Audition question

July 23, 2019, 7:37 PM ·
I am auditioning for a community orchestra this fall. Per its requirement: candidate should prepare a two-minute solo demonstrating lyrical and technical abilities, in addition to the excerpts.

My question. Is it appropriate to
play a cadenza from the first movement of a concerto for this type of audition?

Replies (13)

July 23, 2019, 10:06 PM · I don't see why not.
July 23, 2019, 10:25 PM · I would think they would prefer the concerto over the cadenza. They want to hear issues relating to style--some cadenzas ignore that aspect.
Edited: July 23, 2019, 10:51 PM · No.

What are the excerpts, and what's the level of the orchestra?

Is it an audition panel, or is it just one person? If it's multiple people, are they all string players or is it mixed? Does the conductor listen to auditions?

July 23, 2019, 11:48 PM · It is a community orchestra I played in as the associate CM last year. The conductor and a small mixed panel will be auditioning. The excerpts are:

Mozart 39, movements II and IV

Brahms 4, movement II and IV

They will let me in. The audition is to determine if I will keep my chair, move up, or move down. I post the question because I don’t want to do anything that is considered as “bad form”.

July 24, 2019, 12:59 AM · Play the first page or two of the concerto, not the cadenza. Community orchestras are volunteer or low-pay, there can be a wide variety of quality between orchestras in that category. The auditions are more about seating than for entrance. You don't have to have that 10 out of 10 level of technical skill. A Mozart concerto should be fine.
July 24, 2019, 1:24 AM · Competitive seating auditions in community orchestras are really quite weird. I get having auditions to determine 1st vs 2nd violins, and so that section principals can figure out how to best arrange the section (for instance, ensuring that enough strong players are properly split across inside/outside or 3-part divisi, and that strong players are scattered through the section, and that stand partners help complement each other's strengths/weaknesses), but hierarchical ranking is a bad idea, especially when it strands weak players at the back of a section.

Most of the time when community orchestras look for a concertmaster, it's a concertmaster-specific audition and tends to draw its inspiration from professional concertmaster auditions, with similar requirements (Mozart concerto, standard Romantic concerto, some typical excerpts, and common concertmaster solo excerpts).

If you are the associate concertmaster and are hoping to become the actual concertmaster, I would choose a standard concerto for the audition. First movement expositions of Bruch, Mendelssohn or Mozart 4/5 are okay if need be; Tchaikovsky, Brahms, or Sibelius would probably be preferable. Start from the beginning of the movement. I would probably avoid the Mozart since you're already doing two Mozart excerpts.

Since they've left it open-ended, you could do a showpiece that has significant contrast in its first two minutes, like Zigeunerweisen, rather than a concerto.

Because you already play with this orchestra they likely have a reasonable sense of your skill already. Do you know who the other concertmaster candidates are, and what their level of playing is like, and therefore what the expectations for this audition will be like?

July 24, 2019, 4:56 AM · This competitive attitude to community (amateur) orchestras across the pond is amazing - to me.
My own "local" amateur orchestra here in Belfast doesn't audition. The orchestra's self-selecting. People are welcome to come and join - what is found is that if they aren't up to the repertoire, they leave.
The same is true of every other amateur orchestra I know of in the U.K.
Personally, the only time I was asked to audition was at university - I'd taken a year out in industry, and was asked to audition on my return. It was one of the lecturers who was the pianist, so I picked the two hardest accompaniments I know - Wieniawski Legende (bassoons in thirds) and an arrangement of Kol Nidrei (harp part with octave leaps). His reaction was quite funny.
Edited: July 24, 2019, 9:34 AM · I will do the exposition of a standard concerto. Thanks.

Edit to add: seating audition is not necessarily hierarchical. It is an effective way to get a sense of where everyone is in term of her development, which is a dynamic process.

July 24, 2019, 9:36 AM · Malcolm, in the US, orchestra auditions are normally unaccompanied. (Professional orchestras might offer accompaniment for the concerto portion, but not the excerpts.)

I think it can be instructive to hear players interested in joining even if very few are ever rejected. It gives you some notion of your bench for possible principals or substitute principals, for instance.

For winds/brass it's basically necessary, since they are all effectively soloists.

July 24, 2019, 5:48 PM · I've never heard of or participated in a professional orchestra audition that provides an accompanist. Maybe for a concertmaster audition when solo recitals are part of the audition but that's all.

Lydia's advice is excellent. I have nothing to add except to say that playing a stand-alone cadenza for an orchestra audition is never appropriate and will guarantee that everyone there remembers you but not in a good way.

July 24, 2019, 6:33 PM · If it's anything like the community orchestra I was a part of a while ago, you could probably find an etude or caprice that will tell the auditioner everything they need to know about your playing.
July 24, 2019, 7:23 PM · Question for you community orchestra members:

Would solo Bach over a romantic concerto be considered bad form if they are only asking for a short solo passage (similar to the requirements in OP)?

It's not that I can't play a romantic concerto, but I have been working on solo violin work recently, plus the only romantic concerto I have worked on is considered "student concerto".

July 24, 2019, 8:02 PM · For a community orchestra, the audition is generally to ascertain your basic competence with the instrument and determine whether you are 1st or 2nd violin. For 1st violin, the "jury" is interested in seeing whether or not you can play in higher positions with good intonation and security. As such, if you play solo Bach, it should be coupled with a showpiece. If you play one of the fugues or the Chaconne flawlessly, it can probably safely be assumed that you have all the technical security you need; but if a candidate does that, one would wonder why they didn't choose a Romantic concerto instead. (Plus, non string players do not necessarily understand how difficult polyphonic solo Bach is.) It's okay to play a student concerto; if you can manage a good deBeriot 9 or the like, you can probably manage 1st violin parts.

If there are excerpts as well, the solo Bach is probably okay. (One of my local freeway phils allows the substitute of a single movement of solo Bach in lieu of a full movement of a Romantic concerto, but there are extensive excerpts.)

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