Am I ready for Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso?

August 23, 2018, 2:04 AM · Hey guys. This is my first post, so I do not exactly know how to start off. I am a 16 year old violinist who started at the age of 6, but I did not spend the years wisely. I am currently playing/practicing the following pieces:

Praeludium and Allegro
Bach Partita No 3
Kablevsky Concerto in C major 1st mvt.

I am thinking of starting the following pieces:

Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor 1st mvt
Wieniawski Legende Op 17
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso (Obviously)

Please let me know! I have talked to my private teacher about this and he is considering it, but I need opinions from a broader community. Sorry if this post is bad; it is my first time here. thanks

Replies (47)

August 23, 2018, 3:27 AM · I would say I'm probably around the same level as you. I would personally say Mendelssohn and Introduction are slightly further than you are currently, but if your teacher thinks you are capable, I would say try it :)
Edited: August 23, 2018, 5:32 AM · If you're thinking of just learning it and trying out some of the passages, then sure. If you have a good teacher who can hold your hand along the way and explain how to practice the difficulties then why not? A student can learn a lot from that piece.

But beware of performance until you're ready: that piece will lay bare any technical weaknesses you still have in your playing, and it will be merciless in doing so. The works you're playing right now aren't easy, to be sure, but Intro and Rondo is an IMMENSE leap in challenge. It's really meant for a mature soloist who is solidly grounded in pretty much all aspects of advanced violin playing.

August 23, 2018, 6:31 AM · If you have not already done them, do Mozart and Bruch before Mendelssohn and IRC.

Teachers ... which comes first, Mendelssohn or Lalo?

August 23, 2018, 6:43 AM · I would do Lalo I think
August 23, 2018, 6:46 AM · Try it and find out. You'll pretty quickly see whether or not you're ready.

The repertoire in list B is a fair step up from list A.

Edited: August 23, 2018, 8:05 AM · You are way underestimating both Mendelssohn and the Introduction and Rondo. If your current repertoire is a fair representation of your level, you’re a couple years away from both of those at the very least if you are progressing at a typical pace.

There’s a reason why people play Bruch and Lalo before Mendelssohn.

August 23, 2018, 9:03 AM · Mary Ellen - what would you consider to fit between the Kabalevsky and the Bruch/Lalo? And then the Bruch/Lalo and the Mendelssohn? Asking in general, I know every student is different and requires different pieces that work with their ability.
August 23, 2018, 9:19 AM · I’m about the same level as you. I’d say you could do Legende...the only hard part in that is all the thirds so make sure you’re practicing thirds a lot. Maybe try pieces like Bruch and Scene de Ballet by De Beriot before you do Mendelssohn and Rondo :) I’m in the same boat tho...hopefully we get to play those pieces soon :)
August 23, 2018, 9:19 AM · I’m about the same level as you. I’d say you could do Legende...the only hard part in that is all the thirds so make sure you’re practicing thirds a lot. Maybe try pieces like Bruch and Scene de Ballet by De Beriot before you do Mendelssohn and Rondo :) I’m in the same boat tho...hopefully we get to play those pieces soon :)
Edited: August 23, 2018, 12:25 PM · If the student was particularly talented and hard-working I might actually go directly from Kabalevsky to Bruch, but usually not. If the student hadn’t already played DeBeriot #9, I’d want them to do that first, and maybe a Mozart concerto as well (usually #3). Praeludium and Allegro is another good intermediate level piece for this kind of student. Romanza Andaluza by Sarasate is also a good one to do. But I don’t have a specific sequence at this point, it is (as you suggest) highly dependent on the individual student.

My sequence as a student was DeBeriot #9, Mozart 3 and 4, Bach E major concerto/Telemann Fantasia #9/Bach E major partita, Bruch, Polonaise Brillant/Bach d minor, Saint-Seans #3, Mendelssohn, but there were also a couple of teacher changes in there.

August 23, 2018, 12:14 PM · I think mine was Viotti 23, DeBeriot 9 and Scene de Ballet, Mozart 3, a bunch of Kreisler pieces and a couple of other Viotti concertos (I think I did 17, 19, 21, and 22) along with solo Bach plus miscellaneous other intermediate works (Ten Have Allegro Brillante and such), Rode 8, Mendelssohn.

I think of all those intermediate-level concertos as a kind of purgatory of barely-disguised etudes for the most part. I almost quit playing during those years.

August 23, 2018, 12:27 PM · I did Viotti 23 before DeBeriot 9. I agree that the Viotti is barely disguised etudes but the DeBeriot is fun to teach, and most of my students enjoy playing it--I certainly did, when I was 13.

What isn't fun is trying to learn Mendelssohn or Introduction & Rondo when one doesn't remotely have the technical chops.

August 23, 2018, 1:43 PM · Thanks Mary Ellen and Lydia.

I've already done Telemann 1 and 10 (9 is likely next for me, I love those Fantasias), working on Bach E Major Partita now too. I was under the impression that the P&A was much harder than intermediate level, will have to take a look at it one of these days.

I tried sight-reading Ravel's Tzigane not that long ago, and I imagine that it is similar to the level of "fun" one would have with the Mendelssohn or I&R if one is not ready... if torture and despair over ineptitude are considered "fun". The Lalo (1st movement, thus far) on the other hand, I seem to be capable of doing. It does show everything one needs to work on though - which is fun if you are into that sort of problem solving. Lucky for me I enjoy it - it is hard work though, no doubt about it.

Thanks again!

(Lydia - I feel that sense of purgatory. Which is likely why I keep pushing to do material that's a little bit beyond that level...)

August 23, 2018, 6:10 PM · I would suggest doing some Mozart before tackling any of those pieces. 3 or 5 are probably the easier ones. They may not be as fun as IRC, but you need the technique from them before tackling bigger pieces.

A lot of kids in my son's studio do Mendelssohn 3rd movement before the 1st -- that may be a way of getting into it earlier. 1st mvmt of Bruch is also not very hard, though 3rd is!

I'm surprised so many of you do Lalo so early! It's always done later here, because the 2nd and 3rd movements require a lot of musical maturity, and the 5th movement is quite brutal. My son's been working on Lalo since April, and he has learned the all 5 movements in that time, but the 5th movement is going to take time. He played 2 Mozarts, Bruch, Mendelssohn, Zigeunerweisen, and IRC all before Lalo.

Edited: August 23, 2018, 6:55 PM · I'm pretty sure the discussion centers around the first movement of Lalo, which is the ideal step up piece into the standard concerto repertoire.

1st movement of Bruch isn't hard? I beg to differ. It's not Brahms but it has a slew of difficulties. Tone in regards to double stops is a particular issue for most students, and the chromatic/string crossing passage at the end of the movement is fiendish. I also don't know if I would peg Mozart 5 as an "easy" piece.

Hacking through something for the first time is not the equivalent of true understanding.

August 23, 2018, 7:53 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen that DeBeriot is fun. Even Viotti was fun on initial intro (the 3rd movement of Viotti 23). And then not so much. :-)

Pamela, there's an immense amount of great literature at the intermediate level. The problem is that a lot of the things that I think are enjoyable are also not as pedagogically valuable as the etudes-disguised-as-repertoire. (To be fair, those composers wrote that stuff for themselves to play, not for pedagogical purposes.) In my attempts to become a better performer, I've generally chosen, for public performance (i.e., not my teacher's studio recitals), intermediate-level repertoire that I've wanted to learn but doesn't pose a technical challenge.

August 23, 2018, 8:57 PM · Mozart 5 is much more difficult technically and musically than either 3 or 4 IMO.

Praeludium & Allegro is maybe slightly harder than Kabalevsky.

I am indeed referring only to the first movement of Lalo.

Tzigane is very difficult, significantly harder than Mendelssohn, I think. Chausson Poeme is much more playable.

August 23, 2018, 9:26 PM · to show what's possible, here's a middle-schooler who played it with out community orchestra a few months ago... The conductor is not tall, btw, and she's very petite, except for her tone

August 23, 2018, 9:40 PM · I tried Mozart 5 a couple of years ago and it was kind of painful. I took a break and worked on the "Haffner" Rondo, also by Mozart. This piece really improved me in ways I didn't anticipate, and I think I might try the Concerto No. 5 again.
August 24, 2018, 12:40 AM · Thank you all for your opinions! I tried practicing Rondo Capriccioso and the only parts that are super difficult are the last two pages with the fast arpeggios. I mostly got the first 6 pages down decently, but not perfectly.
August 24, 2018, 12:42 AM · I also listened to Lalo, and it looks MUCH more difficult than IRC.
August 24, 2018, 1:39 AM · lok This is such a strange site.

I think I'm going to give up trying to give advice and suggestions and just tell jokes or something.

Is that thread about women's pineapples on the moon (or whatever) still around?

August 24, 2018, 2:18 AM · I don’t know a single experienced violinist who would not agree that the first movement of Lalo is significantly easier than IRC. But go ahead, have at it. Post a video when you’re ready. :-)
Edited: August 24, 2018, 6:45 AM · I think students are at a considerable advantage in terms of learning to play the violin if the tall trees of the standard concerto progression are filled in liberally with shrubbery (Rode, Viotti, de Beriot, Spohr, etc.) Yes the latter are a bit like studies strung together but remember why you do studies? Because they're good for you. I bet if you look at the people around here who are really fine violinists, they did all that stuff when they were learning. Maybe someone like Hilary Hahn can go from La Folia to Bruch, but we're talking about mortals here.

There are a lot of "salon pieces" that are overlooked, too, in terms of both pedagogy and repertoire. People tend to play all the same things. Everyone does P&A. How about one of the Tchaikovsky scherzos? You never hear those but they're quite challenging (and more interesting than P&A). I think the reason you don't hear them is because a lot of teachers don't know where they would "fit" into an overall pedagogical scheme -- just a hunch there. Or maybe it's because they're harder pieces.

It's also good, I think, for high schoolers who are very busy with academics and/or sports to work on stuff that is not as long and ponderous as a concerto movement, which can take months to learn if you've only got an hour a day to practice. Maybe that's not your child's reality but it is mine. That's where pieces like de Beriot No. 9 or Spohr No. 2 really shine. My daughter is starting her senior year and her teacher suggested Mendelssohn. He has good judgment and there could be many benefits to her working on that but I'm fearful of the downside.

I agree with Ryan that the first movement of Bruch is hard. A lot of students do it as their first romantic concerto and I've heard a lot of pretty miserable performances thereof. I think Kabalevsky should be done before Bruch.

@Ryan please excuse me if I've got a few things wrong there. I'm just an amateur.

August 24, 2018, 9:39 AM · Lydia - I agree, lots of material. I was referring to a lot of the "standard pedagogical rep" in the intermediate boat. I'm actually reviewing the Roumanian Folk Dances at the moment (since "passing" them a few months ago), in anticipation of a recital this winter. It's nice to return to it with a deeper understanding, and improved ability. And, most of the Telemann Fantasias fall into the intermediate category as well, I believe. (Some of them are quite difficult, no doubt about it.)

I'm super into Syzmanowki's Mythes - might bring that into the fold one day too. I believe that's considered to be in the same "level" as the P&A, and to my ears is much more interesting. And, I would like to work on a different Mozart than the 3 and 4 that I did decades ago. (Suggestions welcomed!)

I do like wading in the advanced rep waters, but I am coming to terms with the fact that I'm not quite ready for swimming in them - at least not in terms of being able to play them as well as I'd like. It's a humbling experience, that's for sure.

August 24, 2018, 5:37 PM · Go for it...what could go wrong?

August 24, 2018, 7:59 PM · I think the "Intro" part of I&RC isn't especially difficult compared to the "entry-level" Romantic concertos, but the fast part is a lot more difficult than the Lalo first movement. Good luck getting it up to tempo. :-)

My hunch is that in general, kids get taught a fairly narrow set of pedagogical repertoire because (a) it's what teachers have played themselves, and (b) those pieces are good workouts for necessary skills.

Intermediate-to-advanced adults likely have a different set of priorities that suggest that the usual pedagogical sequence doesn't have to be followed in quite the same way.

August 25, 2018, 1:05 PM · That Miss America clip: oh my.....
August 25, 2018, 3:08 PM · Learning a challenging piece on one's own is fine for an adult amateur but it is not recommended for students who (a) have a teacher and (b) are serious about wanting to play better. Those students are far better served to follow their teacher's guidance; the risks in self-teaching a difficult piece include learning it wrong and developing bad habits that must be fixed down the road. If the student doesn't agree with the teacher about appropriate repertoire, that's a different problem and should be addressed with the teacher.
August 25, 2018, 8:35 PM · There's also a huge difference between someone teaching themselves a difficult piece which is within the realm of what they've learned before (i.e., it contains no techniques that are new to them), and attempting to entirely advance on one's own. Doable, but really inefficient use of time.
Edited: August 25, 2018, 10:44 PM · Agree with Mary Ellen and Lydia.

And even if you are capable of playing a piece with current technique, if your teacher is trying to change or develop something specific, going rogue can really impede the process. If you're serious about your progress, trust your teacher, follow the program.

Edit: I would guess Lydia's grounding in the violinist/composer repertoire is the reason for her solid left hand technique, even if it was a tough pill to swallow. I believe skipping a concerto by Viotti, Spohr, or Rode is a mistake. You might think playing several of their etudes is a good substitute, but to get the same effect, you'd have to a) perform them, and b) string several together and perform them back to back, and c) perform them with some sort of added accompaniment, in other words you can't really replace the effect of learning and performing a concerto.

Edit 2: Mozart is not really a progression to something more difficult. It's the end of a branch. The techniques required to play classical rep well is almost at odds with romantic rep.

Edited: August 26, 2018, 12:23 AM · Tom, with all due respect, you're an adult amateur playing the violin for your own enjoyment and fulfillment. You can do whatever you want; it isn't going to affect your future as a violinist.

The OP is 16 years old and studying with a private teacher, presumably with the goal of continuing to advance technically and musically as a violinist. "Going rogue," as Jeewon so aptly refers to it, can impede the OP's progress and possibly also undermine the teacher-student relationship.

Context matters.

Edited: August 26, 2018, 9:10 AM · Wow, you have terrible advice for this OP, Tom.

Self-sufficiency at 16? These days, with the mountain of rep required to become a musician, not even the most prodigious can achieve that.

I would argue the last two pages of IRC are the easiest if we want to talk about what is truly difficult in bowing technique, namely: expression. Sure it's technical, but it's mostly wood shedding and coordinating with left hand stuff, building speed. The rest of it requires nuance, elan, intimacy, brilliance, frequently turning on a dime, and all without somehow resorting to sentimentality and cliche.

I can smell narcissism a mile away and would fire any student who would continue to use me for his own ends. The student-teacher contract works best as a relationship, but one of disciple to master, not of peers.

Edit: if all you learn is basics from your teacher, either you are unteachable, or your teacher is inexperienced. As for what is essential, you haven't got the essence of anything without having performed a complete work several times, reworking (not just fine-tuning or tweaking) aspects of your general performance, and of the given work. Do that repeatedly for about 10 years, for the average capable young musician, and you begin to become self-sufficient.

Edit 2: "I learn the notes and get a lay of the land myself first." Learning notes is the minimum of what a student needs to prepare before a first lesson on a piece. A prepared student will have begun a preliminary analysis to understand the form: the themes, the harmonic structure, history and style.

August 26, 2018, 10:53 AM · You were saying something about hacks on the other thread?
Edited: August 26, 2018, 7:50 PM · As an advanced adult amateur who still studies with an excellent teacher weekly, I find that I derive a lot of value from lessons.

At the advanced level, no one is going to teach you the notes to something you're working on; that would be plainly absurd. You come to the first lesson prepared -- i.e., preferably with the notes learned, at tempo, and with the beginnings of an interpretation. Then you're likely to work through the really difficult parts (where somebody else's practice techniques are going to help you be much more efficient), perhaps change up some fingerings and bowings, etc. (A teacher can provide useful guidance about how reliable something is going to be in performance, whether or not you'd produce enough volume against an orchestral accompaniment with your bowing choices, etc.) And subsequent weeks working on that work tends to reveal more and more details.

Sure, I could autodidact to a large degree, but good teaching is a massive boost in efficiency, and significant in helping produce a better end product. And I recognize that there's a lot that I could learn from a good teacher even when I'm not learning new technique. Plus, since I continue to learn new technique, and refine what I've got, I find the teacher really valuable.

I don't think that openness to teaching is an indicator of a lack of capability. You'll note that even the greatest masters tend to be open to taking coaching.

August 26, 2018, 8:18 PM · I played the Saint-Saëns last summer, and I would definitely have either Bruch or Lalo in my repertoire before even looking at that piece.

The Kreisler, Kabalevsky, and Bach are much easier than either the IRC or the Mendelssohn. Legende might be a good choice, but I would stick with either of the technically easier major romantic concerti before tackling the Saint-Saëns.

August 27, 2018, 8:58 AM · Indeed Jeewon (re: Mozart), but I do love Mozart so having something of his work in my rep would be really nice to have. (I'm an adult amateur.)

Also, as an adult amateur I would not try to tackle a challenging piece on my own. I have tried it with something small and decided that the feedback from my teacher, at this point, is very valuable to me: the sound that I want to produce is at odds with what I am currently capable of achieving.

I have no qualms with my openness to having a teacher - I relish in receiving their decades of wisdom. And, I still have a long way to go before I don't "need" to take regular lessons.

August 27, 2018, 2:31 PM · Pamela, you can find the Mythes sheet music on imslp. It's really on a different level than the Kreisler P&A. Double harmonics, lots of tremolo, changes in time signature, lots of funky double-stopping, playing in high registers, and just all the different kinds of tone production and effects. That one is on my bucket list, but I wouldn't want to beat my head against a wall with a piece like that.
August 27, 2018, 3:53 PM · Christian - oh yeah, I downloaded it after writing the post here last week and finally took a look at the sheet music. It is definitely a bucket list piece - like all of the other music I want to play... (save the Lalo, and the Roumanian Folk Dances - progress!!!)

All of those double stops and time changes are a bit intimidating.

August 28, 2018, 3:48 PM · Thank you all for the feedback. It turns out, the last page is definitely do-able, but the second to last page has extremely uncomfortable finger patterns, and it is very hard. I also think Lalo and Bruch are harder in my opinion. Praeludium and Allegro is also very underestimated, and the middle section with the string crossings is ridiculously tricky.
August 28, 2018, 5:25 PM · P&A is a solidly intermediate-level work. I'd consider I&RC more difficult than either Lalo or Bruch, but like most "professional" works, difficulty is judged more by the most difficult passages in the work as opposed to overall general difficulty.
August 28, 2018, 8:05 PM · I agree with Lydia.
Edited: August 29, 2018, 7:18 PM · Not to question any of the good advice that's been posted here, but I think it is worth asking what the OP's goals are -- trying to get into conservatory? Trying to have something to perform junior or senior year of HS? Or just to continue learning the fiddle for its own sake? Or is it purely for the love of it?

If you really just want to the learn the fiddle to have fun and be a high quality musician, romantic concertos are not the be-all and end-all of violin playing. If you want to be a soloist, yes, you have to run the gauntlet and learn how to win competitions. But if not....

Maybe it's time to start unaccompanied Bach, which you will spend your life learning and which will teach you more about all-round violin playing than just about anything else.

There are also gorgeous and incredibly useful etudes -- not to obsess over but to get to know and enjoy, and revisit again and again, because they will be your friends and enemies for the rest of your life. Have you been through all the truly useful Kreutzer? How about Dont? I think the DeBeriot etudes are better than the concertos; they're certainly more compact and not weighted down by the baggage of second-rate romantic writing. Even Paganini...some of which is parlor tricks and some of which is really first rate study material.

Have you really made a close acquaintanceship with Schradieck and Sevcik, which should not be viewed as hurdles to leap and forget but dear friends who can keep you grounded?

You're not really ready for the Beethoven concerto, but maybe there would be value in studying some of the passagework, depending on what your teacher thinks. It's incredibly deep powerful music and can teach you so much that DeBeriot or Wieniawski could never teach you. Or maybe you can work on some Beethoven quartet parts, just to get a taste of what you might only really be diving into 20 or 30 years from now.

And on that note, is is time to start playing chamber music so you learn something a lot more valuable than up-bow staccato or left-hand pizzicato or tenths -- how about learning how to listen and play with other people!

Or to really think out of the box, learn 12 bar blues, learn 3 chord rock and roll, and find some friends to try to jam with. You don't have to want to be a blues violinist to benefit from understanding how communication works between blues/jazz/rock musicians. Jazz has way more in common with string quartet playing than people might think.

Anyway just some ideas to throw out. Violin pedagogy can be so linear but it doesn't need to be, particularly if one isn't worried about getting into Juillard (though, really to get into conservatory, a broader violin education than just concertos is a good idea anyway).

August 29, 2018, 9:12 PM · The Beethoven concerto requires immaculate technical control. Get good at Mozart first.

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