Do you have an impromtu "show off" piece?

August 1, 2020, 12:17 PM · When someone asks "can you play something on the violin?", what do you play? Do you have a regular "go to" piece that can be played on the spur of the moment, is short, shows off some skill, sounds musical and is impressive to them?

I get asked this a lot, whether it's in my home and we have company, a new student starts lessons, or I'm within proximity of a playable violin somewhere else.

I'll play something, but I don't have a regular "go to" piece. Just wondering if anyone else has one.

Replies (21)

August 1, 2020, 12:22 PM · For me it's Sarasate's Romanza Andaluza, Czaradas or Meditation because I love those pieces and they're not too hard to pull out.
August 1, 2020, 1:02 PM · For me it's the Thais Meditation. For a show-off piece, I used to play the beginning of Zigeunerweisen, but I don't have that in my memory any longer.
August 1, 2020, 1:25 PM · Czardas!
August 1, 2020, 1:43 PM · Drdla Souvenir
August 1, 2020, 1:50 PM · Scale or arpeggios of zig
August 1, 2020, 2:42 PM · Kreisler pieces for violin are pretty good to show off(Liebeslied, Prealudium and Allegro, Tambourin Chinois). In my opinion the second part of Kreisler P&A is very good.
August 1, 2020, 3:31 PM · Fiocco Allegro. Seriously, if you can play that cleanly with good tone and good tempo, people are quite impressed.
August 1, 2020, 4:01 PM · Back in the day when I performed in church and with the local community orchestra my "Show Piece" was "Vocalize." Considering that my "audience" wasn't musically sophisticated - it wowed them.
August 1, 2020, 4:11 PM · For violin it has to be Czardas, everyone knows it and it’s very easy to put your own spin on it. Such a good fun piece to play.

I can also play czardas on viola, but it doesn’t suit quite as well, so my go to (currently) is Brahms’ Hungarian dance no. 1 or 3. Though many people like to hear the Bach cello suites.

August 1, 2020, 6:10 PM · My problem with czardas as many people have suggested, is that people love double stops. As a 15 year old playing double stops will blow the mind out of people, especially if they are fast.
Edited: August 1, 2020, 7:52 PM · Mine was/is Monte's Czardas too. First time I performed it in public was in high school as a wandering violinist at an evening dinner we gave for our class's parents (probably senior class) - class mates did all the food prep, serving and entertainment in the high school cafeteria. I remember that to avoid embarrassment I played the "artifical" (i.e., fingered) harmonics as solid notes way up high instead. I was surprised to find in my 80s that I still remember the whole thing. It is one of the very few things I have ever memorized on purpose (or at all).
August 2, 2020, 7:59 AM · That's funny about the false harmonics, Andrew! I should probably memorize Czardas, I've played it enough so I should just buckle down and do it. That could be my new pandemic goal- memorize Czardas so it could be my new impromptu "go to" piece.
August 2, 2020, 9:19 AM · I have 4:

1.) Presto - Bach S&P in G Minor
2.) Chanson De Matin - Elgar
3.) Allegro - Fiocco
4.) Sarabande in G Minor - Bohm

I can play any of the pieces above for an impromptu performance.

I've incorporated Presto in my warm-up practice routine, so I've really mastered it.

Chanson De Matin - I just love playing this piece and play it all the time at home, so I am confident to play it in an impromptu performance for my family and even in my church ministry.

Allegro by Fiocco, and Sarabande by Bohm are my all-time childhood favorite pieces that I still play even to this day.

I agree with Jean, Fiocco can be impressive if played cleanly with good tone and tempo. If it's good enough for Perlman and Grumiaux to record on their encore album, it's good enough for me to play in an impromptu setting (lol). Sarabande can be pretty impressive too for the same reason .. lol.

August 2, 2020, 6:33 PM · Mendelssohn, On Wings of Song, arr. Joseph Achron for Violin & Piano

Not a flashy, fast work, however.

Like Rach's Vocalise over Meditation (Thais)

Also love the romantic arrangement of "Air on the G string", actually played sul G.

I actually have never learned Czardas (seriously...) Nothing wrong with it, however.

August 2, 2020, 10:07 PM · A long time ago, in the student days, if I was at a party with other violinists, I would ask to turn out all the lights, then put a lighted incense stick in my right hand, then play the Novacek Perpetual Motion. That little point of light would make hypnotic patterns in the air, including figure 8's.
Then years later, as an evening around -the- camp-fire fiddler at Civil War Reenactments, after a few hours of the expected fiddle tunes, I would do the Andante from the Bach unaccompanied Sonata #2, on my cheap outside- fiddle with the steel strings. Things would get quiet, and that would be the last thing I played that night.
August 3, 2020, 3:49 AM · Czardas and the Albeniz/Dushkin Tango. Not sure how well the latter comes over unaccompanied - there are some complex harmonic changes.
Or a few Scottish dance tunes, depending on the audience/context.
I always aspired to the E major Praeludium (Bach) but I never quite 'nailed' it.
Edited: August 3, 2020, 4:58 AM · Drdla's Ivresse. I had to look up the translation but to save you the trouble it's the "state of a drunken person; intoxication produced by alcohol and causing disturbances in nerve adaptation and motor coordination". It's a lovely piece, not a send-up, best played "before" rather than "during".
August 3, 2020, 8:03 PM · Bach Chaconne, cuz it's the piece that I return to most (in practice) since I learned it in ~2013.
August 4, 2020, 4:31 AM · Monti's Czardas is always impressive and skilful, but I may also present the Hungarian Gypsy fiddle pieces I transcribed such as, The Canary; Palotas by Erkel, or Hora of the Kings. Not so skilful perhaps are the Celtic dance Tunes, but they always make people tap their toes.
August 4, 2020, 5:41 AM · hi Gene, great, but if people unexpectedly typically in an informal setting ask you "could you play something, please?" are you going to play the Chaconne??
August 4, 2020, 7:17 AM · I have to say I usually decline to play; I don't think anyone has ever resented that.

If I do play I usually play something for solo violin because a pianist* is rarely available at these occasions and sheet music is not something I carry around normally. And lacking a pianist many pieces sound a little thin and are often seriously incomplete.

From there it would depend on context. Mostly these request come on informal occasions, so Bach, especially the Chaconne is clearly inappropriate (the whole S&Ps are inappopriate IMHO with the exception of one or two of the shorter dance movements like the gavotte in E-Major) and will likely come across as snobbish. I'lll play some movements from Telemann's fantasias or even simply one of the best half dozen of Mazas' etudes. I believe that in such a context people want to hear some nice melodies and a well sounding instrument, they are not after getting their minds blown by my virtuosity (which has its limits anyhow).

* If there is a pianist and there is a day or two notice I think some of the simpler Kreisler pieces would serve admirably: "Schön Rosmarin" or the Andantino (style of Martini; if you play Kreisler's fingerings it is not even all that easy) or "Liebesleid" or the Rondino (style of Beethoven). But Kreisler was a good composer and the piano is essential.


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