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Thread: Best viola solos?

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Default Best viola solos?

    In response to the "Best violin solos" thread opening up to sorta include violin works transcribed for viola, I thought it would be a nice idea to have a thread for viola solos. Preferably not transcriptions of other pieces not originally for viola, but actual viola pieces.

    I'll start this off with the most inexplicably underrated viola composer: Belgian violist Casimir Ney. His 24 preludes (each in a different key, similar to Chopin, Rachmaniov, etc. preludes) are extreme tests for violists, technically and musically. There's only one recording of the whole set of which I'm aware (by Oscar Shumsky's son), and there's only one Youtube video, of a live performance that gives an idea of what we're dealing with:



    (I'm never going to play Paganini, ever.)

    One of my favorite viola solos is the Introduction and Allegro by Miklos Rozsa, which is also lacking in the standard repertoire; I only know of one recording, there is no Youtube video, and when I performed it, people had only known Rozsa as the composer of the soundtracks to Ben Hur, the viola concerto, etc. (and these are other violists I'm talking about). It's a brutal piece, about 15 minutes long, the placid introduction becoming agitated before the explosion of the main allegro.

    Edmund Rubbra also made a small contribution to the solo literature, the 10-12 minute long Meditations on a Byzantine Hymn. It similarly has no Youtube video, but in recent years recordings of it have somewhat flourished, attracted violists like Lawrence Power and Roger Chase, as well as the two viola version having been recorded by the Dante Quartet in their survey of his works for string quartet.

    Next? Feel free to just comment, of course, you don't have to contribute anything.

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    I don't have any viola solos in my collection per se, but I do have three works for orchestra that feature the viola that come immediately to mind:
    Berlioz's Harold en Italie
    Richard Strauss' Don Quixote
    Hindemith's Trauermusic (sp??)

    Hindemith (a darn good violist) also premiered Walton's viola concerto, which I have a copy of (Walton conducts, with some other British soloist playing, on a vintage recording issued by Dutton labs).

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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    How about any of Hindemith's viola sonatas? He wrote 7, 3 for viola and piano and 4 for viola alone.
    I really like Schnittke's viola concerto too.
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    Senior Member Taneyev's Avatar
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    Primrose-Walton and Philarmonia O.,1946.

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odnoposoff View Post
    Primrose-Walton and Philarmonia O.,1946.
    I believe you are correct, Sir.

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by violadude View Post
    How about any of Hindemith's viola sonatas? He wrote 7, 3 for viola and piano and 4 for viola alone.
    I really like Schnittke's viola concerto too.
    I do own a recording by members of the MIT Chamber Music Society of one of the viola and piano sonatas of Hindemith, Sonata for Viola and Piano (1919), Op. 11 No. 4

    Link: http://web.mit.edu/ckcheung/www/Perf...Recordings.htm
    (Scroll down, works are in alph. order by composer)

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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    I do own a recording by members of the MIT Chamber Music Society of one of the viola and piano sonatas of Hindemith, Sonata for Viola and Piano (1919), Op. 11 No. 4

    Link: http://web.mit.edu/ckcheung/www/Perf...Recordings.htm
    (Scroll down, works are in alph. order by composer)
    Ya that's the most popular one. It's generally thought to be the easiest to listen to because Hindemith hadn't developed the style that he's known for yet. It's also probably the easiest one to play.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Reger composed a fair amount of music for solo viola, and a fair amount of it has been recorded. Reger's music is a bit of a challenge for me, but I am 'in' usually after a few minutes of listening. World Violist is a more likely source of useful recommendations than I am.

    I have the LPs of Walter Trampler playing... sonatas 1 and 3 or suites 1 and 3, I don't remember which.
    This memory thing is why I am passing the task to World Violist. Hey, it's your thread, y'know.
    Last edited by Ukko; Aug-16-2011 at 18:06.
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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    One movement of one of the Hindemith solo viola sonatas is all quarter notes and the tempo is like quarter note=630-650


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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    I forgot about Hindemith, partly because I never cared much for his music. I've heard a handful of performances of the 1919 sonata and Schwanendreher, and a solo sonata, and I never cared for them. Significant pieces, yes, but I'm not convinced of how "great" they are.

    Reger I'm unfamiliar with, though I'm listening to a CD of Nobuko Imai playing the G minor suite and it's very impressive. I like how he writes for viola; I'll need to listen to more of his viola music.

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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    I forgot about Hindemith, partly because I never cared much for his music. I've heard a handful of performances of the 1919 sonata and Schwanendreher, and a solo sonata, and I never cared for them. Significant pieces, yes, but I'm not convinced of how "great" they are.

    Reger I'm unfamiliar with, though I'm listening to a CD of Nobuko Imai playing the G minor suite and it's very impressive. I like how he writes for viola; I'll need to listen to more of his viola music.
    I can understand that. I used to think that Hindemith was really really boring, but he's grown on me over the years. I think there is not a lot of surface appeal to his music for most people. His harmonic language and just his style in general I think is pretty tough to connect to, for a lot of people including me.

    I would recommend his string quartets though, World Violist! Especially 3 and 5. #1 actually sounds like Dvorak!


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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    Let me know what you think of #3 too, my favorite one. I think Hindemith's music works much better with lot's of voices (instruments) rather than just one solo voice.



    Sorry, I've kind of turned this into a Hindemith thread rather than viola thread.
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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    For viola music, there's the practically unknown suite for viola and orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams.



    This recording is the first and last movements by the way.
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    Senior Member Taneyev's Avatar
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    One of the best viola composers of the 19Th.century was Vieuxtemps IMO. All his production is really wonderful and exception his concertos, I think his viola's better and more important than his short violin pieces.
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    JSK
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    The Schnittke concerto is quite wonderful, but also quite heavy.

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