Pieces to bring out

February 20, 2021, 8:10 AM · If you could pick 5 pieces to bring out of "obscurity" which would they be? Thinkinh more concertos/sonatas than big symphonies but either/or will do

Replies (32)

Edited: February 20, 2021, 8:29 AM · 1. Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga: string quartets and (and other chamber music)

2. Fanny Mendelssohn - string quartet (and other chamber music)

3. Carl Nielsen's clarinet concerto

4. Paul Hindemith's first string quartet in C

5. Dvorak String Quartet no 8 in E

February 20, 2021, 8:23 AM · 1) Saint Saens Sonatas and Concertos (only Concerto 3 is played)
2) Schumann Pf and Vln Sonata No.2
3) Sonatas by Andreas Romberg Op.9
4) Beethoven Op.23, Op.30, Op.18 no.3 (despite being Beethoven everyone gravitates to Spring and Kreutzer)
5) Clara Schumann Romances (getting more popular, however underplayed)
Edited: February 20, 2021, 10:51 AM · 1. Paul Müller Zürich, Viola concerto (plus his violin concerto and the one for two violins, harpsichord and strings).
2. Fanny Mendelssohn, piano trio. The quartet is nice but does not look like a finished work, rather like a draft. The trio is a masterpiece equal to her brother's two.
3. Louise Farrenc, the two piano quintets (they are not quite as obscure as they once were; there are several performances on youtube).
4. Tschaikovsky string quartet no. 3. Great music badly neglected, maybe because it is in e-flat minor?
5. Benjamin Godard, 2 sonatas for solo violin. These are fun pieces in the sort of imitation baroque of Grieg's Holberg suite or Respighi's Antiche DAnze ed Arie. Technically kind of easy for solo pieces, most of the double stops playable in first position. Available from IMSLP.
February 21, 2021, 11:44 AM · Vieuxtemps: Concerto No.2 in F sharp Minor
Franck: Piano Quintet in F Minor
Bach: Violin & Harpsichord Sonatas
Vivaldi: too many to choose from but RV424 and 279 are fantastic
Chopin/Ysaye: Ballade in G Minor, arr. for violin
February 21, 2021, 12:39 PM · The top one for me is Wieniawski no 1 I think. I know its more a difficulty thing than anything else, but I prefer it to the second
Edited: February 21, 2021, 2:49 PM · A forgotten composer: Jesus de Monasterio (great name!) the #2 composer/violinist in 19th cent. Spain, #1 being Sarasate.
Uncommon concerto that I have been working on for fun during the shutdown; Castelnuovo-Tedesco #2, "The Prophets". I first found it on the B side of Heifetz's recording of the Walton concerto.
Edited: February 21, 2021, 4:34 PM · It's actually really hard for me to pick five -- it would still be hard if I could pick five chamber works, five concertos, and five orchestral works.

Ask me in a week, and my five will probably be different. But right now, picking just from string concertos and chamber music:

Alfred Hill, Viola Concerto
Amanda Maier, Violin Sonata
Laura Valborg Aulin, String Quartet No. 1
Henry Holden Huss, "Munich" Piano Trio
Ricardo Castro, Cello Concerto

February 21, 2021, 4:10 PM · The violin concertos by Jesus de Monasterio, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Much of Cesar Franck's work seems to be in shadow at present. The Violin Sonata gets played but the chamber music, the Symphony in D minor and the Symphonic Variations, which were popular in the 50s and 60s seem absent from concert programmes this century. Much of his piano and organ music is excellent too.

Sorry Jake, I've gone beyond the five!

February 22, 2021, 3:00 PM · Richard the Franck symphony in d minor, thanks for mentioning that, what an uplifting and terrific work!
February 23, 2021, 1:52 AM · I'm somewhat ashamed of my lack of knowledge of the work of several composers mentioned here. However there are some works by 'major' composers which I think are under-valued by both performer and audiences. Here are some suggestions
Mozart(!) 'Munich' Kyrie in D minor K341 (I have a few other Mozart suggestions too....)
Dvorak Quartet in G Op 106.
Nielsen - various shorter pieces - how about 'Hymnus Amoris'?
Bruckner - String quintet
Robert Simpson - String quartet no 9. An astonishing work - 32 palindromic variations and a fugue on Haydn's palindromic minuet (Symphony No 47).

One could nominate many of Haydn's quartets - most of them deserve to be better known and played more frequently.

Now to remedy some of my ignorance by looking for some of the above suggestions on Youtube. (Fanny Mendelssohn's trio is playing just now - very impressive).

February 23, 2021, 2:23 AM · Re: Nielsen, his posthumously published viola quintet is rarely played, and I like it more than his quartets.
February 23, 2021, 2:27 AM · Also, since people are freely exceeding 5, here are five more.

Hamilton Harty, Violin Concerto
Luise Adolpha Le Beau, Cello Sonata
Walter Rabl, Clarinet Quartet
Niels Gade, String Octet
Julian Carrillo, String Sextet

February 23, 2021, 3:52 AM · Jean, thanks for sharing my enthusiasm! I've often had to defend César Franck against accusations of 'stodginess' - the poor man is simply thoughtful and serious! It's also curious that he is one of a handful of composers for whom we generally use a first name, as though we were distinguishing him from somebody with the same surname, like Daniel Purcell or Michael Haydn. ARE we?

I had a curious incident with the slow movement of the D minor Symphony in a practical musicianship exam some years ago. The examiner played a big slice of the opening of the slow movement for me to comment on, supposing that it was an unknown work. What could I say? It would have been a fraud to say 'It sounds like a piano arrangement of a Franco-Belgian symphonic work of the late nineteenth century,' so I asked him what should I do if I knew the work. He said I should tell him what it was, which I did. He chuckled and said 'Full marks!'

February 23, 2021, 3:45 PM · Three possible reasons for always using the first and last name for César Franck.
1. Franck is a one-syllable word. Adding the first name add some weight.
2. The name César (english: emperor) is impressive, no?
3. To distinguish him from a German 19th century composer named Franck whose first name I can't remember just now.
February 24, 2021, 12:53 AM · Yes, Albrecht. I've found Melchior Franck - renaissance/early baroque. The pronunciation of his surname would be different.
Edited: February 24, 2021, 2:27 AM · Goldmark Concerto (yes, it is "known", "recorded", and "performed", but rarely so. One of my favorite Concerto works.)
Vieuxtemps Concerti #3 (wonderful), #2 (as a concert piece, not a student work), #1 (brilliant). #4 & #5 are also rarely performed, but better known by violinists.
Reger Solo Sonatas & Chaconne
Saint Saens Concerti in addition to the 3rd (which is not played in concert that often either, in any case.)
Spohr Concertos, at least his 8th


Bruch #2 & #3
Viotti Concerti, at least the 22nd
Szymanowski Sonata and other works besides Mythes (not so well known)
Schumann Sonatas in general (FAE is also interesting and beautifully composed by all the composers.)
Dvorak violin and piano works

I am biased... violin, violin, violin. Also the works are not so much unknown, but rather a bit forgotten, and thus relegated to relative obscurity.

Edited: February 24, 2021, 12:25 PM · I agree about Franck, Arriaga, and Bruckner. Also several Dvorak works that I like better than his American ones.
In addition:
Purcell G-minor Sonata (and if you use subharmonics, there are only three fairly fast notes that would need them in order to play the whole lot an octave down on the viola. Otherwise there's Watson Forbes's transcription that puts just these 3 notes up an octave, or my own, unwritten but you can diy, that divides the long descending passage in the 2nd movement into two, putting up the second half an octave, enforcing the two phrase interpretaion of that passage - Also in performance I went into octaves at the slow movement climax; tut tut, but boy was it effective!).
Fauré String Quartet.
If Beethoven Op 12 no 2 is obscure, it shouldn't be, ditto his Piano Sonata Op 10 no 3.
Liszt Faust Symphony.
February 24, 2021, 1:42 PM · Someone apologized for going beyond the five, and I thought of The Five! There's a beautiful E-major impromptu by Balakirev for the violin that is just lovely. And I'm sure there are pieces by Cesar Cui that are never performed because nobody's even ever heard of Cui even though he was the ringleader of The Five.

Another piece that is lovely is Prie Ezerelio (By the Lake) by Balys Dvorionas. There is a recording by Gluzman on YouTube.

February 24, 2021, 4:20 PM · There is a violin sonata by Cui, and a wonderful cycle of short miniatures called Kaleidoscope (the Oriental is reasonably well known).
Edited: February 24, 2021, 4:25 PM · John - you might be interested in the (very short) Purcell Prelude for solo violin, also in G minor.
Edited: February 25, 2021, 3:59 AM · What about Kreisler's three old Viennese dances, are they in obscurity?
I can't decide if they are great or schmalz. I found Liebesleid in a junk shop, so I bought Schoen Rosmarin and Liebesfreud to complete the set.
If you do afternoon gigs in care homes, they might be worth knowing, although they are less easy than they sound (apart from the fact that Menuhin describes Heifetz as tangible and Kreisler as intangible).
February 27, 2021, 1:51 PM · I agree about Kreisler. In fact the "triptych"for me ,is always a challenge when it becomes part of my recital program.I find Kreisler, stylistically, one of the most difficult in the repertoire .
Grace and transparency !
February 27, 2021, 6:32 PM · They are great, not Schmalz, but the modern concert stage is not kind to encore sorts of recitals. This rules out the beautiful, creative, and impressive Kreisler repertoire (including the arrangements and transcriptions) for the most part. A few violinists manage to pull it off, and I wish more would follow in those more daring footsteps.

The long 3-4 sonata solo violin/piano recital is a bit too predictable nowadays, IMHO, even though I will still support modern artists (when recitals finally come back, of course.)

Edited: February 27, 2021, 6:47 PM · I am extremely disappointed in this thread. The OP asks for obscure pieces, and now people are discussing Kreisler pieces that many students learn and that almost all of us have heard many times...
February 27, 2021, 7:06 PM · Greetings,
I agree Andrew. Kreisler hardly needs bringing out. I do recall reading in Auer’s excellent book on the violin (which, for the more thoughtful reader does include at least three bits of advice that justify the time spent on it) saying that Vieuxtemp’s music had a uniquely beneficial quality and that he always gave his students a lot of that composer. In my youth I followed this up, and to this day I recommend the Ballad and Polonaise as a key piece for technical and musical development. There is a truncated version recorded by Huberman as well as a few other artists I suppose.
Edited: February 27, 2021, 8:44 PM · Lipinski is pretty charming, and wrote pretty prolifically, even if it's not particularly deep music.

...if we were looking for flashier stuff.

Usually when I play a piece, it gets pretty embedded in my memory, but I can't for the life of me remember what Vieuxtemps 2 sounds like - I just don't get his music.

February 27, 2021, 8:06 PM · I do not mean to offend, but not even violin students know well many of Kreisler works, and they are not that common in the concert stage. Student recitals? *Ultra* common, especially the pieces everybody does know. But not common modern recital fare.

Vieuxtemps 4 & 5 are also well known, yet rarely perfomed. The other concertos are also worth it, at least 2, 3, and 1.

Of course there are myriads of works that are very rare, of which many have been mentioned above. And though they may deserve to be heard more often, many ex-concert pieces now considered "student works" also deserve more modern attention. I would honestly listen to a supposedly "bad" Vieuxtemps Concerto that is rarely performed, than one of the Arriaga Quartets, even if scholarship deems the latter a genius composer. Vieuxtemps was considered a good composer in his time anyway.

Agree about the Ballad et Polonaise, and even the Fantasia, but doubt we are getting them to the concert stage. I personally love his repertoire, and even listening to his relatively scarce recordings. Worth studying at the very least.

My apologies to all of those who may be offended by my most apparent lack of good taste. I play the violin, and am biased that way. Enjoy what you love in peace.

February 27, 2021, 9:21 PM · The Lekeu violin sonata is gorgeous.
Edited: February 28, 2021, 5:17 AM · Sorry I disappointed you extremely, Andrew, but I did pose it as a question. Define "obscure". Define what's obscure for Jake who is 18(?). What you and I heard a thousand times as kids may not have been heard since then.

Is Charles Ives obscure for you Jake, or are you familiar already with his violin sonatas?

The problem with asking elitists what's obscure for them is, you are inviting them to play a showing-off game.

Edited: February 28, 2021, 5:34 AM · Gordon, I didn't listen to a lot of music of any kind (either classical or popular) as a kid, and I'm not that old. I've done the vast majority of my music listening in the 21st century, so I inhabit the same musical era as Jake. I see those three Kreisler pieces being played by violin students all over social media right now.

Also, this is not the first time he has expressed interest in lesser-known music.

February 28, 2021, 6:50 PM · I'm 23 Gordon haha. But there are some good points in this. I'd say Kresiler stuff is more known on the student recital circuit than maybe the professional circuit. Although could be wrong
Edited: February 28, 2021, 7:45 PM · I would argue that "obscure" and "frequently performed" are different concepts.

Ironically some pieces might not get programmed because of a perception that they are too familiar.

I heard an apocryphal story from a pianist friend about Van Cliburn's first solo recital at Carnegie Hall, in which he played Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata. Supposedly the management objected to Cliburn's proposed program, saying the "Moonlight" Sonata was overplayed. Cliburn, who had evidently done his homework, responded that he would take the sonata off his program if they could show him proof that it had ever been played at Carnegie Hall before. It had not. Despite being one of the most famous piano sonatas in the repertoire, it is rarely played in professional recitals.

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