Brahms Concerto, 3rd movement?

September 10, 2019, 8:06 PM · Hey!
I was just wondering about the third movement of the Brahms concerto and its comparative/relative difficulty. What other pieces would you compare to this movement, and what especially makes the third movement so difficult?

Replies (19)

September 10, 2019, 8:16 PM · The whole concerto is considered at the pinnacle of the difficulty of the standard Romantic concerto repertoire.

I found the third movement to be more difficult than the first, and the difficulty of the first movement is considerable. The thicket of double and triple stops is tough for both hands. And endurance is a factor for this concerto, as well.

For me: More difficult than Tchaikovsky (by a nontrivial margin), and in some ways more difficult than Paganini 1.

September 11, 2019, 5:06 PM · Thank you so much for your response! It’s really interesting to hear from you. I heard this movement at a concert I was part of, and I was blown away. My teacher suggested playing it, but I strongly doubt I will be playing this any time soon. I was curious to hear from the Violinist.com community about your opinions, though!
Edited: September 12, 2019, 4:15 PM · This Concerto is said to be one of the most difficult of them all, 3rd movement contributing to that. I think the only concertos really in its league are maybe Beethoven and Bartok. I respectfully disagree with Lydia in that this piece is substantially more difficult than Tchaikovsky or Paganini. I do not find this to be true in any sense. I fully agree with Leopold Auer's opinion that the three "master concertos" are Brahms, Beethoven and Mendelssohn (Bartok was not in the standard repertoire yet). I think difficulty is used in two distinct ways that often become confused. For example, someone with the technical ability to play anything may have a harder time on Mozart or Mendelssohn, because although the simply playing notes (regardless of how well) may not require as advanced of a technique as something like Bartok or Paganini, it is MUCH harder to give a very clear and refined performance of Mendelssohn. Jascha Heifetz once said the Mendelssohn Concerto is the hardest piece to play in tune.
September 12, 2019, 8:56 PM · That's very interesting! I never knew Leopoldo Auer said that, but I can agree. Certainly, you make a good point about difficulty.
Edited: September 12, 2019, 9:37 PM · Ben - you are exactly right. The Mendelssohn, any of the Mozart's, and the Beethoven concerto are certainly the most difficult to pull off elegantly...with refinement AND confidence that the presentation is fluent in the language of Mozart.

All of the romantic concerti present individual challenges, but in the Brahms (though the texture is thick and the focus needed is immense), one is presented with moments of respite and tuttis to recover. The Sibelius has more gnarly passagework; the stamina in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky (the bow never leaves the string from the start of the cadenza to the final chords) is more grueling; the Dvorak requires nerves of steel and extraordinarily unviolinistic passagework maintenance; the Paganini D major concerto is much much more difficult in every sense; the Scottish Fantasy has many more minefields for intonation; and the Shostakovich is a tougher workout (and more difficult to memorize).

Not to detract from the technical issues of the Brahms...but more manageable than the others I listed above. I'd also venture to say that the violin part of the Brahms double is tremendously more challenging than Op. 77.

Edited: September 14, 2019, 1:27 PM · Once again, I’m a bit surprised! The answers vary reasonably from person to person, but it’s interesting to see. I did try playing the third movement out of sheer curiosity (and admittedly quite a bit slower than its normal tempo), and it doesn't seem to be menacingly difficult in terms of difficulty, unlike Paganini. Not to take away from the terrible challenges of Brahms, of course.
Edited: September 17, 2019, 2:25 PM · To All from an original 1 of 7 artist pupil's of Jascha Heifetz ~

I find this discussion, thus far, fascinating & especially so, having studied with Jascha Heifetz in his 1st original JH Violin Master Class at USC's Institute for Special Music Studies, including Chamber Music with Heifetz, Piatigorsky & William Primrose, on Friday afternoons! (Also invited by Mr. Heifetz to play Second Violin next to himself, w/Violist, Mr. Primrose and Violoncellist, Gregor Piatigorsky, in String Quartets, which to take up one Responder's comments on the true difficulty of playing Mozart (add Haydn, also!) & as Second Violinist for First Violinist, Jascha Heifetz, in a Mozart String Quartet & at "Heifetz Tempi" (!!) which was surreal & exhilarating whilst keeping right in sync with Mr. Heifetz in the Allegro movements, I came to know Mr. Heifetz, over many years!! **In my being prepared to be written Book, I'll share Heifetz's words to me upon finishing together!!!

Knowing quite a bit from Leopold Auer's most honoured genius pupil's, both my violin mentor's, (also blessed to privately study with Nathan Milstein, in London) being the new Violinist signed under NM's prime London Concert Artist Management, I heard many comments from both Heifetz & Milstein
quoting Auer, their 'teacher' - the Greatest Violin Master Pedagogue since Leopold Mozart, teacher-father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!! Never, dear younger violinists quoting Leopold Auer, did Prof Auer claim the that Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto was the most difficult, although when one matures, the holiness of this regally spiritual violin concerto 'knocks' one over requiring a spiritual-like respect for the beauty, unadorned, throughout Mendelssohn's pure violin compositional offering ~ Auer actually made the
statement of: "It's unplayable" regarding the Tchaikovsky V. C.!!! And just try to imagine Auer upon hearing the 9 year old boy, Jascha Heifetz, toss off the Tchaikovsky as having a chocolate cookie!! Milstein was (IMO) the greatest interpretor of the Dvorak Violin Concerto, who shared many of his bowing's & fingering's with me during my private "Violin Tutorials" at his London residence for over 3 & 1/2 Years with each 'session' from 3 to even 5 hours duration, if I had a Debut appearance forthcoming in other cities or
countries, (& always depending on Mr. Milstein's concert touring schedule.)

The difficulties in the Brahms Violin Concerto 3rd movement are thrice split between one's innate sense of 'inner rhythm', the mastery of the Bow, due to Milstein's insistence in amending my mostly Franco-Belgium bow arm to mirror his uncanny bowing which was all his own!! After the 1st year & half, my bowing was becoming sure footed and always reliable (as the normally great tennis serve arm of Rafa Nadal) that I revisited the Brahms with Mr. Milstein, to extraordinary effect, which by that time, was infused with an NM rounded bowing approach that in navigating the doubled stops in the 3rd Mov't Theme became a nearly easy to play part of the 3rd deeply spirited movement and in the Hungarian manner!!

One of the greatest lessons from both JH & NM, but even more so due to Time being abundant with Milstein, as his only private 'Guinea pig' pupil, was in realising when my bowing (aka tennis-like serving) pulled my left hand through and around!!! Most think it's a left hand problem when More than less times it's actually The Bow which, most often, not understood re the entire subject of the bowing trajectory, is sort of a bossed around 'wife' by a controlling 'husband', aka, the left hand!!! The fact that Ms. Ni, sort of
walked through the 3rd Mov't SLOWLY, is smart & impressive to a veteran soloist & artist teacher, yours truly, writing this (instead of practising & must leave off soon) which shows good judgement and an inner awareness that 'I better not even go through this magnificent Third Mov't Finale of this Edifice of Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto'!!! Yes! It is challenging, yet if imbued with a Terra firma solid violinistic technical foundation with musical awareness of Brahms, Composer of Symphonies, Piano Concerto's (2) & plus his Requiem, lieder, Chamber Music, one is capable of immersing the broadened Bowing to present the breadth of Brahms' Violin Masterpiece, with (what I call) a 'stretch technique' of the left hand, toned & playing much of the violin concerto from the palms of a strengthened left hand plus a sort of Milstein bowing technique, which fused together, has a 'Face' and with deepened study, will grow into a Face of Brahms, because the left and right hands have coalesced into One!!

Re other Concerto's mentioned, younger pupil's of the major violin concerto repertoire, might take heed of being mighty sure when naming either Mister Heifetz or other Great Violinists or Auer, et al, as having said this's or that's! Concentrate on learning the score & All this entails, with time at the Piano to harmonically absorb the full orchestral substance of Any Work for Violin with Orchestra!! Btw, the most challenging work was not the Mendelsdohn for Mr. Heifetz!!! Oh ~

A word to the Repondent re Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto in a minor, Op. 99: it's a massive score, & again, in order to truly know this Masterwork of the Great Shostakovich, one must know of the travails of Shostakovich under Stalin, & Live Inside the Oistrakh recording w/Maxim Shostakovich, son of Dimitri Shostakovich (whom I've had the pleasure of meeting) who is conducting his father's masterful score!! (I know, because w/only 8 months notice, I had to virtually learn this at-the-time not very familiar to me Violin Concerto #1, and did so listening acutely carefully to every note Oistrakh played and in the Scherzo (2nd Mov't) found a doubled quickened passage twice played yet Not in the original violin part score, yet decided to use the David Oistrakh doubled quick repeat (not notated) in my debut recording of Shostakovich's V. C. #1 in a with the Bamberg Symphony (aka, Bamberger
Symphoniker, w/last minute sub for ailing Russian great, Rudolph Barshai) HvK's Assoc. Conductor for the Berlin Philharmonic, Hermann Michael), for the Sudwestdeutsche Rundfunk recording of our Shostakovich First Violin Concerto in a minor, & Thank Heaven I knew that full score because the Bamberger Symphoniker double repeated what Oistrakh had done, but the Edition was incorrect, and obsessed, I heard it & deliberately went w/ what Oistrakh had done on his Phenomenal + recording!! Any aspiring to concert artist-dom, must know the entire work, or you are a dead Duck in the water, and especially in Live performance with no violin /piano part to refer to! Our recording took nearly 16 hours to set down with one's worried heart using the broadest bows I've ever used in a lifetime of concert playing to bring the most important melodic messages above the fully loaded Huge Bamberg
Symphony, hoping my close to his last week of life father, would somehow 'Hear' it all the way in the US, from Bamberg in their Thirteenth Century old extraordinary Abby 'home' of all Bamberger Symphoniker recordings until
that time ...

The Shostakovich was such an experience & evidently accepted as rare by the magnificent members of this superior German Orchestra, All Credit for what was done well is owed to my father - teacher, & huge gratitude to my great Mentor & Friend, Nathan Milstein, for near transplanting his Bow Arm into mine, liberating me to follow inner musical imagining's which, without Mr. Milstein, would have remained tucked inside but were heard outside!!!

Time to go, but all comments here and obvious awareness + familiarity with many grand works for The Violin, attracted my interest and curiosity about Ms. Yolanda Ni's intelligent Subject on the Brahms V. C. Third Movement!!!

With musical warm greetings from Chicago ~

Elisabeth Matesky *

*Bio ~ https:// www.violinist.com/ directory/bio.cfm?member=Milstein

*https://youtu.be/M54U-P-Vs9g (Heifetz Master Class - Khachaturian, JH-7, Elisabeth Matesky) *Russian version. Library of Master Performers. (This was filmed Before my Advanced Bowing studies w/Nathan Milstein!!)

September 15, 2019, 8:38 PM · WHOA, that’s a lot, hahahaha.
September 16, 2019, 9:40 AM · After that memoir, what can be said? :-D :-D
September 16, 2019, 11:06 AM · Ditto--thank you, E.M. And thank you for the hint that the Brahms 3rd moovement has a folk-music quality, I think the Kreisler recording (? I might be miss-remembering this) brings this out.
September 16, 2019, 11:34 AM · My goodness. What a treasure Ms. Matesky is with her deep connection to the past greats. Thank you.
September 16, 2019, 1:50 PM · Truly. I’m a bit at a loss with words.
September 17, 2019, 1:42 AM · I'm a bit at a loss with words as well, but not for the reasons others mention. Yawn....
September 17, 2019, 10:54 AM · Like the time I caught the ferry to Shelbyville? I needed a new heel for my shoe; So I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Gimme five bees for a quarter," you'd say.
Edited: September 17, 2019, 4:59 PM · @Yolandi Ni ~

Dear Yolanda ...

You needn't be at a loss for words! What was intended is to encourage you to follow the Brahms Violin Concerto 3rd Mov't, which blew you away, and so mesmerized by its extraordinariness, you're following your heart & soul's attraction to a Masterwork, which if you love it, will love you right back!

There are mystical 'Laws of the Universe' having been observed by great scientists/philosophers thru the Ages of 'Things seen and unseen' of which your knocked over experience upon hearing the Third Mov't of the Brahms Violin Concerto has had such impact you reached out & posted a Question for discussion here on Violinist.com!!!!! Good for you, and follow your bliss now or as Goethe wrote long ago, "Seize the moment which is Thine!" ~

Keep walking SLOWLY through the third movement daily without cares of
what 'other' people might say or even whisper ~ Only your inner voice truly knows what touches your own inner feeling & yearnings, and obviously this 3rd Mov't is like a gravitational pull on your being, which itself, may be in a process of being pulled to you!! So go with it, & if some of the double stop & triple stop chording is a touch out of range or of your current know how, do take the Time to figure out what the Bow needs to do to smooth chord 2 string chords & especially later on, triple stop chords. A suggestion: Try a single Open A string first, on an Up (V) bow but Not stuck in the string, but Brushed from the near Tip yet brushing on to the A string & in the first stage all the way up just past the Frog (don't hit the silver) & Hold ~ Now do a return brushed Down Bow with a held in Air Bow just above the Frog open A string brushed Down to just beyond the tip, & Hold in the air. Now: 2 open strings (A & E) of a double stop to feel a real physical feeling of controlling the Bow all the way Up from the tip & all the way Up & beyond the frog (don't hit the silver) yet minus any planted down fingers ~ Hard to put this in black & white, please give yourself a kind talking to of permission to try brushing both 2 strings with a just above in the Air Up Bow above the open E & A from the tip then brushing Up onto the 2 open strings of an A & E string double stopped chord minus any fingers yet planted down on the open strings!!! Please Remember: no matter what left hand fingers are required in the Brahms double stop chord, the chord involves just 2 open strings and until you can Brush both at the same time, simultaneously, then & only then w/ fingers planted on chord notes. Idea: Difficult to put in print, no matter what others may think, darn it, take your hairbrush and go Brush your hair both Up and Down quite a few times with your right arm (Bowing arm) to practise 'feeling' this physical sensation all women *for sure feel when brushing their hair (and let's hope a bit longer than shorter hair!) This brushing 2 open strings, A & E is a beginning! Once feeling you're brushing the 2 strings smoothly you can try this for 3 open strings minus planting of fingers until brushing Three Open Strings smoothly, then & only then plant the fingers down on the 3 strings & Brush!!

Encouraging you to try this, I'm hoping it may lead to your building enough confidence to arrive at that moment where you plant your fingers down on the having been brushed open strings all at the same time yet do Not think of 'setting' the Bow in a part of your Bow to begin brushing ~ Only imagine smooth Brushing hair and brush your Bow after visualizing then physically brushing your bow on ~ Do Not be discouraged if you scratch! It's only a Warning Flag to Brush from somewhere rather than 'putting' or 'setting' the Bow on the 2 or 3 strings of the chords in the 3rd Mov't of the Brahms Violin Concerto! Just Brush on to 2 open strings and then just Brush on to 3 open strings & repeat. (And keep these ideas to yourself ~ just experiment!! You will explore and brush on an idea!!!)

Extending an invitation for you to Keep in touch ~

Brahms Greetings ~

Elisabeth Matesky *

*I'm sad a few contributors feel like yawning ~ Better to 'have a go' on one
passage of the Brahms or the *Shostakovich ~ say *3rd Mov't Passacaglia
sustained melody ...

September 17, 2019, 6:53 PM · Ms. Matesky, thank you so much for your encouragement and advice! Yes, Brahms certainly is mesmerizing (and every time I touch it, I feel a bit like a rebel). I'll definitely implement and explore your ideas (when I dare to try to play it again).
Edited: September 17, 2019, 11:31 PM · @Yolanda Ni ~

Dear Yolanda ...

Again, you needn't be at a loss for words! It was and is of real interest to me that your response to the Brahms 3rd Mov't of the Violin Concerto blew you away & so positively that you were inspired to write in to Violinist.com to pose your Question about the Brahms Violin Concerto 3rd Mov't, and as a Subject for Discussion with the 'Violinist.com Community' as I believe you phrased it!! Good for you and for all here in drawing us back to one of the Grand Johannes Brahms Masterpieces, which is certainly great for the Soul plus many of life's other higher values ~ Thank You again!

As posted on my FB page, in responding to your Question, many important musical experiences of mine were brought back w/some moments written down, and in so doing, a renewed interest in helping a younger student of the violin - yourself!! I can recall being very young and wondering if a Violin Concerto I so loved would be possible to someday play!! Blessed with a pedigreed musical family of violinists & pianists, all was made possible by my musician parents, who were exceptional teachers with vast performing backgrounds to give all teaching highest credibility which virtually changed thousands of lives of musicians, both very young, to school aged to college & advanced with 'star' pupil's, many of whom are world renowned artists & including Conductor's - the names of whom are globally known!

Without my father-teacher I would never have been ready to study with the Great Jascha Heifetz, & if not for my mother-pianist, aware & truly informed about all piano works of our Composer heroes & yes, composer heroines, plus having quite a bit of exposure to the complex Atonal compositions of the Twentieth Century Titan of Atonal Style, Arnold Schoenberg, who early on engaged my Mother as his Alternating Pianist (with Leonard Stein) to perform vast portions of Schoenberg's Orchestral/ Chamber Symphony Orchestral scores for all Schoenberg's Advanced classes at UCLA, & many
without piano reduction parts, which my 'savant' gifted in harmony & Art of transposition Mother could play, impromptu, near flawlessly when Professor Arnold Schoenberg was lecturing which required demonstration to his very gifted pupil's a bevy of compositional techniques he employed to convey a gamut of human emotions from A to Z, in his uniquely complicated Atonal Style of Composition! With a Grandfather-teacher of some great young early 20th Century violinists, Stern, Grisha Gulaboff, and Yehudi Menuhin, plus my father - under contract to Hollywood Paramount Motion Picture Studios composing film scores, and arranging music, for both Radio & Television, whilst collaborating with composers in Hollywood, Dimitri Tiomkin, Oscar winning composer of Movies, one of which my father had sketched originally, i.e., Hitchcock's 'Spellbound', + musical themes for 'The Whistler' Radio Show; TV Show, 'The U.S. Steel Hour' & original composer of a big hit Broadway Musical, renamed, "Damned Yankees", one had a "Salade" of musical genre's at home from a very early age!! My parents were simple people with immense talents & accomplishment who wanted to help young people learn to play, having no ideas of classical music being exclusive to only those who came from more advantaged backgrounds ... Although my Grandfather was an usher at Jascha Heifetz's wedding in the 1920's, my father was deeply humble & revered Heifetz throughout his life as well as great Violinist, Toscha Seidel, famed Leopold Auer class-mate of Heifetz, who would world premiere my *father's String Quartet with his Toscha Seidel String Quartet at USC, *who Toscha Seidel wouldn't allow to hear his S.Q. play Poppa's String Quartet until Seidel's String Quartet had had 48 full rehearsals, such were the difficulties of my father's String Quartet and beauty, which the great Russian Violinist thought so profound, he & fellow members of the string quartet worked obsessively to premiere at their very highest performance levels! And the Los Angeles w/other critic reviews went so far as to compare my father's String Quartet to that of Bartok's String Quartets!! Thusly, one learned that kindness went hand in hand with greatness from childhood ~ Hence: a nod of acknowledgement to a gifted young violinist who has the interest & musical 'radar' to fall in love with the Violin Concerto of Brahms!

It is always a delight to come across a young musician who is drawn to the pinnacle of Greatness, i.e., The Edifice of Brahms in either of his Two Great Piano Concerto's & indescribable Violin Concerto which btw, great Violinist, Joachim, the Dedicatee, who also composed the Cadenza to the Brahms & in other Violin Concerti! You might relish Joachim's own Cadenza to the 1st Mov't of the Brahms Concerto, which in your life journey to learn & Live the Violin Concerto, will further enable you to appreciate all that follows the first & second movements of the Hungarian' infused Third Mov't! If in need, just keep in touch, and if you encounter bowing 'puzzles', I'll try to be of some help & do suggest a really close look at my 'other' great violin mentor, Nathan Milstein's, Unaccompanied Bach Sonatas & Partitas on YouTube, & for starter's re the Greatest Master of Bowing, Milstein, do view the Film on Nathan Milstein, produced by Christopher Nupen, in Two Parts, thankfully capturing the Last Milstein Violin Recital in Stockholm, when the just Eighty Four yr young, Nathan Milstein, Encore'd the 4th Mov't Allegro of the Bach Unaccompanied Sonata #3 in C Major, with the most dazzling bowing you will ever witness! If possible, try slow motioning it up, to acutely observe Milstein's rare rounded bowing technique & his uncanny musical - spiritual inflections infused even in the great Finale with both Bravura amid a deep spirituality which leaves any listener awed & alas, forever moved ~

This will be good for you, Yolanda, in untold ways! Don't be overwhelmed, but inspired to realise it is possible to make music like this being in musical environments conducive to such ~

You will do well & I do ask you to please give my compliments to your violin teacher who initially suggested you learn the 3rd Mov't of the Brahms Violin Concerto since you love it so much ~ One double stop third & triple stops at a Time!!!

With Brahms Greetings from America ~

Elisabeth Matesky *

*on Facebook, name listed Elisabeth Anne Matesky

September 17, 2019, 11:03 PM · Thank you so much! I always love reading your comments — what a rich history and life you have!
September 18, 2019, 12:54 PM · My head is spinning...


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