, I know. The way my teacher does things with his more advanced students is this: he lets them pick one piece a year to work on for competition season, along with technique books like Dont and Mazas.



Replies (21)

January 29, 2017 at 05:59 AM · Did you ask your teacher what they think?

Sibelius is a huge jump from Mendelssohn. Don't underestimate just how difficult it is.

You could look at Prokofiev 2, Khachaturian, Bruch, Conus, etc before tackling it. Especially since what you listed is fairly lacking.

There's a vast repertoire you could work on (and not become overwhelmed playing catchup with your technique) that are amazing. I listed only a few. Take a look at things like violinmastercass site repertoire progression and others. Learn a Sonata, Bach, etc...

As I tell my students after they've finished Mendelssohn or Bruch successfully; you just unlocked some of the greatest repertoire. Do not rush through it else you will miss out on too much.

January 29, 2017 at 06:28 AM · Hi John,

I get your point. About the repertoire, it's lacking because I've only been working on concertos for competitions, which means one big work a year.

I haven't seen my teacher yet this week, but I'll ask for his opinion.

January 29, 2017 at 12:10 PM · I would say no. As John said, Mendelssohn to Sibelius is a HUGE jump, even if you did Mendelssohn very well. Sibelius I believe is one of the last concertos taught because it is so hard. I would take a look at John's suggestions as well as Saint-Seans, Lalo, and Wienawski. A concerto per year and concertos for competitions is a good thing because of all the performance experience. Also consider non-concerto pieces. You will play Sibelius someday, and I highly doubt you will regret waiting.

January 29, 2017 at 05:24 PM · Thanks Helen! I'll take a look at some other pieces, and I contest that I probably won't be playing Sibelius anytime soon.

January 29, 2017 at 05:50 PM · I think your teacher should develop a syllabus with various "levels", rather than allow students to play "whatever they want"!

It's imperative that students complete pieces in some progressional and sensical order.

January 29, 2017 at 07:29 PM · I agree with Douglas. I think it's fine to allow a student to have some range of choice, but no guidance at all is problematic.

Wieniawski 2, Saint-Saens 3, Lalo Symphonie Espagnol, and Khachaturian are all common next choices after Mendelssohn. The Wieniawski and Lalo are both very effective competition works.

Also: Just one piece a year, a concerto? At this level, no solo Bach, show pieces, or other short works?

January 29, 2017 at 08:51 PM · Hi Douglas,

My teacher is from China, and unlike his brother, he never went to a top music school. So I would assume he teaches based upon his experiences there.

January 29, 2017 at 08:56 PM · Hi Lydia,

There is still a good amount of guidance involved when choosing pieces. For example, last year I thought that it would be a good idea to do the Beethoven Violin Concerto instead of the Mendelssohn (I don't know why). My teacher would never have allowed me to do that. Also, he does have a variety of solo Bach and show pieces, and I've played a few of them.

January 29, 2017 at 10:26 PM · Your teacher should be doing more than vetoing obviously bad choices, though. He should have some kind of pedagogical plan for what he wants to improve in your playing, especially if you hope to do conservatory auditions in the future.

January 30, 2017 at 03:42 AM · Yeah, didn't mention Lalo, SS or Wieniawski since they're part of that whole area between Mendelssohn and Sibelius. One concerto a year is fine but does need to go along with some other pieces.

Far as teacher giving free range to picking pieces, thats also fine within reasons. It goes back to the whole huge repertoire thats open once you get to that level. There are so many selections to choose from that it comes down to what speaks to you as well as what techniques needs improving and building upon what your strengths are.

Sibelius should only be considered when left and right hand techniques are both advanced with minimal need for improvement, same for Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Chaccone etc that are considered one of the "pillars" of the Violin repertoire or whatever people call them nowadays.

February 1, 2017 at 02:28 AM · Dvorak, perhaps? or Glazunov?

February 1, 2017 at 04:15 AM · The jump in difficulty from Mendelssohn to Glazunov is huge.

February 1, 2017 at 03:14 PM · Agree with Lydia -- that is too much jump.

I'd have to see how you play the Mendelssohn, but if you're playing that at a high level I'd probably vote Lalo, and then Wien. 2

February 1, 2017 at 03:55 PM · Also Barber

February 1, 2017 at 04:46 PM · Barber is a step down in difficulty from Mendelssohn, though.

February 1, 2017 at 08:36 PM · OP, how old are you? If you have a few years yet before college, it may be time to look for a new teacher who can put you through your paces, if you want to go to conservatory--I'm surprised there's no Bach or even Paganini in your daily diet yet.

Question for all--is Sibelius considered significantly easier than Tchaik, or is it just because it's shorter that it seems to be done first? When I was a kid, they seemed to do Tchaik before Sibelius, but at the time I wasn't good enough to do either so what do I know=)

February 1, 2017 at 10:17 PM · Hi Jason,

I'm 14. There aren't really any better teachers in my area, though.

February 2, 2017 at 03:51 AM · When I was a kid, the local teachers frequently taught Sibelius long before Tchaikovsky, but in many cases, taught just the 3rd movement of the Sibelius, usually after the student had learned Wieniawski 2. Sibelius 3rd movement was a competition staple, whereas I don't think I ever heard a teenager play Tchaikovsky at a competition back then (in the 80s).

Fairly likely a Mendelssohn-playing kid isn't ready for Paganini Caprices yet, but certainly solo Bach should be a routine staple.

OP, do you hope to go to conservatory? Or is this just a hobby?

February 2, 2017 at 04:22 PM · If I were you, I would go for Barber, Bruch, Prokofiev (2), or one of the Saint-Seans concerti. They're a little less heavy and will round out your repertoire before you go on to the Sibelius. Chances are you won't get a good opportunity to go back to these concerti in the future if you go on to the more difficult concerti right now (Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Beethoven, etc.)

February 2, 2017 at 04:40 PM · Prokofiev 2 might also be a bit of a jump. It's far harder than the Barber, significantly harder than the Bruch, and somewhat more difficult than Saint-Saens 3.

February 2, 2017 at 05:18 PM · Yes, Barber is a step down but there can still be fundamental things to be learned from it. But, not knowing how well they played the Mendelssohn or if they only learned one movement also does not help knowing what'd be appropriate. And keep in mind, based on what they listed as "learned" previously the Barber may present a bit of a challenge. There's alway Conus, too.

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