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The Orchestral Etude Book

A Guide to Survival Repertoire

Stephen B. Shipps
Collegiate teachers are faced with a substantial problem when they accept a
talented freshman: time! Multiplying out the typical four-year sequence of 28
lessons per year, the teacher has only 28 times 4, or 114 violin lessons to have this
young person ready for a job or for graduate school. Can you imagine: just 114
hours of training to transform a talented student into a professional-level violinist?
I am assuming that teachers are making moral decisions and have counseled
students who have a slim chance or no chance of making a living performing on
the violin to pursue other professional options.
Most American college graduates will be faced with one of two things when
they enter the music profession: they will play in orchestras and/or they will teach.
They will do these two things if they are any good, that is. The old days of
shooting for the glory of the solo career are long gone. Only the most
extraordinary players have such a chance, and usually their appearances in major
concerts have begun far before their university days. Chamber music careers are
possible for those who persevere and are willing to starve for their art.1
For the rest of the professional violinists, the roles of orchestral player and
teacher are most likely. I counsel many students to aim for education degrees.
Unfortunately, because of the time constraints of the education degree process,
they do not have nearly as much time to practice and therefore, as violinists, do not
progress as far as performance majors do. Yet even if their level of playing is not
quite as high as that of performance majors, most of these students will be
employable directly out of school, with the chance of being part of the professional
musical life in our country.
Performance majors have to be counseled very carefully on their
professional possibilities. If they are not prepared correctly, graduation will come
with NO hope of employment around the comer. It is for the futures of these
performance majors that I am writing this article.
Let's look carefully at the 114 hours we have to work with students:

1Six Quartets In Search of an Auditor: The Economic Side of Ensemble Life, David Ruben,
Chamber Music, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Fall 1989): 16.
Repertoire Usually Covered In Lessons
1. Scales: an absolutely necessary part of training. If you can't play scales and
arpeggios, then this discussion is not even necessary. A teacher can hope that
most of this work is done before college, but often it is not.
2. Concerti: crucial to the development of any violinist. Style, technique,
knowledge of periods of music, and so on are all covered in detail by studying
the major concerti. Concerti are required repertoire for almost all job auditions
after school. (An important drawback is that it takes a long time to learn a
major concerto, even for a gifted young player.)
3. Solo Bach: required for most jobs in the field. Our most monumental
repertoire, the Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin are a crucial part of training.
4. Etudes: absolutely necessary for the young violinist. Concentrating
technical difficulties is the easiest path to solving those problems. Read on,
however, for some radical new ideas on this subject.
5. Sonatas: enjoyable, but not a very efficient use of lesson time. Ivan
Galamian felt strongly that if you had good technique, sonatas could be learned
on your own. Most sonatas (excepting the Brahms d minor, Beethoven
Kreutzer, Schubert C Major Fantasy, and the like) are not so hard that they will
make a big difference in a student's technical development.
6. Short pieces: one of the quickest ways to learn many different styles and
techniques. Music from Baroque to very contemporary is well within the
grasp of most students in these miniature forms. I find them very useful
teaching tools. The most popular are by Fritz Kreisler. No matter how you feel
about this repertoire, the public has decided these are its favorites, and so they
are necessary to most violinists.
Repertoire Not Usually Covered in Lessons
Chamber music

Usually this is covered in chamber music classes that are scheduled

separately from regular lessons. It is helpful if the coach is a violinist, but not
absolutely necessary.

Orchestral repertoire

This usually falls through the cracks in most schools. University orchestra
rehearsals are designed to teach ensemble skills and orchestral performance, not to
teach the necessary skills to prepare an orchestral audition for a job. These need to
be taught in a special class or in lessons if a student is going to survive after
The preferred option is to study the orchestral repertoire in both lessons and
classes/sectional rehearsals. My training came from Josef Gingold, acknowledged
as our profession's greatest orchestral violin teacher. The years he spent under
Toscanini in the NBC Symphony and under George Szell as concertmaster in the
Cleveland Orchestra gave him special insight into the range and possibilities of
that music. As early as freshman year, I remember lessons of Strauss's Ein
Heldenleben and Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol and Scheherazade, just
for starters. With those lessons in mind, I have worked up a plan for teaching that
incorporates orchestral repertoire in a logical way for my students.

Dividing the pie

How do you balance the repertoire question? How much lesson/practice time
do you spend on what? Students need some sort of guidance to figure out their
futures, no matter how gifted the students. If they specialize in one sort of
repertoire too early, they will not have options later on if they change their minds. I
will attempt to solve this problem here in my "Guide to Survival Repertoire.
Preparing for Orchestral Auditions
To be prepared specifically for the professional world, students need to have
the following repertoire merely to qualify for entrance into orchestral auditions:

3-4 major concerti: one Romantic, one quasi-contemporary, one Mozart, one
optional free choice
1-2 Bach Sonatas and Partitas: one Adagio and Fuga from the g minor, a
minor, or C Major sonatas or Chaconne. Good to have a complete Partita also.
20-30 standard orchestral pieces: these come from Strauss, Mozart, Weber,
Beethoven, Brahms, Shostakovich, and others.

With today's tough standards for employment, even in small orchestras, it is

not adequate to "look over" the excerpts the week before the audition. These are
very difficult pieces that need to be learned and internalized in the same way you
would a standard concerto. This brings us back to our original problem of time.
Where do these pieces fit in the lesson plan? With concerti, Bach, scales, and short
pieces as irreplaceable, and with sonatas minimized, we are left with etudes and
orchestral repertoire.
The logical solution is to replace as many etudes as possible with orchestral
repertoire. The technical difficulties are similar. Etudes are used to solve technical
difficulties and then usually not played again until you are faced with teaching
them. But orchestral repertoire can be used immediately when students audition for
local orchestras, when they audition for their university orchestras, and so on.
My "Guide" is a chart for etude replacement. This is my plan and these are
my opinions. You can use it as a model and come up with your own plan,
remodeling it from student to student, considering any weakness with which you
are faced.

Guide to Survival Repertoire

For the sake of simplicity, I will limit this discussion to the following etude
Schradieck: School of Violin Technics, Book 1
evk: School of Violin Technics, Book 1
Dounis: The Independence of Fingers
Kreutzer: 42 Studies
Rode: 24 Etudes
Dont: 24 Etudes, op. 35
The following are only repertoire suggestions. The important thing is the
concept. You may substitute anything you find useful. Please bear in mind, though,
that the pieces listed here often appear on orchestra audition lists.

Simple detach Bach: Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, mvt 1
Bach: Third Brandenburg Concerto, mvt 3
Kreutzer 2, 5, 8, 10 Bach: Third Orchestral Suite, mvt 1
Rode 4, 24 Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra, mvt 5
Dont 2, 3, 4, 20 Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3
Dvorak: Carnival Overture
Ginastera: Variaciones Concertantes, solo
Mendelssohn: Overture to Fingal's Cave
Schumann: Second Symphony, scherzo
Wagner: Overture to Der Meistersinger
Weber: Overture to Euryanthe
Detach mixed with legato Beethoven: Second Symphony, mvts 1, 4
Berlioz: Overture to Le Corsaire
Kreutzer 3, 12, 13, 31 Debussy: La Mer, mvt 2 (rehearsal 33-39)
Rode 2, 6, 8, 10, 22 Haydn: Symphony 88, mvt 1
Dont 13 Haydn: Symphony 104, mvt 4
Mozart: Symphony 40, mvt 4
Schumann: Fourth Symphony, mvt 1
Weber: Overture to Oberon
Legato string crossings Brahms: Second Symphony, mvts 1, 2, 4
Brahms: Third Symphony, mvt 4
Kreutzer 4, 29, 30 Brahms: Fourth Symphony, mvts 3, 4
Rode 3 Schnberg: Verklrte Nacht
Dont 17, 22
Detach string crossings Beethoven: Eighth Symphony, mvt 4
Beethoven: Sixth Symphony, mvt 1
Dont 3, 5, 20 Shostakovich: Fifth Symphony, mvt 4
Tchaikovsky: Third Suite, solo
Spiccato Beethoven: Fourth Symphony, mvt 4
Beethoven: Third Symphony, mvt 3
any detach etude that is also used for spiccato Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, mvt 1
study, e.g: Bizet: Symphony No. 1, mvt 4
Brahms: Second Symphony, mvt 3
Kreutzer 8 Elgar: Enigma Variations, 2nd variation
Dont 2, 3 Haydn: Symphony No. 101, mvt 1
Mendelssohn: Fourth Symphony, mvt 1 coda
Mendelssohn: MND, overture and scherzo
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, Death of Tybalt
Rossini: Overture to La Scala di Seta
Rossini: Overture to William Tell
Schumann: Second Symphony, mvt 2
Tchaikovsky: Sixth Symphony, mvts 1, 3
Verdi: Overture to La Forza del Destino
Spiccato mixed with legato Mozart: Symphony No. 39, mvt 4
Schubert: Second Symphony, mvt 1
usually falls in variations of detach etudes: Tchaikovsky: Overture to The Nutcracker
Kreutzer 2, 8, etc.
Long bows Beethoven: Ninth Symphony, mvt 3
Brahms: Second Symphony, mvt 2
Kreutzer 1 Elgar: Enigma Variations, Nimrod
Rode 1, 6, 9, 16, 20, 24 (Intro) Schumann: Second Symphony, mvt 3
Schumann: Third Symphony, mvt 3
Martel Bach: Second Brandenburg Concerto, mvt 1
Brahms: First Symphony, mvt 1
Kreutzer 6, 7 Handel: Overture to Messiah
Rode 1 Beethoven: Third Symphony, mvt 4 coda
Ricochet Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol, solos
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, solos
Dont 10, 19
Lifting and dropping left-hand fingers Bach: Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, solo
Debussy: Nocturnes, Fetes (rehearsal 13-14)
Schradieck Elgar: Enigma Variations, variations 7, 11
Dounis Mendelssohn: Midsummer Night's Dream
evk Mendelssohn: Overture to Fingal's Cave
Kreutzer 9 Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
Dont 6 Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe, suite 2
Schumann: Fourth Symphony, mvt 2 solo
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, solos
Stretches, contraction, strange intervals Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra, mvt 5
Hindemith: Mathis der Maler, coda
Kreutzer 27 Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis
Dont 2, 5, 7 Mozart: Symphony No. 39, mvt 2
Schumann: Second Symphony, mvt 2
Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra
Etudes involving different problems, such Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture
as note reading, strange keys, rhythmic Mendelssohn: Fourth Symphony
problems, and basic brilliance of execution Prokofiev: Classical Symphony
Prokofiev: Fifth Symphony
Kreutzer 28, 31 Rossini: Overture to La Gazza Ladra
Rode 5, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21 Shostakovich: Fifth Symphony
Dont 24 Strauss: Don Juan
Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, solo
Strauss: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, solo
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Dance Russe solo

More Concerns
A few categories are not covered in detail in the orchestral repertoire, and in
all fairness, I do need to point them out. Certain virtuoso techniques do not show
up in that repertoire that we need to know. Up-bow staccato, flying staccato, trill,
double stops, and chords do not occur, for the most part. They occur constantly,
however, in the solo repertoire that will be necessary for employability. So any
etudes that cover those specialties need to be considered necessary.
If you are faced with a talented young person who is between the ages of 9
and 13, then this article is not applicable. At that point, take that kid through
everything. That means to me Schradieck, Kayser, Mazas, Spohr, Whistler's
Preparing for Kreutzer, Kreutzer, Rode, and Dancla. That would leave time for
Dont Op. 35, Gavinies, Paganini, and Wieniawski in college, along with the
orchestral repertoire that will make them employable.
But if that talented young person comes to you at 17 or 18 years of age with
big holes in his or her repertoire, then give this plan a try. It just might give the
student a chance to make a living.

This article was originally published in the ASTA Journal in 1992. It was adapted
for the screen by