Which concertos before the Tchaikovsky

December 1, 2019, 2:02 PM · Which concertos should I play before I start Tchaikovsky?

Replies (54)

Edited: December 1, 2019, 2:11 PM · Bruch, Lalo, Mendelssohn, possibly Conus, two of Mozart 3,4,5, Viotti 22/23, Vieuxtemps 4, and Wieniawski 2. Shouldn't take you more than a couple of months.
December 1, 2019, 5:29 PM · Could also do Sibelius as well. It's in that group of concerti that includes the Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Beethoven. Although you should only do the Sibelius after you have done all the ones that Paul has listed.

If you wanted some kind of grouping I suppose you could do Mozart 4 and 5, followed by Viotti 22 (23 works too), Bruch, Lalo, Wieniawski 2 (You can also do Saint Saens 3 after this one, before or at the same time), Mendelssohn, Vieuxtemps 4. I say Vieuxtemps 4 last because it's one of those concerti that isn't played as much as the others, but is probably one that you should learn at some point myself included.

You very well could go to Sibelius or Tchaik after Mendelssohn too if you wanted, but that's up to you in terms of which one should be learned first. My professor thinks the Sibelius should be done before the Tchaik.

December 1, 2019, 6:09 PM · Most of them.
December 2, 2019, 5:24 AM · I've done Bruch, Mozart 4 and 5, Saint Saens 3, Lalo, Mendelssohn. Can I start the Tchaikovsky?
December 2, 2019, 6:23 AM · What does your teacher say?

I played Sibelius before Tchaikovsky when I was a student.

December 2, 2019, 8:50 AM · Some people teach Paganini No. 1 before Tchaikovsky or the other "big concertos". I guess the assumption is that if you can get through the Sauret cadenza, you can probably handle most things.

When I was a kid in Chicago, it was customary to teach Sibelius before Tchaikovsky. I think that's not unusual; I see numerous adult amateurs who use it as an audition concerto but who haven't played Tchaikovsky.

December 2, 2019, 11:06 AM · How hard is the Sauret cadenza, how long approximately will take one to learn it
December 2, 2019, 3:09 PM · What's the difficulty of Paganini 1 like, setting aside pedagogical considerations? Is the difficulty more like "technically harder than Tchaikovsky, but musically easier?" or is it more like "Bigger jumps, but on the other hand, it was written by a violinist"?

I seem to be in the same boat as many recent posters in that I've played some of the student romantic rep, and none of the romantic big boys. My teacher is giving me a choice on what to do after I finish Barber (f*ck this 3rd movement) and the choices are basically Paganini 1 or one of Tchaikovsky or Brahms (she hasn't studied Sibelius, and I don't want to play Mendelssohn).

December 2, 2019, 4:44 PM · Paganini 1 is a b*tch, and Sauret's cadenza is murderous. I found it to be far harder than Tchaikovsky and arguably harder than Brahms, actually, for sheer technical feats. This might be because Paganini tends to require stretches which I really have trouble with, and the forests of thirds hit me smack in my I-suck-at-double-stops weakness. (I gave up on my first go-round with Paganini 1 in my 20s after getting through a good chunk of the first movement. With my second, more recent attempt, my teacher basically assigned the toughest sections in the 1st movement first on the grounds they'd need the most work. Doing all those thirds proved to be very useful but ultimately I decided I'd rather spend my time doing something else.)

How about Dvorak? It's beautiful and isn't as difficult as Brahms but has some of the same sorts of challenges. Or Prokofiev 2, which is also in that next step up in difficulty, but distinctive in its technical challenges? Or Wieniawski 2, in the same tier as Bruch et.al. but with pretty dense technical challenges per square inch?

December 3, 2019, 12:17 AM · Paganini 1 seems a bit easier than all the big dogs, if we exclude the Sauret's cadenza. Maybe I should learn it but with a different cadenza? I have big hands so stretches aren't a problem for me.
Sadly everyone nowadays plays the Sauret cadenza that if you play other cadenza for the audience it's like you are not playing Paganini's 1st.
December 3, 2019, 1:05 AM · You seem awfully eager if not impatient to start the Tchaikovsky. Okay so you've done Bruch, Lalo, Mozart 4 and 5, Saint Saens 3, and Mendelssohn. I'd say Wieniawski 2 would be one you need to do still. And since I'm not the only one who thinks so, I'd say you should do the Sibelius before Tchaikovsky. Once you've done Wienawski 2 and Sibelius then I'd say it's a good idea to go ahead and do Tchaikovsky. I plan on playing the Mendelssohn and Wieniawski next semester (my professor wants to push me next semester to do two concertos since I was able to do the whole Bruch concerto this semester). The thing with Wieniawski 2 is that although it's harder than Mendelssohn it has some things in it that help you play the Mendelssohn easier. Which is why some teachers like doing it and sometimes Saint Saens 3 before tackling the Mendelssohn. However if you truly want to do Tchaikovsky that bad then I would agree with Lydia and say do the Paganini 1. It's fairly difficult, but if you can do then Tchaik will be much easier. Another fast track you could is again the Sibelius and then the Tchaik.
December 3, 2019, 12:09 PM · A very good alternative to Sauret cadenza, better musically and a lot shorter is the Wilhelmj. It's the one I did when I was 14 studying with Josef Gingold.
December 3, 2019, 10:52 PM · So I bought the sheet music for Paganini 1 (came with Suaret cadenza) and kind of gave it a light read-through for funsies.

F*** that noise, guess I'm playing Tchaikovsky next, unless someone thinks Brahms is less of a challenge.

December 3, 2019, 11:57 PM · Try reading Wieniawski 2, or Vieuxtemps 4/5, and see how those feel, James. You can get them from IMSLP.
Edited: December 4, 2019, 2:37 AM · I played Vieuxtemps 5 about 6 months ago, not to performance polish, but I actually got through those stupid descending octaves and 4 string chords. It was quite difficult, but in a sense I think it played to my strengths as a player and stayed away from some weaknesses. That combined with Ysaye 2 kind of gave me my fill of the French guys for the time being, so I'm going to give Wieniawski and Saint-Saens a miss for now.

BTW Wieniawski 1 (seeing Ray Chen play it in 2 days) is actually a lot more fun than to listen to than 2 (although Ray says on Twitter it is a really nasty one to play through). It's a shame that no one ever seems to play or record it.

December 4, 2019, 7:53 AM · I played Mozart 4, Bach E Major, Viotti 22, Bruch, Saint Saens 3, Mendelssohn, and Scottish Fantasy Before Tchaik. In some respects, I feel that the Mendelssohn is more difficult than the Tchaikovsky as you are not very exposed in some of the most difficult sections of the Tchaikovsky. If it is in reach, definitely learn it as you seem very eager. My teacher has always said that a student will play a slightly more difficult piece much better than an easier piece if they are more motivated to play the difficult one (i.e. Tchaikovsky vs Vieuxtemps). Of course this must be reasonable, for example, a student struggling on Lalo trying to play the Beethoven may be disastrous. But go for it if you and your teacher think you're capable!
December 4, 2019, 12:02 PM · Ray Chen does not play sauret cadenza and just in my opinion it is not very well written as some high notes are so high as to be impossible to play with a good tone.
December 4, 2019, 1:22 PM · I second at least working on some of the first movement of Paganini 1. IMHO no need to work on the Sauret cadenza (which is orders of magnitude harder than anything in Tchaik and in very different ways), and probably not even the whole first movement, just getting the first few pages to lesson shape if not performance shape made Tchaik mvmt 1 much more approachable for me. (I suspect it was the increased finger independance and strength I developed from doing all those thirds that made the difference in general, even though no such thing occurs in Tchaik directly.)

No harm if you have to take Paganini 1 a few measures at a time, and spend a month or two just getting the first page or so under your fingers. I've always found the first section of that piece is a better etude by far than any real ones for me, probably because it makes scales and running thirds sound nice enough I can motivate myself to work on them a lot. :-)

Note that I am not claiming that Paganini 1 is easier than Tchaik (probably the reverse). I'm claiming that once you have that under your fingers, things in Tchaik may come easily that won't if you just work on those things themselves for a long time.

PS I strongly support playing different candenzas, your own, or even improvised ones. Sauret cadenze is long enough to be a piece, and to me feels very different violinistically from the main concerto.

Edited: December 4, 2019, 3:10 PM · Speaking of Sauret; this is a performance of the cadenza by George Neikrug, cello who died last march on his 100th birthday. I studied the cadenza (on violin) with him. I performed the first movement of Paganini 1 with it with no cuts on a pops concert at the Monadnock Music Festival many years ago. I think I got through it.
December 4, 2019, 6:28 PM · The Galamian school of pedagogy seemed to insist on a gauntlet of virtuoso concerti before Tchaikovsky and Sibelius (Vieuxtemps 4, Conus, Wieniawski 2, Scottish Fantasy, Saint-Saens 3, maybe Prokofiev 2 and Dvorak could be in that list), before tackling Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Brahms. William, how are your Ysaye's, solo Bach, etude regimen...and most importantly, what does your private teacher think?

Asking for repertoire advice from a forum that doesn't know your playing is like asking for medical advice from an anonymous doctor who has never met you, IMHO.

Edited: December 10, 2019, 4:45 PM · I think there are multple levels of "have played" a work that ought to be considered when one considers progress. I'd divide them as:
  • Immaculate: The work is learned to a high technical and musical standard. This is competition/audition-quality for a student, with no meaningful technical flaws (even if there's room for refinement).

  • Performable: The work is solidly learned technically and is musically sound. Flaws are not apparent to the casual listener, though small (generally unnoticeable) errors may occur under the stress of performance. This can be played for the general public in a way that the casual listener can enjoy.

  • Fluent: The work can be played up to tempo, with technical and musical fluency, even if not every passage comes off perfectly 100% of the time under performance conditions. This can be played for a student recital with an end result that is probably satisfying to performer, teacher, and audience.

  • Inconsistent: The work is mostly learned technically, even if slightly under tempo or there are a few spots that are still dangerous. There is appropriate musical expression even if not personally artistic. This can be played for a student recital without inducing terror in performer, teacher, or audience. Though performance will definitely not be flawless, mistakes won't throw the performer or accompanist.

  • Stumbling: The work is too difficult or hasn't had enough practice time to be technically solidified. At performance tempo, some bits only rarely get pulled off even in the practice room. Intonation, articulation, etc. are sometimes audibly flawed. This is clearly not performance-ready.

  • Problematic: The work is instantly audible as too difficult. The player cannot get through it at performance tempo, and even when under tempo, the flaws are constant and quite noticeable.

For a piece to be a meaningful building-block, it needs to be learned to the Fluent level with the belief that it could get to the Performable level, and preferably the Immaculate level, given enough practice time. You can squeeze quite a bit out of the work pedagogically if it's learned to the Inconsistent level and it just requires more time to get to Fluent -- usually. If speed is a stumbling block, the difference in technique needed to get to full tempo can be meaningful.

Adult amateurs sometimes like fumbling around with things at the Problematic and Stumbling levels, and it's possible for a failed attempt at a work to still teach you something. Students (whether adults or children) under the guidance of a teacher will generally be given works that are within their technical capabilities, though without enough practice time a work might remain at a Stumbling status (and may get dropped to do something else more rewarding).

(EDIT: Separate discussion on this in another thread. LINK)

December 4, 2019, 8:56 PM · James, I find Brahms somewhat, but noticeably, more difficult than Tchaikovsky. It also has more endurance challenges, and is decidedly unviolinistic.

Mark, that might be a function of tone production and/or the instrument. It should still be possible to get a decent sound at the very top of the violin.

December 4, 2019, 9:07 PM · @Lydia

This is a very good point, and I will admit myself to be inadequate in this regard, especially relative to some people on this forum who are getting pieces to the level of "conservatory audition polish", or roughly equivalent to your level 1 standard (obviously depending on the music school in question).

I would say I got through Vieuxtemps 5 between Inconsistent and Fluent, depending on whether or not you count the Cadenza (and some of the passages within which I am "Inconsistent" part not even Zukerman gets right on his recording). I would say I got Ysaye 2 to a solid Fluent level, with movements 1 and 3 getting to Performable level. Depending on the work, I feel like "Inconsistent" may be the widest band, especially if we're counting "serious amateur adults playing for fun".

That being said, I feel like on some level (barring teachers who regularly send students to top level conservatory), every teacher is going to have strengths and weaknesses in what they can play and teach, and how that interacts with the goals of the student. A Galamian/Delay sequence, while very useful, may not be appropriate for every student, and in my observation, returning adults have much more leeway in this regard (let's be honest, part of this reason is that if an adult student gets bored, it's trivial to walk away).

In this sense, @Andrew brings up a good point. A conservatory-bound student has very different standards, in many ways; level of polish, pedagogical consideration, personal preference, even audition selection bias, compared to adult community orchestra members.

My personal polish standard is "I really want to get a professional class fiddle, and learn to play it well. I need to polish things to a level where I can play repertoire at a store/exhibition and not get immediately laughed out of the room".

December 4, 2019, 10:30 PM · Repertoire for testing purposes should be stuff you are super-comfortable with and that you know you can play essentially identical every time so that any observed differences can be credited to the equipment. It doesn't need to be hard.

No one at a shop/exhibition cares what you sound like. They are happy to take your money regardless. :-)

I generally currently learn recital repertoire to performance level. Concertos I perform with orchestra have to be learned to performance level, but I do not have enough available practice time to achieve immaculate. I try to learn other concertos to a fluent level, but sometimes only achieve an inconsistent level (i.e. I sometimes end up playing things in student recitals that I haven't really learned well enough by the time the studio recital date comes along). Stuff that is still at a stumbling level after a few weeks, I will usually abandon.

December 5, 2019, 10:32 AM · In my previous post I neglected to include the link to George Neikrug performing the Sauret cadenza of Pagnini 1 on the cello.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ptrb2XQPyS0

December 5, 2019, 11:28 AM · That's a nice taxonomy, Lydia. As an amateur (who almost never performs solo) I rarely get anything hard enough to be interesting further than you call the Fluent level (not enough practice hours in my day), but am satisfied for my own purposes when I get something I really like close to Fluent eventually. (The hardest etudes, things like Ernst and Paganini caprices, I'm usually lucky if I can get to between Stumbling and Inconsistent, and I rarely try to push them a lot further. I prefer to put that level of effort into more violinistic things.)

To map my previous statements onto that taxonomy, I'd say getting, say the first 2 pages of Paganini 1 to the Fluent level might be very helpful in quickly getting much of Tchaikovsky mvmt 1 to at least the Stumbling level so you can work from there.

Edited: December 5, 2019, 12:19 PM · Another way of looking at the question from Malcolm's point of view is, how many concertos are there left to be mastered after the Tchaikovsky has been been put to bed? Not many, I bet! Anyone able to provide a list?
Edited: December 5, 2019, 12:38 PM · As an aside to James's comment 5 posts back, I'd suggest that all you need to do when going into a store to try out violins with a view to a purchase is not much more than to play scales over the full range of the instrument on all the strings to test its tone and response. Similarly for exhibitions. For a start, it is a quick way to weed out the also-rans before spending real time concentrating on the good stuff.
December 5, 2019, 2:58 PM · After Tchaikovsky?

Beethoven and Brahms are a must. After that I believe you can get into both Prokofiev Concertos (d and g minor), Bartok, and Glazunov. At least that's the rest of concertos from the late Dorothy Delay's sequence if I remember correctly.

After all those you can probably get into all the other concertos that are not played as much, but are either good to learn, or are starting to get played more. Like Shostakovich, Elgar, and the like.

Edited: December 5, 2019, 4:37 PM · Prokofiev 1 and 2 are arguably easier than Tchaikovsky. Glazunov is mostly easier than Tchaikovsky except for a few very difficult spots. Shostakovich 1 is probably in the same tier of difficulty, but is tough for different technical reasons.

Indeed, if you have very clean technique, Beethoven is doable before Tchaikovsky. To get Beethoven to the point where you can play the notes at tempo, largely in tune, with appropriate articulation and expression is not that difficult. Getting it to be immaculate is exceptionally difficult since there's nowhere to hide. (This illustrates a broader point, which is that for some works, where the difficulty comes is dependent on the desired level of polish. There are works which are nigh impossible even to stumble through, i.e. much of Ernst. And there are works that reveal their difficulty in the late stages of polishing, i.e. Mozart and Beethoven.)

Edited: December 5, 2019, 5:08 PM · @Trevor

The most common ones I've heard performed outside of Sibelius, Brahms, and Beethoven would be Glazunov, Prokofiev 1 and 2, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and in the spirit of this thread, Paganini 1 and it's (allegedly harder) cousin, Wieniawski 1. But aside from Paganini and Wieniawski being finger breakers, whether you find any of them "tougher" than Tchaikovsky is going to be a matter of personal strengths and weaknesses. For my current teacher, for example, Stravinsky is likely to be borderline unplayable just because of that first chord.

I feel like if we use Lydia's performance scale as a ruler, some of these concertos are going to get hard at different levels of polish (i.e. Paganini 1 is going to be way harder to get to "Fluent" than Beethoven, but many professional violinists would rather audition with Paganini than Beethoven because Paganini will hide that nervous shaky right hand).

No doubt there are others of soaring difficulty, but those above are the most often performed. I've never heard Penderecki but I assume he incorporates all manner of tonal shenanigans. For example I've never even seen Penderecki, Schoenberg or Britten VC programmed by the Chicago Symphony. Plus for the...ahem...typical crowd... at the CSO, if you messed up some notes in Schoenberg...would anyone really know?

If you venture outside of concertos, 5 of Ysaye's solo Sonatas I believe are considered to be challenges above Tchaikovsky, as well as some of the "caprices" written by Paganini, Wieniawski, and Ernst.

Also to your second point, this is why many people use the opening of Bruch to try out fiddles. It's easy to pick up and play, it is in a key that all violins should handle well, and it goes up and down the fingerboard. Vieuxtemps 5 is great for the same reason, and it also touches some of the tougher violin notes. I think there is definitely more to it than just playing a chromatic scale though.

Edited: December 6, 2019, 8:12 AM · I don't think I'd use the opening of Bruch G Minor as my main way to try out fiddles, it's too easy on the fiddle. Any instrument sounds good on that arpegio! James Ehnes includes on his Homage violin comparison CD about 15 versions of the riff he uses to test instruments, and its a few lines of one of hte later movments of Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, that has a lot of flats and few open strings in-key. While it isn't that fun to play, I can see why it is a good torture test for the resonance of an instrument. Something that sounds good in that key, with that many high shifts, can handle any rep.

Outside of Concerti, lots of caprice-y things are (IMHO far) harder than Tchaik - all of the first 12 Paganini caprices (and 15 too, for me, though this doesn't seem to be a general opinion), Ernst Polyphonic etudes, and a number of Locatelli Caprices (some of which are IMHO way more violinistic than the last few things, or Tchaik).

For concerti harder (to get to mostly-Fluent range) than Tchaik/Paganini 1, don't think I've played any. I suspect Brahms is or would be for me, but I've never had the motivation to really try. I like hte opening arpegio, but not much else.

I like the analogy of Beethoven to the Mozart concerti - not too bad to play the notes, final polish hard enough that 50-year-old concert virtuosi are still working on it after performing (either Beethoven or Mozart) for 40+ years.

Edited: December 6, 2019, 5:36 PM · The Bruch is a *terrific* opening test of an instrument, which is the reason that almost everyone uses it. Immediately, that open G string gives you a very good idea of how easy or difficult it is to sculpt the sound to shape that opening note. That initial arpeggio gives you opportunities to hear both the resonance of the opening strings as well as notes that don't have that resonance, and more opportunities to experience the way to sculpt the sound.
December 6, 2019, 7:14 PM · Indeed, the Bruch Concerto is the perfect opening test for an instrument. The fact that it is so "easy" is precisly why it is a good one for testing. You don't have to study the piece in order to use it. The first cadenza is plenty to test the range of the violin. If the violin sounds struggles from the first open G then you know immediately that the violin probably isn't the one for you (that or it's out of adjustment). Another thing that arpeggio does is let you know how the violin handles across all four strings. You get to explore the "basic" registers of the violin. Basic as in if the violin doesn't sound good in the lower positions then it's pretty much useless because that's where we spend the most time playing.
December 6, 2019, 8:03 PM · The Scottish Fantasy bit on Ehnes' Homage is from the third movement of the work, four bars after letter [A], about a minute and a half in, for the curious. Over the course of minute of his excerpt, he covers all four strings of the instrument, and it's mostly in the middle positions. It's got a nice range of colors and is useful in the context of a recording for making it something that it's pleasant for the average listener to hear unaccompanied, does a nice job of highlighting the basic tonal differences between the instruments. But I w wouldn't consider it ideal for testing, though it's an interesting thing to play if you know and like the passage and want to hear what the instrument sounds like without open-string resonance.

My two listen-for-tone tests (for either violins or bows) are the opening of the Bruch and the opening of the Tchaikovsky, for similar reasons. The Tchaikovsky has a nice gesture at the start of the theme, the A-to-F# where the bow comes off the string, hopefully with some resonance. I also like the opening of the Barber, because it's right in the middle of the violin's register, mostly in first position, and it's useful for listening to the bloom of the sound and again, the way the sound can be sculpted. (My violin-trying routine and what I'm listening for in an instrument is in a previous thread: LINK.)

December 7, 2019, 6:46 AM · Hhm, I don't know if I've ever played an instrument that sounds bad on the Bruch G minor opening, as fun as it is. (Maybe my standards are lower.) I've never really liked the Bruch passafe Ehnes uses that much as a player, but I figured he was doing something clever with all the flats to test the real resonance.

I do like the opening of the Tchaik to test for the same reason Lydia does, plus I just love Tchaik. I also like the first page of Paganini D Major for speed of response when it runs from high to low, and for the resonance of the thirds, and the harmonic thirds passage from the start of the third mvmt (which has got to be one of the hardest things in the literature for me), and a bit of one of the big Solo Bach pieces to test resonance for moving doublestops and chords. Harmonic response and doubltstop/chord response are areas where some instruments do better than others independantly of basic tone (though probably not independant of setup).

December 7, 2019, 6:51 AM · francis could you tell us a little bit about yourself? your bio on the site is empty. just curious as you seem to be a pretty advanced player!
Edited: December 7, 2019, 10:16 AM · Might be kind of cool to hear various people playing violin-testing passages on their own instruments, in some semi-consistent way (for instance, all YouTube video shot on iPhones). It'd be an interesting "what can you hear?" sort of exercise.

When I test a violin, I'm not really looking at the ways in which it sounds bad. I'm looking for what it does well and what it does poorly. Any instrument can resonate fine on open G, but can you fill that sound with variety and color with just the bow (and maybe a little sympathetic 3rd-finger-on-D-string vibrato)?

December 7, 2019, 1:49 PM · I adore that enhes recording as particularly the viola sections as it shows three main schools of Italian making. The brescian in the da salo. The cremonese (and the finest viola in history) in the guarneri and the radically different gudagnini.
December 7, 2019, 6:00 PM · Re: violin testing...

When discussing the resonance from mere inches (Bruch opening and the violinist assessing resonance), one must keep in mind that it is virtually impossible to test a top-shelf violin this way. A Strad, del Gesu, Bergonzi, Guad, etc needs to be test-driven in a hall with a knowledgable set of ears in the back of the hall. Sometimes Strads can sound brittle and anemic under the ear and superb 100 feet away; an Amati can sound huge under the ear but one-dimensional in the back of the hall.

Of course, player comfort and ease must be factored - but Strads are notoriously challenging to get accustomed to, whereas a fine contemporary fiddle can be consistent and lustrous from the get-go.

December 7, 2019, 6:29 PM · I agree with Andrew, though I'll note very few players (and not James T, whose testing is under discussion here) really play in circumstances where they need to project to the back of the hall. (And it's not easy to get to test violins in a hall, either, especially in areas where there aren't many halls; in the DC area where I live, large halls or even decent-size high school auditoriums seem shockingly rare).

Ideally we'd all get to test violins as a soloist with orchestra in a good-sized (say 1000+ seat) hall, but that lucky set of circumstances doesn't come together very often for most people. :-)

An interesting characteristic of my previous instrument (in combination with my tone production, presumably) was that it sounded far better/louder at the very back of a thousand-seat hall than from the sixth row of the hall -- either alone or in a concerto-with-orchestra.

Edited: December 8, 2019, 5:55 AM · Someone asked about my bio. I'd like to call myself an advanced amateur, but "enthusiastic amateur" might be more accurate. :-) I've played for 38 years, but haven't performed a solo in public for the last 25 or so. I like to play crazy hard stuff at home entirely to unwind from a non-musical career and clear my head. I think of it like people who run marathons mostly for the challenge (not to place). I'm in the second violin section of an audition-based community orchestra, which is my only recent performance.

As Lydia suggested posting instrument test recordings, here is one I did last night of me playing the opening of Tchaik on two instruments (neither anything fancy) - so draw your own conclusions: :-)
https://youtu.be/CdxzeVTQlOk

On the topic of projection testing, I believe those two instruments, which sound fairly similar under the ear, have relatively different projection characteristics (though I've never tested this with a knowledgeable listener in the back of a hall). I've definitely found halls where one cuts through a lot more noticeably to me than the other in terms of the amount of sound reflected back. Under the ear in a neutral setting their volume appears similar.

Edited: December 8, 2019, 6:46 AM · thanks francis, if would be helpful if you could put a version of that info in your profile here. in the recording I think the second instrument sounds slightly better but keep in mind, it has been said often, usually any violin sounds like its player ;-) and, I think your dog wanted to go for a walk! :-)
Edited: December 8, 2019, 3:21 PM · Francis, I prefer the second violin. I'm curious what the instruments are.

Since I suggested it, and Francis did it, I feel obliged to post a sample. :-)

Can you tell the difference between the ultra-expensive fiddle (4/4) and the cheap junk (7/8) ? (Granted the ultra-expensive fiddle is neither sounding its best nor behaving well at the moment. I had a seam closed and switched back to Passione from Rondos and the violin is decidedly unhappy about it.)

And yeah, I am aware this isn't good playing; intonation is additionally destablized by the switch between violins of different sizes. (When I test using the Tchaik, by the way, I generally don't go past the first few measures of the theme as that's enough for what I'm trying to tell between the violins, but I extended here to roughly where Francis goes. I don't have more than the opening memorized and I haven't played it in years, thus dependence on the music and not facing the camera.)

YouTube, shot with a Zoom Q4n (no tripod, propped up with music books and later a raisin box): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWz3nEPtx2A

No editing was applied to the sound, so you're just hearing the natural acoustic of the room. It's a pretty resonant space. (Not a lot of furniture, and an LVT floor that's not as sound-absorbing as I hoped it would be.)

December 8, 2019, 6:36 PM · Nice, thanks for sharing! Recording the violin is heck, entirely separately from instrument testing. Even knowing what one of your instruments is I'm a bit ashamed to say I can't tell with confidence which one is which. Both sound good, though the second has somewhat more bloom and I suspect is the better instrument. I also suspect it would be obvious in person, but in recording, the difference isn't super obvious to me. (I've noticed that with comparison albums of Cremonas, too - I have many, and the differences in tone usually strike me as fairly subtle sheen differences.)

My two instruments are a Scott Cao 750 Chinese workshop copy of the David (i.e. a not very expensive student instrument, though one I quite like nonetheless), and a Joe Martin long-pattern Strad-style instrument made in Ohio. Both are 21st-century, though the Ohio instrument is made with old wood and old-fashioned oil varnish. (The bow with both in this case was an Arcus Concerto.)

The instrument that both of you preferred, and I also thought sounded clearly better in this recording, was my Long Pattern. It has a somewhat more incisive, operatic sound, and I think tends to project much more, though both sound generally dark with a sheen, and under the ear, whichever one is happier that day sounds better. (Any given day, one is usually happy and one is sad, as humidity and temp vary.) In highly resonant large rooms and large ensembles the strad-pattern definitely cuts through more.

December 8, 2019, 9:37 PM · "BTW Wieniawski 1 (seeing Ray Chen play it in 2 days) is actually a lot more fun than to listen to than 2 (although Ray says on Twitter it is a really nasty one to play through). It's a shame that no one ever seems to play or record it."

Because it is freaking hard.

December 9, 2019, 4:28 AM · lydia, thanksfor posting, 2nd one is the vuillaume? for me pretty clear, but still not super obvious.
December 9, 2019, 6:07 AM · I have a nice recording of Michael Rabin performing Wienaweki 1. I pulled it off imslp and tried it out, HA! Death on the first phrase. What a piece. Opening a piece on doublestop tenths...too mean for me.

I tend to suspect he had become older and wiser when he wrote the second concerto, which is far more violinistic and puts far fewer dangerous demands on the soloist.

December 9, 2019, 9:07 AM · Yup. the 2nd one is the Vuillaume. The difference is nowhere near as large as I might have thought, given that under the ear the instruments are radically different, and the level of effort I'm putting into getting the sound I want is hugely different. I imagine you'd hear more difference against other instruments or at greater distance or in a more dry acoustic.
December 9, 2019, 4:22 PM · Back to the original topic of the post, does anyone ever perform the Auer edits/cuts to Tchaikovsky? My teacher in particular thinks the cuts in the 3rd movement are good to take because those scales can get silly and repetitive. I really like some of the edits in the 1st movement, but on the other hand, it means I"m going to have to learn how to play those thirds and tenths. Bleh.
December 9, 2019, 4:46 PM · Yes, the Auer version is pretty common. It's not unusual for there to be a bit of mix and match. I learned the first movement the Auer way for the most part (the Bronstein way, to be more precise), and the third movement as written (the way my current teacher plays it). I studied the three movements with three different teachers, separated by over a decade between each movement.
December 9, 2019, 8:58 PM · Am I the only one who thinks it’s brazen for a fiddler to think he can improve upon Tchaikovsky’s concerto?

Original Tchaikovsky.

December 9, 2019, 9:12 PM · Tchaikovsky occasionally seems like a composer in need of a good editor. (the Romeo and Juliet overture is another good example of that.)

The first time I heard the original Tchaikovsky 3rd movement after a childhood of only hearing recordings of the Auer version (as was typical until the late 20th century), I thought that it was a broken record!

Edited: December 10, 2019, 1:31 PM · I wish that programs would specify what cuts or edition of the Tchaikovsky was being played.

I thought the Tchaik 4th symphony needed some slimming down the first two times I heard it live, but then some switch flipped with me and it really clicked.

They played some version of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain on the radio some time this year, and it was really messing with me to listen to. I think I'm used to the Stokowski version, or maybe I'm used the Rimsky-Korsakov version. I don't even know what version I'm used to on the Tchaikovsky concerto, since so many different cuts are made, or soloists decide they want to play the original.

I'm open to people attempting to make the best of material that can occasionally feel a bit shaggy - I mean Sibelius did it himself, but the original version of his concerto that Kavakos recorded is really bloated, and Sibelius's later edits made it a much better piece in my mind.

But then if you check out different orchestrations of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, there are some really nonsense versions out there, chiefly, a bowdlerized version by Rimsky-Korsakov that is really condescending to the source material. It's awful. EDIT - Maybe Rimsky-Korsakov wasn't actually involved in that one, which was made by his student Tushmalov. Still, the Promenade theme is only used like once.


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