Music for the Community

Welcome to our Music for the Community page! Since we can't take our music out to local nursing homes and libraries at the moment, we're inviting you in to enjoy it here instead. Each day you'll find a new student performance on this page, along with some info about the composer or instrument - and sometimes words too so you can sing along. 

If you're interested in a particular category, you can sort performances by student age, instrument, singalong music, composer and so on - click on the orange tags under the text. We hope you and your family will enjoy watching our students share their music! 

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Displaying items by tag: Viola

Wednesday, June 24 2020 00:00

Day 58 - Arpeggione Sonata by Schubert

Violist age 18 plays Arpeggione Sonata by Schubert

Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) wrote this sonata in November 1824, for an instrument that had been invented only the previous year! It’s the only major composition for the arpeggione - basically a bowed guitar – that is still played today, albeit by other instruments. 

The sonata was probably commissioned by Schubert's friend Vincenz Schuster, who was already a virtuoso of the arpeggione, even so soon after its invention. But unfortunately it wasn’t published till 1871, long after Schubert’s death – by which time the excitement about this new instrument had long since disappeared, along with the arpeggione itself.

Schubert’s beautiful composition lives on, though, and today it's usually performed by viola or cello. There are versions for other instruments, too — including double bass, flute, euphonium and clarinet for the arpeggione part, or with guitar or harp for the piano part. And now in the 21st century, interest in the aprpeggione has revived, with several composers writing for it - so perhaps we'll be able to hear it again as Schubert intended in the not too distant future.

For more music by Schubert, see here.

Published in Music For Community
Tuesday, June 16 2020 00:00

Day 52 - Telemann Viola Concerto in G

Violist age 14 plays Telemann Concerto in G, first movement

Unlike many of the composers we've featured who were first taught music at home by their parents or other relatives, Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 - 1767) had an uphill battle to become a musician. He first had lessons from a local organist at age 10, and immediately became intensely interested in music - but his family was dead against the idea, and forbade him to take part in any musical activities at all. Nevertheless he carried on studying in secret - and managed to teach himself not only composing, but also the flute, oboe, violin, viola da gamba, recorder, double bass, and other instruments! 

He went to university to study law, but music was clearly his destiny, and he very quickly became a professional musician. In fact, he became one of the most prolific major composers of all time: he composed more than 3,000 works, including 125 orchestral suites, 125 concertos, several dozen other orchestral pieces, many sonatas in five to seven parts, nearly 40 quartets, 130 trios, 87 solos, 80 pieces for small ensembles, and roughly 250 pieces for keyboard!

His Viola Concerto in G major is actually the first known concerto for viola, and was written some time between 1716 and 1721. This mellow "Largo"  - a piece in a slow, broad tempo - is the first movement, giving the soloist the opportunity to show off the rich, deep tone of the viola. (See here for other viola performances.)

Published in Music For Community
Thursday, June 11 2020 00:00

Day 49 - Bach Prelude from Suite in G

Violist age 14 and Cellist age 16 play Bach Prelude in G major

Today, an opportunity to make a direct comparison between the sound of viola and cello playing the same piece. The two instruments have the same string set-up but the cello is an octave lower, meaning the strings (which are much longer) vibrate exactly twice as slowly. The bigger air cavity inside also deepens the sound.
Bach’s beautiful suites for solo cello were probably written between 1717 and 1723. They all have six movements, starting with a prelude and followed by Baroque dance movements such as here and here. This Prelude is the first movement of the first suite.

Because of their musical and technical difficulty, the Suites were not much performed until the great 20th century cellist Pablo Casals took them up, after discovering them in a thrift shop in Barcelona, Spain at the age of 13. His famous recordings of them were selected in 2019 for preservation in the Library of Congress. 

They have been adapted for many instruments, including viola – and in fact it’s been recently suggested that they were not necessarily written for the familiar cello balanced between the knees (da gamba), but possibly for a cello-like instrument played rather like a large violin, on the shoulder (da spalla)! 
Published in Music For Community
Monday, May 25 2020 00:00

Day 36: Mozart Minuet and Trio

Violist age 12 plays Minuet & Trio by Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1766 in the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg. When he was 3, his father starting teaching his 7-year-old sister Nannerl the clavier (the forerunner of the modern piano). Wolfgang was fascinated and began picking out simple intervals right away, so his father began teaching him too. He began composing at the age of 5 – by which time he was already performing on both violin and keyboard. 
After spending his childhood performing all over Europe, at age 17 Mozart was appointed court musician at Salzburg. But he had bigger dreams, and soon resigned the position to move to Vienna to seek more fame and fortune. He found plenty of the first and less of the second, as he frequently more money than he earned. By the time he died at the age of 35 he had composed more than 600 works and was the most highly-regarded composer of the classical period. Older classical composer Joseph Haydn, who at one point had given him composition lessons, wrote: "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."
We talked about “sandwich construction” on a small scale in Twinkle. A Minuet and Trio set is the same idea on a larger scale – a short “A” piece, followed by a “B” piece, then back to “A”. As discussed here, the minuet was a very popular dance music form of the 18th century. Minuets are always in triple time: see if you can hear the “ONE two three, ONE two three”.
Published in Music For Community

Violist age 15 plays Seitz Concerto in D, first movement

Friedrich Seitz (1848 - 1918) was a German violinist and composer, conductor, concertmaster (first chair in an orchestra), and teacher. He wrote five “Pupil’s Concertos”, as he called them, as a stepping-stone between easier short pieces and the longer, more challenging concertos of Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart. This student is well on the way to completing that transition.
The viola is bigger and lower in pitch than the violin – see also these performances. It loses the highest string (E) on the violin in exchange for a lower one (the C below middle C) at the other end; this, and the greater volume of air inside it, makes for a darker, richer, velvety sound. But the fingering system is exactly the same as on violin, so anything written for violin can be very easily adapted for viola, as has been done here.
Published in Music For Community
Friday, May 01 2020 00:00

Day 20: "Ode to Joy" by Beethoven

Adult violin student plays "Ode to Joy"

People the whole world over are familiar with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, from the glorious finale of his 9th Symphony. Its message of hope and unity is a fitting one for these very challenging times. 
While theofficial” version features a full symphony orchestra and chorus, with as many as 200 people performing together*, part of the genius of this melody is its simplicity – which makes it very accessible to students even in the early stages. This lovely arrangement was made by this student’s multi-talented teacher, who accompanies him on viola. 
We love our adult students and their willingness to be beginners at a new activity, reassuring younger students that adults still have things to learn! 
*This linked performance of the London Philharmonic Orchestra includes WSM Director Penny Wayne-Shapiro in the first violin section. See if you can spot her on the fourth stand of first violins, outside chair.
Published in Music For Community

Violist age 11 plays "Gavotte" from Orchestral Suite in D by Bach

Bach wrote four Orchestral Suites. They all have an opening piece called an Overture, followed by a collections of movements (individual pieces) based on the dance forms of the time. These suites were very popular in Bach's day, and could be considered the “easy listening” music of the mid-18th century.

This is the third movement of Bach's third suite of this type, written about 1730 and arranged here for viola. The term Gavotte for a lively dance originated in the 1690s from Provence in southern France. The Old Provençal word gavoto (mountaineer's dance) comes from gavot, a local name for an Alpine resident, which is said to mean literally "boor" or "glutton"! You can hear that this rather heavy-footed dance might well suit a country bumpkin....

Published in Music For Community
Thursday, April 16 2020 00:00

Day 9: Courante, Bach Suite #3 in C

Violist age 16 plays “Courante” from Bach Suite #3 for Viola/Cello

A viola is more than just a “big violin”. That extra size gives it a deeper, darker sound. Bigger things vibrate more slowly - try filling a smaller glass and a bigger glass with water, and tapping them each with a fork, and you’ll hear that idea at its most basic.

The viola has the same tuning as the cello, except an octave higher (meaning the viola’s strings vibrate exactly twice as fast as a cello’s) - so they can share some of the same music, including Bach’s solo suites. “Suite” means a collection of pieces which go together, and Bach’s suites are collections of 18th century dance music. “Courante” literally means “running”, and you can hear how this piece just keeps going and going – try running around to it!

If you like the sound of the viola, it’s a great instrument to learn to play – there are never enough viola players, and you will get lots of invitations to play with others!

Published in Music For Community