Zigeunerweisen – Pablo Sarasate

Pablo Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen is one of those quintessential showpieces every violin virtuoso performs at some stage in their career. This famous piece has everything a violinist loves: drama and excitement, dazzling speed and bowing wizardry, flamboyance and flair, genuine pathos and a moment or two of yearning – with appealing Gypsy-like melodies.

Has it become a cliche? Only a very jaded listener would think so. Part of the virtuoso’s rite of passage, a musical mountain that all yearn to climb and conquer, it remains an irresistible glittering treasure of desire for every aspiring violinist. Not all may reach the summit, but the climb is a whole lot of fun!

Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) is in one movement with four identifiable sections, three in C minor and the final one in A minor.

Moderato, the first movement, is a kind of slow introduction, written in an improvisational style common to Gypsy (Romani) inspired music, with frequent pauses and interspersed with long rapid runs and flourishes.

Lento follows, continuing the sense of spontaneous ad libbing in a passionate display of bowing fireworks and gymnastics – including flying spiccato and richochet.

Un poco piu lento comes next with a poignant melody by Hungarian composer Elemér Szentirmay called csak egy szép lány van a világon (in English, There’s Only One Lovely Maid in the World), often played with a mute.

Allegro molto vivace provides the scintillating finale, a dazzling display of wondrous violin pyrotechnics – long runs of spiccato, artificial harmonics, double stops and left hand pizzicato.

Below we’ve assembled a collection of videos and links for the brave at heart to study.

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Allamanda in D minor by JS Bach – Violin Solo

Transfixed at hearing Bach’s solo violin partitas and sonatas, a student asked me which one to learn first. At the time she was playing Bach’s Concerto in A minor from volume 7, the first big concert piece in the Suzuki violin repertoire.

Hilary Hahn plays Bach

From the point of view of ease of playing, two of the more obvious choices were the Allemanda and the Giga from Partita No. 2 in D minor, the same suite that contains the sublime Chacconne. My personal preference perhaps would have been the dancing delightful Giga. She chose the Allemanda in D minor, that lively earnest first dance in the suite, with its resonant opening D and free flowing melodies.

The Allemanda in D minor (or Allemande) provides students with a happy doorway in to Bach’s immortal solo violin works. It has all the richness and power of his unstopping musical logic and his seamless modulations and harmonic sense, richly compressed and concentrated into a single page of surprising beauty. Technically, the Allemanda is accessible by students at Suzuki volume 6 or so, who can then look forward to years of discovering the exquisite musical treasures within Bach’s solo violin works.

Where to start and how to learn it.

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Ave Maria by Bach-Gounod – Violin Solo

Solemn, spiritual, moving, profound, beautiful! Ave Maria by J.S. Bach and Charles Gounod is music from two deeply religious composers. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 846 from the legendary Well-Tempered Clavier Well-Tempered Clavier collection is the original melody for Gounod’s Ave Maria.

Charles Gounod

This deceptively simple and enchantingly lovely arrangement immediately took on a life of its own, spreading out into versions for a multitude of instruments and settings. Ave Maria continues to be recorded by operatic singers from Melba to Pavarotti and beyond.

Charles-François Gounod’s life story makes interesting reading, particularly his connection with the Mendelssohns, how he came to write Ave Maria, his deep religious impulse to become a priest and the time he spent in England.

Apart from Ave Maria, his opera Faust and a few others, Gounod’s illustrious body of compositions is relatively unknown to string players.

Study Points

Like Schubert’s Ave Maria, the Bach-Gounod song introduces few technical challenges for players at about Suzuki Book 4 or 5 level. Once again the primary area to focus on while studying this solo is interpretation – phrasing, expression, dynamics and tone quality.

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Ave Maria by Schubert – Violin Solo

Franz Schubert composed Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellen’s Song), eventually becoming known as Ave Maria, in 1825 at the age of 28, to the lyrics of The Lady of the Lake, a famous poem by Sir Walter Scott. The melody is commonly sung with the words of the traditional Catholic prayer, Ave Maria (Hail Mary).

Ave Maria has been performed by some of the world’s great classical singers, such as Andrea Bocelli, Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti, and continues to be popular with audiences all over the world. Unlike many of Schubert’s compositions, it was acclaimed and published in his lifetime.

(Note: TSV Gold membership is required for further reading and access to score library.)

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The Swan (Le Cygne) by Saint-Saëns – Violin Solo

Le Cygne (The Swan) by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, originally scored for cello and two pianos, is from The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux) composed in 1886. Due to its attractive and entrancing melody, Le Cygne was soon transcribed and arranged for other instruments, including violin, as it spread far and wide in the musical world. Not bad for something Saint-Saëns himself regarded as a piece of fun!


Photo by Igor Kaliush

A great little solo for a student concert, The Swan is a perfect choice to follow a concerto or any other quick piece. It’s easy to learn for students at Suzuki Volume 4 or 5 and beyond, and has an attractive piano accompaniment.

Both scores can be downloaded by TSV Gold members from the Solo Scores section of the Gold Scores page.

A Few Study Points

Time Signature and Entry

The 6/4 time signature sets a question for students, initially just to get a feel for the rhythm of the music. Should we count six crotchets (quarter notes), three minims (half notes) or what? A closer look (and listen) reveals an underlying structure of two dotted minims – groups of three crotchets – although putting too much weight on these two beats can upset the flow of melody, which is intended, quite obviously, to be swanlike.

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Romance in F Major by Beethoven – Violin Solo

When one of our violin students asked for advice about audition pieces for a university music course, I suggested Beethoven’s Romance in F Major (Op. 50). She became, as I had years before, entranced with its soaring melodies, mesmerized by the unmistakable sense of rightness of the phrases and harmonies, and awed by the perfection of Beethoven’s creation.

Photo by Annie Spratt

Romance in F Major flows along at the slower tempo of Adagio Cantabile. As you know, slow pieces are not necessarily easier. They require confidence, calm nerves and a steady bow. Nonetheless, knowing her deep love of the Romance I suggested she play it first at the audition, despite having spent a lot of time working up a dazzling quicker work. Afterwards, hearing that the panel didn’t ask to hear another piece, I knew the audition was successful.

In my opinion, of the two Romances Beethoven wrote for violin and orchestra, No. 1 in G Major and No. 2 in F Major, the second is more appealing for a student solo by virtue of the beautiful melody lines. They resound in your head and follow you into your dreams at night.

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Sicilienne attributed to Maria von Paradis – Violin Solo

Violinists around the world love the Sicilienne in E Flat, a short solo for violin or cello, perfect to calm a concert audience after a fiery concerto. Sicilienne was attributed to the blind Austrian composer-musician Maria Theresia von Paradis, when in fact it comes from Carl Maria von Weber’s violin sonata Op. 10 No. 1 – a pity in some ways, since  Maria von Paradis’s story is wonderfully fascinating.

Dancing flamingos

Photo courtesy of Simon Matzinger

Sicilienne is popular with audiences too. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason played it at the Royal Wedding on May 19, 2018 and as you can see from the videos below, Sicilienne has found a place as an attractive stand alone solo and concert encore. Members can now download and print the score from the TSV Gold main scores page.

The Main Points


It’s fascinating to hear how differently musicians perform the tempo of Sicilienne. As with Mozart’s Sonata in E Minor, the speed affects everything, profoundly influencing our experience of the music, especially when we feel pushed along too quickly or held back unnecessarily. After teaching this piece for many years my preferred tempo is on the slower side, using glissando on some of the shifts, for example in bars 19-20. Read More →

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Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Minor, K. 304 – W.A. Mozart

Mozart composed the Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor, K.304 in 1778 while he was in Paris, during the same period when his mother, Anna Maria Mozart, died. The mood and intensity of this piece clearly reflects the emotions of this time of his life. The sonata is the only instrumental work he wrote whose home key is E minor.

Memorial plaque to Mozart's Mother

Sonata in E minor is a relatively easy recital piece for students at Suzuki Volume 7 level and beyond, and provides an especially good opportunity for advanced piano students to partner them in performance.

Both instruments play the opening theme in unison, to continue in a heartfelt expressive partnership of poignant beauty and drama, returning often to darker and softer emotional colours. The sonata is another of Mozart’s creative wonders, with his unique colours of light and dark, matchless melodic invention within a harmonic landscape that is somehow both seamless and unexpected.

TSV Gold members can now download and print the scores from the Gold Resources page.

The Main Study Points


Due to the Allegro marking, we’re tempted to begin the first movement too quickly, which I think can lessen some of its dramatic power. In measure 8, for example, the strong contrast between the rather plaintive voice of the opening theme and the ascending staccato line following sounds better at a slightly slower tempo. Try it and see what you think.

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