Folk-inspired violin and piano piece

September 6, 2023, 7:24 AM · Hi, I'm looking for a substantial piece for my final conservatoire recital that incorporates folk influences. I've really struggled to find pieces that stray away from the classical styles but still sound fairly tonal. It would be great if anyone can suggest advanced violin+piano music based around folk, without being too wacky! I love the groove of American trad and also scandinavian, celtic and Irish folk so especially anything based around those would be perfect. Thank you!

Replies (16)

September 6, 2023, 8:50 AM · You might consider reaching out to Tessa Lark. I bet she knows every such piece.
September 6, 2023, 11:25 AM · Maybe try looking into tunes by Frigg, they are all fantastic players and the music is folk based.
Edited: September 8, 2023, 2:43 PM · I'd suggest having a look at the fiddle/violin compositions of James Scott Skinner, known as "the Scottish Paganini", whose music is now a part of Scottish fiddling tradition. Sheet music is readily available on-line and in print form, and his music is sufficiently complex and challenging for a conservatory recital. Also check out Nicola Benedetti, the Scottish classical violinist, who has worked closely with folk musicians Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, in her recent album "Homecoming". You can find it on youtube. She performs a number of Skinner pieces on that album which might inspire you, including The Hurricane, The Dean Brig of Edinburgh, and The Banks Hornpipe, a fine E flat showpiece with saltando bowing.
September 6, 2023, 1:02 PM · You might also look into some Aaron Copland pieces that have been transcribed for violin & piano (perhaps especially from "Rodeo").
September 6, 2023, 1:11 PM · Romanian Folk Dances by Bella Bartok, a lively 10 minute piece of five dance tunes.
September 6, 2023, 1:56 PM · Not Trad/folk in the north European sense, but how about Piazzolla’s 4 Seasons of Buenos Aires ?
September 6, 2023, 3:21 PM · Wynton Marsalis Fiddle Dance Suite? But it is solo violin. He also has a great violin concerto.
September 7, 2023, 1:07 AM · The second Sonata for Violin and Piano by Charles Ives is largely based in American fiddling idiom... particularly the second moment, and it's a lot of fun to play
September 7, 2023, 1:44 AM · How technically demanding should your folk-based selection be? The Bartok Romanian Dances (suggested by Jeff, above) is an attractive collection. Other ideas: Vaughan Williams Six Studies in English Folksong and Dvorak Sonatina op.100.
September 7, 2023, 2:49 PM · I'll back up the Bartok Hungarian Dances. It is great music, a bit of a show piece, a great ending to any recital and reasonably well known (I believe it is a mistake to choose pieces for an audition or an audition-like event that are not know to the jury).

It also fits all your criteria--except for the geography.

September 7, 2023, 3:39 PM · For American folk tunes look into Mark O’Connor and his method.
September 8, 2023, 1:01 PM · Sarasate's "Muineira" is a Galician folk song that sounds very much like an Irish jig.

"From the Canebrake" by Samuel Gardner is a fun tune as well - Heifetz recorded it.

For Scandinavian stuff, look into compositions by Ole Bull.

Vieuxtemps collection "Bouquet Americain" is a nice selection of folk tunes he arranged for his American tour. Maud Powell recorded "St. Patrick's Day"

September 8, 2023, 1:27 PM · Along these lines I just learned of this:

September 11, 2023, 6:21 AM · Hi everyone, thanks for all the really interesting suggestions. I've been researching these and I'm definitely spoilt for choice thank you!
Edited: September 11, 2023, 10:46 AM · Did a browse on YouTube, and that Marsalis suite holds up a lot better than I'd feared.

Very tangentially, the Zwillich Fantasy for solo violin has some blues-y riffs that most violinists don't milk especially well.

On the subject of blues, there is, of course, the Ravel sonata.
And I am convinced that Ravel's admirer and would-be student George Gershwin alluded to that when he wrote "Summertime" a few years afterward. There is a Heifetz transcription, naturally.

Finally, for now, while the folk influence is more imagined than real, being played by an actual Hungarian brings out all kinds of things in this one that are no longer immediately obvious in the score:

September 11, 2023, 11:14 AM ·

QUOTE: Katherine Dunham · 09/07/23, 1:07 AM
"The second Sonata for Violin and Piano by Charles Ives is largely based in American fiddling idiom... particularly the second moment, and it's a lot of fun to play."

I thought of the same sonata. My violin instructor at Southern Oregon University played this sonata during the late 60's, and it was just excellent. I don't have a recording of it, yet I still remember how Ives so effectively wove Oh Suzanna and other folk songs into the music.

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