"Classical" tunes for improvisation

May 16, 2019, 3:38 PM · In Lydia's thread (link below) it came up that Chuanyun Li had performed a rendition of "Theme from Schindler's List" in which he indulged in extensive improvisation.

I also recently I hatched a plan to perform a highly improvised version of "La Folia" with my cello-playing daughter who is also keen on improvisation, and there is an annual holiday concert where it would be quite appropriate (and where there is always a "rhythm section" with a great jazz pianist so it could be super cool. A couple years ago I did a version of a Brazilian tune ("Sambhinha" by Celso Machado) with a couple choruses of improv.

Now I'm wondering what other tunes might be suitable. I'll keep thinking, but can you suggest others? Needs to be something with a fairly simple "head" and chord changes, at least for now. Thank you in advance!

Lydia's thread: https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=2964

Chuanyun Li: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5F1Ji82kXo

Replies (11)

May 16, 2019, 4:03 PM · I think interesting things could be done with the prelude to the Bach cello suite No 1. You might use 8- or 16-bar phrases as a vamp and improvise over it.
May 16, 2019, 4:15 PM · The chords to Pachelbel's Canon are easy and fun to play over.
Not only in the key of D, but it can be educational to practice it in different keys. Each key will lend itself to different possibilities and sonoritys.
May 16, 2019, 8:53 PM · La Cinquantaine is popular among the jazz improvisors. Melodies from 'theme and variation' pieces like 'The Trout', and Shubert's Serenade. And of course, any of Mozart's famous arias like Papageno's.
May 16, 2019, 9:57 PM · La Cinq! Never considered that! Great! Keep 'em coming.
May 16, 2019, 11:56 PM · The Harmonious Blacksmith and Shubert Lieder. And you must try one of the most popular chord progressions in classical music.....Im bVII bVI V7, you can make up your own melodies with that.
May 18, 2019, 1:44 PM · I once heard a wonderful jazz improvisation by sax player Joshua Redman on the slow movement of Beethoven #7. When he would say who composed the pieces his group played, he said of this one, "I wish I could say I composed it, but I can't."
May 21, 2019, 6:23 PM · A jazz pair I know do a pretty good version of the Fauré Pavane.
May 22, 2019, 11:40 AM · The Faure is a great suggestion. Maybe "Liebesleid" would work, too. It almost swings as it is.
May 22, 2019, 11:57 AM · Great suggestions!
May 22, 2019, 3:04 PM · Search out Lacques Loussier playing the Goldberg Variations with his Trio.

ALso, of a more fiddly bend, Eileen Ivers Pachebel's Frolics.

Edited: May 22, 2019, 3:17 PM · Yeah I've enjoyed a lot of Jacques Loussier's videos, since I'm mainly a jazz piano player. He's a very smooth cat, here's a very nice one:


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