Repertoire without pyrotechnics

February 11, 2017 at 04:43 AM · There's been some discussion on other threads about what to play that doesn't have heavy technical demands. I thought it might be helpful to start a thread on repertoire that could be played by a late-intermediate-level player -- or a more advanced player for whom the technical challenges would be readily overcome -- repertoire that is not primarily pedagogical in nature, and that would be suitable for a recital, playing in church, etc.

Think violin/piano sonatas, encore works, and other works for solo violin, or violin plus another instrument (probably piano).


Replies (39)

February 11, 2017 at 05:33 AM · Bach, Arvo Part Spiegel im Spiegel, Thais Meditation. Dang, this is difficult.

February 11, 2017 at 06:24 AM · So, less obvious than Kreisler and Massenet? :-) I'm having a renewed appreciation for the Praeludium and Allegro but I'm hoping to never again be asked to play Meditation.

Recently I've played Arvo Part's Spiegel im Spiegel (not pyrotechnical but requires stellar bow control) and Frank Bridge's Cradle Song in church.

Also interesting and gratifyingly obscure:

Robert Ward's Appalachian Ditties and Dances (Copland-esque!) and his second violin sonata (written for Nicholas Kitchen). The second movement is lovely and could probably stand alone.

(edited to remove unsightly links because you all know how to IMSLP and google for videos.)

February 11, 2017 at 07:52 AM · Nothing obscure from me, but I have performed most of these and I never had the technique for virtuoso pieces. The original post describes very well the kind of pieces I used to look for.

Another vote for Preludium and Allegro. Also the Dushkin transcription of Albeniz Tango. No extravagent technical demands, but some double stops which can be challenging. Various movements from Bach S&P depending on technical level. And from the Bach sonatas with keyboard.

Schubert Duo in A (a sonata in all but name), Dvorak Sonatina. Bartok/Szekely Roumanian Dances (check out the artificial harmonics). The well-known piece from Smetana's Aus Der Heimat (I think it's no 2). Handel sonatas, Purcell sonata. Hindemith Sonata in E minor (for violin and piano).

February 11, 2017 at 07:55 AM · Looking at the repertoire I once learned, this would be my list:

Telemann, 12 Fantasias for solo violin;

Tchaikovsky, Meditation, Schero, Melodie;

Handel, 6 Sonatas;

Brahms, sonata in A major;

Vivaldi, four seasons;

Solo Bach, E major and D minor(except the Ciaccona)

February 11, 2017 at 09:59 AM · Mendelssohn "Songs without Words" (Lieder ohne Worte), originally written for piano solo, but there are two 19th century transcriptions (Hermann and David) which I like even more, and some selected pieces transcribed by Fritz Kreisler. You can find them almost completely on ISMLP. Varying level from rather basic to well-intermediate without real challenges I'd guess.

February 11, 2017 at 12:23 PM · Nuuska, in your opinion, which Kreisler transcriptions are rather basic? Thank you.

February 11, 2017 at 01:42 PM · Borowsky Adoration, Kreisler Liebesleid, Ashokan Farewell.

Some of the Telemann Fantasias are harder than one might expect--choose carefully. Actually I would not describe most of David Zhang's list as intermediate--he was obviously a very good student.

The other day I was on IMSLP looking for repertoire for just such a student and came across violin transcriptions (with piano accompaniment) of some of the better known Haydn symphonies. The violin parts were very similar to the first violin parts of the actual symphonies though I did not take the time to see if they were identical or had other lines written into them.

February 11, 2017 at 02:16 PM · @ Dexter: I wouldn't consider the Kreisler transcriptions themselves consider as basic, although for example Op. 62 No. 1 is not that difficult as long as you've learned a smooth shifting on the G string. Usually Fritz Kreisler rather used to make easy things difficult than the other way 'round... But Kreislers Mendelssohn Op.62/1 for sure is one of the easier G-string-only-pieces in the literature I know. Some kind of "showing-off for beginners".

With "basic" I rather meant part of the "original" Hermann transcriptions (which I love a lot), as e.g. Op.67/1, Op.62/1, Op.62/6, Op.19/1 or Op.53/2 which feel to fit my current level as an adult late starter with one year of practice. No matter if my progress is to be regarded as fast or slow, I'm by far not at intermediate level I bet, so that's why I'd name it "basic".

EDIT: thanks to Dexter I corrected the numbers...

EDIT #2: The transcriptions are for violin & piano...

February 11, 2017 at 03:47 PM · Nuuska. Thanks for the info on the Hermann transcriptions. This may be my next project as I put my baroque period on hiatus. Mendelssohn op 65 appears to be an organ sonata and I cannot find a violin arrangement. Did you maybe mean op 67? If you've only been playing for a year, are a late starter, and have no prior musical background, you are advancing super quickly.

February 11, 2017 at 03:53 PM · You're right, and I'm sorry. Actually I meant 67 and 62 (Kreisler). Stupid to think I knew the numbers by heart...

I'll correct that in my original post!

February 11, 2017 at 04:00 PM · Thank you for the compliment - but I had some piano training until I was 16, to a pre-conservatory level... Now I'm almost 40, and be sure one could play these pieces better than me! (I'm confident this will improve with the years to come...)

February 11, 2017 at 05:33 PM · I'll put in a plug for the Chopin Nocturne in C sharp minor, which I believe fits into this category. It's a piano piece arranged by Milstein. There are some slightly challenging double stops and a scale that goes high on the E string, but overall, not ridiculously difficult. Check out Midori's performance of the piece at her Carnegie hall debut (available on YouTube). There's a magical moment at the end as the audience savors the last note before breaking out in applause.

February 11, 2017 at 05:52 PM · Jason, that's great! I'll put that on my list, for - let's say, 2021?

February 11, 2017 at 09:38 PM · Apologies for repeating some options.

Faure A Major

Schumann A minor

Schubert Sonatas ("Sonatinas".)

Some Sarasate, Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps

Some Paganini violin/guitar works, if classical guitarist is an option

Some Mozart & Beethoven Sonatas.

NON-HIP-Corelli Sonatas, some Vivaldi Sonatas, Handel Sonatas

Dvorak Sonatina AND 4 Romantic Pieces (gorgeous)

For solo I am stumped, as most Bach and Reger can be difficult enough.

Kreisler has a LOT of amazing, violinistic material (transcriptions or original works) that is not Praeludium and Allegro and Liebeslied, that is both effective and not necessarily "difficult", even though his style and fingerings require specific study, IMHO, for them to sound at their best.

(Thinking twice, the Faure and Schumann may be a stretch.)

February 12, 2017 at 11:08 AM · Adalberto. could you please list three or five of the Kreisler pieces which in your opinion are amazing and not too difficult? In my opinion, Praelidium and Allegro is somewhat difficult and Liebesleid, by which I used to be enthralled, is starting to sound a little cheesy to my ears

February 12, 2017 at 02:51 PM · I'm not Adalberto, but Schon Rosmarin is extremely accessible.

February 12, 2017 at 02:53 PM · Thanks to all (and especially Lydia) for starting this topic. It hits exactly where I am at... Keep the suggestions coming. Sometimes you just want to make a little music and not worry about technique as much.

As far as a suggestion to add to the list, I really have enjoyed playing the Dancla "Six Airs Varies".

February 12, 2017 at 03:42 PM · I mentioned in another thread that I'd recently done Schnittke's Suite in the Old Style, which is a lovely Baroque pastiche comprised of Schnittke's music for children's film and television shows.

I've also recently performed Stravinsky's Suite Italienne, although I would say that this turned out to be more difficult than it first looked. But several of the movements are easily doable by an intermediate-level player.

I think the Franck sonata might be doable at the intermediate level. But you need a really adept pianist.

I love the Dvorak Four Romantic Pieces, but two of the pieces are easier than the other two. I'm not sure if the work as a whole is really intermediate, but the pieces work fine standalone too. (The Dvorak Romance is more difficult, but might be worth consideration for a more advanced player.)

There's also all the classic slow salon pieces -- Elgar Salut d'Amour, Rachmaninoff Vocalise, Drdl Souvenir, etc.

February 12, 2017 at 05:53 PM · Like Mary stated, Schon Rosmarin from the first Kreisler Collection book.

From the same (I) book:

Rondino on a Theme of Beethoven

Chanson Louis XIII and Pavane

Sicilienne and Rigaudon (agree that P and A is not necessarily "accessible")

Melodie (Gluck)

Song without Words (Mendelssohn)

Book 2:

Andantino (Martini)

Scherzo (Dittersdorf)

Tempo di Minuetto (attractive and effective)

Preghiera (Martini)

Romance in A (Schumann-great piece, preferably with Kreisler's suggestions for and fingerings)

Poupee valsante (maybe a stretch, but you can work with it on a lighter staccato)


Book 3-none

I don't have the other books, but have checked them briefly. There are "easier" pieces arrangements in these as well, and should have gotten them a long time ago, as there are some other gems.

Fond of Schon Rosmarin, Tempo di Minuetto, Melodie, Sicilienne and Rigaudon, and the lovely Schumann Romance in A.

None of these works are really "easy", in a similar sense that Mozart's "easier" pieces are not easy either. Most sound better "in the style of Kreisler". They are deemed "easy" or "intermediate", but can sound great and convincing at the highest level of performance as well.

One thing is for certain-our violin world would be much different had not Kreisler been part of it. I consider many of his contributions essential for most of us.

February 12, 2017 at 11:31 PM · Pardon me if this offends anyone's sensibilities, but:

Slow movements from concertos. Tchaik, Wieniawski 2, Mozart 3, Bach A Minor, etc. All work perfectly as salon pieces.

Also, Debussy Beau Soir, Wieniawski, Obertass Mazurka, Humoresque with double stops.

March 9, 2017 at 09:19 PM · Reviving this thread.

Any ballet or opera suites / transcriptions for violins that fall into this category? (Or that might be slightly harder.)

March 9, 2017 at 10:51 PM · There are two sets of Dancla Airs Variees; one is quite a bit harder than the other but still pretty much intermediate-level.

March 9, 2017 at 11:43 PM · I confess that my only exposure to the Dancla is hearing small children play the op. 89 set. Is that the easier or harder set?

March 10, 2017 at 12:12 AM · I think I found a free arrangement of "Song to the Moon" from Rusalka (Dvorak) somewhere on the internets. Apparently not IMSLP. This is a lovely melody that works well for violin.

Sheetmusicplus has an arrangement of Marietta's Lied from Tote Stadt:

They used to also have a string quintet + soprano version (which was featured in "A Late Quartet") but I didn't see it this time around. Anyway, that's tougher to organize. :-)

March 10, 2017 at 04:04 AM · I think op. 89 is the harder set, actually. I could be wrong; it's been awhile.

March 10, 2017 at 11:01 PM · The more difficult set is op. 118, though I think the op.89 set is musically nicer. The variations on Carnival of Venice in op.118 are kind of fun for students.

March 19, 2017 at 08:54 PM · Maybe I'm a bit late, but how about the slower movements in Bach's solo sonatas? The adagio from the g and a minor sonatas, perhaps? Kreisler's Viennese waltzes are beautiful too. Elgar's Salut D'amour... I agree with Paul and the Wieniawski's Obertass Mazurka. Paganini Cantabile, perhaps?

If you will accept separate movements from violin/piano sonatas, then the second movement of Grieg's violin sonata is also lovely.

I'm not sure if this helps, but this is what came to mind :)

March 19, 2017 at 09:55 PM · In my opinion, the slow movements from Bach solo sonatas have heavy technical demands. They require an incredible amount of bow control and keeping a steady rhythm at such a slow tempo is very hard. Plus, there are all the double stops that have to be in tune and not be scratchy. I do not think they would fall into the category of repertoire that is not pedagogical in nature unless you thought of Lydia's question as asking for repertoire that was not written so the player could show off. I do agree with your other suggestions.

March 20, 2017 at 06:58 PM · No one has suggested LeClair, so allow me to do so. If you have a buddy, the duets are quite nice and I think deserve to be played more frequently, and the famous violin sonata is a great, great piece (the duets are at about the same level of difficulty as the Sonata, so a six in Sassmannshaus' difficulty scale).

Here's Szeryng playing the Sonata:

March 21, 2017 at 01:10 PM · Porumbescu Balada for Violin and Piano

March 21, 2017 at 02:21 PM · The oboe repertoire is worth looking at. A lot of Baroque solo oboe music, for example, transfers fairly easily to the violin, the top of the oboe range being the harmonic E on the violin's E. So nothing higher than the violin 4th position, no double stops, LH pizz, or stopped harmonics, of course!

March 21, 2017 at 08:22 PM · Speaking of oboe, Bach's concerto for violin and oboe, BWV 1060, sounds nice on two violins.

March 21, 2017 at 08:56 PM · Oooh, the oboe suggestion is brilliant; hadn't thought of that!

March 30, 2017 at 04:34 PM · This type of list is just what what I need. I also came across some Rieding concertinos and was wondering whether they would fit in this list. There are various ones; any thoughts on particular ones or specific movements? Thanks!

March 30, 2017 at 05:05 PM · The Schumann 3 Romanzen Op. 94, originally for oboe and piano, work really well on violin.

Frank Bridge's "Four Short Pieces for Violin and Piano" H.104 has a beautiful opening movement (Meditation).

March 30, 2017 at 09:40 PM · Not exactly romantic like previous listings, but Monti's Czardas would fit the category. Second vote for Dvorak Romance op. 11, it's a beautiful piece.

March 31, 2017 at 01:20 AM · Have we said Mozart Sonata in e yet? What about Kreisler Berceuse?

March 31, 2017 at 04:55 PM · David Zhang, have you ever found a pianist to play the Brahms Sonata in A? I'm no pianist, but I hear the piano part is quite challenging.

I would love to play it (I adore the second movement), and technically am able, but finding a pianist willing to put the time in on their side is not easy.

April 1, 2017 at 02:04 AM · Jason,yes. It was in the late 80s. She was a lovely young girl, studying at Peabody prep. I recently got back in touch with her via social media. She is still back east. I am now among the cornfields of the Midwest.

I haven't gotten around to it this time around. Finding an able pianist is a challenge.

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