What Should I Play Next?

Edited: May 4, 2022, 10:25 PM · I'll bet you didn't expect that fraught question from me!

But now that my click-bait has succeeded, let's qualify the question further. I'm keen to play as many solos as possible with our community orchestra because I enjoy it and it's good experience and nobody else is really stepping up these days. So far I have performed the Beethoven F Major Romance (3 years ago) and the entire Bach Double (three days ago) with them, and both of those went okay.

I do have a regular teacher and I have asked him this question by email but have not had a chance to follow up yet.

The orchestra is a no-audition orchestra and the average skill level of the violinists is Suzuki Book 5. There are a few in the first violins who can play "high notes". We have accompanied a cellist performing the "Rococo Variations" and a clarinetist performing the Five Bagatelles by Gerald Finzi (a lovely piece), and a young violinist performing Mozart 3 (for the most recent concert this same violinist -- now fully grown and a recent college graduate -- was my stand partner). Our CM has been elevated to conductor, so in the fall I will probably be the CM.

Any suggestions are welcome, but there is no point suggesting crazy hard stuff, or even Mozart. My thinking was something along the lines of the Bach A Minor Concerto, or perhaps a salon piece like "Meditation". The orchestra is mainly a string orchestra, but we are able to add a few woodwinds, brass, percussion, and keyboard as needed from the community.

Replies (37)

May 5, 2022, 12:53 AM · I think Bach A minor is a good idea. Bach E Major could work too. There are also the Haydn G and C concertos. Mendelssohn D minor. I think there’s also a concerto for violin and strings by Vaughn Williams. I’ve never listened to it though
Edited: May 5, 2022, 1:00 AM · haha you got me there. I was surprised to see your name at this topic LOL
Perhaps Svendsen's Romance? I think it is a lovely piece. Not too hard. I once filled in at an orchestra similar as you described who played this with a music school student (not in conservatory yet). So I think the orchestral parts weren't too hard either. But I am not completely sure any more. Here a performance : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sILd8oX7jk
May 5, 2022, 1:39 AM · VW's Concerto Accademico isn't a walk in the country! The Lark would be a better bet. Lots of Vivaldi should be worth a look.
May 5, 2022, 1:40 AM · How about some Corelli? For example, I think his op. 5 sonatas are in the level you are searching for, although a complete orchestra maybe needs something more... full.
May 5, 2022, 7:05 AM · How about Vivaldi's "4 Seasons," or at least one of them. I did "Winter" some 40+ years ago with our orchestra, just because I wanted to do the Largo "out there" but the outer movements are a real kick! I also did the 2nd Beethoven Romance a few years later. Those were the only stand-up solos I did in the 33 years I played with that orchestra.
Edited: May 5, 2022, 7:14 AM · "There are a few in the first violins who can play "high notes"."

Big deal, we all can in our orchestra.
We regularly perform Ligeti, no matter what we are playing.

If you like baroque doubles, how good is your oboist?

May 5, 2022, 8:37 AM · "We regularly perform Ligeti, no matter what we are playing." So funny!
May 5, 2022, 11:33 AM · Thanks for responses so far. I like the Haydn G Major and Svendsen Romance ideas -- I have worked on both of those. Haydn C Major is harder but I could potentially play that too. I don't like the Bach E Major as well as the A Minor, but that's just a matter of personal taste. The Vaughan Williams Lark Ascending is well beyond my playing ability. Vivaldi is a possibility, maybe Summer, as I have worked on that before. I'm unfamiliar with Mendelssohn D Minor -- but I will look it up.
May 5, 2022, 11:44 AM · There are arrangements of the Greensleeves Fantasia for solo violin.
May 5, 2022, 1:39 PM · You could do the other Beethoven Romance, collect the set. Maybe you can put hotels on them and make a fortune...
May 5, 2022, 3:48 PM · Elise, yes, there is the other Romance and I've worked on it. I don't think it packs the same aesthetic punch that the F major Romance does, though. Plus right now those properties are mortgaged ...
May 5, 2022, 4:16 PM · There is a lovely romance (op 20) by the Danish composer Ludolf Nielsen. And the two "sentimental romances" op 28 by the swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar are also great - the second is a bit harder than the first.
Orchestra parts may be difficult to obtain, though.
May 5, 2022, 6:22 PM · It's Mozart, so it's a little scary, but how bout

May 5, 2022, 6:49 PM · The Berceuse by Jarnefelt is really nice - lush but easy.

Only 3-4 mins too. Might make a nice pairing with another shorter piece?

May 5, 2022, 7:53 PM · I would very much reccomend the Haydn G maj. The solo part is not too hard, but from my understanding (having listened many times), nor are the orchestra parts
May 5, 2022, 9:20 PM · If you did Haydn in G you could also be fancy and write your own cadenzas if you don’t like any of the standard ones. I think I did the Sam Franklin last I worked on it.
May 5, 2022, 9:31 PM · Bo thanks for suggesting the Ludolf Nielsen Romance Op. 20. I just listened to that on YouTube -- it's lovely but it sounds on the harder side of the options so far. I searched Luck's Music Library and didn't see it listed there, so I'd have to look more for the orchestral score and parts.
Jeremy the Jarnefelt Berceuse is listed by Luck's as a piece for string orchestra. Am I to assume this is an arrangement? Or is the Violin 1 part going to be a solo part? The recordings I have heard have a few winds which is okay.
Christian that Mozart Adagio is lovely -- probably I would write my own (shorter) cadenza. For the Haydn I would probably use the little cadenza by Kuechler.
May 5, 2022, 10:42 PM · Lark Ascending is much, much too difficult -- both for you and for the orchestra. Stay pre-Romantic era.

Haydn G major is probably a very reasonable selection. If you're very comfortable in 2nd position, you could consider the Mozart Rondo in C major (but it is much shorter than a full concerto).

(My clarinet quintet has been performing the Finzi this season. Unexpectedly delightful work.)

May 6, 2022, 3:15 AM · suggestion Oblivion by Piazzolla. good arrangements for that are available.
May 6, 2022, 3:44 AM · I noted that the score for Ludolf Nielsen has been uploaded to Imslp since I played it several years ago (I played the version with piano). It is handwritten and there are no parts, but that's only a matter of a few hours of work in a music program. I may do it since I am evaluating Dorico right now.
May 6, 2022, 5:37 PM · I'm a bit surprised that nobody has suggested the theme from Schindler's list. Its really not hard but very showy and most people (still) know it.
Edited: May 6, 2022, 9:01 PM · Elise I really like that idea -- thanks for that.
Bo I was hoping to avoid three hours of mouse clicks but I'll do it if I have to. :)
May 6, 2022, 11:40 PM · I'm going to guess that Schindler's List means acquiring parts along with obtaining performance permission, which is less convenient.
May 7, 2022, 7:39 AM · I've seen it played at multiple community orchestras Lydia - so it can't be that hard. But there might be royalties too.
May 7, 2022, 7:51 AM · Luck's Music Library has a few options for Schindler's List. I can look into those. The full orchestral set is about $500 to buy, $200 to rent -- definitely more expensive than Haydn. But our orchestra could afford that and I would offer to pay half.

BTW they offer the score as a PDF download... I could bootleg that with a couple of days work on Musescore but I won't.

May 7, 2022, 9:17 AM · Off the beaten path: The "small" Mendelssohn concerto in d-minor. It is not a fully mature work (just like Haydn G-Major) but quite attractive and certainly playable. Don't play the andante too slowly; it has to count in whole bars, not in eighth notes! Other wise the movement becomes too long to hold anybody's attention.
A propos Beethoven Romances. Personally I like the G-Major just as much as the F; I often like his more mellow pieces. Maybe less punch but compensated in other ways. The G-Major has double stop passages (0ne of them at the beginning!) which are not easy. On the other hand G is a far more friendly (to the violinist) key than F.
May 7, 2022, 9:31 AM · Paul, you probably know Kurt Weill’s tango “Youkali”. It’s delicious and fits the violin fabulously: there’s a recording by Daniel Hope, with piano accompaniment. If you don’t know it, try Teresa Stratas’ recording, also on YouTube, or Elli Paspala, with an arrangement for small orchestra. I don’t know whether the latter is published. Kurt Weill’s music is very elastic and lends itself to many variants but I’m not aware of its copyright status. Incidentally you don’t have to be a Greek soprano to perform it, though it seems to help!
Edited: May 7, 2022, 3:28 PM · you may recall that I performed Schindler's List Theme a few years ago (I shared the recording here). so, Paul, if you decide to do that, and encounter some points where you could use a practice tip, let me know! contrary to what Elise said, it is actually really not easy, I found, if you want to make it sound good, and also intonation-wise. the problem, really, is that everyone knows it, so when they read Schindler's List Theme on the program, they expect to hear Perlman. just saying!

about the score and sheet music: I don't recall our orchestra had any problems getting the music, you can simply get it from Hal Leonard for USD 440 you actually get the three pieces. ("Jewish Town" is also playable and very beautiful, catchy, and easier than the theme; "Remembrances" is great too but very difficult.)

attention: for Schindler's List Theme you need a decent English Horn player in the orchestra, because for a substantial part it is really a dialogue between solo violin and English Horn.

May 8, 2022, 2:38 PM · Jean thanks so much for that advice. Fortunately the oboist that normally get is really good so hopefully she can cover the English horn part. I know she also plays English horn -- what oboist doesn't? That would be like a violinist who has never played viola ...
May 8, 2022, 3:34 PM · Hi Paul,

One piece that I really enjoyed playing was the Mozart Rondo in G major. It is a part of the Haffner Serenade. The other piece that I like a lot was Wieniawski’s Legende. Kol Nidre by Bruch may be a good option as well. Hope this helps!!


May 8, 2022, 3:53 PM · Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are all great but also quite sophisticated works and usually much more difficult than they look. I'm surprised I didn't see anyone suggested Handel sonatas. Personally I find them to be extraordinarily beautiful and technically forgiving.

May 8, 2022, 4:25 PM · What standard of difficulty do people think Saint-Sean's foray into Scottish culture is? (Danse MacAbre)
Edited: May 8, 2022, 7:29 PM · Thanks for continuing the discussion.

@Yixi, I think Handel sonatas may not have come up because I am specifically looking for pieces to perform with orchestra.

@Nick I have studied the Haffner Rondo -- that is a couple of notches harder than I would feel comfortable performing with our community orchestra right now. Note that the average violin-playing skill of our orchestra's violinists is probably about Suzuki Book 5. So if we did the Haffner Rondo, we'd be doing that at half of Heifetz's tempo. I recently performed the Bach Double with them, and the tempos of the allegros were limited by what folks could manage. I was more comfortable with the "stately" tempos myself, as there's definitely some finger-twisting tricky stuff in the third movement.

May 8, 2022, 7:31 PM · Ha! Paul, you might be able to tell that I'm both clueless and not much of an orchestra player.
Edited: May 8, 2022, 7:50 PM · Also off the beaten path, maybe consider one or more of Harry Burleigh's Southland Sketches? The original version for violin and piano is on IMSLP. I remember one of my past community orchestras playing an arrangement of one of the sketches for violin and string orchestra, so I at least know such an arrangement exists.
May 10, 2022, 9:22 AM · Yixi, You're not clueless at all. I hope to some day be able to play Handel sonatas.
May 12, 2022, 3:18 PM · No, Yixi is definitely not clueless, I didn't want to imply that at all. She may just have missed that detail in my original question.

Ann, the Handel Sonatas are lovely. I have a recording with Hiro Kurosaki and a couple of the sonatas are played with organ, which is really nice. There is a church in town that has a loft organ with a smaller seating area and I thought it would be fun to perform a couple of the sonatas in a short recital with an organist. One of these days! The sonatas that are in the Suzuki books are fairly accessible. The first movement of the F-major sonata is probably the easiest place to start. I would probably do the F major and D major sonatas just because those are most familiar to me already.

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