Quartets anyone! Which musician is the hardest to find - violin, viola or cello?
[This might make an interesting poll.]
Say you want to organize a chamber music, quartet evening (or pro session). Which musician is most often 'rate limiting', that is the hardest to find at an appropriate ability - V1, V2 (depending on which you play) Viola or cello?
For me it seems the hardest is cello.
Cello. There are plenty of amateur cellists, but few that play well enough. With violinists I find the percentage of good-enough players much higher. Conclusion, cello is harder? ;-)
In my town--Cello. A lot of violinists also play viola.
I don't think it has so much to do with the fact cello is harder, but more that maybe we violinists tend to know each other better than we do cellists.? If it were me, since I'm equally comfy on both violin and viola, I could always be the group's violist, but if you only play violin and your area is short violists, you'll probably have an easier time finding a cellist than a violist.
Viola. There's darned few of us around.
Probably cello, because enough violinists switch hit as violists.
In my area, it is probably violists. I think people may overestimate how many violinists actually play viola and don't realize how few violists there really are. But others in my area may have a totally different experience.
Judging by how much I'm called on to play viola, I guess I would have to answer "viola" in my area.
Wayne Booth wrote a whole book about how he took up cello just to play in string quartets: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Amateuring-Its-Rivals/dp/0226065863/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=. Strategic choice apparently.
As an experienced violinist, violist and pianist who has done some collaborative accompanying/chamber music, I can confirm Paul's statement that finding pianists who can do collaborative piano well is hard, especially in amateur circles. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone and it involves skills that simply aren't as important in solo piano performance. Besides, at least in my experience, it is not uncommon for piano parts in chamber music to be much harder than the string or wind parts in the same piece, though there are always exceptions.
I would also say cello, but that is mostly because the music programs in my city all encourage or require violinists to learn viola.
In my area, it might be violin! In the amateur chamber music club I've been involved in, and also in my experience putting together casual reading groups, it seems like it's more common to have to ask violists to double on violin than the other way around. The club's last house concert had two people who were mainly violists doubling on violin, and one cellist doubling on violin. No violinists doubling on viola. I've played more viola quintets than string quartets for that reason.
I am reminded of the joke definition of a string quartet: it’s a group of people consisting of one good violinist, one bad violinist, one failed violinist and someone who hates violinists!
Just want to add: the informal amateur chamber music club I mentioned includes all levels from lower intermediate to semi-pro. There's a surplus of violists and shortage of violinists among local amateur chamber music players at every level, even though the numbers are the exact opposite in local community orchestras at all levels.
Any particular reason for that Andrew, that is the shortage of chamber group violinists - and I presume it applies to both 1st and 2nd?
It all depends on where you live and who does or doesn't want to play with you (and vice versa!)
Raphael that's fantastic!
Where I live it is definitely viola. In one of the quartets I'm in I have to play the viola! ??
Always been viola.
Julie, I think this is correct. The problem is that the trios really worth playing are almost all violin/viola/cello (unless it is 2 violins and viola...).
The dearth of violists is why I bought a viola several years ago and learned the clef. Now, I'm playing quartets and string trios all the time, I would say around 80% viola and 20% violin. The people I play with are extremely grateful while also very forgiving if I sometimes misread something, which is becoming quite infrequent these days.
I have not yet found a group of amateurs to play chamber music with, but in my unique case I am flexible on instrumentation because I'm proficient on three instruments. But yeah, back in my youth ensemble days, we were chronically short violists. The shortage is precisely why I ended up learning viola at age 12 (and my brother, to my surprise, has also taken up viola for the same reasons). I did end up loving the viola's beautiful tone, and I legitimately love playing the viola, which is why I chose to stick with it long-term. I also felt highly needed as a violist in ensembles. Nowadays, I play violin in my local community orchestra because guess what? Apparently our orchestra is incredibly lucky to have a healthy number of violas so I'm not really needed in the viola section. This past season, we actually got an influx of violas, before that, the orchestra lacked viola players.
Things can change in an area very quickly... At one point I played in a community orchestra that, in a single summer, suddenly went from having a shortage of violists to needing to bump violists to the second violin section.
Andrew, your situation is interesting. I should add that there is at least one or two other community orchestras in my area that struggle for violists, but I'm not in them. One is short on upper strings in general, lots of cellists but not enough violinists or violists. The other has plenty of violins and cellos but not enough violas (classic youth ensemble situation). My group is just lucky.
Elise I think I will steal this for the vote! :)
I guessed you would (see opening post ;) )
Cellists - I live in a big city and not everyone has a car, so sometimes getting some to lug their cello is a big ask.
I take it you play V1 Marty? We generally have time for 2 quartets in a session and often swap 1st and 2nd. It also helps prep time....
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