Which is the toughest violin concerto to get into?

Nathan Cole of the Los Angeles Philharmonic has drawn up a list of the concertos that are hardest for a player to get going.

The give away no secrets by revealing that the Berg is pretty easy.

But which is the nightmare entry?

Read here. With plenty of video examples.

heifetz perlman


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  • Fascinating article. The Wieniawski First Concerto has to be up there in the post 10 category. Also Szymanowski no 1 – starting in the stratosphere and continuing upwards. Conversely the Schoenberg Concerto has an opening few bars that vastly belie the fact that you are attempting one of the greatest challenges ever written for the violin.

  • The easiest concerto, including its beginning, would have been Cage’s ‘Anticoncerto’ as projected in the sixties but not completed. The soloist has nothing to play but must stand in front of the ensemble of marimbas, double basses and prepared piano for 7 minutes motionless with right arm elevated as if he/she is about to begin his solo part.

      • Yes, that’s true, I had not thought of that. Maybe it would have been, then, the most difficult concerto. But the easy bit is that the soloist doesn’t have to think of any notes, positions, bowing, dynamics, conductor, and can fully concentrate on physical prowess.

  • Those concertos are certainly difficult, but they are for wussies. IMO the concerto of Louis Gruenberg has the most difficult opening. Two bars of agitated intro, then the fiddle enters with an entire page of irregular arpeggios written in an improvisatory style that require unusual fingerings, exquisite timing and ceaseless energy. It’s a dramatic concerto and a highly rewarding listen, and even beyond the opening I think it’s overall the most difficult concerto of all, which figures since it was written for Heifetz.

    • If you use Heifetz as the reference for difficulty then Schoenberg’s concerto is surely the most difficult beyond the opening, since Heifetz considered it “unplayable”, and the question does not seem to have been aesthetic, he just said that he was unable “to grow a sixth finger” for the performance.

      • His comment was actually regarding the aesthetic of the piece. Here is a quote from his official website: “I occasionally play works by contemporary composers and for two reasons. First to discourage the composer from writing any more and secondly to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven.”

        One of the exceptions was the Violin Concerto by Miklos Rosza, commissioned by Heifetz and he genuinely liked performing it.

  • Heifetz commissioned the wonderful Walton Concerto and played it frequently.

    One of the great ‘if only….’ things about the violin repertoire was H. commissioning a concerto from Gershwin and George of course dying before he could even start.

    • If I understand his essay correctly, he mostly talks about technical challenges including those that are connected to interpreting each concerto in at least musically literate way.

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