Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Core Repertoire: The Sequence for Learning Violin Concertos

A collaborative pianist who specializes in working with young violinists has emailed me with a sequence in which violin students traditionally learn the concertos, in this person's experience:

1. Bach a minor
2. Haydn
3. Mozart 3, 4, or 5
4. Bruch
5. Lalo
6. Barber, Saint-Saens 3, Mendelssohn, or Wieniawski 2
7. Sibelius or Tchaikovsky

That order mostly jives with my experience, although the studios I've played for usually start with either Spohr or one of the Mozarts. I would also add the Shostakovich after Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, although I object to giving that concerto to most teenagers (which more violin teachers seem to be doing these days) because of its extreme technical and artistic demands.

Any violin concertos you would add to the early or latter stages of the list?


  1. I've yet to see a high school kid play Shostakovich, no matter how great they are, though I'm sure the time is coming. That just seems kind of sick to me. I've seen particularly great undergrads do it, but never a high school kid. I have seen a high school kid play Brahms, and though he could do it very beautifully, I certainly wouldn't recommend it in general! Tchaik and Sibelius seem more reasonable because even though they're both beasts, a phenomenal kid can still do a good enough job with either early on that when they come back to it as older students, they don't have to relearn everything, and can start with a good base. Doing Shostakovich early just seems damaging - it's not as if violins have run out of repertoire to play, like other instruments can. Why aren't they playing Dvorak, or Korngold? Are they only looking for the "flash factor" in the Shostakovich?

  2. That flash factor is what I'm concerned about--it seems many teachers give the Shostakovich to their uber-talented youngsters, although at it's heart, it's a work of profound emotion. Why not give them Bazzini if they want students to show off?