Repertoire Advice

Edited: June 18, 2020, 6:07 PM · Hello!

I am an early-intermediate violinist looking for repertoire advice. I recently got Seitz's third concerto to performance level, and am now working on Portnoff's concerto in A minor. What are some other pieces that are suitable for me?

I know that there are a lot of variables here, so please let me know if there is any information I should add.

Please do not recommend any concertos written by Seitz; I have done many of them, and now want something else.

Thank you!

Replies (26)

Edited: June 18, 2020, 6:09 PM · Never heard of Portnoff! Seitz 3 is harder than some of the other Seitz concertos, in case people are thinking of the ones in Suzuki book 4.

Vivaldi g minor, Viotti 23, Accolay, Bach a minor all come to mind. But the best source of ideas is your teacher.

June 18, 2020, 6:14 PM · I do not currently have a teacher, so that is why I am asking here. Thank you for the suggestions though! I will take a look at them.

I worked on the Accolay for a while in the past and can play the whole piece; it is somewhat sloppy. I will let it rest for now and work on it again when I am more advanced since I do not think I am technically or musically proficient to refine it.

June 18, 2020, 6:16 PM · If Accolay was slightly beyond you then I strongly recommend Vivaldi g minor. It is the easiest of my suggestions but it is harder than the a minor.
Edited: June 18, 2020, 7:07 PM · Thank you! I will try the Vivaldi. I have not played much baroque violin music though.

Also, does anybody know what time-zone this site is set to and how to change it?

June 18, 2020, 7:40 PM · The site doesn't have a configurable time zone. It seems to depend on the status of daylight savings and I think currently it's Central Time.

I would agree with Vivaldi G minor, and it's worth looking more generally at Suzuki books 4 and 5. If you haven't done the Bohm Moto Perpetuo, it's a good spiccato exercise to get under your belt.

The second volume of Barbara Barber's "Solos for Young Violinists" should be just about right.

June 18, 2020, 7:51 PM · Do you work on any studies? If not, the ones by Kayser might be about the right level for you.

I agree with Lydia that Book 2 of "Solos for Young Violinists" is a good choice. If you are not familiar with that series, it is a very good one that is quite popular in the US. The Accolay is the last piece in Book 3, and some of the other pieces in Book 3 are quite challenging as well -- in some ways a few of them are harder than the Accolay in my opinion. Your current piece, Seitz No. 3, is at the end of Barbara Barber's Book 2. But the other pieces in Book 2 are quite worthy.

If you are in a situation where you have to rely on music that you can download for free on the internet, then one thing you can do is look up the table of contents for the Barbara Barber books online, and then go to IMSLP to find the music there. It won't ALL be there because some of it is "modern classical" music that is still protected by copyright, but many of the pieces should be available in the public domain, I would think.

Finally, I can't blame you for being tired of Seitz.

June 19, 2020, 2:01 AM · I have no experience with Seitz concertos, I skipped around a lot in repertoire. For intermediate pieces in general I would recommend Mozart violin concerto no 3 in G major. Not too difficult and quite sight readable. Hard to phrase with Mozart, when I learned the fifth concerto in A major(and any piece) I listened to a lot of recordings. It seems to be on another level to these student concertos in the eyes of many though.
June 19, 2020, 2:27 AM · Mozart concertos are not intermediate pieces and the OP is nowhere near ready for any of them, including the G major (#3).
Edited: June 19, 2020, 2:43 AM · Welp, there you go. I have no experience with Seitz so I don’t know much about his level. I read a little and it seems to be in Suzuki books so that says a lot about it.

Edit:early Suzuki

June 19, 2020, 2:50 AM · When I began violin I cam from a piano background (cause I’m Asian get it?) so it allowed for easier reading and a better ear right off the bat. So I’m not familiar with many intermediate level pieces (tldr don’t crucify me).
June 19, 2020, 4:59 AM · By the way Mary Ellen: Portnoff wrote a nice set of student concertos! I think Portnoff Op.14 was my first concerto (as a young child). It is easy but contains many typical violinistic idioms, at least applied to me it was a great teaching tool.
Edited: June 19, 2020, 5:17 AM · Thank you for the suggestions everyone!

Paul Deck - I do Wolfhart, Kayser, and recently started Mazas and Schradieck. I do not know if doing four sets of études is practical, but that is what my private teacher had given me. Should I stop doing some of them?

Edited: June 19, 2020, 6:59 AM · Samwit, studies do two things -- they advance your technique (by doing ones that are just slightly on the hard side), and they groove the technique you already have. What I'm learning this summer by participation in an online course (Nathan Cole's "Violympics") is that you can get a lot out of a study that seems "easy" by diving into it very deeply -- making sure you are getting intonation exactly right, string changes and shifts super smooth -- by focusing on hand positions, finger preparation, finger pressure, and so on. So my suggestion is pick just a couple of studies at a time, perhaps with different objectives, and really focus on using them to groove and advance your technique. Sounds like you are doing the right things basically, at least as far as you can without a teacher. You might start to investigate double stops. There are double-stops in Seitz and Accolay but they are usually the easier kind with open strings. "Developing Double Stops" or "Melodious Double Stops" are common books for that in the US.

PS I agree with Mary Ellen that the Mozart concertos are much too hard for you right now. (But they are great to listen to for inspiration and education!) There are a *lot* of pieces you would really need to do in-between where you are now and Mozart. Even if you are not following the Suzuki books, knowing what is in them and how they are "ranked" is very useful. But even that doesn't tell the whole story. Book 9 is Mozart 4. But if you try to go directly from Book 8 to Book 9 without a lot of stuff in-between you will probably fail. I think just about everyone considers that to be a very big jump.

June 19, 2020, 7:11 AM · Thank you for your advice! I have some questions though. You suggest that I pick "just a couple studies at a time, perhaps with different objectives." I assume that by "studies," you mean a single étude and not an entire set of études, although I could be wrong. Should all the études that I pick be by the same composer? Also, is it necessary to do a certain composer's études from a set in order, or should I skip around depending on what technique I need to work on?

I used to do double stop studies, but my teacher told me to give them a break because she thought that I already had enough studies.

June 19, 2020, 7:37 AM · Yes a study is one etude. Some teachers just work you through each book, one study at a time. There's nothing really wrong with that, but it can become kind of a routine where you're just playing through them and not really getting as much out of them as you could. That said, without the advice of a teacher on a weekly basis, how will you choose? If you want just one suggestion, maybe one Schradieck and one Kayser (or Mazas). Schradieck is very technical and Kayser/Mazas are more musical.
June 19, 2020, 9:38 AM · Yes, I think I will do one Schradieck and one Mazas at a time.

I think it would be better if I get a private teacher. Does anybody know any private teachers? I live in Rockville, Maryland.

June 19, 2020, 12:51 PM · Oh my goodness there are sure to be a great number of private teachers in Rockville, Maryland (I grew up in Gaithersburg). That is not to say that they will all be equally qualified, available, or affordable.

Your school orchestra director, the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras, the National Symphony, and the Baltimore Symphony may all have information about teachers. Lydia might also know.

My last two years of high school (Seneca Valley), I took lessons from the violin professor at Catholic University...that was a very, very, very long time ago.

Edited: June 19, 2020, 3:55 PM · Lydia Leong - I looked at the Bohm Moto Perpetuo that you recommended. I do not understand how one does spiccato so fast. Do I have to use sautillé or something?
Also, which Moto Perpetuo where you referring too? There seems to be multiple by Bohm, all of which use spiccato.
Edited: June 19, 2020, 4:35 PM · Yes its sautille. Lots of people just say spiccato to cover a whole spectrum of off-the-string bowings.

Violin teacher in the general vicinity of Rockville -- I know two good ones, Lisa Cridge in Arlington and June Huang in Fairfax. If NoVa is too far for you, they will know everyone in that area and they can make you a good referral. Also you are close to Potter's violin shop, where undoubtedly the staff can direct you to a lot of local teachers.

The Bohm (known to violin students as "The Bomb") is, I believe, No.6 from the "Little Suite." Another option is "Elves Dance" by Jenkinson, which is in Book 1 of Barbara Barber.

June 19, 2020, 4:41 PM · Paul Deck - Thank you!

I have just one last question. How does one know whether to use normal spiccato or sautillé?

June 19, 2020, 7:03 PM · Well I don't know how you do "normal spiccato" that fast! Spiccato can very tremendously depending on how much time the bow spends in contact with the string. It can be very "vertical" or biting, or it can be more "horizontal" or "brushy".
June 19, 2020, 9:35 PM · Samwit, feel free to contact me through the link in my profile. (Your mom might have my email address from the MP YCMF of the previous summer, too.) I can recommend teachers in Rockville. (Paul, I would consider Rockville is unpleasantly far from Arlington in ordinary traffic; it can easily take an hour to get between them. Fairfax from Rockville can be pretty awful too.)

A good rule of thumb is to divide your practice time into thirds. One third should be scales and exercises (which would be Schradieck, Sevcik, Simon Fischer's Basics, Flesch Urstudien, etc.). One third should be etudes; if you practice at least an hour a day, it would be common for your teacher to assign two etudes. The remaining third would be solo repertoire. Orchestra and chamber music is practice time that goes on top of that basic division and doesn't "count" towards your total practice time.

It's not uncommon to take the two etudes from two different books, in order to spread the skills being taught.

For the Bohm, I'm talking about the Moto Perpetuo from the Little Suite, which you can find at the end of Suzuki book 4, or on IMSLP. It goes at a tempo which is suitable for spiccato.

The core difference between spiccato and sautille is that in sautille only the stick bounces; basically, a sautille is used in music that goes so fast that the bow bounces of its own accord. Consequently, the spiccato is the stroke that is normally taught first. With all off-the-string strokes, you are basically deciding what you want the articulation to sound like and controlling the bounce accordingly, modified by what's viable at a given tempo.

Edited: June 21, 2020, 3:59 PM · Hello,

Can anybody here also give me repertoire advice for my brother? He just started playing this year. He can play the G and A two-octave major scale, and one-octave C and D major scale, and all forms of the E minor scale, one octave. We tried to play Portnoff's E minor concertino, but that was a little to difficult for him. I have given him Rieding's B minor Concertino. Are there any other pieces that are suitable?

Thank you!

June 21, 2020, 5:41 PM · The Suzuki books are a good starting place. Another basic method book, like Mark O'Connor's if he's interested in fiddling, would also work.
Edited: June 21, 2020, 8:17 PM · Spiccato is Italian. Sautille is French. I have never made a distinction between the two words. There is a wide range of speeds and sounds without clear distinctions; from a high, slow, forced bounce, the brush-stroke, and the very fast, light bounce controlled by the fingers.
June 22, 2020, 6:48 AM · My own mental distinction between spiccato and sautille, which I'll admit freely is arbitrary, is that spiccato is where you control every stroke individually. Sautille is more of a resonance phenomenon where you control the overall speed and brushiness of the sound but not each stroke individually.


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