Branching Out

Edited: October 28, 2022, 1:57 AM · Hello all,

Normally I don’t post on here but I love to observe the discussions. Currently, I’m playing the Beethoven VC and I’m constantly looking for new repertoire to play and listen to. I am currently in a “musical depression.” I’m just bored and I need new pieces to inspire me. I feel like every instrument has a path. For instance, Violin: Bruch to Lalo to SS to Mendelssohn etc. (With some variations from student to student). Don’t get me wrong, these are great pieces but they’re getting old as I hear them far too often. Does anyone have any suggestions of pieces or composers that I should give a listen to or even try to play? Maybe I should look at Frost’s music library for stuff. I’m really excited to hear what some of you suggest as I know there are some hidden gems you all have found.

Thank you,

Replies (19)

Edited: October 28, 2022, 3:16 AM · As violin concerti go: there's a thread on the Nielsen concerto right now. I also think the ones by Glazunov, Harty, and Coleridge-Taylor are underrated, and I'm partial to Alexander Campbell Mackenzie's Pibroch Suite for violin and orchestra. The two recently rediscovered concerti by Florence Price are getting some much-deserved attention now. The concerto by Guirne Creith may be hard to get your hands on, as it was only recently rediscovered as well, but there are now multiple recordings. Finally, the Schumann concerto is underplayed despite being written by a well-known composer.

In the violin sonata repertoire, I highly recommend the one by Amanda Maier, which is my favorite violin sonata other than the ones by Brahms.

(Note: I can't speak from experience playing any of these pieces, because I'm almost exclusively a violist.)

October 28, 2022, 7:57 AM · I was also going to suggest the Nielsen!
Edited: October 28, 2022, 11:21 AM · Andrew has listed some good suggestions, and there are some in his list that I don't know and to which I need to listen. I have one additional suggestion: it’s the concerto in B minor by Jesús de Monasterio. It's a lovely lyrical work, not very well known even in the composer's native Spain. You can find it on YouTube, played by Ara Malikian, with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León under Alejandro Posada.
Edited: October 28, 2022, 12:30 PM · Have you tried any of the Biber sonatas?

October 28, 2022, 12:36 PM · Maybe you could look beyond the repertoire. It is possible (though it involves a bit of luck) to find people to play chamber music with. This is where the real fun starts for those of us who are not professionals. Nothing you get out of learning concertos* in your practice room can match the satisfaction of sight-reading or rehearsing a string quartet with friends.

And the repertoire of fabulous chamber pieces is far larger than that of acceptable violin concertos.

* which you will never play with orchestra, at best with a pianist who won't like to play from a piano reduction.

Edited: October 29, 2022, 2:25 PM · I don't know about playing, but Saint Saens #1, Bartok #1, and especially Milhaud #2 (a total masterwork) are not performed that often, if you want to check out some gems. Also, both Rakov concerti and the Karlowicz are fantastic.
Edited: October 28, 2022, 3:12 PM · I highly recommend checking out Helena Munktell's violin sonata. Such a gem.
And oh, how about Jose White's Concerto in F sharp Minor?
October 29, 2022, 11:34 AM · Florence Price wrote a wonderful concerto.
October 29, 2022, 2:10 PM · The violin concerto by Elgar is an underplayed (though well-loved) gem of the romantic repertoire. It's easily one of my favorite concerti. Very tough to forget the "Windflower" second subject. Tasmin Little's recording of the Elgar concerto is probably the most famous, but I like James Ehnes's very much.

Ginastera's Violin Concerto is a fine piece of music. If you like "contemporary" violin music that still lies within the "classical" realm, I recommend having a listen. Not everyone enjoys it, but I've liked it more and more with further listening. A very angsty, raw, gnarly sort of piece, and one of the hardest published concerti out there. There are very few recordings of the Ginastera, but Hilary Hahn just released one and it's phenomenal: perhaps the best representation of this work so far.

Shostakovich's second concerto is, IMHO, just as good as the first, but quite a bit darker (if that's even possible). Oistrakh's recording is pretty much the definitive one.

October 29, 2022, 8:29 PM · Greetings,
I think Reger’s music has become very neglected in recent decades. I don’t like the whole oeuvre so much, but the unaccompanied violin sonatas are extremely interesting and potentially lead one into greater insights within the Bach solo sonatas.
October 29, 2022, 9:47 PM · I second Buri's suggestion of Reger's music!
Edited: October 29, 2022, 10:11 PM · Nick -- hold the phone! Maybe your path needs a sharp left turn. The entire world of jazz is waiting for you and your bored-out-of-your-mind Beethoven chops. But, you're not going to conquer a genre you don't listen to and enjoy. Check out Zack Brock, Mateusz Smoczynski, Didier Lockwood, Zbigniew Siefert, Konstantin Ilitskii.
Sorry about the sound quality on a couple of these, which are apparently bootlegs of TV broadcasts.

And if that doesn't float your boat, there's always playing with other people as in "chamber music."

October 30, 2022, 4:01 AM · hi Paul, I just picked your fourth link (randomly), but that solo doesn't make any sense to me.
October 30, 2022, 4:03 PM · Greetings,
I see the Elgar concerto was mentioned. A rather difficult masterwork to pull off. The Heifetz performance, irrespective of whether you like him or not is, in my opinion, regards das one of the all time greta interpretations. A polar opposite of similar stature is Menuhin at sixteen. Then there is the Hugh Bean recording which is testament to a truly great violinist who perhaps is not known so much outside of Britain.
My most boring anecdote is that Heifetz wrote to Albert Sammons (another great Elgar interpreter) thanking him for his performance which he stated he learned from.
October 30, 2022, 8:15 PM · Jean, "it doesn't make sense" is what people who are new to classical music will say about Prokofiev or Scriabin or Brahms. It's not a soft landing. The reason I included those particular links is because they show what is possible today, in the mainstream idiom of modern jazz, for a violinist with both skill and an open mind. A better onramp for most players and listeners is something like:
Regina Carter:
Stuff Smith:
and Stephane Grappelli:
Edited: October 31, 2022, 6:52 AM · thanks Paul. I think, though, that I am already above the "grappelli level", I do listen to modern jazz occasionally and most often it does make sense to me. anyway, not everybody likes everything obviously, even in modern jazz I suppose. anyway I see that that was not the point of your links for Nick (who seems to have "branched out", incidentally :-) but just want to add that that guy from the fourth link needs new strings, urgently ;-)
October 31, 2022, 9:14 AM · Jean, I know what you mean about Zbigniew Seifert's sound. But that's someone's VHS tape of a TV show LOL. Seifert died of cancer at the age of 32. I bet he lived a hard life as a jazz violinist, probably wasn't too easy to afford new sets of violin strings all the time. I noticed that the pianist (Fender Rhodes keyboard) on that tape was Wolfgang Dauner, also a real hero of early "jazz-rock". He recorded with Ponty also. I hope some of these links dissuade anyone from the notion that jazz is something one falls back on if his or her skill is inferior -- but rather that it presents an opportunity and a legitimate challenge for someone who already has game.
November 1, 2022, 11:52 AM · certainly Paul, thanks for giving this context.
November 1, 2022, 12:04 PM · I like the chamber music suggestion. That's a way of branching out and socializing at the same time. The social aspect in making music is very important.

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