Right-hand-focused pedagogical concertos

Edited: December 1, 2019, 11:01 PM · Sorry for another "what should I play" sort of post in the midst of a bunch of other such posts...

My teacher and I were talking through the usual "what to play next" question, drawing a bit of a blank on concerto repertoire. For various reasons, I'm hoping to do something that is more focused on right-hand technique. (Of late, we'd been doing Shostakovich 1, which has enough tenths to be very frustrating.) Curious if the v.com hive-brain has a suggestion.

Concertos from my childhood (learned to highly polished performance level): Bach A minor, Haydn G major, Mozart 3 and 4, Barber, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens 3, Prokofiev 1, Tchaikovsky.

Concertos from my early adulthood return to the violin: (learned to a performance level) Bruch, Khachaturian, Lalo Symphonie Espagnol // (not learned to a performance level) Brahms, Paganini 1.

Concertos from my more recent return to the violin: (learned to a reasonable performance level) Glazunov, Beethoven, Mozart 5 // (not fully learned to a performance level) Dvorak, Prokofiev 2.

Significant concertos I don't know: Conus, Vieuxtemps 4 and 5, Wieniawski 1 and 2, Vivaldi Four Seasons, Bach E major, 20th century (Korngold, Bartok, Berg, Walton, Elgar, Stravinsky etc.), Sibelius (considered too difficult). In the same general category, Bruch Scottish Fantasie.

Of the various violinist-composers (above plus Spohr, DeBeriot etc.), I prefer Wieniawski, so we're starting Wieniawski 2, but my teacher is wondering if it's insufficiently challenging (he'd prefer Vieuxtemps 4). Anyone got a thought on what significant concertos would be good for a right-hand workout without having lots of left-hand extensions? (I'm not entirely opposed to revisiting previous repertoire either, or to larger-scale non-concerto solo repertoire.)

I end up learning sonata repertoire for recital performance so the concerto is to some significant degree for technical development (I have more patience for learning repertoire than etudes, which for me occupy a weird middle ground between dull-but-necessary exercises and actual repertoire, since they involve having to both learn notes and work on a technique).

Replies (14)

December 2, 2019, 6:26 AM · I don’t think Sibelius is too hard given your other repertoire.

But to answer your question, I can’t think of anything specific.

December 2, 2019, 7:14 AM · I doubt many--if any--such concertos exist. Much of right hand (or I think we should say right arm) technique is "background" as far as the non violinist public is concerned. They don't notice. And they don't necessarily think that it is difficult; they don't know how much effort goes into learning staccato for example. Concertos however are composed for the purpose of showing off spectacular violin playing, so they will always have left hand difficulties in them. And of course the bow arm gets its workout as well, only much of that workout is "on background" as I said.
December 2, 2019, 7:25 AM · Lydia you make me feel terribly inadequate. In fact I think I'll have a little weep
December 2, 2019, 8:17 AM · Depends on what you mean by "right-hand workout." What were the right-hand goals with Shosty?

Have you done the Schubert sonatas (Grand Duo, Rondo, Fantasie)? Schumann concerto? Pieces written by pianist composers can really workout the bow arm (and left hand) in not so obvious ways.

December 2, 2019, 8:30 AM · Shostakovich for a combination of things, not just the right hand, although my teacher always has an interest in trying to get me to produce a bigger sound, and the sustained thick-sound domands of this concerto are good for that.

In brief, I've recently been having some medical issues that are affecting my right arm and right hand (this is also why I've been bow-shopping for an Arcus lately). It'd be useful to do works that have a wide variety of bowing techniques and demands, especially ones that have a broad range of off-the-string strokes.

I haven't done the Schubert works, nor the Schumann.

Edited: December 2, 2019, 9:05 AM · Second for Schubert if you really want to work on bowing. The first note of the Schubert Fantasy is a rather (in)famous bowing itself.

Others to consider are Prokofiev Violin Sonata #2 in D major, Saint Saens Rondo & Introduction Capriccioso, Beethoven sonatas, and solo Bach. Vieuxtemps 4 and 5 are good, or Vivaldi Four Seasons for something lighter. You could also revisit a movement of a concerto you've already worked on, like the last movement of Lalo.

If you don't like extensions, definitely avoid Stravinsky and Wieniawski 1, which start with them..

December 2, 2019, 9:31 AM · Would your medical issues benefit from staying away from sustained, thick sound demands for the moment?

It's funny, the further I age away from my school days, the less I wanna play with that thick sound. But I would argue the trick to getting that sound has less to do with the rep you choose and more on exercises for playing into the string and varying and amplifying vibrato. Then apply that skill to bigger and bigger works (gradually) to build stamina. I'm not sure I would use large works to attain that sound (good way to get injured.)

December 2, 2019, 9:40 AM · Well, the third mvmt of Wieniawski 2 is definitely a workout for the bow arm, so I think that is a good choice on your teacher's part. And the singing parts in the first mvmt are great for working on sound and bow distribution. I would say that Vieuxtemps 4 is easier than Wieniawski 2 overall, but Vieuxtemps 5 is harder than both of them. Vieuxtemps 5 has more left hand technique as well, though, which may be confounding.
December 2, 2019, 9:42 AM · I'll message you on FB. I don't entirely want to get into the issues on v.com.

I think for sound, it's effectively breaking a childhood habit of using almost purely bow speed for volume, rather than more weight and a slower speed. (That, in turn, is arguably the effect of childhood violins that could not take weight without the sound breaking.) I've gotten better about it in the last couple of years, but I still tend to back off instinctively.

However, the rest of it is a need to revisit as wide a variety of right-hand technique. (I'm running myself through a routine of Kreutzer, too.)

December 2, 2019, 10:54 AM · Wouldn't any Bach S & P work nicely for right hand development? Unless you want to focus on off-the-string strokes...
December 2, 2019, 11:09 AM · I'd say there is quite a bit of variety for the right hand in the Wieniawski 2. I messed up my shoulder from unjudicious practice on the 3rd movement spiccato, so be careful with tension and don't be silly like me.

I personally feel like nothing I've worked on has impacted my right hand as much as Rode Caprices, but there doesn't seem to really be anything in the Rode that isn't present in some form in Kreutzer, so it may be a matter of taste or some other factor.

Edited: December 2, 2019, 11:12 AM · For something a bit off the beaten path, I'd suggest Locatelli Caprices, and to meet the letter of the question, possibly (though I haven't played any) the outer concerti they were embedded in. Note that some of the caprices have simply murderous extensions for modern left hand technique and scale length - I don't recommend even trying to play those caprices if you dislike 20th-century tenths - but many of them don't use many insane extensions, and they have some really interesting demands on right hand agility.

Bach Fugues and Chaconne are also fun if you haven't already studied those, but I suspect you have.

December 2, 2019, 9:23 PM · I guess the Korngold, Elgar, Walton might be the most "big thick sound" of the things you havent played. Dont really know. I know you have worked with an excellent pianist in the past. Have you done any of the Bartok sonatas?
December 4, 2019, 9:04 PM · Thanks, folks. I'm looking for works with fairly dense technical challenges and a lot of mixed types of strokes, especially off-the-string work. (Enjoying starting Wieniawski 2 at the moment. I have performances with orchestra of the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante coming up at the start of the year, and the first Faure sonata later in the spring.)

Jeewon helpfully suggested Sevcik op. 3 and some other bowing exercises, too, after I messaged him privately.


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