The Music

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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Meditation by Massenet – Violin Solo

Within French composer Jules Massenet’s opera “Thaïs” is the beautiful Meditation, a short intermezzo melody soon adopted by violinists everywhere as an attractive concert encore. The violin floats in above the gentler sounds of the harp and is joined by the rising glow of the orchestra strings, lifting and transporting us upward to the passionate emotions beyond. Welcome to the new TSV Violin Solo Series!

Jules Massenet

Jules Massenet

Meditation is a real gift for violin students on their journeys to the heights, a technically easy short violin solo of about six minutes with unlimited possibilities for personal interpretation and creative expression. Because of its lasting popularity, there are numerous performances by famous violinists available, providing some wonderful examples to admire and emulate.

TSV Gold members can now download the score from the solos section on the Scores Main Page.

Some points of interest for study

  • Research and practise the technical difficulties.

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Violin Concerto in D Major, Mozart, 1st Movement (continued)

When he wrote the Violin Concerto in D Major, Mozart had been composing music for a decade and a half, already a mature, highly skilled composer-musician at 19 years old. At this point in his career he ls able to create strikingly original melodies and themes with fluent ease, simultaneously orchestrating the music imaginatively in his own inimitable style.

Joseph Joachim

Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim

Tragically, he died at 35, leaving more than 600 works, including many immortal treasures. Imagine if he’d lived to 75, like Joseph Joachim, who composed the best known cadenza for this concerto.

Here’s a few tips to help you study and memorise the 1st movement.

Make use of repeated melodies

Like most composers, Mozart uses repetition to establish and reinforce his melodies in the minds of the audience, and create a sense of the whole after only one performance.

Popular and folk music rely on exact repetitions of tunes, especially in verses and choruses, to establish musical identity, and although repetition is an important feature of classical music, musical ideas are also developed in variations and transformations of melodies and themes, often deliberately deviating from expected paths into interesting new territories.

This feature is helpful for musicians during the initial stages of learning to play the music. The repeating melodies in this movement of the concerto make it quicker to master and memorise – as long as we don’t mix them up.

Bars 57-65 and bars 145-153 are a good case in point. The repetition is identical except for the last two bars.

Here’s the first instance, beginning in measure 57:

Bars 57-65

And the second, from measure 145 showing the difference:

Bars 145-153

Mozart returns on several occasions to the same melodic idea from a different starting point, for example as in bars 86 to 97 and bars 180 t0 191, shown below.

Bars 86 to 97

Bars 180 t0 191

Although not exact repetitions, the similarity of these two segments makes memorising much easier.

Make use of significant notes

In two other sections, similarity make memorising more difficult! In these cases, it is better to remember key notes so that the others can flow on more spontaneously.

The first example begins in bar 126, where it helps to focus on the starting notes (circled in red). The second section follows on immediately from the first.

Bars 126 to 142

The Cadenza

At first reading the Joachim cadenza appears very difficult to play, but you’ll soon become aware of it’s profoundly violinistic qualities. Joachim’s imaginative creation reveals his mastery of the instrument and how well he knew this concerto. His virtuosity and familiarity with the music enabled him to weave Mozart’s melodies and themes together in a brilliant improvisational finale to the movement.

It hardly needs to be said that it’s best to memorise the cadenza in small segments, building it up phrase by phrase, rather than reading through over and over, hoping it will stick. Due to the fingering requirements of the double stops, most students find measures 225 to 230 more challenging. Similarly the double stops in measures 234, 235 and the following arpeggios in 236 to 238 take more time to master.

Here’s some great performances on Youtube with different cadenzas. Ji Young Lim plays the Joachim cadenza.

Stephen Waarts

Ray Chen

Thanks for visiting Teach Suzuki Violin. We’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences with the Mozart D Major Violin Concerto!



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