Good Competition Violin Pieces

March 6, 2017 at 08:15 PM · Hey everyone! I'm trying to find out good violin pieces that would be a good fit for local and state competitions. Unfortunately, the Saint-Saen Violin Concerto No. 3 has already been used TWICE and both times it won so this concerto is not plausible to use. Any other suggestions? I'm looking for a piece I can play flawlessly considering my skill level in a couple months. Working on the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 right now but because of the ending and nature of the beginning, it is not really the ideal competition piece but I am playing in a local competition in a week with this piece so hoping for the best!

Replies (55)

March 6, 2017 at 08:57 PM · You could consider doing the 3rd movement of the Prokofiev rather than the 1st movement. Or you could do the Scherzo. That'll wake up the judges. :-)

If you can play a flawless Prokofiev No. 1, you can probably play most of the violin repertoire.

Assuming that you don't have to play a concerto movement: One of the Wieniawski showpieces, perhaps?

March 6, 2017 at 09:15 PM · Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, maybe even Paganini if you can nail it? Scratch Frantically, I mean Scottish Fantasy (Bruch) is nice also, 2nd or 4th movement if they only want one movement.

If it doesn't have to be a concerto movement, then maybe Zigeunerweisen.

Avoid Mendelssohn and Beethoven. Only play Brahms if you can play it cleanly.

March 6, 2017 at 09:33 PM · Paganini D is a bit easier than tchaik and Sibelius in my opinion if you use the Wilhemj cadenza, not Sauret.

March 6, 2017 at 10:19 PM · I was just remembering that you posted a previous thread on the Sibelius vs. Mendelssohn or Barber: LINK

How are you doing with the Prokofiev? Are you playing it basically flawlessly, or is it a struggle?

March 6, 2017 at 11:55 PM · There is only a few spots and shifts that are a little tricky but other than that, I would say that I'm playing most of the first movement to performance level. The ending is also a little tricky for me because the half step intervals are SUPER TINY so the intonation is a little problematic but it's getting much better. I was thinking about Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2 because I can probably learn it very quickly and play it well. I am looking for a more "easy" concerto compared to the ones that you all have listed. Something Mendelssohn/Lalo/Bruch level but less commonly played. I was also considering the Barber because I can probably learn that one pretty quickly also.

March 7, 2017 at 12:00 AM · Wieniawski #2 is only easy if you have a naturally great upbow staccato.

Have you listened to Bruch Concerto #2? (not the same as Scottish Fantasy) I once had to teach it due to acquiring a student who was already well into learning it, with auditions looming. I can't say I love the piece but that particular student got into the schools he was auditioning for.

March 7, 2017 at 12:08 AM · I guess my upbow staccato is ok because I have played Introduction and Rondo Cap and there are some upbow staccatos there but that's about it. I can always practice that because I was looking at the music and the upbow staccatos are probably the only spot that will give me trouble.

March 7, 2017 at 01:46 AM · Chausson Poeme? Haha that's WAY beyond my level. I'm really just looking for a concerto or piece that I can learn quickly and play flawlessly in couple months in time for other violin competitions. Thanks for the suggestion though, maybe in a couple years :)

March 7, 2017 at 01:58 AM · ???? Prokofiev 1 is much harder than Chausson Poeme.

March 7, 2017 at 02:29 AM · Agree, Chausson Poeme is easier than both Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso and Wieniawski 2. I wonder if the OP has confused it with Tzigane (Ravel).

March 7, 2017 at 02:55 AM · Really?! I've heard that Chausson Poeme is a college piece for serious aspiring professionals and I just play violin as a hobby! I don't think my teacher would allow me to play Chausson Poeme anyways.

March 7, 2017 at 03:05 AM · There's a point where it becomes meaningless to say something is easier or more difficult than something else. People have different strengths and weaknesses, not just in technique but also styles, brilliant v. lyrical playing, intimate v. lively, formal and intellectual v. impromptu and playful, etc. For all things in life it's good to get to know yourself, lead with your strengths and manage your weaknesses (especially for competition.)

Having said that I think Poeme is one of the most difficult works to interpret in the rep. It requires a very mature artistic sense.

Pieces like Wieniawski, while technically challenging have large swaths of passages which just need to be technically correct. Such sections, regardless of who plays it, just sounds like clunky etude passages. Everything in the Poeme has to be just so.

Edit: I agree with Zachary

March 7, 2017 at 03:10 AM · I agree with Mary Ellen. It tends to be taught later because it's not core pedagogical repertoire or part of the must-have concert-hall repertoire, and because its difficulties are mostly interpretive rather than virtuosic.

If you're capable of turning in a solid Prokofiev No. 1, you can play most concertos and showpieces.

March 7, 2017 at 03:30 AM · "If you're capable of turning in a solid Prokofiev No. 1, you can play most concertos and showpieces."

That's true of the notes, kind of, but not the interpretation, the study of which is the point of higher education. In fact you might do Prok. 1 + Chausson Poeme to prepare for Sibelius. But if you're gonna use Poeme for competition you may as well do the Sibelius to prepare for the Chausson.

Edit: wow, you guys think the notes in Poeme are easy?!

March 7, 2017 at 03:41 AM · So, theoretically, one could learn the Bruch and Mendelssohn concerti and then learn Chausson?

March 7, 2017 at 03:41 AM · Ok thank you everyone for their suggestions and I will seriously consider all of them! Here is what I am currently thinking of options for a short-term competition work/piece, either Barber (1st Movement), Wieniawski (Movement 1), or Bruch Scottish Fantasy (Fourth Movement).


Here are some pieces that I'm considering that would be a long-term goal: Vieuxtemps 4, Sarasate Carmen Fantasy, Wieniawski Polonaise in D Major. Any other suggestions here? Many of you have recommended some really tough pieces that would fall into this category like Paganini, Sibelius, Chausson.

March 7, 2017 at 03:52 AM · Zachary I think you have everything in hand. The older I get the more I think there is no easy!

Jacob, thinking of rep. as merely a progression can be detrimental to progress. There's a kind of 'difficulty race' mentality which can totally derail your progress, making you focus on all the wrong things. Repertoire should be chosen primarily for the students near and long term needs (not necessarily goals even.) If there are weaknesses to be overcome, or strengths to be featured, you might choose one piece over another. You and your teacher should always be considering what you need first and foremost (which is another way of saying study with someone who gets to know you and your individual needs--avoid teachers who just follow a syllabus.) Then, you might consider your preferences.

March 7, 2017 at 04:30 AM · I don't think the notes in Poeme are easy but I do think they're easier than the notes in Sibelius or Tchaikovsky. The interpretative aspect, I agree, is quite sophisticated.

I played Poeme for my sophomore jury at Oberlin. I'm sure much of the musical depth was, er, unconvincing in my performance, but I had no difficulty with the technique.

March 7, 2017 at 05:27 AM · "...they're easier than the notes in Sibelius or Tchaikovsky."

Not if you compare apples to apples. There's nothing in the Tchaik that even approaches Chausson in terms of lyrical passages. Sibelius maybe, but I think it's a toss up. For sheer scale, yes the concerti have it. For maximal technical difficulty, sure. But to give a convincing performance of lyrical playing, there's not much beyond the Poeme.

March 7, 2017 at 01:28 PM · Haha I'm not gonna be playing Sibelius soon because I think it's beyond me at this point. Not even considering Tchaikovsky or Chausson right now. Just looking for a nice competition piece like Saint Saen/Bruch level.

March 9, 2017 at 03:09 PM · Does anyone have any thoughts on Stravinsky? Is it a good concerto to learn and are there any distinct challenges in it? (ie tenths, weird fingerings, etc) How would this concerto compare to Prokofiev 1? Can I find the music online so I can have a preview of it? (IMSLP?) And how long are the movements like time wise because I know there are 4 movements and its only about 20 minutes for the whole concerto.

March 9, 2017 at 04:17 PM · You think Chausson Poeme is too hard, yet you are considering the Stravinsky concerto?

I'm quite sure it's still under copyright so you won't find the part on IMSLP, but you can view the score (including the solo line) here:

The Stravinsky is routinely mentioned in discussions of what the most difficult violin concertos are. I would not be comfortable performing it myself.

March 9, 2017 at 05:06 PM · For competitions, stick with the tried and true, I'd say, especially if the prize is a performance with orchestra.

March 9, 2017 at 05:16 PM · Another thought: Avoid the repertoire trap that competitions can represent.

You can end up failing to become a well-rounded player and address your weaknesses if the constant focus of what you're doing is competitions. This is because competition repertoire is highly likely to be chosen to focus on your strengths, at least if your teacher thinks you have a good shot at winning (as opposed to doing the competition just for the experience).

Also, the sort of repertoire choices that tend to be competition-winning only represent a narrow slice of the violin repertoire, and therefore only a narrow slice of the skills you need to be a well-rounded good violinist.

At this stage in your development, your teacher should have solid ideas of what you need to become a better player.

March 9, 2017 at 06:01 PM · Mary Ellen, I'm not seriously considering Stravinsky, I'm just wondering what experienced musicians like you all here think about the Stravinsky but it looks like it is not a reasonable choice.

Lydia, I will ask my teacher about what he thinks. I have only recently begun to play in competitions and thank you for your input!

March 9, 2017 at 06:25 PM · Do you have to play concertos or can you do a showpiece? If you have the option, the showpiece is often the better choice.

March 9, 2017 at 06:49 PM · Yes I do have an option but it's usually confined to 12-13 minutes or less. That would be equivalent to a movement of a concerto or a showpiece. What did you have in mind Lydia?

March 9, 2017 at 07:07 PM · Most showpieces are fairly short, so that time limit doesn't pose a problem. Just about any work by Sarasate or Wieniawski will work well in a competition setting. Sarasate's works generally do not contain large stretches, as he had small hands.

March 9, 2017 at 07:11 PM · So Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy or Wieniawski's Polonaise Brillante in D major? My teacher recommended both of these pieces actually. Any other show pieces that you think I should consider?

March 9, 2017 at 07:59 PM · Polonaise Brillante is both shorter and easier than Carmen Fantasy. By quite a bit, actually. I am really curious to hear your playing, because you and/or your teacher have come up with the strangest assortment of pieces I have seen in quite awhile.

March 9, 2017 at 08:38 PM · I second the request for a video. :-)

March 9, 2017 at 08:40 PM · Why is that? My teacher did not recommend Stravinsky and said that I should play Sibelius next year. I haven't asked him about Wieniawski yet but he did recommend Barber if I wanted something "easier". And how do I add a video because I have video's of my playing on my phone.

March 9, 2017 at 09:07 PM · A video will make it vastly easier to make recommendations, since what you're playing is much less important than how you're playing it.

Make a YouTube account. Use the "share" button on the video from the iOS camera app, assuming you have an iPhone. Upload to YouTube. (If you have an Android phone, you should be able to upload to YouTube from that, too, albeit differently.) Copy the link to this site.

If the videos are long, you may need to verify your YouTube account, which just means that you have to validate your email address works.

March 9, 2017 at 09:20 PM · Ok I have three clips of the first movement of the Prokofiev without the pianist and without the ending.

March 9, 2017 at 09:28 PM · The first movement is short enough that it should be within YouTube's default time limits, so it should be easy to post the videos to YouTube. Just be patient waiting for them to upload (use wifi if you can), and they'll take a couple of minutes to process before they can be viewed.

March 9, 2017 at 09:30 PM · Well while I was playing, my phone ran out of space and later there were other distractions so I ended up filming three clips.

March 9, 2017 at 09:54 PM · "Why is that? My teacher did not recommend Stravinsky and said that I should play Sibelius next year."

Because it is impossible to gauge your level from the pieces your teacher is suggesting. They are all over the map. I would likely not recommend Polonaise Brillante and Carmen Fantasy as options for the same student at the same time, because there is a fair gap in difficulty between the two. I don't want to get into it with Jeewon again about the difficulty of Chausson Poeme, but I will note that a student I would be comfortable teaching Prokofiev 1 to is a student I would have no hesitation teaching the Chausson to.

March 9, 2017 at 09:58 PM · Agreed.

March 9, 2017 at 10:11 PM · I love the Schumann Violin Fantasy Op. 131 in C Major. I don't know if that could work for a competition, but I feel it needs more love.

March 9, 2017 at 10:39 PM · I have never seen music for Chausson and only heard it once but from my friends who have actually seen Chausson, they say that it is very difficult. Honestly, I don't really know how difficult Chausson Poeme but at first glance, it seemed difficult, just like Prokofiev seemed difficult when I first heard it but after listening to so many different recordings and analyzing my own playing, it is natural to think that Prokofiev 1, at least to me, is less difficult that Chausson. I'll ask my teacher about Chausson. Also, as a restatement of previous comments, each student has different weaknesses, Polonaise Brillante in D has tenths and successive chords, which are MY weaknesses despite my large hands, and Carmen Fantasy plays to my strengths more because of the absences of these weaknesses. Another weakness of mine is lyricism, which is why the open of Prokofiev has been difficult for me and which is why Chausson seems difficult to me. Anyways, I don't want to argue with you because you are much more experienced than I am and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

March 9, 2017 at 10:42 PM · Carmen Fantasy has successive chords....

March 9, 2017 at 10:47 PM · Just looked at Carmen and then looked at Polonaise and the chords in Polonaise, at least for me are MUCH harder to get I tune. The first movement of Carmen has many successive chords but are more straight forward and are less awkward (except for the occasional ninths doubow stops).

UPDATE: Just saw and remembered the last 2 pages of Carmen... yikes

Disclaimer: My teacher said we could do Polonaise if I wanted something with less time commitment and Carmen if I was willing to practice A LOT. Also, my false harmonics aren't very good so Carmen would be even harder. Sorry for the misunderstanding because I just looked at the music for Carmen and compared it to Polonaise.

March 9, 2017 at 10:59 PM · The music for Poeme is on imslp if you want to play around with it. Looks like there are tenths and extended double-stop sections that require some stretching (or else really dexterous shifting but I think probably not, given the speed).

Apparently you should also read the Turgenev story, according to this great article from Strings:

March 9, 2017 at 11:01 PM · Thanks Katie! I'll look into that article and look at the music!

March 10, 2017 at 03:49 AM · Lydia and Mary Ellen, I tried to upload the video segments to google but unfortunately, it didn't work. Is there any other way I can try to get these videos to you? Any suggestions?

March 10, 2017 at 04:07 AM · You can upload them to Youtube as unlisted videos, if you don't want the world to be able to find them. In that case, the videos would be unsearchable and only people who have the URL can go to the video, and you could email the URL to anyone you wanted to share the video with. I understand my contact button isn't working, but Lydia knows how to reach me.

March 10, 2017 at 04:13 AM · I tried to upload them as unlisted but it didn't work. Is there any way I can reach both of you?

March 10, 2017 at 04:14 AM · Well, OP, the rest of us would like to hear you play too, for what that's worth:)

March 10, 2017 at 04:37 AM · I don't blame the OP for not wanting to put up videos in a format accessible to anyone in the world. I don't do that either; I do have recital videos on youtube but they're all unlisted. I'm not interested in feeding trolls.

To the OP, you can message me on FB--as far as I know, I'm the only Mary Ellen Goree on there.

March 10, 2017 at 04:43 AM · You can reach me on FB as well.

March 10, 2017 at 04:47 AM ·

March 10, 2017 at 05:26 AM · You can save videos to Dropbox. What's the issue with YouTube, though? It generally works pretty well.

March 11, 2017 at 05:06 AM · Mary Ellen, I hope you weren't insinuating we're all trolls here;)

Seriously, though, if amateurs like Lydia post videos, surely you shouldn't fear random internet commenters. Sticks, stones, and all that. Who cares, you know yourself better than they do.

To each his own, but I think it would improve the discussion here if more videos were posted. It's not like your playing isn't no doubt lovely.

March 11, 2017 at 05:20 AM · Posting unlisted videos on YouTube also keeps away random searchers on YouTube, while still letting people who are finding it via the link see it.

I usually post my videos unlisted to keep them off the general YouTube search.

March 11, 2017 at 05:47 AM · It isn't the members of this community that I worry about. It's the random people who go from video to video posting nasty comments...and also the fact that I'm fairly easy to track down if someone really wanted to make my life difficult.

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