Audition repotoire question

Edited: May 1, 2019, 5:08 AM · Hello everyone,
I was wondering about the usage of less standard or modern repotoire for auditions. I play viola and will be auditioning in a couple years and a few of the schools I’m auditioning for require a sonata selection for the audition. Would it be a disadvantage to pick something modern that I truly love and connect with but that the committee may have never heard. The piece I’m talking about is Jennifer higdon’s viola sonata which I love. Should I just play a standard piece even though only about maybe 2 or 3 audition committees would hear it.
Thank you for any help you can offer

Replies (7)

Edited: April 30, 2019, 11:29 AM · This is a tough question to answer. I think playing less popular/slightly more obscure rep is great for recitals, but a huge risk for auditions. You are asking a panel of players to evaluate your skill as a violist, and when you play a piece they might not have even heard before or don't know too well, you are tacking on the responsibility of having to advocate for that work (in addition to playing it well). Does this make sense?

It is truly exciting and inspiring to see violinists like Hilary Hahn and Janine Jansen performing works such as the Szymanowski Violin Concerto and Schoenberg Violin Concerto. However, we all know that they are amazing players, and so they can advocate for these works without having to worry whether they as musicians will be taken seriously. They have nothing to prove. For any up and coming student or performer, however, that is not the case. If you really feel a connection with the Higdon that you do not with other rep, then maybe stick with it and hope for the best. However, be advised that it is a nontrivial risk to take, as some of the musical choices you make might simply go over the heads of the panelists, and even if you play well, they might come away more perplexed/intrigued than impressed. I think it would be a shame to see a lot of hard work and hours spent resulting in a reaction like that, rather than the one you likely deserve.

April 30, 2019, 12:18 PM · You may be underestimating the people listening to you. If you're planning to audition for a top school, I would expect the viola faculty to be familiar with the Higdon. She isn't an obscure composer.
April 30, 2019, 12:20 PM · Jennifer Higdon's works are certainly not obscure, and would be familiar to string faculty at any major school.

That being said, "loving" a piece and executing it at a high technical and musical standard are different things. Does the work allow you to demonstrate your best playing?

Edited: April 30, 2019, 1:02 PM · I defer to the other people on this forum in terms of what the faculty may or may not be familiar with. I certainly acknowledge that Jen Higdon is not an obscure composer. My advice was mostly on the risks associated with choosing rep that is less well-known than the standard rep. The faculty will definitely know that the sonata exists, but will they know it well? With Higdon, this may not be a major consideration, particularly at top schools, but it is something to think about. I agree with Gene that, at the end of the day, your choice should be dictated by which piece best represents your true potential as a musician. Sorry if I wasn't clear earlier.
April 30, 2019, 9:26 PM · Thank you for all the advice
April 30, 2019, 9:58 PM · repertoire.
May 1, 2019, 8:51 AM · The biggest risk in choosing repertoire is in not playing it well. Unless the audition list is specific, play what you want...but put your best foot forward.

Everyone knows (and all violists want to play) Schwanendreher---but it doesn't do any good on auditions to slop through it out of tune. Play what you can play well.

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