Why these fabulous pieces are neglected??

January 25, 2020, 5:58 AM · I am so upset as there are so many pieces that are just amazing which aren't in the repertoire and not often played , ex. Bruch Violin Concerto No.2 and No.3 , Godard Concerto Romantique and Violin Concerto No.2 , Vieuxtemps no.5 even Wieniawski violin concerto no.1 is not often played. These are absolutely high standard pieces which needs appreciation ,but it's so rarely played. What are the reasons??

Replies (31)

January 25, 2020, 8:36 AM · Victor,

As a business major my presumption is that:

Orchestras don't program them

Subscribers don't ask for them

Recording companies won't pay for them

The number of people who want to hear them played is very small by comparison to the standard rep.

Yeah, it is all about economics. Now if some high powered artist made a point of playing them they might get more attention and performance time. Unfortunately, even the top artists are subject to the economics of the music industry.

Edited: January 25, 2020, 10:15 AM · In short, the musical canon perpetuates itself, as is the case with literature and art. Certain composers and works are promoted over others - sometimes this is due to chance and other times is actually due to quality. We hear the same pieces programmed a lot because they've gotten themselves into that machine. Composers too! Not everything Beethoven or Mozart wrote was amazing (and certainly not Dvorak or Tchaikovsky), yet we expect their works to be higher quality than a composer like Bruch or Goldmark. It's the whole attitude of "if it was worth hearing, I'd have heard about it by now." This system awards unfair prominence to many composers. My stickler is Dvorak - he wrote some great works and many less great ones that we remember simply because his name is on the music. The canon also deprives the musical world of diversity and has given many a composer the short end of the stick.

With literature, we don't come to the conclusion that Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice are some of the finest works of British literature on our own - that opinion is fed to us from such an early age that we can't imagine it being any other way. I think it's fair to say that many of us would still love Brahms/Tchaikovsky/Mozart/Beethoven/etc regardless, but I also believe it's impossible to dissociate the influence of the canon from our opinions of these composers.

January 25, 2020, 11:03 AM · There is a famous story about the Bruch 3rd. Also told about on of his oratorios, so maybe apocryphal. But,

Bruch brought the new piece to Brahms, who was an honest and learned critic, as well as being politically powerful. He spread the score on the piano rack, and played, while singing and making comments.

At the end, he looked at Brahms and said, effectively, “so?”

At which point Brahms leaned forward and fingered the music. “I say— this is wonderful music paper. Where do you buy that?”

January 25, 2020, 11:04 AM · That being said, some well-informed judges of the literature I know speak very highly of the Bruch 2nd, while conceding that it is not easy.
January 25, 2020, 11:08 AM · With classical music in a fairly parlous state, financially speaking, you can't be surprised that few artists, orchestras and venues are prepared to take a chance performing obscure repertoire. In recent years, of course, the recorded music industry has performed miracles in at least making it possible to hear a huge amount of rare repertoire that would otherwise disappear into oblivion.
January 25, 2020, 11:28 AM · People think they love music, but do not know enough of it. If they did, they would really fall in love with music.

Do not attach "value" to this aforementioned "canon" of great violin works. I agree that most of the works in these theoretical canons are great, but they should not define what you love in violin music.

To be fair, even some of these great works have fallen somewhat "out of favor", compared to the always played Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Sibelius. The Mendelssohn (Em) is programmed, but not performed as often. Ditto for the Bruch Gm, and his Scottish Fantasy. Lalo SE used to be among the great works-rarely programmed nowadays. Dvorak violin concerto-rarely touched. Saint-Saëns 3? Sorry. Shostakovich 1, Prokofiev 2, and a few other "big" concertos are among the few ones other concerto works very often programmed.

(Even the "divine" Beethoven Concerto-with so many believing it as the Best Violin Concerto Of All Time-doesn't get played as much as the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Brahms.)

I am not complaining about the well-known works above-I am a violinist and violin repertoire fan, and can find value in, like, or love most works composed for it. Those "big three" are gorgeous, and justly well-known. But truthfully, if people knew better, the Goldmark, the Viextemps, Wieniawski, and many, many other excellent concertante works would be better appreciated, and more often recorded and performed. It's not about old school vs new-something has been lost artistically-in my view-in a society where attention, "clicks", and money seem to reign and have the ultimate consideration ("time is money" and all that nonsense.)

(Be like period music fans-they tend to like what they like, and do not mind if it is not popular or well-known. They have their concerts and own "canon" works too, I surmise, but they tend to be musically curious and "audience-independent". I myself am a bit like this, although mostly with the romantic violin repertoire.)

Yes, always be curious, and never content with the relatively limited repertoire you are supposed to know and master well. There's always more to learn, listen to, and play.

(Do not be offended-I do not know-nor am-"better" than you, but do know that exploring these so-called "lesser works" may enrich your life one way or the other-if not, at least now you know more music.)

Edited: January 25, 2020, 11:51 AM · Steve Jones makes a good point. When an orchestra struggles financially, the programming tends to get more conservative. My city's professional orchestra went dark for a year, and since its return it has played virtually nothing but old warhorses, with the Beethoven and Tchaikovsky alone accounting for two-thirds of the pieces played, and the orchestra averaging less than one piece per season by composers outside the 25 most performed. (By the way, the 25th most performed composer in the last decade is Schumann, so we're talking about an orchestra that basically doesn't play any composer less famous than Schumann.)
January 25, 2020, 12:17 PM · I think my husband is prototypical of the common classical music listener who knows nothing about music but enjoys it: the more times he has heard a piece, the more he enjoys it. Orchestras have to program these days to bring in audiences, and so they need to program the pieces people know and love. And then try to sneak one or two interesting other things on the program!
January 25, 2020, 4:14 PM · To me, constantly playing the old favorites seems like mortgaging the future to squeeze just a little more out of the present listener base. It feeds the image of classical music as stodgy and orchestras as "1800s cover bands" that I hear a lot of from my generation.

I have come to find the Tchaikovsky violin concerto irritating because I see it on programs so often. I usually attend concerts because I'm interested in the symphony on the program, rather than the concerto or the soloist -- and maybe it's just coincidence, but I've only ever heard two violin concertos in concerts where I was in the audience: Tchaikovsky (six times) and Sibelius (three times).

January 25, 2020, 5:54 PM · I'd like to hear Schoenberg's violin concerto live but I don't see it programmed that often. Robert Schumann's violin concerto was neglected (or perhaps forgotten) for many years. But I've seen a few recordings of it in the last decade so perhaps it's having a sort of renaissance. I have listened to Lalo's Concerto Russe and I enjoyed it (sheet music is on IMSLP), but I don't ever recall seeing on a concert program.

I'm curious what music people will be listening 50 years from now. Is it possible that Bruch will be programmed as much as Brahms? Will people prefer Paul McCartney's solo work to that band he belonged to in the 1960's? I guess time will tell.


January 25, 2020, 6:20 PM · The Schumann violin concerto was deliberately buried by Joachim (who had the score and parts), with the full cooperation of Clara Schumann. When it was unearthed and performed (in the 1930s, I think), it was against the express provisions of Joachim's will, which stated that the concerto was not to be performed or published within 80 years after Joachim's death.
January 25, 2020, 9:26 PM · I agree with the above on what drives the commercial viability of programming.

I think most of the major soloists have at least one obscure or less-common work in their repertoire that they're championing. Concertos like the Dvorak don't really count as less-common, in my opinion; they show up less often than Tchaikovsky but frequently enough not to be considered rare. (Dvorak has shown up several times on local seasons in recent times; Tetzlaff is playing it with the NSO in a few weeks' time, for instance.)

There have been violinists like Aaron Rosand who have maintained huge repertoires, recorded more obscure works, and championed such works. I suspect that the basic repertoire that a soloist has to maintain makes championing obscure works difficult. Each major soloist tends to have a handful of pieces that they are focusing on in a given concert season, which they generally need to play on multiple occasions, so they don't need to just convince one orchestra to program a work that season, but many. Hilary Hahn, for instance, effectively did a season of a bunch of Vieuxtemps 4 prior to recording it.

January 26, 2020, 12:16 AM · Thanks for the comments! I just felt that commercial viability of programming killed a lot of great works and I really appreciate how Aaron Rosand performed those least known works for us . I get to hear them mainly because of the recordings that Rosand has given us. This is such a tragedy that so much great works out there are not known , especially Hubay , which I just recently knew about it , his works are exceptionally impressive
January 26, 2020, 12:31 AM · Hubay is played fairly frequently by students, especially the Hejre Kati.
January 26, 2020, 1:32 PM · I love the Bruch 2nd concerto! High drama, soaring melodies, and should absolutely be played more. I’ve only managed to convince two conductors to program it. Schumann has gorgeous moments in the 1st movement, a truly lovely slow movement, and a 3rd mvt that doesn’t really work. Did it once in California - not racing to do it again.

January 26, 2020, 7:00 PM · I think that it's really a testament to Rosand's overall musicianship that he was able to learn, perform, and record such varied music. He could take a lesser-known piece and testify to its musical content in ways that lesser violinists couldn't.
January 27, 2020, 1:40 PM · I cannot comment on all the pieces you listed, but for the Bruch concertos, a piece that is challenging to play does not automatically qualify it as great music for the general public.

If one looks at enough scores of virtuosic music, one can pick out many sequences that are used like clichés in the music of many "great" composers.

(Okay, let's drop a demisemiquaver 3 octave scale run up to the edge of the fingerboard. And lets do it all on the A... no… the D string. Hmmm.. What should I follow it with? How about a descending chromatic scale staccato followed by a bunch of double stops or triads that jump all over the place?)

The music doesn't really go anywhere and begins to sound monotonous. But I can appreciate that one needs the skills of an Ehnes or a Hahn to execute the piece.

January 27, 2020, 3:01 PM · I discovered the Schumann concerto through the much edited version by Georg Kulenlampf. Before taking refuge in Switzerland, he was the Third Reich's favorite "aryan" violinist, and they just managed to release the recording before Menuhin recorded the un-edited version.

Kulenkampf was a very fine violinist and his are my favorite recordings of the Brahms sonatas (with Solti on piano)

Joachim judged Schumman's concerto unworthy of performance. It is stuck in the lower/medium registers (perhaps it would make a nice viola concerto?..) and the passage-work is as banal that of Beethoven's initial draft before Clementz (?) suggested improvements. The edited version of the Schumann sounds much more convincing, and there are some helpful cuts in certain over-repetitive tuttis.

I discovered Bruch's D minor concerto on the flipside of a late Menuhin LP. Yehudi give it his full rhapsodic treatment, which I find suits the piece.

January 27, 2020, 3:21 PM · I think Joachim and Kulenkampff missed the point in the same way Rimsky-Korsakov missed the point in some of his butchering of editions. They couldn't see the works in front of them for what they were. To me, the Kulenkampff edition is bizarre and fussy - The richness and solidity of the lower registers is replaced with something that has a whole different kind of emotion and sounds frilly transposed an octave up. The whole thing sounds disjointed. There is all this semi-random jumping between registers, which instead of bringing out different voices or characters, just breaks up the melodic line. To me, Szeryng makes the ultimate case for the Schumann being right there with the Brahms.
January 27, 2020, 4:05 PM · It makes sense that a professional, traveling soloist would be hesitant to add less famous works to their permanent repertoire. It takes hundreds of hours to learn and memorize a concerto, so it is not economically efficient to learn a work unless it will be performed a multiple number of times.
To change genres somewhat. The situation is different for community and semi-pro orchestras. With a smaller payroll, and ticket prices, they are in a position to program less-famous composers, premiers of new composers. and lesser works of the major composers, as long as the orchestra parts are affordable and available. A high-level community orchestra in my state has won awards for its programming, and attracts many skilled musicians.
Edited: January 28, 2020, 2:38 PM · I'm about 99% sure I play in the orchestra Joel is referring to.

Even then, marketing considerations are a lot more important than we'd like. In 2018-19, we sold out our first concert of the season, which included a Beethoven piano concerto and symphony, more than two days in advance. Our very next concert was all modern Latin American composers, and half of the audience left at intermission after hearing two atonal pieces (including a Ginastera piano concerto, so not just short curtain raisers). After that, attendance took a full year to recover to our usual levels. People stayed away as we only played one piece by a dead European in the entire rest of the season, then flooded back in for Tchaikovsky and Brahms in the new season.

January 28, 2020, 12:26 AM · @Andrew H.--- 100% yes on that. thanks for the follow-up, jq
January 28, 2020, 10:28 PM · Andrew, great music is great, and lesser is lesser. Unfortunately not much great music has been written in the last 75 years relative to the three hundred before that. I don’t blame your audience for staying away if your concerts were too heavily peppered with lesser works. Sounds like you’ve righted the ship, though, so congrats.
Edited: January 29, 2020, 1:16 AM · Actually, last season's programming was my personal favorite of any season I've played -- and none of my five favorite symphonies, except possibly Shostakovich 5, are by composers considered to be among the "greatest". I am of the opinion that many excellent composers are neglected for geopolitical reasons -- it's noteworthy that virtually all of the "great" composers happen to be from Europe's "Great Powers" at the turn of the 20th century when the canon was becoming a thing.

Our audience seems to be fairly open-minded as long as the music is tonal; the reason we went all-in on lesser-known composers was a survey of our season subscribers a while ago, which showed that their favorite of the pieces we played in 2015-16 was Carl Nielsen's 4th Symphony. (The other symphonies we played that season were Tchaikovsky 6, Sibelius 4, and Schubert 9. The season also included the Sibelius violin concerto and Mozart clarinet concerto.)


* For the record, my five favorite symphonies are: Borodin 2, Shostakovich 5, Nielsen 4, Atterberg 2, and Kalinnikov 1.

January 28, 2020, 10:50 PM · What I notice about the classical music audience, at least in my area, is that it is split between people who just want to hear the old warhorses and people who want to hear much more diverse programming. Because it takes time for an ensemble to develop a reputation, you cannot become popular with one group without first spending two or three years alienating the other group, and the money isn't there to struggle to attract an audience for two or three years. Right now, the conservative listeners are the bird in the hand. But they are also much older, and their numbers are gradually diminishing. This, I think is the cause of the crisis that so much ink has been spilled over.
January 31, 2020, 2:36 PM · I disagree with "only the Canon is worthy of performance", as-and as I hinted at before-it usually ends up in not even many of these "Canonical" works being performed that often.

I suggest exploring the violin repertoire with an open mind.

"Only the best" is hardly a quality towards expanding one's musical horizons. A music criticism book or magazine doesn't really know better than your own taste and musical curiosity. I hate when "experts" tell me what I should or shouldn't listen to. A musician/music lover should form his own criteria, in my opinion.

Also disagree with all the "Schumann hate" that even some modern performers unwittingly take part of. His story is very interesting. Even during his time this bias was most evident. In my opinion, many more "sane" composers of his time were not as inspired as he was. Very quirky, but definitely passionate works, even during his latet years (his "crazy" period.)

The posthumous Sonata (with the FAE movements of his own and the later composed two movements) will forever be a favorite of mine. That second movement is pretty excellent for a "bad" composer with mental health issues. The peculiar 4th movement is quite amazing and heartwrenching with its pathos and passion.

In short, I agree Maestro Joachim totally misunderstood his dear friend Schumamn, and so did many of his contemporaries-and to this day, many still do not value his output as they should, sadly.

Not many follow Ms. Hahn's approach of throwing in an old, "forgotten" work to modern audiences' enjoyment, I am afraid. The Spohr/Vieuxtemps performances were quite the welcome surprise.

January 31, 2020, 3:04 PM · The top soloists have more leeway to perform "forgotten" works because simply having their name on the program will draw audience members. The same can be said for top orchestras. I know a performance of the NY Phil doing Berio's Sinfonia will be top notch even if I'm not a fan of the piece, but I'm not sure I could say the same of a community orchestra, no matter the level of playing. Therefore, I am expecting more conservative programming from the latter. We could talk all day about how things should be different, but that is how humans work.

Why is this? If I'm listening to an amateur orchestra play a Dvorak symphony, it will still sound pretty good, and I'll likely enjoy the performance, even if it lacks the nuances and near-impeccable technique of a professional performance. I am already sold on the Dvorak symphony, and the orchestra is just giving me what I love. With lesser-known works, the orchestra has the added responsibility of selling/advocating for the work in question. Some amateur musicians may not even like this particular work, and since they're not being employed to play, they have no incentive to invest any type of energy into it, inevitably leading to a half-baked performance. I have friends who love playing Brahms and Schumann but cannot stand Debussy or Stravinsky. They are great at their instruments but could never be professionals because they would hate being forced to play music they dislike for so much of their professional life. When you couple this attitude with a large base of audience members who likely have to be sold on the work in question, it makes sense why amateur orchestras rarely program pieces outside of the classical canon.

January 31, 2020, 10:23 PM · Don't forget the fact that community orchestra members tend to have less time to practice, and if you do familiar warhorses, you increase the odds that at least some of the players will have done it before, and certainly that everyone will have heard it before and will therefore be less likely to screw up entrances, and adapt to errors, because they know how it's supposed to go.
Edited: January 31, 2020, 11:18 PM · In my area we seem to have a bit of a sorting of top-tier community orchestra musicians by repertoire preference. There are three high-level community orchestras in the area. Two of them play almost entirely old warhorses, and their membership overlaps by as much as 50%. The third is the one I play in, which programs as adventurously as the audience allows it to get away with, featuring at least some new or obscure music in almost every concert. Only about 10% of our musicians play in one of the other two high-level orchestras.

My orchestra has had a reputation for performing a lot of lesser known music for longer than I have been alive. As Joel implied, we attract musicians from a fairly large area (some from more than 50 miles away) because of that reputation as the orchestra for semi-pro and amateur musicians who like to champion lesser known music. What I was pointing out in my earlier post was that we probably took it a bit too far last season and lost listeners by having no familiar composers at all in most of our concerts, and especially by starting a concert with 40 minutes of atonal music. That's a bit much even for a relatively open-minded audience.

February 1, 2020, 2:51 PM · Pinchas Zuckerman performed or recorded a number of works that others don't play. I heard his recording of a Nardini concerto, and a performance of Elgar's Six Easy Pieces.
Some works that were fairly obscure in my teenage years have since come into some prominence, e.g., the Glazunov. Even the Max Bruch No 1 wasn't as popular as it is now.
The Schumann CELLO concerto has its points, too - I liked having the recording of it on when I was a student.
I did perform the York Bowen C-minor Viola Sonata as a serious proposition in my last year as a science undergraduate (3 weeks later it was the Brahms A-major Violin Sonata).
Edited: February 5, 2020, 1:56 PM · There is a quote somewhere of Brahms liking Joachim's playing of his concerto, since he virtually wrote the violin part!

I have a Schott edition of Beethoven's concerto with many multiple staves showing the composer's original solo part, suggestions from Franz Clement, and Beethoven's final choices.

So a composer's first draft is not always his last word.

It is sad that Joachim did not see the value of Schumann's beautiful concerto, to apply his immense talent to the solo part. Kulenkampf's recording uses editing by Hindemith, which I still prefer, despite really enjoying the original played by Menuhin, and by Szeryng.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha YVN Model 3
Yamaha YVN Model 3

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Tomplay
Tomplay

Aria International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe