Piece for violin and orchestra for Suzuki book 4 student

October 27, 2019, 2:43 PM · Hello everybody, my 7 yo daughter is learning violin with the Suzuki method and is currently in book 4 (last two pieces). She has been offered to perform as soloist with a youth orchestra, with a short piece of her choice.

She play well the first and third movement of the Vivaldi A minor, but the
conductor thinks they are too hard for the orchestra, and so are the Seitz
concertos movements included in Suzuki book 4.

What pieces would you recommend that have a soloist part at the level of
the above pieces, but with easy orchestral parts? They need not be necessarily pieces in the Suzuki books, or even classical music, and the conductor is also willing to arrange something not originally written for violin and orchestra.

Suggestions are very welcome.

Replies (24)

October 27, 2019, 7:18 PM · The accompaniment for the first movement of the Vivaldi A minor is within the capability of most youth symphony preparatory or string orchestras. A good music director should be able to simplify sections that they deem too complex, as well. I would probably drop every unison violin tutti with the soloist; make it for soloist and the lower string parts instead (or write simplified lower-register parts for the violin).

If, when you say "youth symphony" you mean, "group of typical 7 year olds" (i.e. near beginners), it would be necessary to write or adapt something from scratch.

The Seitz concertos are student concertos, written for violin and piano, not violin and orchestra.

October 27, 2019, 7:42 PM · Is there an orchestra version of the Reiding B Minor Concerto?

Would it help if the conductor was able to take the Vivaldi at a sane tempo?

October 27, 2019, 8:57 PM · This youth orchestra might be similar to my group, which started as mostly Suzuki book 1 students plus some book 4-5. The Vivaldi A minor* parts are definitely (still) out of our range. If so, they may need something written for school orchestras or otherwise arranged/simplified parts.

*But we had played Op. 3 No. 9 in D major (1st mvt only) when the soloist was at a similar level. I found parts on IMSLP and still had to make "violin 4" and "cello 2" for the ones who needed something easier.

I'm sure others have arranged Seitz string parts already but the difficulty will be the accidentals. Were I to undertake this for my group, I would do the "1st Seitz" (No. 2, 3rd mvt) because book 2 level players would be familiar with the required tonalities (G major, D major, E minor). However, young orchestras might have difficulty reading in 6/8. Bohm Perpetual Motion parts could also be arranged from the piano accompaniment: you could have most of the orchestra play on the beat most of the time and simplify most of the arpeggiated harmonies. The counter melody could stay, probably in the 1st violins, who are likely the most advanced players.

Celtica by Brian Balmages seems to be popular with school orchestras because the string parts are grade 1 and there are grade 2 and grade 4 versions of the solo. A book 4 student might not be able to do the entire grade 4 solo but you could mix and match. (The same composer has another one, Danza Latina, grade 2 for the orchestra and two options for the solo. There are others listed on the publisher's website but these are among their easiest-for-orchestra choices.)

Alfred Music has a grade 2, G major, arrangement of Vivaldi Winter 2nd mvt. My group could play it as arranged now but at the time, I had to simplify the violin accompaniment parts, maintaining the chord harmony but with less complexity of left hand. The solo part is not really challenging although I had my book 4 soloist do more advanced phrasing and fingerings than the book 2 soloist. When I arranged Vivaldi Summer, it was basically simplifying to 8th notes and changing pitch as infrequently as possible to reduce LH skill needs, and it was also really scary having half the group being book 1 students attempting G minor.

Vivaldi is very useful for this kind of thing.

October 27, 2019, 9:50 PM · There is an arrangement on IMSLP of the Rieding 1st mvt for an "orchestra" of 3 violin parts and piano, but I think it would be more difficult than an orchestration of the Seitz piano parts. With G or D major, you at least have tonic and dominant open strings to help with intonation.

If it's really a young/beginner-ish group, it probably helps to err on the side of easier because a better sounding orchestra would make for a better experience for the soloist!

October 28, 2019, 5:32 AM · I agree with Mengwei Shen that it would be better to err on the side of easier music because the orchestra would sound better and provide a better foundation for the soloist. In my experience, especially for a first experience as a soloist in front of an orchestra, if your daughter is playing at book 4 level, finding a piece from book 3 even if the conductor has to create an orchestra arrangement from piano parts (not difficult to do), would be better than finding a work at the most difficult level your daughter is currently playing at. Soloing properly in front of an orchestra is so much more complicated than play a solo with an accomplished piano accompanist who is trained to follow what your daughter does.

Playing in front of a live orchestra requires the soloist to listen and play in tune with the orchestra, to follow the conductor, and to be able to play perfectly. A piano accompanist can usually easily find where the soloist is if a repeat is missed (or taken twice) or a measure is dropped, but an orchestra can't make such split second leaps to "pick up the pieces" if the soloist makes such a mistake. So performing a piece that is more familiar to your daughter at an easier level so she can concentrate on how to play well with an orchestra makes more sense to me.

Nerves can be a factor, so playing a piece your daughter has played for longer and has (hopefully) been reviewing often and can play easily without mistakes is my suggestion.

October 28, 2019, 6:20 AM · As someone who is preparing to play a solo with an orchestra for the first time (Beethoven F Major Romance with a non-audition community orchestra), I suggest that anyone reading this thread go back and read David Bailey's comments three times.
October 28, 2019, 7:01 AM · Paul, how have the rehearsals been so far? I am rooting for you! When I performed the theme from Schindler's List a year ago, the first two rehearsals were really bad, but in the end it kind of worked out. I did ask for an extra rehearsal (meaning, just to play it through during a normal rehearsal where my piece was not actually scheduled) and that helped.
October 28, 2019, 11:09 AM · Jean, thanks for asking. The rehearsals are going better. The first one was a train wreck because the conductor started in at a tempo that was at least 50% faster than I've ever played it, and because the orchestra is still just learning the piece (it's a community orchestra). I can rehearse a lot because I'm also a violist with the orchestra anyway. At the second rehearsal, there was a shortage of music stands so I gave up my stand to the principal 2nd violinist which thrust me into playing from memory, but I kind of wanted to try that anyway, and mostly I succeeded (I forgot the filigree passage in the return of the main theme on the last page). So far it's only been with strings. Tonight we try with the full orchestra. I'm going to be applying a great deal of rosin beforehand. LOL
October 28, 2019, 11:35 AM · David, Paul, so true. I would add that a young/beginner-ish orchestra might have a...wide margin of error on intonation and might not have much experience accompanying a soloist. As another example, my group did Czardas (my arrangement, tailored for our needs), and while we rehearsed the transitions and tempo changes a lot, part of my student the soloist's preparation was to practice with piano (both being followed and following the piano - the latter representing an orchestra that isn't advanced enough to follow a soloist), know the rehearsal letters by memory, recognize the sections/phrases by the accompaniment, etc.

My first thought was actually wondering when is the concert? Then I assumed the conductor would take that into account when deciding what constitutes too hard or not. Maybe Vivaldi or Seitz are doable in 8 months, but not in 4, for example. Or perhaps the rest of the program is "heavy" and they can't handle another piece in the upper range of their level.

October 28, 2019, 4:45 PM · The nice thing about Vivaldi is that there are effectively no tempo transitions. Maybe a little ritard in the final measures. Woe betide you if your cellists can't count, though.

If a kid at the Vivaldi level is playing with orchestra, the advice basically should be, do your thing, keep your own sense of pitch (rather than the orchestra's, which is going to waver all over the place), stay with the conductor's beat, and hang on to your hat. If you hear everything de-sync, emphasize your downbeats.

Paul, with every entrance, it's useful to practice, with a pianist, what to do if the tempo is too fast or too slow. There's almost always a particular rhythmic pattern you can emphasize that will make it clear that you're taking a different tempo. I find this really useful for avoiding panic, too. :-)

Edited: October 28, 2019, 5:08 PM · Thank you very much for the replies.

Let me add some information: the orchestra is actually an even mix of kids (age 9 - 17, some near beginners and others more accomplished) and adults. It has strings, winds, percussions. Concerts are usually quite well attended (the last one had over 500 people, so not just the player's friends and relatives). I will ask the director when is the concert, my guess it's 3-4 months from now, so there should be enough time to polish a new piece, if needed.

Let me answer individually:

Lydia: Perlman recorded the Seitz concerto n.5 (two movements of which are in Suzuki book 4) with orchestra, so I was under the impression they were written for violin and orchestra.

Paul: which movement of the Rieding B minor are you thinking? Looking at the score, the first movement should be very doable, and maybe the third with a lot more effort.

Mengwei: thanks for the many suggestions. I was not familiar with the Balmages pieces. The advanced solo of Celtica should be doable, except for a few high position notes. I'm also going to look for arrangements of "Seitz 1" (concerto n.2). Vivaldi Winder second movement is also doable but probably
not in Eb.

David: you make a very good point. Indeed in a recent performance she did a repeat three times instead of two and the pianist handled it it very smoothly. Which pieces of Suzuki book 3 would you recommend? It seems to me the only one suitable for adaptation for soloist and orchestra is Humoresque by Dvorak, and perhaps Becker's Gavotte. There are three Bach pieces but they don't
seem suitable to me, but I may be wrong. Going back to Book 2 there is perhaps the Beethoven
minuet and trio?

Other suggestions are welcome!

October 28, 2019, 8:13 PM · Concert in 3-4 months might be a bit short to learn and polish (to the standard as suggested by David) a new piece at the top of your playing level, or it might be fine. You and your teacher would know, and the conductor would know what the group is capable of.

Seitz 1 #2-III: I just did a quick search and there's one on IMSLP scored for strings and winds.

There is a Suzuki-related publication, String Quartets for Beginning Ensembles, arranged by Joseph Knaus, with all the book 1-3 pieces. The violin 1 part is the melody though so the orchestra's 1st violin section would have to play another part (violin 2, transpose viola, or write another part). I do find the part writing/voicing awkward at times but the alternative is to spend time on it myself! String Orchestra Accompaniments arranged by Paul Schwartz has violin 1 playing accompaniment but I'll save you from looking it up: the only book 2 pieces are Hunters' Chorus, Theme from Witches' Dance, "Lully" Gavotte, and Handel Bourree.

For Humoresque, I would be wary of the tempo changes. If some of the orchestra can't handle the D minor section, they could skip that and join back in for the repeat of the theme. For Becker, I would be wary of G minor unless I were also writing alternate parts for the "near beginners". I'm curious though how the conductor handles mixed levels. In my case, we have 1 or 2 "accomplished" players in each section, and we do a mix of music targeted for the lower/middle range of the group, middle/upper range (with alternate parts that are easier), and upper range (played by only the "accomplished" players).

Edited: October 28, 2019, 9:37 PM · For the mix you're talking about, Vivaldi A minor sounds perfectly doable. I might consider, for the actual beginners, a "third violin part" or something similar (that is also written in different clefs for beginning viola and cellists) that is significantly simplified.

Frankly, against a seven-year-old who is probably playing a quarter or half-size, and who probably hasn't been taught a soloist's tone production (and is likely on an instrument that wouldn't support that anyway), I'd trim down the size of the orchestra to no more than two or three stands per section. If those people don't have great volume control over their playing, I'd also consider require them to use mutes. (And you can basically practice-mute the less competent players into oblivion.)

October 28, 2019, 9:41 PM · Clothespins will semi-mute a kids' orchestra. I agree with Lydia to just weed out the kids who can't play the parts because it's harder to play with an orchestra than you think it's going to be. Someone blows an entrance and it can really throw you off your game.
Edited: October 28, 2019, 10:50 PM · A parent once reported that there was some intentional not-rosining of bows in their elementary school strings class or concert.

If the conductor agrees about limiting the size of the accompanying orchestra, that certainly helps with volume imbalance and probably lifts some level restrictions. If due to the expectations of the orchestra it has to be all strings, that Vivaldi Winter 2nd mvt arrangement in G major would work: pizzicato in the violins, easy to give near beginners only quarter notes in the chord, and no rests or sustained notes to blow through and screw up the next entrance. In theory, the bowed notes in the lower strings (keeping the beat) and solo should prevent the pizzicato players from rushing.

Correction: my "can't count cellist" had to play quarter notes instead of half notes, which would have been considered sustained notes, leading to frequently getting to the next beat/measure/chord early. Woe, indeed.

October 28, 2019, 10:56 PM · I spent part of my summer coaching a group of kids at the Suzuki book 1 and 2 level to accompany a pair of kids at a kind of marginal book 4 level on the solo parts, to play the first movement of the Vivaldi double concerto (the RV522) -- conductorless! Doable in a couple of weeks (with weekly hour-long rehearsals split between this and another work), starting from scratch.

Kids can be more competent than you think. The Vivaldi tutti parts tend to have obvious rhythms, so it's not hard to get back on if you get lost.

October 29, 2019, 5:34 AM · Lydia, that's a terrific way to build self-confidence in those young musicians and to get them thinking and working in an ensemble mentality! Well done!
Edited: October 29, 2019, 4:32 PM · It turns out the concert is at least 5 months away, but they will probably start rehearsing quite soon, so the soloist part should be ready in about one or two months from now. My daughter would love to play the Vivaldi A minor first movement, if I could find simplified orchestral parts maybe I can get the conductor to agree...

Indeed there are usually three violin parts, the third being quite easy. I'm not sure how feasible it is to trim down the orchestra, as the concert includes works that use the full orchestra. Mengwei, thank you very much for the pointers. To me the Seitz orchestral arrangement you mention doesn't look very hard for violins (I don't know about the winds). I also found on youtube a simplified version of Brahms Hungarian dance n.5 for violin and orchestra which sounds nice too, not much harder than Humoresque I would say.
October 29, 2019, 9:54 PM · You want to try to avoid works with wind parts, IMHO. Young woodwind and brass players often don't have the control to play beneath the soloist. And such parts are exposed, and a missed entrance or wrong / badly out of tune note will almost certainly throw a young soloist (and plenty of experienced players too).
October 31, 2019, 9:41 AM · Lydia, what you say makes sense, I'll try to politely ask if strings only is a possibility.
Mengwei, do you think Seitz #5-I is harder than #2-III? I found an arrangement for violin and orchestra (with winds) on IMLSP.
October 31, 2019, 10:36 AM · The Vivaldi concerto accompaniments are all, to my knowledge, strings-only. Certain the Vivaldi A minor is strings only.

I think the Seitz accompaniments are a bit more intricate rhythmically, and they also suffer from being some dude's orchestration of the piano score.

The Vivaldi originals are highly skilled compositions with thoughtful balance in the parts, and they have rhythmic propulsion that makes it relatively hard to get lost and relatively easy for a player to find their place if they do miscount.

October 31, 2019, 11:59 AM · Surely they don't expect *every* piece on the program to be for full orchestra (whether originally intended or forcibly arranged)? That would be strange for many reasons.

Seitz #5-I has a lot more accidentals and they are more likely to play #2-III in G major in tune. The rhythms in both are generally predictable with #5-I having a touch more varied patterns. Also, keep in mind that Seitz accompaniments are naturally very "pianistic" and when one simply copies the treble and bass lines to strings and splits the voices, it's just awkward compared to properly written string parts. (I wouldn't consider the wind parts critical. They mostly have the same as strings, and it's not like you're being more true or less true to the source by including or not including them. It does save you (someone) from having to do work on parts if they're going to be used.)

So the conductor says Seitz and Vivaldi A minor are too hard (perhaps thinking of the balance of near beginners vs. accomplished, which sections they're in, overall needs of rehearsal, overall needs of the organization, etc.), but would consider arranging something. Why not spend the arranging effort on Vivaldi? It won't be "original" but can be a credible imitation, not to mention more musically satisfying.

Edited: October 31, 2019, 4:30 PM · Looking at the IMSLP copy of the score for the Vivaldi A minor, I would leave the "violino primo" part entirely to the soloist.

The second violin part is quite straightforward. I would put the usual first violinists on this part.

Violas are divided into two. I would put the second violinists onto a transcribed viola 1 part, and the regular violas onto viola 2.

Cellos have a more complex part at points. I would create a beginner cello part (possibly even just a "beginner" part, period, in the appropriate lower register of each instrument) that has very basic notes and rhythms, by using the harpsichord (cembalo) score.

Although honestly, if the orchestra isn't able to handle the Vivaldi parts as-is, without any of the violinists needing to play the solo/primo part, you don't want them accompanying a kid in a concerto. You don't want that first experience to be traumatic to the young soloist.

For a kid, I would consider doing only the first movement, not the whole concerto.

November 3, 2019, 1:18 PM · Thank you both for your insightful responses, they've been very useful. I'll talk to the conductor, who is also the arranger, soon.

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