Too much Vivaldi, not enough lesson time

Edited: May 3, 2023, 10:00 AM · Greetings!

To forestall the legitimate question “what does the teacher say”, here’s the situation.

My 12yo D’s teacher has gone on maternity leave a bit earlier than she expected as these things happen, and D may not have another lesson until July at the earliest, possibly not until the Suzuki institute in August where she’ll have to have a piece ready for a masterclass. and also needs to have her orchestra music down. So while we have discussed what to do during the hiatus in general terms, I happened to not be there at what we now know was the last lesson, and I don’t want to bother her right now while she’s enjoying the new baby. (I’m sure she will be available at some point for signing off on plans and pieces).

So in the meantime I’d enjoy discussing this with you.

Due to having battled chronic fatigue syndrome for over a year, either due to an undetected covid infection or the vax (yes, sadly that’s now a definite thing, please don’t discuss) she’s currently still stuck in a Suzuki book 5, same as last summer. Im just glad she hasn’t had to give up violin altogether, and has at least continued to develop musically even though she didn’t have the stamina to progress technically. She’s still recovering, so need to tread lightly, and, well, 12. But I would like to encourage her to try to finish book 5 so she’ll feel more confident going into the institute this summer.

Because her teacher tends to skip around a bit from book 4 onwards, she’s got most of book 5 already down except for the Dittersdorf and the Veracini Gigue, and sigh, the first and third movement of the G minor. (She’s also done the Rameau gavotte from Book 6, the placement of which I frankly do not understand).

The first movement of the Vivaldi g minor is almost done and I think she’ll be able to finish it on her own with minimal input from me and send a recording to her teacher to sign off on. And then, with needing to practice the institute’s orchestra repertoire as well, which is two Vivaldi double concertos and something romantic which I forget, I want her to officially skip the third. I love the Adagio, but the fast movements are just…meh. I feel the third is just there for the sake of having the student show the stamina to learn a full concerto, period. What do they get out of it musically?

The teacher agreed it was a LOT of Vivaldi. I suggested that if she had to do more Baroque, why not go straight to the Veracini Gigue, but she pointed out that the Dittersdorf, while maybe not that interesting was necessary to develop some 3/8 techniques. Fair enough.
I feel confident helping her with the Vivaldi concert repertoire, and maybe we can fit in a couple lessons for the romantic piece in July.

Is that doable plan? Until life punches us in the face, but does anyone blanch at the idea of skipping Vivaldi g minor third movement? Is it true that Dittersdorf needs to precede the Veracini Gigue? And how does the gigue compare to the Rameau gavotte?

When I asked her teacher, she said that the Raneau’s challenge was playing it musically, but agreed that playing musically isn’t a challenge for D. Stamina, however, is.

And what’s a good piece for a masterclass, and what level should she play it at?

Replies (11)

May 3, 2023, 10:11 AM · Consider finding a temporary teacher until D's regular teacher returns. Their primary focus could be working towards the masterclass.

Or, it might be a convenient time to take a break.

Edited: May 3, 2023, 1:30 PM · The Country Dance does help the Veracini. It's all that uneven bow distribution in 3/8. It's much more complex in the Gigue, so if any brushing up is needed the Dance is worthwhile. It's also a good flat key piece with shifting challenges accordingly. Maybe a nice one for easing back in after your teacher's maternity leave!

Re: Vivaldi. That 3rd mvt is, I think, the hardest in the book, mostly rhythmically. Is it good to learn? Sure. Is it the ONLY way those skills can be developed? Absolutely not :)

There are also other concerti you can use at this level to work on stamina! Remember Seitz from bk 4? :) The G major concerto has 3 movements! does the D of course :) I like G better, but D has the advantage that she'd only have to learn the slow movement to do it complete.

For another, "easier", but lovely one, try Rieding b minor. If your teacher thinks it's ok, she might be able to start this one on her own.

Or for something of a definitely different sonority than Suzuki, the Grazyna Bacewicz Concertino is wonderful and beautiful and surprising!

Edited: May 3, 2023, 5:24 PM · I agree that getting a temporary teacher, even if it is an advanced student who can just help out a bit, would be helpful.

I was a Suzuki devotee with my first violinist. He went all the way through Book 8, then onto Mozart 5, with only a bit of supplementation in Books 6-8. This sort of worked for him, mostly because he went through the books by age 10, but by Book 6 I started to get a bit disenchanted with the series. Yes, the order of the pieces works well. (And some of the easier pieces are thrown in for remediation and pleasure -- easy piece following hard piece.)

But there is just way too much Baroque in Books 5-8. Way too many Handel sonatas. Not enough dedicated to developing Romantic bowing and vibrato skills. Not enough fancy bowing techniques.

With my second child, who did all of the books through 7 and half of book 8, we did a whole lot more supplementation.

I guess what I am trying to say is not to get caught up in the exact order, which piece is hardest, and doing every single movement. Of all the books, the only pieces that are really likely to be important to know in the long term are Bach Double, Bach a minor, and to a lesser degree Vivaldi a min and g min. I would encourage you to make sure all of those are learned at some point, but it doesn't all have to be at once. The rest of the pieces are not necessarily the only options for learning the technical skills they present. There are most certainly plenty of other pieces that could be substituted.

(Just as a random side note -- I have an entirely different point of view of viola books 5-9. The vast majority of those are important pieces violists need to learn for their careers.)

If you haven't used them yet, give the Barbara Barber Solos for Young Violinists books a glance. These are collections of pieces that are meant to supplement the Suzuki repertoire. Book 1 is roughly equivalent to Suzuki Books 1-4. Book 2 and 3 have pieces around Suzuki Book 4-6 level. These are often the pieces that we chose for Institute performances or masterclasses around the level of your daughter.

Edited: May 4, 2023, 6:44 AM · Thank you for your thoughts!
I don’t want her to take a break since she has missed so many lessons in fall and winter and is just starting to get back into the „groove“, as it were. Nor is it a good idea considering the institute coming up. The orchestra pieces she’ll have to learn regardless…

The other Suzuki teacher in town is fully booked and will not be able to take over any of her colleague‘s students. So are the town‘s pre conservatory teachers. And rather just asking anyone, I’d rather help her myself (very indifferent amateur, but good with baroque).

The teacher has been branching out with Barber and other pieces. Rieding, check. Israeli Concertino, check. Hungarian Dance, check (we actually use the Kerstin Wartberg editions who put a simplified version in book 5). So variety hasn’t been the issue so far.

I wish the institute hadn’t picked two Vivaldi concertos this year. Or at least, picked the ones from the Suzuki books. That would have been a nice incentive to finish up the third movement of the g minor, and the a minor wouldn’t have been an issue. Not that the ones chosen are hard, I think they’re easier than the g minor. It’s just a lot!

Reading between the lines, the Rameau is one of the “fluff” pieces, lol. And the third movement of the g minor…isn’t.

I guess we will focus on the orchestra stuff next, and just see whether there is any time and energy left for anything else. By July, it may all be a moot point…

May 4, 2023, 8:57 AM · Why not ask the teacher to suggest another teacher to fill in or one of the more advanced students of that teacher to "coach" "D"? The music education population is small and generally well connected.
May 4, 2023, 11:25 AM · Because the teacher’s most advanced student is literally her 12yo best friend? :)

The teacher is young and her 12 yos are her oldest students.

Th other Suzuki teacher’s teenage students are way behind those two. Parents have told me that they send their teenage kids to her lessons because it’s one of the few things they actually enjoy doing. They don’t care any more whether they practice or advance. More like therapy.

I don’t think my D would accept a stranger right now. The institute will be stressful enough.

Edited: May 4, 2023, 11:29 PM · "Parents have told me that they send their teenage kids to her lessons because it’s one of the few things they actually enjoy doing."
Interesting...I wonder if I'm this teacher for some (not even necessarily teens).

About Vivaldi G minor 3rd movement, one of my Suzuki trainers said the following: whenever he encountered an institute student who had intonation trouble in Bach A minor, he would ask and find out that they had skipped that Vivaldi. Could the necessary skills be attained via something else? Sure but I guess the teachers of those particular students had not provided sufficient replacement material. I don't know his sample size and this is just anecdata so grain of salt, etc.

May 4, 2023, 11:41 PM · In these circumstances I would expect your teacher to recommend a colleague. If there isn't a suitable one in town, there are plenty of Suzuki teachers who teach on Zoom.

When I was a kid, my teachers used to vanish to institutes every summer, and I'd have a temporary teacher for the summer. It was a great experience for me to gain from having different perspectives.

May 5, 2023, 7:36 AM · The teacher suggested a list of institutes to go to in the meantime, and plans to pick up teaching over the summer holidays (August through mid September) for anyone who’s not away, to make sure the gap isn’t much longer than the regular summer hols gap. Frankly, there’s so much going on in the months from May to July, especially on the long weekends when those institutes take place, that most families are probably glad for a break.

It’s just that the timing is very unfortunate for my D because of having been low-key ill for so long. I don’t blame the teacher for not creating a special solution just for her. She’s been very empathetic and accommodating throughout. It’s not like my D is conservatory bound or anything. It’s more of a mental health thing for a kid who feels like she’s been falling behind basically everything and everyone during the last 15 months. School is back on track, social life is getting there, now for hobbies…

May 5, 2023, 8:57 AM · Be thankful that your child's teachers are prescribing a lot of fast-paced baroque pieces. All that bow-shaking is going to pay big dividends later.
Edited: May 6, 2023, 3:47 PM · So because of the strong support for the third movement of the g minor, I realised I’d only ever listened to it on YouTube, never played it myself and went right to it, paying special attention to the intonation. It’s growing on me! It may turn out to be my favourite in book 5, with the exception of the Bach double, Definitely no skipping. Thank you for putting me right.

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