Viola pedagogy recommendations?
My daughter is now fully a violist. She will be a freshman in high school this year. She is loving viola and really motivated and excited.
My one concern is making sure she is on a good pedagogical path if she chooses to go into music at the college level. Her teacher is wonderful, but she is fundamentally a violin teacher. She always has multiple viola students and teaches violin to viola classes and plays viola some, so not viola-inexperienced at all. But she's not a professional violist and my guess is that my daughter will get further than all her previous viola students. Her teacher acknowledges this limitation, and we don't want to change teachers, especially since the only really great viola teacher in the city doesn't take precollege students anyway.
From a technical perspective, I think everything is fine. Her teacher is holding her to very high standards for a pre-college violist, working on double stops, bowing technique, comprehensive scales, etc.
What I am a little concerned about is making sure my daughter moves through the viola repertoire in a sequence that makes sense and covers everything she really SHOULD know before college.
Currently she is doing a bit of repertoire remediation, picking up some of the important viola repertoire she missed, much of which is below level. This calendar year she has done JC Bach/Casadesus, Bach Suite 1, von Weber Andante e Rondo (Primrose), and is making her way through Schubert Arpeggione. She learned the first mvmt in just a few weeks to a really high level and is starting to learn the rest. She's also looking at Hoffmeister Concerto (again easy for her) since it is a required piece for something she has coming up.
Does anyone have any recommendations about sequence of repertoire? Or just a list of pieces you think every precollege violist should know? I googled a bit and found a lot about the repertoire up to where she is now, but not so much thereafter.
I'm primarily a violinist, but I play viola as well and have studied viola with viola professors at UNT and SMU in addition to my violin studies, so until a full-fledged violist answers I reckon I'll do for now.
Oh, also some etudes written especially for the viola like Campangnoli and Lillian Fuchs probably wouldn't hurt.
Christian, thank you so much! That is very helpful and it looks like she is on track. She's probably ready to start Walton soon. When do you think the sonatas should be learned and do you have a preferred order?
As a Canadian who is familiar with graded systems like RCM and ABRSM, those diplomas are usually pre-college.
Apologies everyone, I managed to delete both posts by mistake . Please bear with me.
Susan - In terms of standard / expectation, UK conservatoire entry standards have risen enormously since I started teaching. Historically, first level of diploma ( DIipABRSM , ATCL ) were viewed as equivalent to first year conservatoire standard ; second level diplomas equivalent to undergraduate graduation recital standard, and Fellowships as considerably higher.
It's hard to compare the big 3 viola concertos to violin concertos technically, because the viola is simply a harder instrument to play and the pyrotechnics you see in the major violin concertos aren't physically possible. My best guess is that they're more difficult to play than Bruch/Mendelssohn, but not quite up to the difficulty of Beethoven/Brahms/Tchaikovsky/Sibelius. The typical age at which conservatory-track violists tackle one of the big 3 concertos would seem to track with that.
Might as well start now on the last movement of the third Rasumovsky quartet (Beethoven Op. 59 No. 3).
LOL Paul, my son played the Beethoven around her age -- it was crazy! I think he played it on violin, though.
Online is such a gift these days- maybe finding someone special regionally or nationally with occasional meetups? I am sure you being you are already thinking of this, but just adding it to the thread....
The CSO viola section...
Surprisingly, very few of the CSO section violas teach, and only one to my knowledge has any precollege students. I guess they earn enough money from the CSO!
Off topic - If your daughter has some spare time, she might enjoy reading William Primrose's autobiography, "Walk on the North Side: Memoirs of a Violist." As I recall, he describes his journey from violin to viola at some length. The book is out of print, but you might find it in a library, and there are [pricey] used copies available out there.
If she's already doing Schubert Arpeggione and is flying through it she can start learning the others once she completes it. The next one I would do would be the Schubert Marchenbilder followed by the two Brahms Sonatas. I found the E-flat one to be more approachable than the F minor, but your daughter could start with either one. After that the Vieuxtemps and then the Clarke. For the Vieuxtemps the 1st two movements aren't too bad, but the 3rd movement is considerably harder. After all those, there are many other sonatas she can do, but these I would say are among the most widely known and once she learns these the world is basically her oyster at that point in terms of sonatas.
Slightly unrelated curiosity question: let's say you're an accomplished violinist, I'm talking learning repertoire equivalent in difficulty to Mendelssohn Concerto or above, and you decide to make viola your primary instrument. How important is it to catch up on viola repertoire that is much easier than that? I mean, playing easier pieces for the first little while to get used to the viola, but once you're past that stage, is going straight for Walton or Der Schwan kinda thing a reasonable move?
Ella, very good question. I would say it varies by age. If you are in college, I would probably jump right in to the big stuff. My daughter has the benefit of starting viola at age 12 (and switching fully by 13) so she has time to work through more of the repertoire, of which there is, of course, comparatively less. We also used the easier repertoire as a way to continue some remediation in her left hand position.
Thanks for the answer. Yeah, I agree it depends on ability and age. I was mainly thinking of those who decide to switch focus later in high school, as I suspect that is quite common, or students who play both for several years before picking viola as their main focus (which could very well have been me, but I ended up pursuing a non music post high school trajectory so I can do whatever I want, which is playing both as much as I can).
I wonder if anyone (viola) in the Chicago Lyric Opera orchestra teaches?
On the subject of repertoire remediation: the Bach suites are necessary, and it's also important to learn either the Hoffmeister or Stamitz concerto because they fill the same role in viola auditions that Mozart does in violin auditions.
Yes, Hoffmeister, like Mozart, is a different animal to try to play elegantly with the appropriately style. And, to be honest, very few violists get even close. My daughter played Mozart 3 on violin (as well as Haydn and Viotti 23) so she has some decent skills in this area -- but still needs more nuance.
Do try to get some coaching with an experienced viola specialist , even occasionally. When my daughter switched to viola at a similar age - at a similar if slightly lower standard - the thing that took longest was viola sound production. It’s such a different beast to violin, and it will be a lifetime’s work in progress.
For the Vieuxtemps Capriccio:
You can read the Primrose at archive.org.
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