Concertos vs concert pieces
I'm curious about the merits of working through the standard concerti vs. preparing shorter concert works.
My daughter is 11 and should wrap up her work on the Mozart No. 4 in the next few months. In our part of the world, the musical calendar is dominated by a large youth music festival in which the typical entry is two contrasting shorter pieces and a concerto movement. My growing sense is that she would be better served by using her time to work through a logical concerto sequence and unaccompanied Bach in lieu of spending so much time on the smaller works. (Mind you, most are lovely works themselves. I'm thinking in a utilitarian sense here.)
Much has been written here and elsewhere about the concerto sequence. Rather, my question is about the relative merits (and opportunity costs) of putting the student's energies into larger works, along with unaccompanied Bach vs. short show pieces. She had the chance to solo with orchestra last year, had an enjoyable experience and is itching for more opportunities.
It's not an either-or, but rather a both-and. You need to do both. At 11 that that may be a little tricky, but by 12 my son was definitely doing it. At that age he had a concerto movement, some sort of other piece, and at least one movement of Bach. Now as a freshman, he usually has 2 concerto movements, a Paganini caprice, a short piece, and 1-2 movements of Bach. It varies a bit depending on what is on his schedule, but in general it always ~5 pieces/mvmts at any given time. Some of the pieces he has done the past few years have included Zigeunerweisen, Intro and Rondo Capriccioso, La Campanella, Introduction and Tarantella, Navarra, Tzigane, and a bunch of Kreisler pieces. They are great to learn to use as encores, recital pieces, and to build skills that you might not encounter in your concerto repertoire, like specialized bowstrokes.
Susan is correct. A student who does a moderate amount of practice should be able to handle a concerto, a short work, and solo Bach, on top of two etudes and other technical excises.
Lydia and Susan thank you for your perspectives. What you describe is what we do now, more or less. In the past year, she's had to nudge the planning in one direction or another depending on audition requirements for summer programs.
Our string education system seems to be designed for the 1 % who will go on to do contests, audition for 1st tier conservatories and become professional players. Nothing wrong with that, but, most of us would be better off learning the shorter violin-piano pieces that are within our technical limits and might actually perform someday.
Joel has a good point also
Short pieces seem to be used pedagogically by many teachers, before the major concertos are started. ABRSM's repertoire lists are much heavier on short pieces and sonata works than what is typical in the US, I've noticed.
So sort of like a concert étude
To choose what pieces to learn, first answer this question: what is your ultimate aim for your daughter?
After Wieniawski 2 and before Mendelssohn, my teacher had me play a Beethoven Romance, Debussy's La Plus Que Lente, and two of Brahms' Hungarian Dances. It's good to mix it up, and there are certainly short pieces from which one can learn a lot.
Many major competitions also require short works, and short works are typically the staple of local competitions. For serious students, there's no serious choice between short works and concertos. It has to be both.
Consider is your daughter is ready for performing on big stages, I'd say. Maybe try Scherzo Tarantelle or Introduction and Tarantella as beginner show pieces...?