Difficulty level of orchestral accompaniment

Edited: July 24, 2020, 2:06 PM · How would the following concerto movements rank in difficulty in terms of the orchestral accompaniment?

Mozart 5- mvt 1
Mozart 4- mvt 1
Lalo SE- mvt 1
Bruch- mvt 1
Bruch- mvt 3
SS 3- mvt 1
SS I&RC
Zigeunerweisen
Wieniawski 2- mvt 1
Wieniawski 2- mvt 3
Mendelssohn- mvt 1
Mendelssohn- mvt 3
Glauzanov
Scene de Ballet


Which pieces/movements, either from this list or not, have orchestral accompaniment parts on the easier side? I am asking because I want to choose my piece for my school's concerto competition, but I don't want orchestral accompaniment difficulty to count against me. Thanks!

Replies (27)

July 24, 2020, 2:12 PM · The Zig is the easiest. You can always tell "violinist-composer" tripe because the accompaniment is total rubbish. Everything by Kreisler, for example.
July 24, 2020, 2:57 PM · Does every piece of music have no value if it's not a Bach/Beethoven/Wagner masterwork to you people? This is why classical music is declining, with less people that can actually remember pieces and don't just listen for relaxation or to feel classy.
July 24, 2020, 3:14 PM · This snobbish attitude is repulsive to the mainstream.
July 24, 2020, 3:19 PM · Xuanyuan Liu - What are you talking about? I see no "snobbish attitude" here.
July 24, 2020, 3:48 PM · “ because the accompaniment is total rubbish. Everything by Kreisler, for example.”
July 24, 2020, 3:49 PM · Paul's comment about "violinist composer tripe."

I wouldn't use the word "tripe" myself, but it's true that music by virtuoso composers featuring their own instrument with orchestra is sometimes mainly a vehicle for the composer's own virtuosity, with uninteresting accompaniment.

July 24, 2020, 3:52 PM · A lot of Kreisler works aren’t virtuosic... Most virtuoso violinists are performers first composer second...
July 24, 2020, 3:55 PM · Could of called it simple, or uninteresting.
Edited: July 24, 2020, 4:04 PM · Nicole, you can take a quick look at the orchestra scores on IMSLP.org and judge for yourself.

First violin parts will likely be the most challenging, and you can judge those yourself. If this is your school's orchestra, you should be able to gauge how well your school mates can play those parts. Be wary of what might appear as simplicity in Mozart parts because technical style and tuning the harmony in his music is critical to audience appreciation (especially judges).

Personally I have only played orchestral violin 1 and viola parts to the Lalo, Mozart, and Mendelssohn concerts. It has been a while but I think found the Mozart orchestra parts comparable to the solo parts themselves, the others less so - at least for me.

July 24, 2020, 4:10 PM · Sorry for being so triggered tho, Kreisler’s Beethoven sonata recordings are quite nice.
July 24, 2020, 4:48 PM · Paul, I hereby sentence you to DEATH!
July 24, 2020, 4:56 PM · LOL there is clearly a simple case of misunderstanding here.
July 24, 2020, 5:07 PM · Lol
July 24, 2020, 5:08 PM · To be fair, I read his comment as I woke up.
July 24, 2020, 5:25 PM · There's a filthy 1st violin part in the Bruch.
On one occasion, we were doing it with Manoug Parikian as the soloist.
Our leader made us work at it as Parikian was his old leader in the Philharmonia.
Edited: July 24, 2020, 7:32 PM · I'm surprised to see Kreisler listed in this way, as he himself was a very good pianist. Maybe he didn't anticipate having much time for rehearsal (how long DO you spend rehearsing encores?), so decided to keep the accompaniment simple?
Edited: July 24, 2020, 7:36 PM · Ths isn't going to help, but I could give you an example where the orchestral 1st violin part is more DIFFICULT technically than the solo viola part!
I won't say what it is at this stage, but I think most v.com folk who guess will score a hole in one (I don't mean Vaughan Williams's little prawns from Florence - I've never heard the whole piece, let alone played in it)!
July 24, 2020, 8:32 PM · Mozart will be within many students' reach, but not necessarily in their grasp. It is very transparent.

Mendelssohn, also. You can get away with a 2nd-rate accompaniment for that, but doing better than that will be quite hard.

Bruch, on the other hand, is a very considerate orchestrator. The 1st movement of the G minor can be a little tricky if the conductor doesn't have complete control of things, but the actual orchestra part isn't too bad. And the 3rd movement comes to life surprisingly well, with fewer places for the conductor to screw up. Wieniawski is probably in that bucket, also, although I've only played that through a few times back in youth orchestra so I couldn't quote any specifics. I do recall that the orchestra had no real trouble with it, though.

July 24, 2020, 9:15 PM · The orchestra part for Lalo S. Esp. is very involved, for full orchestra. It is true to its title; a symphony with a big solo violin part. Most school and youth orchestras will have have trouble filling the Oboe, Bassoon, and French Horn sections with competent players.
For the Kreisler pieces; are they not originally written for violin and piano, with the orchestrations done later, by someone else? In which case we should not blame Kreisler for the arrangements. Most concertos are like a technical vacation for the orchestra, until you get to some 20th century works.
July 24, 2020, 10:10 PM · I remember Glazunov being tricky mostly because of the flexibility needed to coordinate with the soloist.
Edited: July 24, 2020, 11:02 PM · Had I said "simple" or "uninteresting" instead of "tripe" you'd have bloviated all the same. Still you really wonder how a guy like Pablo Sarasate can write an absolutely stunningly original and intellectually challenging work like the Zig but then he can't write an orchestration to save his everlasting soul. Just saying.

With the Zig you do have to follow the conductor carefully and you need a few rehearsals with the soloist to learn just how tastelessly they will render the many parts of the piece that call for such treatment.

Edited: July 24, 2020, 11:35 PM · There is a really hard part for the first violins at the end of the first movement of the Bruch. I soloed with my youth orchestra on that piece; unfortunately, I was also one of only two or three members of the first violin section who was capable of playing that nasty little tutti passage. It did not go well.

Now that I think about it, the seconds might have it too. I don't remember.

July 25, 2020, 12:12 AM · The problem with Mozart is that the parts aren't difficult but they have to be played precisely and rhythmically clean and in tune or you, as the soloist, will sound out of tune and out of time.

The 3rd movement of the Mendelssohn has a reasonably playable orchestral accompaniment that can be put together on a few rehearsals with a not-great orchestra. I performed it with my public-school orchestra as a kid and it was okayish.

Glazunov will be doable by a decent community orchestra (where the winds/brass will usually be music educators who are pretty competent on their instruments) but I wouldn't want to make the attempt with a high school. It's a single-movement work that runs around 20 minutes, which is too long for good rehearsals.

At the high school level, repertoire should be pre-approved by the conductor, honestly, for whether or not it's viable, technically and financially, for the orchestra.

July 25, 2020, 3:14 PM · From my experience, the ones on this list that are most likely to go well with a lower-level orchestra are Zigeunerweisen and Mendelssohn 3rd movement, though I've seen the latter get out of control.

My son did some of 4 Seasons last year with his school orchestra and that went better than I expected. It's not as challenging, obviously.

July 25, 2020, 5:42 PM · Thanks for your responses! What about Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso? The accompaniment seems pretty simple but nobody has mentioned it in this thread. What are your thoughts on a decent HS orchestra being able to do it?
July 25, 2020, 9:45 PM · My son's never played IRC with orchestra so I don't have firsthand experience, but the accompaniment is really quiet simple as long as you have the required winds available. There are two difficult measures in the strings and maybe 3 in the winds, but very straightforward for the most part.
July 25, 2020, 10:54 PM · If I recall correctly, I&RC is pretty straightforward to accompany.


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