Modern concertos

September 12, 2019, 8:57 AM · Hi guys. I would like to know how you all rank these modern concertos (easy-->hard) based on both technical and musical difficulty:
Britten
Shostakovich
Ligeti
Schoenberg
Berg
Prokofiev 2
Prokofiev 1
Kabalevsky
Khachaturian
Tzigane (Ravel)
Barber
Korngold

Replies (4)

September 12, 2019, 9:09 AM · Kabalevsky is by far the easiest of these. It was written as, and frequently taught as, a student concerto.

Barber is next up in difficulty. It's slightly easier than the Bruch, with a straightforward 1st and 2nd movement, and a more difficult (but still very doable) perpetual-motion of a 3rd movement.

Khachaturian is roughly at the same level as the first-tier Romantic concertos (similar to Lalo, Saint-Saens 3, etc. that are frequently taught after Bruch).

Prokofiev 2 is generally considered easier than Prokofiev 1. I find 1 easier than 2, but that's likely a functional of my personal strengths/weaknesses (Prokofiev 2 lends itself to larger hands, in my opinion, while 1 is very doable with zero extensions). They are in the second tier of concerto difficulty (more difficult than Khachaturian et.al., but less difficult than Tchaikovsky).

Shostakovich 1 is uneven in its difficulty, but overall more difficult than the two Prokofiev concertos. The notes are "weirder" -- less predictable and thus more difficult to audiate, and it doesn't lie as well in the hand.

September 12, 2019, 9:13 AM · Ligeti is likely the most difficult of those as it’s really mostly extended technique
Edited: September 12, 2019, 11:06 AM · I am saying all of this as second-hand hearsay, but I believe Schoenberg is probably in the top 1 or 2 on your list and considered one of the most obnoxious concertos to get your hands around, plus you have to make sense of his weird composer tonal style.

Hilary Hahn also commissioned a concerto by Jennifer Higdon, but I have never heard it performed or seen the sheet music. I feel like if you're writing something for Hilary, it's gonna be weird as all get out though. The part seems to cost $50 and only be available from the composer herself. Has anyone ever seen it?

September 12, 2019, 11:38 AM · HH's performance of the Higdon concerto is on Youtube. I have heard it but I don't recall it that well - so probably contains nothing too extravagent (unlike the Schonberg, which HH explained in an interview required her to extend her technique to cope with its demands). I have not seen (or looked for) the part.


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