Bach partita selection for undergrad auditions

May 24, 2006 at 06:58 PM · It's pretty standard for undergraduate music school / conservatory auditions to require two contrasting movements of a Bach sonata or partita. All else being equal in terms of a student's ability to play a given selection, what would you recommend from the E major or D minor partitas (excl. the Chaconne) to demonstrate a student's abilities and potential?

Replies (16)

May 24, 2006 at 07:01 PM · From D minor, I would say the Giga and the Sarabanda.

E Major, probably the Loure with the Gavotte en Rondeau.

Then again, who am I to tell you? :P

May 24, 2006 at 09:25 PM · For my audition, I played the Preludio and Gavotte en Rondeau from the E major partita.

Kelsey W.

May 24, 2006 at 10:09 PM · That would depend upon the students strengths and weaknesses. (sorry, obvious answer)

May 24, 2006 at 11:53 PM · I think the E major showcases technique more then the d minor (without chaconne of course). I would choose the E major Prelude and the Lourve. But I will definately choose what my teacher recommends, of course. And what do I know anyway, I play the cello suites.

May 25, 2006 at 02:04 AM · Now dont ever take what I say TOO seriously. I was auditioning at NEC and talking to one of the students there. When I told her I was playing the chaconne she said that her teacher told her that she loved hearing the chaconne because she gets so sick of hearing the E major partita and g minor sonata all the time. I personally think that you should try the chaccone. I auditioned at 9 of the biggest schools and in not ONE of them did I go past the first third of it (which is easier than the giga in my opinion from the d minor alone). Even in my lessons with the teachers at the schools we didnt get beyond there. I barely even had the last third of it learned!

But again I have never heard you play, and dont know your situation. All I can say is that the chaconne can be deceptive. Everyone will PRAISE you for attempting it, but the amount you will actually play will be easier that playing 2 other contrasting movements. Plus its NOT that hard to memorize because the chord progression stays constant.

Play a bit before you exclude it.

May 25, 2006 at 02:46 AM · One of the nice things about college auditions (yeah, it's weird to think of any part of them as "nice") is that you have a lot of pieces to play. Etudes are used for technical purposes, obviously, and you always have a movement of a concerto and some kind of Bach. I wouldn't necessarily worry too much about which ones are the most technical, especially if you're already doing a first movement of a concerto. However, I wouldn't recommend playing all slow movements- you want to have some variety in there.

That being said, you can pick almost any of the movements of those partitas. The last 2 movements of the EM are a little short, especially the giga. The Loure is quite difficult to play well. It may not seem technical, but playing it in tune, without slides between positions, and lyrically is very challenging. The Gavotte en Rondeau is also a great choice because it has a lot of technical facets to it- lots of chords, string crossings, difficult pedal-point sections, and some tricky intonation. The Preludio is excellent as well, although that can be a little tiring to do in conjunction with a concerto. As to the dm- I believe someone suggested the Sarabanda and the Gigue. I would second that recommendation- this gives you a chance to show off your lyrical side, giving the teachers the opportunity to see your bow control and sound. The Gigue is tricky for the left hand in coordination and shows off your dexterity in bow movement and your left hand fingers. So in short- choose two movements that are contrasting and that you really love, which is probably the most important part.

May 25, 2006 at 02:46 AM · Jordan, I ask this question for my daughter but I'll keep that in mind.

Thanks for the suggestions to all.

May 25, 2006 at 03:28 AM · What I find really weird is that a few friends/colleagues of mine auditioned for some of the top schools (masters of violin performance), and their audition was like 10 minutes. They got in, so it wasn't like they were kicked out early.

Is the audition that short everywhere?

May 25, 2006 at 03:30 AM · That's what I've heard. A good teacher can tell a good/promising/talented player from one not so good in about forty seconds.

May 25, 2006 at 03:50 AM · I got in all my schools except 2, and the two that I didnt get accepted at my auditions lasted like 20 minutes. The rest maybe 10-15 at most. Its generally understood that most auditions will last about 15 minutes I believe. The other great thing about the chaconne is that because its set in like 8 bars theres SO many places where you can be stopped quite easily which in my opinion is good. At a couple of my auditions I didnt even get past the first page and got in. Make sure to tell your daughter to have the beginnings of pieces SOLID like no other. I played the sibelius violin concerto for auditions and never even read the last 2 pages of it- and never had to play them! lol

May 25, 2006 at 07:13 AM · Jordan, I agree about the Chaconne. I'd either do that or the A-... I wouldn't show up playing E+, G+ or D-. I suck too much to make them stand out, so I'll play the more obscure ones or just do the Chaconne which not many will try at an audition.

May 25, 2006 at 07:11 PM · The A minor is a good choice as well. I dont think I would go to an audition playing anything but a fuga or the ciaconna either because of the fact that, like peter said, you will HAVE to make those movements stand out because like 9 out of 10 violinists will play the typical pieces. its not like the teachers play "favorites" but they ARE choosing students based on the other people who played (often this is the case) and when you play the same thing its easy for them to like one better- and rightfully so. Thats why (in my opinion) its kind of important to play something that they can pick you out from the crowd with. it kind of gives them an unconcious thought of you being an individual instead of a number in line.

And Bach is, in my opinion, the most important piece of the audition repetoire. In every place I went, if they didnt give me a choice, they asked for bach first. It is the piece that will more than likely show an individual character the most because it is so free of markings. I think ,in general (for undergrad at least), teachers are looking for a certian musicality- or a clear direction in what you are wanting to say rather than technical mastery. I know a couple violinists who didnt get into the same schools I did even though they're technique was noticably better.

May 25, 2006 at 10:02 PM · This all makes me think that maybe she should include the Allemande from the D minor (if not follow the advice of tackling the Chaconne, secure in knowing that they won't ask to hear the whole thing).

The reason I say the Allemande is because she plays it more convincingly -- as far as phrasing and giving shape and flow to the piece -- than in the recordings I know... Szeryng, Hahn, Grumiaux, Handel. She found it difficult to get a grasp on it and the recordings provided no model, although they gave hints and ideas.

As far as making it her own, in a way, I think she's done well with the Allemande.

May 25, 2006 at 10:46 PM · I don't think that learnign the Chaconne just because you don't have to play the whole thing is the best thing to do...

It's pretty hard and people expect a certain level when you play it, not to mention the respect that it deserves, being one of the greatest pieces ever written for any instrument. If she has the ability to do it, then she should learn it. I believe auditions only start in February, so she'll have plenty of time.

If she does the Allemande well, then there's no harm in playing that.

May 26, 2006 at 12:10 AM · Pieter,

Jordan's idea of the Chaconne is kind of intriguing, but I doubt her teacher would go for that. I think you offer good advice. Thanks.

I always thought the Sarabande and Gigue made such a nice pair, but I suppose so would the Allemande and Gigue.

I guess it comes down to what she plays best, blowing the whole premise of my original post about all that being equal. Oh well...

May 27, 2006 at 05:18 AM · Yes, auditions are really short. Especially on the piano- they requier you to learn about two hours of music for a ten minute audition. And they heard the end of the last movement of my Beethoven piano sonata, so I don't know about only practicing the beginings...

Kelsey W.

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