Dvorak cello concerto

May 2, 2021, 1:21 PM · Hi all,
For any of you that have played the viola transcription of the Dvorak cello concerto, how difficult would you rate it?


Replies (12)

Edited: May 3, 2021, 12:28 PM · The Dvorak is not an easy piece of music - for cello. I have not seen the viola transcription, but my experience with "these things" has been that the viola transcriptions are easier than the original cello music is on the cello because they seem to fall into a more limited range of pitch.

For example I have read through Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata and Elgar's Cello concerto on both cello and viola and I found the viola parts much easier (I studied cello, I just play viola, having picked it up on my own - I might be able to get to 7th position (if necessary)).

I'm intrigued but not enough to lay out $30 plus tax and postage to see the part - I guess you feel the same way. It might be fun to transpose from the cello part and decide for oneself where to "compress" the range. If I recall correctly, with the Elgar there is only one note that requires tuning down the viola C string (scordatura) to play the exact cello part.

The slow movement of the Dvorak is exquisite and certainly the easiest of the three (also the shortest and the only one I had the courage to play) - I would transcribe that first.

May 3, 2021, 5:32 PM · I intend to buy the part aha, but thought I'd check out the difficulty of it before hand. The Dvorak concerto is one of my favourite pieces of all time
May 3, 2021, 9:59 PM · My daughter (15) is a cellist and I think she pretty much considers the Dvorak concerto to be the best of the literature. Among cellists it is considered a very hard piece.

My own feeling is that the viola is not well-suited for much of the romantic cello literature because the viola cannot match the cello for range. You can make the pitches but it's awfully darned hard to make them sound good.

May 4, 2021, 3:24 AM · I agree Paul, but its only for my personal satisfaction of playing it, not like for a concert or anything
May 4, 2021, 12:20 PM · Sure, but if you're keen on improvement (I think you may have alleged as much previously that you were envisioning entrance to conservatoire) then you want to work on stuff that will build your skill. Certainly this piece can, if you work on it in the right way.
May 4, 2021, 12:44 PM · What entails the right way aha
Edited: May 4, 2021, 1:53 PM · I have never found working on my dream pieces to ultimately be very satisfying - the gap between my skill and what I want the piece to sound like is too great. For me, it was building my skills with my teacher and following a traditional course of study until my skills arrived at the point where the dream pieces were finally accessible.

If you are looking to keep building your viola skills on a traditional path, then I suggest doing the pieces in front of you and your scales and etudes, and not building a bunch of errors and stains into your clean mental copy of a piece you will later study.

If you don't want to slog through the years and energy that it will take, then have at it and enjoy, and I don't mean that in any condescending sense. We all have a limited amount of time and energy on this planet (until Papa Elon sends us to Mars to mine dirt for his edification), and the logic of devoting five or ten years of studying an instrument in order to be able to play some piece at the end of that time is a very personal decision. So if that's not your path, then go for it and have fun!

It's like if you have a big dinner planned later at a 5 star restaurant, then don't eat a candy bar beforehand. But if you don't have that big meal planned for later, than might I suggest a Payday, the greatest candy bar of all time?

May 4, 2021, 6:29 PM · Christian, I could agree about Payday bars. I hope you didn't open up a candy war!
Edited: May 4, 2021, 8:08 PM · They are the Mozart of candy bars. Their simplicity and balance can be taken for naive, in a world full of Mahleresque Take 5 bars and Whatchamacallits, but their flavor is, well, frankly, operatic and direct; an expression of humankind's primordial nature.

I find that they pair well with coffee.

May 5, 2021, 12:54 PM · Not heard of them aha
May 5, 2021, 3:07 PM · Andres, the B-flat in the slow movement is by now means the only note that Elgar wrote below viola range. At the beginning of the concert, following the chords and the downward slide, the cello starts of the B below bottom C. Tertis put 10 notes up an octave there, after which we have to jump down a minor 10th - The cellist just goes down a minor third.
"That bounder", Albert Coates might have done violists a favour, wrecking the concerto's chances of success until the Jacqueline Du Pre era. Had it been as successful as it now is, Tertis might not have thought it worthwhile to arrange for viola, or might not even have had permission.
Edited: May 5, 2021, 4:18 PM · John: Quoting myself earlier, I wrote:
"If I recall correctly, with the Elgar there is only one note that requires tuning down the viola C string (scordatura) to play the exact cello part."

The viola transcription includes the scordatura tuning to acccount for that.

I was referring to the published viola transcription. I have played that and I have practiced (worked on) the original cello version solo parts. In orchestras I have played tutti violin accompanying both cello and viola solo performances of the concerto. From my own practice of the solo part on both instruments (and being present at the performances) I felt that B-flat definitely says "something." It would appear Elgar felt the same way about that note, but less so about any other low tones. This is actually the only low note a viola's tuning could be un-stretched to include.

(A good excuse for mechanical pegs!)

However, John, you re correct that there are plenty of notes in the cello's bottom octave that have to be left out of the viola transcription.

There is not question that there are notes

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