Concerto with easy string orchestra parts

November 12, 2021, 9:04 AM · Hello, my school orchestra has allowed me with an opportunity to play a piece for solo violin and string orchestra. To be frank, I do not think much of the other musicians(mainly the violinists), and would love to play a piece challenging enough for me and easy enough for them. For context, i just finished Bruch 3rd Movement and the other musicians are around Vivaldi A minor. What’s the easiest orchestral part to a concerto you all can think of?
On a separate thread here I read, someone mentioned the Haydn concertos, but doesn’t that also have to include a harpsichord?

Replies (27)

November 12, 2021, 9:14 AM · It does have a harpsichord part, but the cellos and basses are also playing it so its not really that integral. The orchestra parts for the Vivaldi A minor concerto are not too difficult. I did it at a string group at school with friends who were a lower standard than that
November 12, 2021, 10:23 AM · This is absolutely a conversation you should be having with the orchestra teacher. I would frame the question in a less insulting way however. I am sure the teacher is well aware of the students’ level of playing; I suggest asking your teacher if they can think of any pieces that would work particularly well with the orchestra.
Edited: November 12, 2021, 12:38 PM · You can play those Haydn Concertos with some of the lower-end instruments (cello, double basses) filling in for the harpsichord part. If you don't find these concertos challenging enough for you, there is always the option of writing or finding a difficult cadenza.

Keep in mind that most students, no matter what school level/age, are playing the violin casually, and do not pursue technique as feverishly as devoted classical musicians; some of them may not even be looking to primarily play classical music. Therefore, they have never had an impetus to improve their technique to adequate standards. Basically, don't be so harsh on them.

November 12, 2021, 2:32 PM · You don't need a harpsichord for Haydn. The harmony is complete without one. And, yes, the orchestra parts (strings only except for the A-Major concerto which has two oboes and horns) will be fine for people on the Vivaldi a-minor level.

Personally I would choose the G-Major concerto for a very first solo exposure and try to present it at my best and at its best rather than to try and show off my present technical chops.

November 12, 2021, 2:36 PM · Note that more than 90% of violin students never reach Vivaldi A minor. Many school orchestras only have two or three violinists who can play it. The typical high school concertmaster in this area (where most schools have string programs but only the most affluent schools have more than a handful of students taking private lessons) is around Bach Double level. So if Vivaldi A minor is the average in your orchestra, it's pretty good by overall US standards.

As to repertoire, also consider some things that aren't concertos. The orchestra parts to the Beethoven Romance in F should give lower-intermediate string players little or no trouble.

Edited: November 12, 2021, 6:16 PM · I agree with Albrecht and Andrew. Both the Haydn G Major Concerto and Beethoven Romance in F are lovely with orchestra and the parts are not super hard. F major is a harder key to get in tune, so it depends if your orchestra usually spends much time on intonation -- some do more of that than others. I can tell you from experience that it can be surprisingly unsettling to perform this piece with an orchestra that is significantly out of tune. The Haydn gives you the opportunity to spread your wings a little with the cadenzas. The Kuchler cadenza that is often performed with the first movement is very short but there are others available or you can write your own.

And I agree with Mary Ellen and Mike that you could stand to attenuate some of your palpable condescension toward your orchestra colleagues.
November 12, 2021, 6:14 PM · There's also a reasonably playable string orchestra accompaniment arranged by Lynne Latham of the Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro:

November 13, 2021, 2:38 AM · I think Vivaldi would be a good choice. Perhaps a synthesizer could be used to play the harpsichord part.

Edited: November 16, 2021, 7:33 PM · Most public schools have some kind of an electronic keyboard and these devices usually produce a decent harpsichord sound. But really, you can perform these pieces without the harpsichord part. In my opinion many of them are better without the harpsichord, which, to my ear, mostly just inserts a layer of noise behind the orchestra.
November 13, 2021, 11:45 AM · There are about 100(?) Vivaldi violin concertos, so you don't have to do the famous A minor or something from the 4 seasons. Vivaldi's orchestra was technically a student orchestra. Any concerto from the Baroque era will have the added advantage of having easy Viola parts and not having a separate bass part. Student or low-budget amateur/community orchestras having trouble finding competent Oboes, Bassoons, and French Horns. The Mozart concertos use 2 Oboes and 2 Horns, with the first Horn part being in the difficult high range. Some of the easiest orchestra parts I have done have been from piano concertos;--Chopin, Schumann, Grieg, even Beethoven. The harpsichord part is definitely optional at this level. Thomas Beecham's opinion of the harpsichord; " two skeletons copulating on a tin roof".
November 13, 2021, 12:19 PM · One could add Mendelssohn's early d-minor violin concerto (with strings only) to the list of candidate concertos. It would be something that is not part of the standard violin curriculum. It is nothing like the breath taking achievement of Mendelssohn's e-minor concerto but it is charming and entertaining--and playable. It is a little harder than Haydn G-Major and has only one cadenza, in the finale, supplied by the composer.

There is an adaptation by Menuhin (for himself) but I prefer Mendelssohn's original; Menuhin's somewhat generic virtuosity (sounding a bit like Viotti) does not improve the piece. I used to own an edition from East Germany; you can find a decent "Urtext" on IMSLP with score and parts.

November 13, 2021, 12:48 PM · Vivaldi Concerto in D Major, RV 212a. This concerto is a lot of fun, showcases the soloist’s technique well, and has an orchestral accompaniment that isn’t too difficult.
November 13, 2021, 4:32 PM · The Vivaldi Four Seasons concertos are playable by that level of orchestra if you don't take aggressive tempi.

Haydn G major, Beethoven F-major Romance were good suggestions.

I imagine Bach A minor and E major are manageable, as well.

November 15, 2021, 10:34 AM · I had this same issue when I was a senior in high school. I found arrangements of the Mozart concertos on IMSLP for string orchestra. I ended up playing the first movement of Mozart 3 with the arrangement, and it worked out pretty well.
Edited: November 15, 2021, 11:21 AM · I certainly agre with Lydia about Vivald's Four Seasons Concerti. Of the 4 I think Winter can be the most exciting with the "storms" and the "romantic," lounging "fireplace" Largo - provided you play that 2nd movement appropriately slowly (as so many soloists do not).

There are alternate bowings to the usual ones we see for this concerto and my all-time favorite is the mid-1950s recording (LP) by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. I found the Italian score and parts for this version in a suburban D.C. music store to bring back to California 40 some years ago when I performed it.


November 15, 2021, 11:47 AM · Just want to toss out an idea... almost every school has an electric keyboard and almost all electric keyboards will have a decent harpsichord sample. Just like most schools draft a kid to fill in on piano for jazz band performances, maybe they can draft a "harpsichord" player for you?
November 15, 2021, 4:12 PM · My son played part of Four Seasons with his school orchestra his freshman year and it worked fine. (His school orchestra is about Book 4 level minimum.) Another option that would be more creative is one of the available Joseph Bologne concerti mentioned in the other thread. They tend to have harder violin parts -- harder than Mozart -- and pretty straightforward accompaniments.
Edited: November 15, 2021, 4:20 PM · Off Topic:
"They tend to have harder violin parts -- harder than Mozart"

Mozart 5 is a demon to perform... musically and intonation-wise... During a summer, I embarrassed myself because I played it for a Curtis graduate informally. That performance took 40 years of my life! I, with all the confidence my past self had, played it without previous preparation (years since I first learned Mozart 5), thinking wishfully.

If I had to bet my life either on Mozart 5 or Paganini Concerto 1, I would pick the Paganini...

November 16, 2021, 11:15 AM · Mike, I can't help shoving my oar in here: Don't blame Mozart. If you did the same thing with a Handel sonata (or any other "easy" piece) you'd have had the same result.

When I studied Handel my teacher once quipped about a famous soloist (Milstein?) who, according to my teacher, "found out on the podium that the piece is hard".

November 16, 2021, 11:36 AM · @Mike for some reason I always thought you were a HS student but now I am not so sure anymore?
Edited: November 16, 2021, 11:57 AM · I am a high school student. This was last summer (junior year). One of my mom’s friends was in town, and she heard I was into music. So, my mom’s friend set up a video call with her daughter to evaluate me for my mom.

The past confidence part was before college apps...

"Mike, I can't help shoving my oar in here: Don't blame Mozart. If you did the same thing with a Handel sonata (or any other "easy" piece) you'd have had the same result.

Yeah, true. I'm sorry Mozart.

November 16, 2021, 5:47 PM · If you haven't played Joseph Bologne before, my comment likely doesn't make too much sense. He was a contemporary of Mozart and wrote in the same general style. You have all the difficulty of playing Mozart style in Bologne's works (ie intonation, articulation, galant style), but he also was quite a violin virtuoso, likely more so than Mozart from what I have researched. As a result, his concertos are often technically more challenging then Mozart's concertos. They go higher, have more octaves and difficult arpeggiations, and so forth. Check them out -- they are super interesting works.
November 16, 2021, 5:57 PM · Which of his concertos would you recommend?
November 16, 2021, 9:29 PM · It's less which Bologne Concertos I would recommend and more which you can get a score and parts for. A lot of them only exist in 18th century parts (no score) with lots of mistakes. The A major (op. 5 no. 2) is probably the most widely played as of now and more available. You can get score and parts here:

My son and I are working on a project to create a score and parts (and piano reduction) for Op. 4 #2. We have the score and parts mostly done, but he hasn't finished editing the violin part or written the piano reduction yet. If you are interested in that one, I can send you what we have.

November 17, 2021, 3:38 PM · Perhaps you could create a Google Drive link? I would love to play some of his works.
November 18, 2021, 8:39 AM · We'll probably eventually add them to his website for download. Not quite there yet!
November 18, 2021, 10:27 AM · I'm so excited!

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