Ideas for piano/violin duo?

Edited: August 10, 2018, 4:08 PM · Due to a lack of cellists, I've been placed in a violin/piano duo for my college's chamber music program, and am currently searching for repertoire ideas.

Would really appreciate if anyone has any suggestions.

Preferably Classical onwards, and needs to be 'serious' repertoire (conservatory/professional level).

Thank you :)

Replies (21)

Edited: August 10, 2018, 4:43 PM · there are a lot of those. any of the beethoven and brahms violin sonatas would work.
August 10, 2018, 5:00 PM · franck sonata
August 10, 2018, 5:18 PM · There is an unbelievable amount of violin/piano sonata repertoire. As has already been mentioned, Beethoven, Brahms sonatas; Franck sonata. Add to these any Mozart sonata; Faure sonata in A major op. 11 (there is another one but it is much less accessible); Prokofiev sonata no. 2 in D major (also the more accessible choice); Stravinsky Suite Italienne; Hindemith sonata op. 11 no. 1 (very accessible); etc., etc.
Edited: August 11, 2018, 12:07 AM · Ditto - Piano-Violin Sonatas are chamber music. The piano part is more often than not busier and technically more difficult than the violin part, so take good care of your pianist, let them help choose repertoire even when they don't know the list as well as you. I have always thought that a pianist and violinist could share a college recital by doing sonatas.
August 11, 2018, 12:36 AM · Just remember that for pieces like Franck, Beethoven #7 or #9, or any Brahms sonata you'll need a HECK of a pianist to make the experience rewarding.
Edited: August 11, 2018, 9:55 AM · Edited - complete nonsense.
Edited: August 11, 2018, 8:54 AM · Respectfully, if this is for a college chamber music class, then the piece chosen needs to be actual chamber music. This rules out transcriptions and solos with piano accompaniment. It is true that some sonatas have extremely difficult piano parts and the pianist should be consulted in the selection.

Spring Sonata (Beethoven #5) has a playable piano part for a good but not spectacular pianist.

Edited: August 11, 2018, 9:43 AM · OK, didn't get that completely. Sometimes reading too fast...
Agree with spring sonata.
August 11, 2018, 10:04 AM · Spring Sonata is kiddie stuff.
Go for Janacek.
Edited: August 11, 2018, 10:12 AM · Not kiddie stuff, but played too often. Scott, I didn't know the Janacek, but the beginning is already great!

Also some nice Sonatas from Shostakovich and Elgar! But be prepared for some "hmpfff..." - Hard to think of anything else than sonatas in this context...

Edited: August 13, 2018, 8:36 AM · This is a subject to be discussed with the pianist ahead of time, especially if the pianist is also a student. Then you need to see how you work together. So start out with some of the usual warhorses and build from there and plan a schedule for the semester.

If it were my problem I'd lay out some Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, maybe the Frank - and then go on from there

Edited: August 11, 2018, 12:37 PM · IMSLP lists nearly 4000 works for violin and piano that are no longer in copyright.

The relevant link is,

Sorting through that little lot should keep most of us busy for a while!

August 11, 2018, 12:38 PM · The Grieg Violin/Piano Sonatas are pretty awesome too!
August 11, 2018, 12:49 PM · It might be worth bearing in mind that the focus of the partnership is chamber music, so don't choose anything that will extend you so far technically that you don't have much head space for the ensemble aspect or interpretative decisions that you will need to make. Working closely with a duo sonata partner is really rewarding.

PS another vote for Cesar Franck, but agree that you'll need a good partner.

August 11, 2018, 7:16 PM · Given that there's a significant chance that the pianist will have to do way more work than you will, I'd probably allow the pianist to choose what you work on. How good is your pianist?
Edited: August 11, 2018, 8:51 PM · Finding a pianist who will work with you over the course of a semester (or whatever) on the Franck Sonata is very difficult. What you have here is a rare opportunity. A lot of chamber programs look down on sonata pairings, prefering groupings of three or more.

And if Franck is in your realm then you should be considering Brahms sonatas too.

I suspect what happened is that your "chamber" program got flooded with pianists. That happens all the time because the piano is easier than either the violin or the cello, up to a certain level which I surmise corresponds roughly to the conservatory admission level. (I'm saying this as someone who plays both piano and violin about equally well.) But then the poor pianists discover what the rest of us already know -- that not only the best piano music but the best music of every sort was written by pianists, who showed no mercy to their own kind when writing chamber parts.

Maybe you and your pianist colleague should just spend a couple of hours reading through some stuff. But start with the Franck. What you don't want is a piece where the parts are hard enough for either one of you that you miss the chance to work hard on the musicality of the ensemble. If the ensemble is going to be a question of mechanics and only dealt with seriously in the last couple of weeks before the performance, then you need something easier to play. I performed the 3rd movement of the Franck with a pianist friend (20 years my senior) and it was a joy because we could really delve into the communication between the voices. The 2nd movement would have been too hard to ever reach that point. But I'm not a conservatory-level player by any stretch.

August 12, 2018, 6:36 PM · If you think the Spring sonata has been played too often, try one of the less famous Beethoven sonatas. I love op. 30/3 in G, full of fun and humor. And I think reasonably playable for the pianist. Most of the later 19th century music will put a lot of difficulty on the pianist (the Franck especially, at least mvmt. 2); there is a general problem with chamber music for piano and others: It is mostly quite playable for the strings (or winds), but very hard for the pianist.

And a little outside the usual focus: Bach's 6 sonatas for violin with obbligato "Clavier". They are magnificent. And the piano is IMO the better instrument than the harpsichord, you get a balanced duo (Bach wrote it that way) with a piano which is practically impossible with harpsichord. I performed the one A major as a teenager (with an organist though, not a pianist).

Final point: I wouldn't worry about technical difficulties being too low. This is about ensemble playing. If you feel like it by all means choose the Dvorak sonatina, it is written for children but it is nonetheless a masterpiece.

August 13, 2018, 4:10 AM · Danbel.
why only sonatas etc? Three suggestions for violin/piano
- chamber music.
Fyra Aquareller: Tor Aulin. popular with students and recitalists.
publ. ABR. Lundquist, Musikförlag. Stockholm (You Tube)

Rumanian Folk Dances Bela Bartok.

Rhapsody n.1 Prima Parte: Lassu.(Joseph Szigeti) Bela bartok.

Rewarding for players and public!

Edited: August 13, 2018, 6:44 AM · Why is the Franck such a staple for these purposes?

Both Fauré sonatas are so much more rewarding.

There's also two great Schumann sonatas, in d minor and a minor.

There's Mendelssohn. There's Mozart; technically not the most difficult, but a good test of one's expressive range.

Max Reger, a name that's on everybody's lips these days (just kidding!), wrote an amazingly beautiful rather hard sonata in C minor (op 139), and you don't even have to figure out the fingerings because they're in MR's score, at least the string he wants you to use.

As others have suggested, the pianist you're going to work with is really the deciding factor.

August 14, 2018, 10:22 PM · Herman, yes, and also Debussy. But I think the Franck is musically more accessible (i.e., not as deep) and if you're relatively inexperienced in chamber music it's good fodder for gaining some experience teasing out the nuances of the duo.

Also there are a couple of easier movements that you can start with -- and finish with if you can't get the others worked up.

August 17, 2018, 11:01 PM · Sorry for the late reply, thanks for all the answers & the advice on duo dynamics/skill etc.

The pianist is a decent & imaginative musician, but not particularly dedicated to practising, so I'll definitely need to ask her to look at the repertoire.

I wouldn't call Spring sonata "kiddy stuff" but I've played it a couple of times before & am looking to branch out. There have been some great suggestions here.

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