Bruch Level?

March 15, 2018, 7:48 PM · Hi all,

I see a lot of reference to "Bruch level" on this site. I am curious where people would see Mozart 5, Mendelssohn, Vivaldi Four Seasons, and Kreutzer etudes in relation to Bruch level. Or if there's any general reference of graded repertoire, understanding it's only a rough guide, I would appreciate that too.


Replies (30)

Edited: March 15, 2018, 7:56 PM · Here is one:

The “Bruch level” is level 8 out of 10.

March 15, 2018, 8:12 PM · It is a misnomer. We are not in athletics.
March 15, 2018, 8:56 PM · In traditional method in Italy, Bruch g minore concerto is in the sixth or seventh year’s course, which is parallel to Kreutzer, Dont or Rode etudes. Mozart La Major is in eighth year’s course.
Edited: March 15, 2018, 9:49 PM · Agree with D.Z.; 8 out of 10. One way to judge the difficulty of a piece is to look at its most technically difficult passages. Bruch has parallel octaves, double stops, and that one spot in 10ths. Mendelssohn has octaves, and the last movement should be very fast with spiccato. The literal technique of the Mozart concertos, (except for cadenzas!) are one level less difficult. Grading systems for pieces are published by ASTA, Calif.MTAC-CM, UK/Canada Royal Academy, etc.
March 15, 2018, 9:49 PM · Mozart A Major and Mendelssohn are definitely ranked as higher level than Bruch. According to the RCM system, Bruch is level 10, and Mozart A Major and Mendelssohn are ARCT (one level above 10, and the highest level in the system). Kreutzer is right around this level. Don't know about Vivaldi 4 Seasons.
March 15, 2018, 9:55 PM · And, it's one of those little controversies. The other way I have to rate difficulty is; if I can play it, its probably not that hard. I can do Mendelssohn and Mozart but definitely not Brahms and Tchaikovsky. :-)
March 16, 2018, 9:32 AM · Four Seasons is significantly easier than the others.

Mozart 4 and 5 are both easier than Bruch. Mozart 5 is a little easier than Mozart 4.

Bruch and Mendelssohn are about the same level, with slightly different technical challenges.

Most students will have done a good chunk of Kreutzer prior to doing Bruch.

Edited: March 16, 2018, 9:51 AM · Third movement of Mendelssohn mi minore is mi major, which is considered to be more difficult than Bruch sol minore (the third movement is G major). In traditional course of Italian conservatory Mendelssohn concerto is arranged posterior to Bruch as well as Mozart la major.

Vivaldi four seasons, among these four concertinos, Winter is the most difficult one, the other three ones (Spring to Autumn) will be taught from fourth to fifth year's course, which means that for beginners within five years' study. Winter is F minore, if my memory not go wrong, it is arranged with Kreutzer etude, while other pieces are arranged with Mazas.

By the way, Italian conservatories provide courses of relatively slow progress, though courses are given privately one-to-one and once a week, pupils do not spend much time practice everyday, because they have to go to school, consequently progress would be slower compared with private teachers out of conservatories. I remember I played Pugniani Sonata E major before I started to deal with Mendelssohn E minore, but today Pugnani Sonata E major can be done by some teachers on some children within only three years.

I remember some performances for diploma (the completion of 9th or 10th year's course in conservatorio) in recent years which I have seen in my hometown, one is Mendelssohn E minore, one is Paganini No.1 concerto, and one is Tchaikovski concerto Re Major. Although they were taught in the same program in the same school, their skills vary, due to time of practice, and how many years they have been playing...

Edited: March 16, 2018, 9:53 AM · My own impression is that Mozart 5 is comparable to Bruch, but it depends on where one has specific strengths and weaknesses. Same for Bruch vs. Mendelssohn, but since we live in an age where very often the comparison is among the first movements of these concertos, then I would rank Mendelssohn as harder because it's tough to stand up in front of an audience and start belting out octaves and arpeggiated passages right out of the gate. Much of the Four Seasons is easier, but very few students do them all, so it just depends on which parts you want to do. Much of Kreutzer is roughly at the Bruch level although about a third of them are a lot easier.
Edited: March 16, 2018, 9:57 AM · And in violin playing it's important to use the right lingo. "Bruch Level" is part of that. That's why you hear it a lot. Also it's kind of a breaking-point kind of piece because it's the gateway to the great Romantic concertos.

Also, remember that one does not "play" a concerto or "practice" or "work on" a concerto. One "does" a concerto. So, if you are asked what you are working on, you should say "I'm doing Bruch." And you would ask a fellow violinist, "Have you done Bruch yet?" or "Did you do Bruch yet?" This is the correct language to be using.

Edited: March 16, 2018, 11:26 AM · I have difficulty seeing in what respect Bruch is less difficult than Mozart 5, even if you factor in the common cadenzas (Joachim) for Mozart 5.

Mozart will be more revealing of small flaws in baseline technique than a Romantic concerto, but that isn't harder per se.

March 16, 2018, 12:21 PM · Huh, I've always thought of Winter as being easier than the other three concertos in the Four Seasons.

At any rate they are all significantly easier than Bruch. Mendelssohn is more difficult than Bruch--slightly more technique, and it is *much* longer (demands more stamina).

Edited: March 17, 2018, 10:35 AM · I might be wrong, but I have read/ saw somewhere that Heifetz stated that one is supposed to be able to sight-read a concerto before venturing into serious work. It amazes me that level is between the lines defined as level of "technical" difficulty. I have heard so many interpretations of Bruch, Mozart and other concertos leaving me bored, like a dead fish. What about music? What about interpretation? Improvisation? zero. nada.
March 16, 2018, 3:35 PM · Lydia I agree with you that Mozart 5 is easier than Bruch on the whole.
March 16, 2018, 3:54 PM · I'll put it this way: playing a perfect and beautiful Minuet is a heck of a lot harder than playing a really crappy Bruch.
March 16, 2018, 5:25 PM · I think these incessant discussions about "what's harder than what" are misguided and immature. As stated above, we are not competing in an olympic sport.
March 16, 2018, 5:47 PM · The OP asks for references regarding graded repertoire which says to me he would like to rank repertoire according to “technical” difficulties.

I just spent about 6 months on Bruch and now am working on Mendelssohn, neither of which I can “sight read” prior to learning them. For an aging amateur like me, the process of learning them are journeys that, however imperfect, would take me to the next level of playing.

If everything has to be “perfect and beautiful”, how many of us can actually get beyond Suzuki Bk 1?

March 16, 2018, 6:16 PM · Of course our goal isn't to play Suzuki book 1 perfectly on the first pass. My point is that it's somewhat irrelevant to grade difficulties when you consider how much of a variable quality is during any song. And people who worry about grades are also usually the people that need to be thinking about quality first.
March 16, 2018, 7:08 PM · I usually assume that people who ask these kinds of questions are trying to gauge the sequence of repertoire and what it means for *typical* skills at a given level of repertoire.

Edited: March 16, 2018, 8:12 PM · “My point is that it's somewhat irrelevant to grade difficulties when you consider how much of a variable quality is during any song.”

To my untrained ears, there is a considerable variance in playing quality even among first tier soloists ( ie those who command the highest fees) for whom technical issues, if any, are not supposed to be significant. The variance is greater in more technically demanding
repertoire ( e. g. Last Rose). So graded (technical) difficulties are relevant.

March 16, 2018, 8:43 PM · Thanks for all the replies. My initial question was geared towards general guidepost type information. However the different types of answers here are interesting. True music is not athletics, but there is a lot of muscle work and training involved. And of course there are many ways to play a work (with or without quality or with different qualities). I am very concerned with the aesthetics but one can consider technical aspects in isolation too.

Personally I am interested in doing (thanks for the lingo Paul) all of the pieces I listed, but don't plan to work on any of them any time soon, with the exception of Kreutzer.

I read once that Heifetz said Mozart was the hardest to play, including technically. I never understood how that was possible so it's interesting to see some people rank Mozart so high in difficulty. If anyone can elaborate how Mozart level is higher than Bruch level, I would like to hear your thoughts.

March 16, 2018, 8:58 PM · IMHO, the aura of mystery associated with Mozart is related at least in part to interpretative variance. That is, everyone thinks her version is uniquely better and more refine than others.
March 16, 2018, 9:12 PM · Mozart is revealing of a player's flaws. Every tiny slip of not-100%-pure-and consistent intonation, every not-absolutely-precise rhythm or moment where it drags or rushes, every bowstroke that's not precisely controlled, every moment that isn't elegantly graceful and effortless -- it's all heard.

That's why, for instance, auditions for professional concertmasters often require playing a Mozart concerto exposition in addition to a Romantic concerto. To just get the notes of a Mozart concerto out in a reasonable fashion isn't that hard; to execute one flawlessly is another matter.

March 16, 2018, 10:04 PM · Yeah, Mozart tends to have a remarkable ability to take an otherwise decent player and make them sound amateur again.
March 16, 2018, 10:11 PM · David, one must normalize for pulchritude when analyzing professional soloists. They are an act which must be successfully marketed.

A successful soloist who is ugly, there you’ll find real musical beauty.

March 17, 2018, 8:05 AM · Jason, I had to look up that word :=) I agree.
March 17, 2018, 9:48 AM · Considerations of "what is harder than what" are extremely important for teachers selecting repertoire for students, or for adult independent learners in selecting repertoire for themselves. It isn't immature at all. I'm sure I'm not the only teacher here who has had a new (transfer) student show up with music that was a completely inappropriate (as in, too difficult) choice for them.
Edited: March 17, 2018, 10:15 AM · In my area there are two high-profile amateur symphony orchestras that won't accept violinists who haven't got at least a grade 8. Never having taken any violin grades at all is therefore why I am not in those orchestras, although at one time I was in both for many years as a grade 8 cellist. On the other hand, other orchestras in the area, some of which are of a similar standing to the two aforesaid orchestras, are quite happy to have me as a violinist - so they must be desperate :)

I don't play the cello anymore - my cello is now in the capable hands of my daughter who lives in another country.

March 17, 2018, 10:46 AM · Time again, figure-scating comes to my mind as a possible comparison. There they have a few (mandatory) technical elements judges are observing. Some skaters can not do "quads", others can do "triple toe"....
The 2nd component is the artistic impression - just recent winter olympic, especially women's finale was such a great example of artistry, technical mastery and that elusive ability to connect with the audience. Gold and silver medalist were both from Russia, bronze from Canada. Impossible to compare.... 15 year old winner was technically supreme and her programme was saturated with all kinds of very challenging elements, yet two others, in my opinion were more artistically solid. Not to mention that other skaters, on lower positions were artistically way better than golden medalist.
Couples were also interesting to watch - some of them made mistakes, but deductions were minimal, because the overall impression was at such high level that they impressed everyone.
Now, how one measures technical difficulty of a concerto?
Double stops, chords, arpeggios, left-hadn pizzicato, harmonics.... once you exhaust the list, we all are on the empty horizon where music happens or does not.
March 17, 2018, 5:18 PM · Each piece can have its own challenges. I think we're talking about overall difficulty here. Mozart concertos promote finesse and beauty, so many orchestras ask for them for auditions. Bruch concertos and similar don't promote finesse and beauty as much.

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