Audition repertoire for non-major orchestra

April 13, 2017 at 06:09 PM · Come August I'll have to play an approximately 5 minute long audition (seating placement only) for one of the University of Illinois non-major orchestras. As an engineering major I haven't really decided which of the two yet as I don't even know if I'll have the time to do their least time constraining ensemble.

The auditions are very open-ended. Simply need to prepare 5 minutes of solo music between 2 contrasting pieces. For my first piece I'll be playing the intro (Andante Sostenuto) of the Rieding A minor Concertino, but I haven't decided on a second piece. That part of the concertino lasts a bit over a minute.

Willing to take a bit of a risk as ultimately these auditions are not too important as they are merely for seating placement. Given that I have a good length of time to learn something I'd be open to trying something a bit challenging. I take private lessons and can devote about 2 hours a day to practice (Once the nightmare of exams are over after early May). Currently can shift comfortably to 3rd position, and have been working on 1 octave Flesch scales a little bit everyday. Vibrato is developing and my bow control is competent, however I lack in much experience with bow arm techniques such as sautille, ricochet, spicatto, etc. for the time being at least. Typical practice session for me involves a lot of schradieck and scale work, bow control and strings crossings practice, and then a bit of solo and orchestral repertoire

My private teacher has made a few recommendations, but I'd love to hear any ideas you guys have as to what to play.


Replies (24)

April 13, 2017 at 06:43 PM · It doesn't matter what you play as long as you play it well.

Audition committes tend to look for evidence of strong:

1. Rhythm

2. Intonation

3. Tone quality

4. Articulation

...and so on.

April 13, 2017 at 07:33 PM · Per Gene's comments, orchestra auditions aren't the time to look shaky. You are better off playing something comfortably in your technical command, over which you exude an air of control, than something which lies at the edge of your ability.

In general, based on the above, I wouldn't think you are at a technical level for a university non-majors orchestra (unless it actually accepts beginners, which would be highly unusual) or for that matter, an adult community orchestra. For orchestral playing, you are generally expected to be able to play up to at least 5th position, have a nice tone and well-developed vibrato, have a well-controlled spiccato, be able to do ricochet and other types of off-the-string strokes, and otherwise be able to competently manage a 2nd violin part in standard orchestral literature.

Orchestra probably isn't a good use of your time at present. Use that time to practice and take lessons instead.

April 13, 2017 at 07:53 PM · Altough I agree with the podts above, some pieces I heard on every audition:

Kreisler Pignani Allegro and Präludium

Mozart violin concerto n3 (really, I cannot hear it any more)

Bach g minor sonata

Tchaikowsky (but most times its to much imo)

Vieuxtemps no 5, the beginning

But only choose one of them, if you already know them well.

April 13, 2017 at 08:01 PM · That list is obviously irrelevant for the essentially-beginner OP, but I'm sort of curious why you think Tchaikovsky would be "too much", Marc.

A more extensive list off the top of my head...

At the intermediate level: Csardas, Kreisler P&A, Thais, Haydn G major concerto, Mozart No. 3, maybe the F-major Beethoven Romance, etc. (You'll get less advanced kids playing the Fiocco Allegro and such, too.)

At the advanced level: Bruch, Mendelssohn, Lalo Symphonie Espagnol, Wieniawski No. 2, Zigeunerweisen, Intro & RC, and the like. For the most advanced students, Tchaikovsky or Sibelius.

Adult amateurs auditioning for community orchestras basically parallel the above list.

At the professional level: Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Brahms. Mozart 4 or 5 if a Mozart concerto is required.

April 13, 2017 at 08:58 PM · Bailey, if you're going to be an engineering major, may I respectfully suggest that you not try to play in the orchestra at least for your first semester. Grades in engineering matter just about as much as grades in pre-med do, and you may be surprised at how much of your time is consumed by studying.

Signed, the mother of an engineering student and former All-State oboist whose constant studying has been rewarded with a nice summer internship.

April 14, 2017 at 01:00 AM · I appreciate all the input lot's of great points. The orchestra I would be auditioning for doesn't appear to play all too challenging of repertoire from the bit of googling I have done. It's a string ensemble that has 2 hour rehearsals weekly and 1 concert a semester. The other non-major is their philharmonia which is much more tasking and higher tier.

Like I said I'm still undecided, but I just want to audition and decide from there whether or not I want to participate. Also, I'm not crazy and intend to play in the spring semester if at all.

I seem to be managing fine with the course and activities load I have now. Somehow managing A's in all ap classes with weekly lessons, an hour or two a day of practicing, and the slew of other activities and community service I do. Most of my freetime with friends is spent studying in groups, so my work ethic should be competent. It's just what I enjoy doing I guess. Still want to feel out my first semester for sure though.

So like I said, not sure if I will in fact do it and, though I believe it's only a seating audition from what I've read, if it turns out I'm not at a competent level to play in it at the time it still doesn't hurt to audition.

To be honest I don't really enjoy solo repertoire that much. The most enjoyment in my practice sessions comes out of scales, technique, and etudes. I love playing in my school's orchestra as a 2nd though.

(The Tchaikovsky though?? Whew and I thought my teacher gave me big challenges at times)

April 14, 2017 at 02:18 AM · You are going to find that a college engineering program is going to be a different matter in workload difficulty.

Something to keep in mind is that AP classes are designed for the kids who are going to be entering four-year universities, and are generally in the top quarter or so of high school students. But at a university, those kids are the average, not the top. And in engineering, the average student is even better than that.

When you're graded on a curve (and therefore the average score on an exam is a C), and the average student is someone who also got As in their AP classes in high school... You're going to be much more challenged and working much harder than you did in high school.

But by all means pick at least one extracurricular for sanity.

April 14, 2017 at 02:32 AM · High school AP courses are to college engineering courses as Little House on the Prairie is to War and Peace. If it's a nationally ranked program, than more like Ulysses than War and Peace.

This orchestra does sound reasonable, however, so go for it.

April 14, 2017 at 03:35 AM · Sounds like exactly what I was hoping for Lydia! But back to the question of does anyone have any ideas of a contrasting piece or excerpt pairing about 3 or 4 minutes long?

April 14, 2017 at 04:22 AM · Suzuki book 4 (which is around the level you're playing at now?) has Bohm's Perpetual Motion. That might be an okay fast piece.

April 14, 2017 at 05:05 AM · I was an engineering major who played in the second-tier orchestra for four years of college. We rehearsed once weekly, for 3 hours. I had performed the Mendelssohn a few years before, but by the time I got to college I wasn't very motivated to play the violin. I was able to get by on the rehearsals alone, with no outside practice. If you're doing it because you love to play, or even just to keep your skills up, it might be a good study break for you.

Lydia's idea for Bohm's Perpetual Motion sounds good. It's kind of flashy but not too difficult. Another idea would be the Gavotte from the beginning of Suzuki Book 5. It's adapted from Bach's wonderful cello suites, which are similar in character to his violin Partitas. The Gavotte is older and slower than the Bohm, so it might suffice as a contrasting piece.

April 14, 2017 at 06:43 AM · Laydia, you asked why I thought Tchaikowsky might be to much. In my oppinion a small and good sounding part of the concerto is technically speaking not very difficult (of course the concerto in general is at a level most amateurs never reach). But I sometimes feel it is hard to keep the phrasing and feeling in the simplier parts.

I agree that the Bach Sonata will be over the top. However I also think, that Vieuxtemps first minute is technically not to much for intermediate players if the can play in high registeres. At least not easier than Kreisler Pugnani, only a bit higher. Of course this changes heavily later on.

April 14, 2017 at 12:28 PM · It is very risky to prepare only a short excerpt from a concerto movement for an audition. What do you do if the judges don't stop you when you reach your limit, or if they ask you to start at the beginning (Tchaikovsky)? Much wiser to play something at the appropriate level and learn it start to finish.

To Bailey, you might also look at book three of the Barbara Barber Solos for young violinists.

April 14, 2017 at 12:39 PM · Agree there.

At one of my orchstras you are "allowed" to only know excepts if they are one minute plus.

But of course you are right that a whole piece is way better.

April 14, 2017 at 07:59 PM · Considering that this is a non-major orchestra at a school that isn't a conservatory, I'd double down on the advice to prepare something well within your technical grasp. There's no reason to reach for this audition; it's not like you have to worry about presenting sufficiently difficult repertoire. I suggest playing something you can play extremely well from memory. A piece you have thoroughly memorized is a piece you can likely play well under pressure.

April 14, 2017 at 08:49 PM · Sarah's advice is good but I would add a caveat: The OP is potentially in danger of not meeting the minimum expected level for the orchestra. So it may be worth their while to play a piece that's difficult enough to give the conductor/jury the assurance that they will be able to handle the group's repertoire.

OP, you might want to email the conductor to make sure that they do accept beginners into this string orchestra. Otherwise you might waste time preparing for the audition.

April 16, 2017 at 03:09 AM · I sent out an email to the conductor, but I probably won't hear back for a few days of course. According to what I have read on the website and my teacher's encouragement (who got her doctorate from the same school) I shouldn't have any issues.

What are the technical demands of the Kreisler arrangement of Gluck Melodie? It appears to be a rather iconic piece that doesn't look terribly difficult. I haven't looked at the score in awhile, but it doesn't go beyond 5th does it? I obviously don't want to do injustice to such a work of music especially for an audition, so I was just wondering the skills you guys think would be most important for such a piece. Consistent, expressive vibrato and a steady right arm come to mind aside from the obvious necessity for good intonation, rhythm, etc.

April 16, 2017 at 04:43 AM · It's a true intermediate-level piece. Like all slow works, you need enough command of the instrument to make it sound beautiful.

You want two contrasting styles -- normally they specify something fast and something slow -- for an audition.

Gene's original response to your question -- the very first one on this thread -- is key. What conductors want to see most of all is that you can count, keep a steady pulse, and play a notated rhythm with precision accuracy. Intonation is a close second. Producing a nice tone (combination of left and right-hand technique) with the proper stylistic articulations is third. Overall, they are assessing your ability to contribute positively to an ensemble, and importantly, your ability to not negatively impact the ensemble.

April 16, 2017 at 04:53 AM · What Glück melodie is this? I've looked on imslp and found several. Could anyone tell me where I could find it?

April 16, 2017 at 05:00 AM · It's the Kreisler-Gluck Melodie from Orfeo et Eurydice. Found in the Kreisler Collection Volume 1, published by Carl Fischer.

April 16, 2017 at 05:21 AM · Thanks

April 17, 2017 at 03:05 AM · I've got the figital sheet music if you want (though I don't agree with most of Kreiler's fingerings). :)

April 17, 2017 at 03:20 AM · A. O. does yours not have the piano accompaniment in with it? I can't seem to find one that's just the solo violin without purchasing.

April 17, 2017 at 11:21 AM · Bailey I have the solo violin part of the Gluck Melodie arranged by Kreisler. If you send me a message at jean du buisson but you have to replace spaces by underscores. Trying to fool the email address scrapers here, sorry about that, I'm sure you'll figure it out. The email service is outlook. Then I will email it to you.

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