Random acts of violins
July 7, 2008 2:17 PM   Subscribe

What music written after 1830 is playable by an amateur violinist?

I've played violin for about 11 years, most of them in a school orchestra. I took private lessons as well. Once I got to college (as a computer sci major, not music), orchestra became more of a loathsome chore than the recreational fun it was supposed to be: no competitive events, rehearsals of 2.5 hours, no parties. I stopped playing entirely.

Now that I have a salaried job and my own apartment, I have the time and inclination to play again, and it feels pretty damn good. My job gives me access to UTexas' library system, its massive library included, so any music I want to play, I can get.

I am, of course, limited by talent. I play acceptably, but I'm sure no virtuoso. The body of 'playable' repertoire lies in the Classical and Baroque eras, when music as a whole was much simpler. That's why much of Suzuki method is made up of Handel/Mozart/Bach works.

Under my own training Bach's Violin Concerto in E Major (legally free score) is the current pinnacle of my abilities. Still, after years of Suzuki, I am so very sick of Handel/Mozart/Bach music and I'd love to experiment in Romantic and 20th century. These are the eras in which composers take liberties and let loose, which unfortunately results in a prohibitive difficulty for amateurs. Bartok = ouch, Elliott Carter = arm rape.

To the violinists in the house: what solo music (accompaniment OK) do you know written after 1830 (Beethoven died in 1827) that would be playable by a mediocre amateur? I tend to enjoy Romantic more than contemporary music, but will gladly try both. Because I'm a prude, I would strongly prefer composers I've heard of. I know enough modern music that anyone with an ounce of credibility to his name will likely ring a bell, so all ideas are welcome.

Mini-question: I've always wanted to play in a quartet, but my high school could only train one group, so it was sort of the 'awsum kidz only' club that I wasn't in. Any ideas how I could join/start a recreation-only quartet in Austin?
posted by spamguy to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sibelius wrote some very difficult music for violin, but also, several pieces which are approachable for the intermediate performer. As for forming or joining a quartet, consider doing it as an avocation, or weekend job, even if for you, the draw is mainly to play frequently in enjoyable settings, with others. Many quasi-commercial spots for quartets exist around most major cities for weddings and other functions, and you stand a better chance of finding other people committed to keeping a group together regularly, if there is at least some remuneration possible. Of course, you could easily begin or continue such a group with some free concerts in the area, too, simply by posting listings for auditions on related Web sites, and approaching local churches and public spaces about holding performances.

Through the magic of the Music Performance Fund, you could even, with a little preparation, act as a contractor for events you organize, and get full or partial MPF funding for events, allowing you to hire professional string players to perform with you. You can get more information about this, including how to join the union, at the the Local 433 Web site.
posted by paulsc at 7:26 PM on July 7, 2008

Make a beeline for John Cage, Morton Feldman and Fluxus composers like George Brecht [pdf] and Dick Higgins. You will most likely hate it, but, speaking as someone who was a computer science and string bass performance major in college, I consider it the most educational music I have ever encountered.
posted by billtron at 7:55 PM on July 7, 2008

Have you considered traditional fiddle tunes?
posted by bdc34 at 10:31 AM on July 8, 2008

Some not-too-difficult pieces that come to mind are Schubert's Sonatinas and Dvorák's Sonatina op.100.
posted by cbrody at 6:20 PM on July 8, 2008

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