Conservatory Audition Repertoire

August 7, 2017, 3:44 PM · What exactly does "major" violin concerto and "standard repertoire" mean?

I'm pretty sure "major" violin concerto doesn't refer to concerti in a major key....

What makes a concerto "major" and what makes a piece a part of the "standard repertoire"?

I've chosen Saint-Sanes Concerto No. 3 (first movement) as the concerto requirement, but I'm unsettled on the Sonata requirement (my teacher and I have started on the Cocnerto requirement, the Bach, and the Paganini, so those are pretty set in stone which means less headache). Since they want to hear a sonata of a contrasting style, I thought Brahms Sonata No. 1 would do the job nicely, but then Franck hit me. And then Haydn No. 1. I've heard Brahms is common to do, but what about Franck? Would Haydn No. 1 be considered "too easy" for auditions?

Replies (14)

Edited: August 7, 2017, 4:12 PM · "Standard repertoire" and "major concerto" refer to the works of sufficient technical and musical difficulty that are studied and performed consistently. Mainly, lists of this sort will be used to determine what is acceptable for auditions for things like competitions, festivals, conservatory programs, youth orchestras, etc. Depending on the program, some works do not meet the minimum requirements (i.e., only having Bruch or Lalo which are borderline, but auditioning for Juilliard or Curtis). You can search for a previous thread where Mary Ellen Goree explains in great detail why the standard for various levels of schools is different in terms of what incoming students audition with.

This is a moving target, as the definition does slowly change over time. For right now, here in 2017, you can expect any of the following to be acceptable for a "major concerto" requirement:

Bruch G Minor (this is the easiest one on this list)
Lalo Symphonie Espagnole
Mozart No. 4, No. 5
Paganini No. 1
Saint Saens No. 3
Vieuxtemps No. 4, No. 5
Wieniawski No. 1, No. 2

Depending on the level of what you are auditioning for, you can also play:

Bartok No. 1, No. 2
Prokofiev No. 1, No. 2

I don't profess to know them all off the top of my head...there are dozens of other concertos that performers/teachers here on can recommend as well.

I haven't even touched the showpieces or sonatas yet!

August 7, 2017, 9:04 PM · I'm curious why the separation between the first and second lists. Just a distinction for 20th century concertos, or was there some other difference?

The Franck is difficult for the pianist, and it's not going to maximize contrast with Saint-Saens -- both are rather French.

August 7, 2017, 9:24 PM · I find that the less advanced the program, the less likely that they will be able to handle the orchestral demands of most of the 20th century solo repertoire. So auditioning for the small local youth orchestra's concerto competition with Berg or Bartok 2 is going to be no end of grief for everyone involved, as it's likely that the conductor will have never led those works before, and the orchestra is unlikely to have the breadth of players to cover all the parts.

I see more groups doing Barber, as long as they stay away from the third movement. :P Also, the high rental fees for more recent works makes it cost-prohibitive for smaller organizations, whereas all of the Baroque, Classical, and most of the Romantic concertos are in the public domain.

August 7, 2017, 9:35 PM · Ah ha.

One more for the main list -- Bruch Scottish Fantasie.

I suppose Khachaturian belongs on the 20th century list.

(I have seen good youth symphonies successfully accompany Barber, Khachaturian, Prokofiev No. 1, though.)

August 7, 2017, 10:59 PM · Dear Mr Gene,

If I'm being honest I would've chosen Stravinsky had I the chops but I don't yet.. I'm glad Saint Saens is a common enough a choice to be considered standard because the technical demands feel much less than Bruch. Thank you so much for the list!

Dear Ms Lydia,

I suspected as such--they felt a bit too similar in that they were both a little.. nasal and impressionist. Franck is definitively off the list then.

I like Haydn Sonata because it's crisp and Classical but my concerns are that it may be too simple (although I guess I should be less worried about that aspect since Bach Paganini AND the Concerto will display technical capabilities) and more importantly, less well-known. I couldn't seem to find a recording done by a mainline violinist on YouTube for some reason. I'm a bit iffy on Brahms even though I really like it because then both my Concerto and Sonata would be Romantic. Am I over thinking it?

Edited: August 8, 2017, 1:59 AM · Well, the first movement of Bruch isn't as challenging as the second and third movements. That's why it's hard to classify the work by difficulty sometimes.

It's the same issue with the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole. Just the first movement? Sure, do it around the same time as Bruch. But all five movements? I can't tell you how many times I've heard people wreck the rhythms in the Intermezzo!

August 8, 2017, 3:43 AM · For sonatas - I would not suggest a Haydn or Mozart sonata. You've not said which conservatoire you are applying to but many specify "Beethoven or later". Probably either of the Brahms sonatas counts, as would Dvorak's, or any of the Beethoven ones.

Franck is fine but if you're playing a late-19th-C French concerto best not to play the one late-19th-C French sonata. ;)

August 8, 2017, 5:54 AM · Mozart sonatas are fine. Beethoven No. 5 is also very much a "classical" sounding sonata and would contrast nicely against the SS3. Don't automatically assume Beethoven will be harder than Mozart. In my hands there is a good bit of Mozart that seems much harder than Beethoven No. 5. The only thing is that it's played to death.
August 8, 2017, 7:51 AM · You don't say which school you're applying to, but if it's one of the better ones, you might consider a 20th-century sonata as a contrast to your late 19th century concerto. Prokofiev is quite sufficiently difficult for anyone.

I do not recommend Beethoven's Spring sonata (#5) for an audition; too easy, and too overdone. #7 or #8 are harder, less overplayed, and would make a nice contrast.

August 8, 2017, 9:48 AM · Mary Ellen, are referring to the Prokofiev unaccompanied sonata? I would assume the sonata requirement implies a sonata with piano. Is that so?

I believe Prokofiev did write a sonata for violin and piano, although it obviously is not popular.

August 8, 2017, 10:04 AM · Helen, there are two Prokofiev violin-piano sonatas that are fairly standard.
Edited: August 8, 2017, 10:07 AM · I was referring to Sonata no. 2 for violin and piano, op 94bis, adapted from the Flute Sonata (and frankly an improvement), by Prokofiev. It's an extremely popular work and I think it may be performed more by violinists than by flutists. My apologies for not being clearer. In my conservatory days, "the Prokofiev sonata" meant the op 94 one.

I played it on a faculty recital a few years ago. Fun work, and definitely not easy.

August 8, 2017, 10:34 AM · I see, thank you Mary Ellen.
August 8, 2017, 4:55 PM · Dear Ms Mary Ellen,

I will check out Prokofieff as well! Thank you for the suggestions!! 20th century sonatas slipped my mind and I somehow automatically looked back instead of forward.

Thank you everyone for your input!!! If there are any more suggestions, please keep them coming! (:

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