Ideally, how long should an audition solo piece be? (time wise)

April 28, 2019, 10:18 AM · I'm planning to audition for a local youth symphony and one of the prerequisites is a "solo piece" [in verbatim]. There's no specification on /what/ it should be exactly (I'm veering away from sonatas though, bc of the piano accompaniment which isn't allowed anyway).

I have a few 'solo pieces' that I'd consider playing, but all are either too short (<2 minutes) or too long (>5 minutes) in my opinion. My violin teacher is out for about a month for personal reasons, so I can't ask him at the moment and I'd rather start preparing early.

Replies (12)

April 28, 2019, 10:33 AM · I'd do the >5 minute piece. They will stop you when they have heard enough.
April 28, 2019, 10:41 AM · Pedagogically, I think the best thing for most students is, if the piece is a concerto, to prepare the exposition (the section which ends when the orchestra comes back in loudly with the melody).

If it's not a concerto, still aim to practice a full section of music, even if it's longer than 5 minutes. Yes, they'll probably stop you earlier. But as a youth orchestra auditionee you'll get more out of the preparation by preparing a large section of music rather than just a given time amount.

And by the way, this happens in professional orchestra auditions, and it's a real dilemma: when they say "prepare a concerto" without specifics, you can end up practicing many, many hours on material that they probably won't hear.

April 28, 2019, 1:29 PM · Play the longer piece assuming you have it prepared at a high-level. They will stop you when they’ve heard enough. This is standard.
April 28, 2019, 7:53 PM · I had a classmate who gamed this by learning page 1 from Tzigane. She would have been hosed if anyone had wanted to hear more,
April 29, 2019, 9:13 AM · I think trying to game this is a bad idea. I told this story before but it fits here: I prepared Bach a-minor concerto and figured the first movement was plenty. As it was the conductor asked for the piano score and accompanied me. We played through the first movement. Then the conductor asked me to go on into the second and started with the tutti (much slower than my teacher had recommended). At the end of the first solo section the violin line rises up to a g and I messed up, producing horrible intonation (a little like that horn passage in Mozart's "Musikalischer Spass"). That was when he stopped me.

I still got accepted, apparently I was ok before the accident.

April 29, 2019, 9:36 AM · More likely the conductor realized you had not prepared the slow movement (because anyone would have practiced that rising arpeggio to death) and decided to spare you any further embarrassment. The 2nd movement of the Bach A Minor is a gem of the literature. I wouldn't want to hear it butchered either.
April 29, 2019, 10:29 AM · I had a similar thing happen to me Albrecht, over 20 years ago, except my result was the opposite of yours: my violin teacher had me prepare the Bruch 1st movement for a university orchestra audition (I was attending a nearby college without an orchestra, so had to audition). I had the 2nd and third movements learned but not polished for an audition, and my teacher insisted that after hearing the FIRST PAGE of the first movement the committee would be satisfied so there was no point in me preparing the remainder of the concerto movements as I was already "over prepared" by having the first movement prepared.

Well... After the first movement, the committee wanted me to go on to the second movement and it was a horrific disaster - I had to restart and all sorts of other gaffs which only got worse the more nervous I got. After I "finished", I vaguely remember being thanked, and told I was not capable of playing in the university's orchestra but I should keep practicing and try again in a year. I did not bother trying the following year. (Their audition requirement was also a "solo piece".)

Long story short: prepare the longer piece!

Edited: April 29, 2019, 11:10 AM · I don't understand this at all. If you've prepared the first movement of a concerto as a "solo piece" then you should be able to play the first movement -- all of it. If you only prepared the first page then you're rolling the dice (gaming the process), and heaven help you.

On the other hand, if the panel asks for the second movement, why can't you politely say, "I interpreted the requirement of a 'solo piece' to mean only one concerto movement so I didn't prepare the other movements." The idea that you would turn the page and start sight-reading challenges the imagination.

It seems weird that a small college with no orchestra would not be satisfied with the first movement of Bruch if it was played well. But it's possible they only offer violin lessons at a loss, hiring an adjunct from an orchestra to come in once a week (perhaps from some distance) to teach a fixed number of students. That could cause them to set the bar very high. I went to college in Holland, MI, and the adjunct violin teacher commuted in from Grand Rapids and taught three or four people. I could have been one of them, I suppose, but the regular faculty had two excellent pianists so I took piano lessons and enjoyed that very much.

April 29, 2019, 12:22 PM · Everyone should absolutely say, "Sorry, I didn't prepare that," if you didn't prepare something.
Edited: April 29, 2019, 12:54 PM · Pamela M--sounds like one of my nightmares. I think you are to be commended for being able to get through the whole movement even though your teacher psyched you for playing only the first page.
Edited: April 29, 2019, 12:59 PM · In my instance, I had stated that I had only prepared the first movement for the audition and was still polishing the second/third, and the committee asked me to go on anyway and being the obedient student I went on anyway. It was a terribly embarrassing experience; I was very young and vastly unprepared for how to handle myself in a situation like that.

Paul, if your comment was directed at my orchestra/college situation, I was attending a small college without an orchestra and was allowed to audition for a nearby large university's orchestra. Lessons were not involved in what could have been my scenario, it was simply for me to show up and play in the orchestra and to take lessons (at my expense) with teachers if I chose. The university orchestra in question's population were students like me: loved playing, not music degree students/pursuing a non-music major. Reading the university's audition requirements for this school year: a 2 minute solo piece of choice, and two orchestral excerpts. The Bruch concerto first movement would more than meet the requirement of the 2 minute solo, and when I had auditioned a grillion years ago, they did not ask for orchestral excerpts. Very weird situation.

Edited:
Jocelyn - it was mortifying to have my teacher insist the first page was plenty then be asked to go on, but even more mortifying to be asked to play the second movement and be unable to do so. I'm anxiety sweating just remembering all of this!

April 30, 2019, 4:26 AM · On the “sorry, I didn’t prepare that” front, I have been present for two different conducting auditions where a candidate had prepared the wrong piece. First was in college— I was in the Beethoven Septet and went to greet that night’s person. He nearly lost his teeth when he saw my violin; he was prepared to do the Wind Sextet. A noble job of sight-reading after furtively borrowing a miniature score, but he didn’t get the job.

More recently, a student trying for a post at one of the university orchestras had come in with the first, not the last of the Mozart piano concertos. This was for 10-15 minutes of rehearsal for an actual concert coming up. Luckily, he got in the groove very quickly and had a lot of useful things to say after reading the section through. He was easily the most talented of the candidates and went in to Round 2, getting the gig.


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