Violin Concertos for Intermediate Students
The 19th century was a high time for public concerts, and that in turn created demand for music lessons. Music teachers in that era were mostly composers and performers themselves. Sometimes they wrote pedagogical pieces for their students, to be used as learning material and also for performance.
The violin concerto was one of the most-favoured genres in that era, and there were certainly some very well-written student concertos composed for the purpose of teaching and learning. These pieces were often composed in keys that sounded more resonant on the violin (i.e. G major, D major, A minor etc.) and employed fingerings and bowings that are natural to the hands of violinists while retaining the virtuosic character of a concerto.
As violinists, we all dream of playing the great concertos of Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and others. However, without proper intermediate-level repertoire to the bridge the gap, young students attempting these challenging pieces too early may struggle and develop bad habits that will hinder their progress. It is very important for teachers to be informed of these repertoires, and use them as a tool to help the students to develop their technique and musicality naturally.
The concertos listed below represent some of the student-level repertoire that are available to us.
Oskar Rieding (1840-1916)
Rieding was an important violin pedagogue who composed a handful of works for the violin. Among his more popular compositions, the first movement of Concerto in G major, Op.24 was included in Barbara Barber's Solos for Young Violinists, Vol.2, a popular compilation of great violin literatures preferred by many teachers.
- Violin Concerto in B minor, Op.35
This three-movement concerto is among a few that can be played entirely in the first position. However, students who have learned shifting can explore playing in other positions to achieve a more expressive performance.
- Violin Concerto in A minor in Hungarian Style, Op.21
This single-movement concerto is full of characters! The Hungarian style is especially recognizable in its bold rhythmic motive at the opening. The middle section carries the flair of Gypsy music. The idiomatic writing for the violin makes it a very enjoyable piece to practice and perform.
Concertino Op.21 - Rieding
Friedrich Seitz (1848-1918)
Seitz was a German violinist and composer who wrote a great deal of chamber music, and on top of that, eight important student concertos for the violin.
Seitz concertos are no stranger to Suzuki teachers and students. The first movement of Concerto No.5 is the audition repertoire to Suzuki's teacher training for the Suzuki Association of America. Also included in Suzuki Violin School, Vol.4 are the third movements of Concerto No.2 and No.5. The first movement of Concerto No.3 was included in Barbara Barber's Solos for Young Violinists, Vol. 2.
Each concerto varies in difficulties and the positions of shifting involved, it is advisable for students to select one that corresponds with their current levels.
The Eight Student Concertos:
- D major, Op.7
- G major, Op.13 -1st position only
- G minor, Op.12 -1st to 3rd positions
- D major, Op.15 -1st to 3rd positions
- D major, Op.22 -1st position only
- G major, Op.31
- D minor, Op.32
- A major, Op.51
Concerto No.5 - Seitz
Leo Portnoff (1875-1940)
Portnoff was a Ukranian violinist and composer who has resided and worked in Germany and the United States. As a relatively lesser-known composer, some of his works include a couple of Russian Fantasias and Violin Concertinos.
- Concertino in A minor, Op.14
This single-movement concertino is a good training piece to build dexterity and stamina in young players. It requires shifting up to the 3rd position. There are no short of expressive moments throughout the piece as it moves continuously from one section to another, alternating between charming melodies and thrilling passages. The lyrical parts are full of Romantic idioms and require careful bow distribution and expressive vibrato. Meanwhile, the exciting passageworks require good coordination between the hands and also in string crossings.
Concertino Op.14 - Portnoff
Hans Sitt (1850-1922)
Jan Hanuš Sitt was better known as Hans Sitt. He was a Bohemian violinist, composer, and an important violin pedagogue who served as the faculty of Leipzig Conservatory. Sitt was perhaps better known for his wide range of etudes or technical studies, but he also composed several violin concertos and concertinos.
- Concertino in E minor, Op.31
This concertino is rather demanding as it is a full-length three movements work, with all movements being connected. It is played only in the first to third positions, as indicated in the title. Despite that, the music is technically complex as it encompass a wide range of bowings and articulations. There are also many instances of extended etude-like passage, something that can be found in a lot of his works.
Jean-Baptiste Accolay (1833-1900)
Accolay was a Belgian violinist and composer, his Concerto in A minor has perhaps overshadowed the composer himself. This concerto was also included in Barbara Barber's Solos for Young Violinists, Vol.3.
- Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor
A single-movement concerto, it is one of the most popular student-level concertos. The soloist enters with grand arpeggio-like statements, which followed shortly after by a highly evocative and lyrical second theme. The virtuosic passages are no less appealing than any of those from the standard concertos.
Concerto No.1 - Accolay
"I know that the most joy in my life has come to me from my violin." - Albert Einstein
© 2017 Goh Tong Keat