I Need help choosing my next piece

April 25, 2021, 9:12 AM · So me and my teacher just wrapped up the Vitali Chaconne, and I need help with getting recommendations on what to play for my next piece, a little more info about my level is that I've already played Mozart 3, Viotti 23, and Vivaldi's Winter.

Replies (54)

Edited: April 25, 2021, 11:00 AM · This is a question I do not understand when it comes from a violinist with a teacher.
Do you have goals?
Does your teacher have a "path" for your progression?

In lieu of recommendations from others I would suggest going through Mozart 5 and 4 before getting to more technical stuff.

Then perhaps the Bach 2nd Partita (all of it!).

How is your sightreading?
Do you have any orchestral or chamber music opportunities?

Edited: April 25, 2021, 11:01 AM · Well, I do have pieces in mind that I want to play, but I'm not sure if im ready for it, like the E Minor mendelssohn concerto, which has been my dream piece ever since I was in Suzuki Book 2. But thanks for the recommendations.

I sight read fairly well, and I am in Chamber Music right now. I'm playing Beethoven String Trio No.1 in Eb.

April 25, 2021, 11:26 AM · So, work on the Mendelssohn - unless your teacher disagrees.
If there are techniques you need to develop, perhaps s(he) can help you do that as part of learning the concerto.
I did that with my cello teacher on my first "real" cello concerto, the Haydn D Major (#2 - (the easier Haydn C major (#1) had not yet been re-discovered, that happened about 10 years later in 1960). My teacher was very compliant - if I told him I wanted to learn something he worked with me on it. He had just performed that Haydn #2 with our community orchestra, in which I ws one of the cellists, so I was inspired.

I had already worked on the Mendelssohn E minor (violin) and was working on the Beethoven on violin at the same time as I studied the Haydn #1 on cello. The Beethoven (for me at that time) was another result of inspiration because I was to attend a Heifetz performance of it as my 16th birthday present - and I wanted to be "ready." It was really something attending the concert when I was about 3 months into the concerto myself and could anticipate and appreciate every nuance - besides the Heifetz recording of it was the only one we had at home (back then (1950).

April 25, 2021, 12:00 PM · Thank you, also, is 4 harder than 5, or 5 harder than 4?
April 25, 2021, 12:28 PM · As one who muddled through it before I was properly ready, I offer this humbly: careful with Mendelssohn.

Nathan Cole (Associate Concertmaster with the LA Phil) wrote this in a recent email:

"There are some passages in my repertoire that resemble archaeological digs: there are layers upon layers of ruined civilizations piled one on another. The first page of the Mendelssohn concerto is a prime example. The bad habits of ten-year-old me give way to the bad habits of twelve-year-old me, and so on down the years. That page is so resistant to change at this point that I despair of ever playing it as I dream.?"

I think Lydia Leong has written something similar–when you tackle a big piece before your technique is solid, you can potentially bake in some bad habits that may be difficult to unlearn.

There's a fair amount of late intermediate repertoire (DeBeriot, Kabalevsky, Rode 7, Viotti 22, Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro, etc.) and probably even some "real" concerti (Bruch, Lalo, Barber, Wieniawski 2) that many people learn first.

Prescriptive concerto sequences are always contentious topics and most of the seasoned pedagogues around here will default to "ask your teacher"–but here's a sample list from Mimi Zweig, which suggests a fair amount of real estate between your stage (depending on execution) and Mendelssohn.


(Caveat: if you're not a serious student with big goals, and/or don't ever plan to perform Mendelssohn, and your teacher sees value in your learning part of it, I'm in no position to debate this.)

Edited: April 25, 2021, 1:51 PM · Katie gives you very good advice. My opinion, you’re not ready for Mendelssohn. If you want to play it well later, don’t try it now.
April 25, 2021, 2:27 PM · Do you have any suggestions for pieces for me to play to get from where I am now to Mendelssohn?
Edited: April 25, 2021, 3:13 PM · Here’s some stuff that I learned with my teacher before getting to the Mendelssohn. Hopefully it will give you an idea.

Sarasate Zigeunerweisen (can't spell it sorry)
Bruch G minor
Mozart VC 5 in A major

April 25, 2021, 3:24 PM · Please consider Katie B’s recommended pieces. They are excellent. Exactly the pieces I would have suggested also. And of course all of this should be in consultation with your teacher.
Edited: April 25, 2021, 3:35 PM · Greetings,
I third Katie and Mary. I use those pieces too. Vengerov and Repins teacher Zhackar Bron insisted that the DeBeriot )9 was the entry key to the major concertos.
If you like the Mendelssohn so much don’t wreck your dream. For some reason this concerto has attained the slight aura of an ‘easy’ major concerto en route to the biggies. This is absolutely not true and , interestingly it is the concerto that some really hard core soloists mutter under the breathe about getting harder as they get older .
BTW Before you do it I also recommend studying the f-first- book of Dont Etudes (not the major one everyone knows) and a lot of Kreutzer.
Edited: April 25, 2021, 5:38 PM · I think Zukerman said something about having to practice it every time before teaching a student that was learning it.

I don’t and have not recommended that you learn the pieces I have listed. They’re beyond you at the moment. I only posted them to share my experiences.

April 25, 2021, 5:29 PM · Dont op 37, I love those! I’ve started teaching them to all my students who are at that level. (The “first” book of Dont that Buri mentioned.) The famous ones are opus 35 and they are much much more difficult. Dont 37 is exactly the level that I think the OP would benefit from.
April 25, 2021, 6:28 PM · Yep. Galamian was very insistent about them too.
Edited: April 25, 2021, 7:20 PM · Mike, do you think that I can do Mozart 4, or is that too hard at my level, I'm considering Mozart 4 as my next piece.
April 25, 2021, 7:26 PM · Please check with your teacher because I do not know how well you can play Mozart 3. You should go on IMSLP and look at the score. If you find any bits that are too hard/incomprehensible, then it's beyond your current skill level.
Edited: April 25, 2021, 7:29 PM · I will next week when me and my teacher have lessons on Friday. I sight read the first half of movement 1, and it doesn't seem too difficult.
April 25, 2021, 7:51 PM · My high school teacher wouldn't let me touch Mozart 4/5 until/unless I had the technique to play her preferred cadenzas (which I believe were the Joachim ones), as demonstrated by playing the relevant etudes. (Didn't happen. We worked on Beethoven Romances, DeBeriot 9, and Rode 7 instead.)

My college teacher was less exacting (=inclined to let me play what I asked for, within reason) but the result wasn't stellar. (I have sad stories about both Mozart 4 AND Mendelssohn! It's all fine until you crumble in an audition.)

April 25, 2021, 7:55 PM · I guess I'll listen to the Beethoven Romances, btw, I have played Beriot 9 already. Rode 7 was an option that my teacher offered me.
Edited: April 25, 2021, 8:19 PM · Katie's list has good suggestions. Rode 7, Spohr 8, Kabalevsky, Kreisler Praeludium & Allegro, Bartok 6 Romanian Dances, are all good choices at that point. Perhaps Conus, as well, which the Russians like to use as a bridge from the pedagogical intermediate concertos to the Bruch level.

However, I would expect your teacher to have many good suggestions. Did your teacher give you a list?

April 25, 2021, 8:35 PM · She thinks I'm ready to play Bach Sonata No.1, Mozart No.4,and Beriot's Scene De Ballet. I already played #9
Edited: April 25, 2021, 9:01 PM · Sonata No 1 with the Fugue? Impressive. I usually see people doing the Bruch G minor at least before doing the Fugue.
April 25, 2021, 9:04 PM · Without the fugue.
April 25, 2021, 9:04 PM · I already played Bach Partita No.2 Omit Chaconne also
April 25, 2021, 9:09 PM · If I was in your position, I would pick the Mozart 4. This is because of it being a better piece than Scene De Ballet, it is harder than the other 2, it helps develop a sense of style, and it being harder means that you will develop more from learning it (assuming that it is in your ability).
April 25, 2021, 9:14 PM · Katie's list is solid.

My teacher took me to Viotti 22 after 23, then Rode and Beriot (Can't remember which first), then Kreisler Praeludium, then Viuextemps 2, then Wieniawski 2, then Mendelssohn.

Katie's progression is solid, and you have gotten many solid recommendations. Just go with what your teacher suggests - That is the best advice.

Also, my teacher started me on Dont etudes op. 37 at the same time.

April 26, 2021, 12:08 AM · Scene de Ballet is fun, but I'm not sure it teaches any techniques that aren't in de Beriot 9.

Mozart 4/5 is a proving ground, in my opinion -- things to be learned very cleanly after completely establishing your technique doing something else. (These are not works you want to ruin by learning them prematurely, ala Nathan Cole's comments.)

April 26, 2021, 1:47 AM · Yep,
as Lydia says. They are somewhat similar to he mendelssohn in terms of deceptive simplicity. Consider that for a professional orchestral audition you are required to play a movement from a Mozart Concerto and I don’t think it’s usually no3 although playing this well is no mean feat. It’s a hard juggling act I think. If you have really got a good sense of Mozart three I would do more technical stuff and keep reviewing that concerto rather than adding another one. One of the major Handel sonata might be a good choice along with the technical stuff.
Edited: April 26, 2021, 7:18 AM · To play Devil's advocate, I believe that there is considerable value in playing another more impressive Mozart Concerto instead of continuing to nurture your taste in Mozart 3. As Buri said, "I don’t think it’s usually no3". That says a lot about the practical usefulness of a more stigmatized concerto such as the No 3 in G major . What I mean by "stigmatized" is that audition panels for pre-college programs and etc may have a tiny internal scoff when they see a more "pedestrian/easy Mozart Concerto" such as No 3. Although I don't really believe this because we see many play the 3 in major comps (Ray Chen in Menuhin, Sumina Studer in 2018 Menuhin, 2016 Wieniawski with Bosomari Kim and Richard Lin, and many more), so it's just a possibility. Even ignoring this point, the main purpose for any student is to develop their musicality and technique. I believe that these kind of go hand-hand (playing more music=more exprience with different patterns in phrases and encountering and exercising more and more techniques), so a more technical Mozart concerto would equal a supremely splendid package of music and technical development right? The things you can learn from Mozart Violin Concertos 4 and 5 fit that portfolio SO well.

April 26, 2021, 7:05 AM · I'm going to ask my teacher about the pieces that Katie and Lydia Leong reccomended. (Kabalevsky, Rode 7, Kreisler P&A, Viotti 22 etc)
April 26, 2021, 8:26 AM · “They are somewhat similar to he mendelssohn in terms of deceptive simplicity. Consider that for a professional orchestral audition you are required to play a movement from a Mozart Concerto and I don’t think it’s usually no3 although playing this well is no mean feat. It’s a hard juggling act I think. If you have really got a good sense of Mozart three I would do more technical stuff and keep reviewing that concerto rather than adding another one.“

Agree 100%. I would not suggest learning Mozart 4 until the OP’s technique has been more developed. Mozart 5 is quite a way down the road.

For what it’s worth, at our auditions about 80% of the candidates play Mozart 5; the remaining 20% or so play Mozart 4. Hardly anyone plays the 3rd concerto.

April 26, 2021, 9:03 AM · I learned Mozart 4 after I had already learned several major Romantic concertos (including Mendelssohn), because my teacher, when I was a teenager, believed very strongly that Mozart 4, as a likely future audition concerto, should be learned as pristinely as possible.

If you really have a hankering to work on another Mozart concerto, I'd suggest No. 2. But there are also plenty of other works to practice Classical style on. The C-major Rondo is a great short piece, for instance (and it'll give you 2nd-position skills a workout). So is the Kreisler/Mozart Rondo. Or you could tackle one of the violin sonatas.

For that matter, that Classical-era skillset is also well-developed by the Beethoven Romances, which are a step up in difficulty from Mozart 3.

April 26, 2021, 10:27 AM · What Lydia said.

Mozart lived such a short life - Do we really want to torture his ghost by butchering his concertos before we have the technique to handle them? The path of the romantic concerto is a great place to train before then dealing with the demands of the transparency of Mozart.

April 26, 2021, 10:33 AM · Isn't the first question here what the OP aims to achieve? Andrew put the finger on it but nobody (including the OP) afterwards refers to goals in any way (except by implication when there is talk about auditions).

If the goal is to become a professional violinist then one needs to learn what is expected by the people who have hiring power, to prepare for auditions according to existing expectations (whether they are reasonable or not--I find it strange that you need to audition with a soloist's part in order to get a job to accompany the soloist--entirely different skill sets). And one needs a teacher as a guide along the way.

However if the OP is an amateur (like I believe the majority of people here) there is no need to pay attention to all of this. One is free to choose any goal one likes. Personally I do not see the attractions of studying solo parts that I will never get a chance to play with orchestra. But if your goal is to play the Mendelssohn: Talk to your teacher about ways to get there. Follow the advice of the experienced people on this forum.

You could choose to join an amateur orchestra. With your skills you should be admitted easily. You get to know orchestral repertoire, to work on it and to perform for an audience (which to me is a satisfying thing to do). You may get a "promotion" and become a section leader.

You could choose to go into the direction of chamber music--combined with orchestra playing if you wish. (I admit: Finding partners is not easy and takes time. But it is a lot easier than finding an orchestra that will play the Mendelssohn with you.) At your level you already have the technical chops for quite a repertoire. You can study sonatas or quartet parts (depending on the group you can assemble) to expand your skills--in fact you will soon want to play music that will force you to expand them*. And you get the chance to play them in the original version**, not with a piano reduction and with the intro tutti cut. This is likely more time consuming than orchestra playing; you will want to work with coaches if you want to make progress in ensemble playing, so there is also a financial cost, more so if you go to chamber music camps or courses.

* Everybody wants to play Brahms; you won't be an exception to that.
** And to organize house concerts if you want to perform.

April 26, 2021, 10:39 AM · The reason that people ask for a Mozart concerto for auditions is that it's very hard to hide deficiencies in core technique in a way that you could do in a Romantic concerto. (This is also why Mozart symphony excerpts are common in orchestral auditions.)

I have the strong impression that the OP is a teenager, and playing at this late-intermediate level as a teenager bodes well for a long life playing the violin with solid skill. It's useful to spend the younger years building skills to the maximum level possible, so that it takes relatively little practice to maintain those skills solidly in adulthood.

For myself, I've enjoyed learning the sonata repertoire and other chamber-music repertoire in adulthood, but I don't regret that my younger years were spent aggressively pursuing technical accomplishment through pedagogically-sequenced works.

April 26, 2021, 10:54 AM · “I find it strange that you need to audition with a soloist's part in order to get a job to accompany the soloist--entirely different skill sets).“

Not at all strange. We need to know that a potential violinist in the orchestra has full command of the instrument, and concertos are the best way to demonstrate that. We do also ask for orchestral excerpts. The concerto and the excerpts demonstrate somewhat different skills but we need the complete package.

April 26, 2021, 11:04 AM · I'm still deciding but I'm most likely going to settle on playing either Kabalevsky or Viotti 22. I will talk to my teacher. And PS. Yes I'm 15.
April 26, 2021, 11:13 AM · Ben, I think you have two great choices ahead of you. Listen to both of them a couple of times and see which one you like, and talk it over with your teacher. Either one will give you skills that will get your playing a little closer to what you will need for Mendelssohn.

Hopefully you are fully engaged in studying etudes. I happen to think that the Rode etudes are THE key to the kind of playing that Mendelssohn requires. I look at them, and it almost looks like they were designed specifically for Mendelssohn, so working through Dont and Kreutzer and Rode will be key to getting your playing there too.

April 27, 2021, 2:13 PM · I think I've settled on the Kabalevsky concerto.
April 27, 2021, 4:59 PM · Awesome! I had fun with that piece.

FWIW, if you haven't yet played the Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro, that's another good pre-Romantic concerto option (lots of good left hand frame/efficiency work). It's also a good flex, as the kids these day say, because it sounds harder than it is. :-)

I loved the F major Beethoven Romance and ended up performing it a few times. It has Mozart-like qualities, e.g. sounding easier than it is. But as you plan ahead with your teacher, consider this:

One thing I wish I'd done in high school (which is the last time I had weekly lessons with strict teachers) is really solidify a couple of good pieces that I could use for years to come in orchestral auditions. The things I knew best from high school (e.g. had polished up to performance level) didn't really fit the bill, unfortunately. And as a result, college and post-college orchestral auditions were always a terrible choice between a) hacking through something I'd never properly polished and crumbling under the pressure or b) playing something like the Beethoven, which doesn't really showcase the range of skills you'd ideally like to see (and the long, slow bow in the beginning was also hard to do smoothly when nervous.)

Learn from my hindsight!

Edited: April 28, 2021, 11:13 AM · The ONE thing that's easier about the Mendelssohn is that the cadenza is already fixed - You need never worry about whether the cadenza you're playing is too undemanding technically or inferior musically.
One could say the same thing about the Sinfonia Concertante, except that I'm not convinced that Mozart didn't expect the soloists to add their own embellishments, particularly in the first movement.
April 28, 2021, 11:40 AM · I was going to suggest the Bach E major, which I'm learning now, but I see that it comes after the Bruch and Lalo concertos in the rep sequence noted above. (https://www.stringacademyofwisconsin.org/resources/violin-music-repertoire/#sequence_of_rep)

I was considering learning the Lalo but I decided on the Bach because it suits playing style and personality better. I'm curious - do folks think the Lalo is easier than the Bach? Personally, I think it's a pretty difficult piece.

April 28, 2021, 11:52 AM · I would question why the Bach E Major was so high......
Edited: April 28, 2021, 11:59 AM · To be honest, I'm a bit less intimidated by Bach than some of the Romantics (even early Beethoven seems intimidating). Not to say this Bach concerto is easy; it's not. It's like climbing a mountain to be sure. I've had to pace myself.
Edited: April 28, 2021, 12:01 PM · I've actually seen it rated so high elsewhere before. I don't remember why or where though, but I do remember that the source was a pretty respected one.
Edited: April 28, 2021, 12:04 PM · I mean in my opinion it doesn't seem much harder to play than the Bach E Major Prelude. Hm. Also, I'm working on the Kabalevsky and will ask my teacher.
April 28, 2021, 12:03 PM · I'm curious. It's not an easy key to play in for sure. But I like it a lot. It's fun.
April 28, 2021, 12:26 PM · It reminds me of the Preludio that I learned many years back. The two pieces seem to complement each other.
April 28, 2021, 3:43 PM · Greetings,
when I was at RCM they had a very clear concept of relative difficulty. In your first year exam you had to play a Bach concerto or similar and in the second a romantic work. For all the difficulties of playing Bach really well, I have no idea why that concerto would be ranked higher than Lalo:)
Edited: April 28, 2021, 3:55 PM · I think the E-major Partita is easier than the D-minor (though the Loure has its difficulties), but I think it's considerably more difficult than the Bach concertos, which I think most people study before they study any Mozart concertos. I played the E-major first movement for the House Music Competition in my first year at senior school, and I was no prodigy, coming in third, behind Dickie Juniper (6th Form, playing Liszt's Dance of the Gnomes), who was behind Anthony Camden (6th Form, Oboe).
And no, at school I wasn't any good at Quidditch either.
April 28, 2021, 7:00 PM · A repertoire sequence is not necessarily a difficulty sequence. It's the order in which repertoire is learned, which is not purely a matter of difficulty.
April 28, 2021, 7:07 PM · Minus the Chaconne, the d minor partita is quite significantly easier than the E major partita, with the exception of the E maj Gigue, which is the single easiest movement of solo Bach IMO.
Edited: April 28, 2021, 10:16 PM · I agree with everyone else's suggestions of several dozen pieces but I'd like to add at least one more for the sake of needless complexity. And since Albrecht wrote, "Everybody wants to play Brahms; you won't be an exception to that," I'd like to suggest that you can play Brahms now -- you can play the Sonatensatz!

I feel Mike's pain about spelling "Zigeunerweisen." You can just say "The Zig" or you can use a descriptive translation: "Gypsy Errors."

April 30, 2021, 3:29 AM · Legends say that if you can play the first scale, you can play the entire piece.
April 30, 2021, 7:29 AM · That's certainly true of the Scherzo movement from Beethoven's Spring Sonata.

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