In this session, professor Wing Ho will introduce some important viola teaching materials.
Content of Wing Ho’s lecture is as follows (edited in first person):
Hello, everyone. Welcome to my session. Before I start to introduce the viola teaching materials, I would like to give you 8 suggestions. In my opinion, the suggestions are important to the viola teachers, and the students who will become teachers in the future.
The information mentioned above is significant. When I was in college in the United States, I felt embarrassed when I could not answer my professors’ questions about the background story of the piece I played. The same happened to some of my master class students.
In my opinion, all the players should form a good habit of knowing well about the piece being played. Personally, every time before my students start to play, I train them by asking the background information. The young learners tend to know the piece better after being asked for several times. During the student concerts, all my students will tell the audience aloud the information of the piece they are about to play, only then will they start to perform.
Here I would like to share a picture containing the two versions of the urtext editions.
An urtext edition of a work is a printed version intended to reproduce the original intention of the composer as exactly as possible, without any addition or modification. Students can find the word “urtext” on the covers of the two books showed above.
These two versions of the urtext editions are authoritative. Also, there may be different versions of the sheet music of a same work contained in the books. 1 version is the urtext edition, while the other version may contain some fingerings or other markings added by other experts.
These two versions of the urtext editions are authoritative. Also, there may be different versions of the sheet music of a same work contained in the books. One is the urtext edition, while the other version may contain some fingerings or other markings added by other experts.
With the 2 versions of the sheet music, we can play more accurately. The students can take a look at the added markings first, and then sight-read the urtext edition of the work. During the playing, students can also add some techniques which are helpful for reproducing the composer’s original intention. The urtext edition can be regarded as a template.
I like to collect sheet music myself. Every time when I find a different version of the sheet music I already have, I just buy it. Sometimes I can find different fingerings and bowing techniques in different versions, which may help me get improved. Therefore, it is helpful for the players to refer to different versions of the sheet music. But first, we need to have the urtext editions.
The accompaniment CDs are also useful for musicians. We can find the sheet music with accompaniments online. The accompaniments in Violy App are great for the music beginners to play along with, also, the speed of the piano accompaniments on Violy App is adjustable. By practicing with music accompaniments, it can really improve the musicality.
We can find detailed information related to the pieces we play, such as the composers of the works, and the ways of playing the works. The players should make good use of the Internet to search for more information.
In the past, we did not attend many concerts. Most of the time, we were listening to the recordings. But there were few high quality recordings. When I was young, every time when I found a good recording, I would listen to it for so many times that the tape broke.
Nowadays, we can find the latest things on the Internet. We are able to find all newly published works online, and most of the works are free.
I always ask my students to listen to different versions of a certain piece, so the students can communicate with each other, and discuss which version they like best and why. On the basis of listening to different versions, the students can make a detailed analysis of the work.
With the Internet, we can easily find the recordings we need. The students should know how to use the online resources effectively.
Personally, I like to mark the fingerings and bowing techniques on the sheet music. But other viola teachers may not recommend their students to do this. They like to memorize the marks instead of writing them down.
In my opinion, taking notes on the sheet music can be very helpful to the students, because once they become teachers, they can build their own system of markings on the basis of their note-taking. The system of markings will help their teaching. Also, they can make changes to the markings instantly. Besides, the teachers may refer to useful markings in their students’ sheet music if it is necessary. Different students may get used to different markings.
In my view, if the students keep making mistakes while playing a certain passage, they are likely to have some problems with their fingerings or bowing techniques. The students are supposed to find the optimal hand frames, which can help them place their fingers naturally.
It is not wise for us to practice too much without adjusting the fingerings. We should try all types of fingerings first, and then we will be able to know which type is suitable for us. Different players tend to use different fingerings. Knowing the fingerings better can also help the teaching.
Some players may misplace their sheet music after playing, which can be a bad habit. Then they may not be able to find the sheet music next time before practicing. We should always keep our sheet music. The sheet music can be used for a lifetime. Actually, some sheet music I still use today used to belong to my mother. There are precious markings contained in her sheet music. We should form the habit of keeping the sheet music.
Now I would like to share a catalog of viola sheet music. The catalog does not contain every piece, but the most popular ones are covered. It can be helpful to the viola teachers and students. There are 6 categories of sheet music contained in the catalog:
There are some scales and etudes included in the category “Basic Training”.
There are 3 scale systems, including that of Hřímalý, Carl Flesch, and Galamian.
Hřímalý’s scale system is the earliest one. Most students are familiar with Hřímalý’s scales. There are 24 notes contained in every descending and ascending scale in Hřímalý’s system, which can be useful for the students to practice. But there are only 2 arpeggios included in this system.
Carl Flesch’s scales consist of triplets. There are 21 notes contained in every descending and ascending scale. Besides, there are 7 arpeggios included in Carl Flesch’s system, which are frequently used by the viola players. In China, Hřímalý’s and Carl Flesch’s scale systems are the most popular ones. For the students at higher levels, they tend to use one scale system of Carl Flesch’s, or Hřímalý’s, and Carl Flesch’s arpeggios. For the students at lower levels, they prefer Hřímalý’s scales and arpeggios.
Galamian was an American music educator. There are 24 notes contained in every descending and ascending scale in his scale system. Besides, there are 10 arpeggios included in the system. In the United States, Galamian’s scale system is widely used in the music conservatories, such as The Julliard School and Curtis Institute of Music.
There are other scale systems as well. I will not introduce them here. The 3 scale systems mentioned above are the most commonly used ones. Most viola teachers in China are familiar with all these 3 systems.
When it comes to the basic practice of viola, I would like to recommend Otakar Ševčík’s books. He wrote 10 books. Almost all exercises, including the movements of the left hand, the movements of the right hand, changing positions, and double stops are covered in those 10 books.
Besides, Sitt’s 100 Viola Etudes are also very useful. The etudes are simple and suitable for the viola beginners to play. The exercises, including shifting the strings, changing positions from the first position to the seventh position, and double stops, are covered in Sitt’s viola etudes.
Ševčík’s books and Sitt’s etudes can help the viola players’ basic practice in an effective way. What’s more, Tartini’s The Art of Bowing for the Violin is also helpful to the students. All bowing techniques are included in this book.
For rhythm practice, I would like to recommend a book called Accuracy in Rhythm. There is no clef or key signature contained in the sheet music in this book, which is to say, the players of all string instruments including violin, viola, cello, and double bass can practice the pieces in different keys.
There are 2 parts in every piece. Therefore, teachers and their students can play together. Or the players can clap to the beats of one part, and tap to the beats of the other part at the same time. We can practice in this way while using the metronome. In this book, there are over 50 pieces covering almost all types of rhythms, incluing random rhythm and regular rhythm.
Players can find an explanation above the sheet music of every piece included in this book. I have already translated this book, but the translated version has not been published yet. I may introduce you to the book in detail in the future.
There are two types of etudes contained in my catalog. One type of etudes are the violin etudes being played on viola, while the other type of etudes are originally written for viola.
Here I would like to share a list of the etude books. The books can be found online:
Dont: 24 Etudes and Caprices for Violin Solo, Op. 35
Dont: 24 Preparatory to Kreutzer and Rode Studies, Op. 37
Fiorillo: 36 Etudes or Caprices for Violin Solo
Hofmann: 20 Studies, Op. 86
Hofmann: The First Studies, Op. 25, Bk 1
Hofmann: Studies for Progressive Pupil, Op. 25, Bk 2
Hofmann: Studies for More Advanced Student, Op. 25, Bk 3
Kayser: 36 Elementary and Progressive Studies for the Viola, Op. 20
Kreutzer: 42 Etudes
Rode: 24 Caprices in form of Etudes in 24 Keys
Paganini: 24 Caprices for Solo Violin
Wieniawski: Etudes-Caprices, Op. 18
Wohlfahrt: 40 Elementary Studies for Violin, Op. 54
Wohlfahrt: 60 Studies for the Violin, Op.45
Wohlfahrt: 70 Easy Melodious Studies for the Violin, Op. 74
Mazas: Etudes Brilliants, Op. 36
Mazas: Etudes Speciales, Op. 36
Beltran: 12 Caprices for Viola
Bruni: 24 Studies for Viola
M. Fine: Rock Etudes for Unaccompanied Viola, Op. 114
Fuchs: 15 Characteristic Studies for Viola
Fuchs: 16 Fantasy Etudes for Viola
Hoﬀmeister: 12 Etudes for Viola
Campagnoli: 41 Caprices for Viola, Op. 22
Lukács: Exercises in Change of Position for Viola, Advanced Grade
Palaschko: 10 Artistic Studies, Op. 44
Palaschko: 20 Viola Studies, Op. 36
Palaschko: 25 Easy and Melodic Studies, Op. 87
Vieux: 10 Intervals Etudes for Viola
Vieux: 20 Etudes for Viola
Generally speaking, when we start to learn viola, we tend to play violin etudes first. There are many differences between violin etudes and viola etudes.
Many violin etudes require players to play on higher positions, and shift the strings frequently, while viola etudes do not. Viola etudes are not easy to play for beginners. The pieces fit the registers of the instrument. Also, the rhythm and tempo of viola etudes are different from that of violin etudes.
Some viola etudes are highly difficult to play, such as Vieux’s etudes, which can be more difficult than that of Paganini’s. The tempo of Vieux’s viola etudes is fast, and accidentals are frequently used in the pieces.
Lukács’ viola etudes also require various techniques. We recommend players at higher levels to play the pieces. Being contained in Exercises in Change of Position for Viola, Advanced Grade, Lukács’ etudes are helpful for the players to play modern works. There is an explanation above the sheet music of every piece included in the book. I have translated this book as well, but the translated version has not been published.
Campagnoli’s and Bruni’s viola etudes are melodious and not hard to play. We can regard Campagnoli’s 41 Caprices for Viola as opuscula. As for Hoﬀmeister’s 12 Etudes for Viola, they are quite long and melodious like the composer’s concertos.
There are two etude books written by Fuchs included in the list above. Fuchs was a famous American violist. She taught in The Julliard School and Curtis Institute of Music before. Her daughter is a cellist. We were colleagues in a summer camp before. Fuchs’ granddaughter is also an excellent violist. She made two albums containing Fuchs’ etudes. Students can find the albums online.
As for other viola etudes, Beltran’s 12 Caprices for Viola are very melodious. The caprices are the must-play pieces in some contests held in Spain. Besides, M. Fine’s rock etudes for unaccompanied viola are quite interesting. What’s more, the most frequently played viola etudes written by Palaschko are 10 Artistic Studies, Op. 44. These 10 studies are beautiful but not easy to play. Many teachers in college use these studies as teaching materials.
For viola beginners, I recommend them to start from violin etudes, such as the etudes written by Kayser, Wohlfahrt, Hofmann, Dont, or Mazas.
Here is the list of the unaccompanied pieces I recommend to students:
J.S.Bach: 6 Cello Suites, BWV 1007-1012
J.S.Bach: 6 Sonatas and Partitas, BWV 1001-1006
Hindemith: Sonata for Viola Solo, Op. 11 №5
Hindemith: Sonata for Viola Solo, 1937
Hindemith: Sonata for Viola Solo, Op. 25 №1
Hindemith: Sonata for Viola Solo, Op. 31 №4
Knox, Garth: Viola Spaces-Contemporary Viola Studies
Ligeti: Sonata for Viola Solo
Reger: 3 Suites for Viola Solo, Op. 131d
Penderecki: Cadenza for Viola Solo
Telemann: 12 Fantasias
As for the unaccompanied pieces, Bach’s cello suites are the most frequently played. The pieces are also the must-play ones during the exams. Besides, the six sonatas and partitas for violin composed by Bach are popular as well. But the cello suites are more suitable for the players to play on viola.
Hindemith’s works I recommended above are all hard to play. All the college students majoring in Viola Performance need to play the pieces. The works require various techniques.
As pieces in Romantic period, Reger’s 3 Suites for Viola Solo are melodious. As for Telemann’s 12 Fantasias, there are both viola versions and violin versions. The fantasias are played more on violin instead of viola. As works in Baroque period, the fantasias are not easy to play. They are even more difficult than Bach’s cello suites.
It may take a long time for us to play Bach’s works well. For Telemann’s 12 Fantasias, we cannot play them well without musicality. The fantasias are must-play pieces in some international contests. To play the fantasias well, we need to find the musicality first.
Knox’s Viola Spaces-Contemporary Viola Studies are not frequently played. The composer visited Central Conservatory of Music last year. I have known him for some years, and have ever been to one of his live concerts. His performance was spectacular. All viola techniques are included in his Viola Spaces-Contemporary Viola Studies, such as harmonics and pizzicato. Players can use all 10 fingers to play pizzicato when playing the studies. We can say that Knox have found all possibilities of playing the viola.
Actually, showing all techniques has become an international trend for the playing of contemporary works. Several years ago, a master flutist came to Beijing and hold his concerts. It was incredible that he showed almost all flute techniques during performing.
The contemporary viola studies written by Knox are also incredible. Some techniques are very difficult to grasp. But the students can find the tutorial videos and recordings online. The pieces are worth being studied. If the players can master these viola studies, they will find it much easier to play other contemporary works.
The students can find below the list of the sonatas I recommend:
Bach: 3 Sonatas for Viola da Gamba
Bax: Sonata for Viola and Piano
Bowen: Sonata for Viola and Piano in c minor, Op. 18, №1
Bowen: Sonata for Viola and Piano in F major, Op. 22, №2
Brahms: Sonata for Viola and Piano in f minor, Op. 120, №1
Brahms: Sonata for Viola and Piano in E flat major, Op. 120, №2
Bruni: 6 Viola Sonatas, Op. 27
Clarke: Sonata for Viola and Piano
Franck: Sonata in A major
Glinka: Sonata for Viola and Piano
Hindemith: Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 11, №4
Hindemith: Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. Posth(1939)
Hindemith: Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 25, №2
Hindemith: Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 25, №4
Hummel: Sonata for Viola and Piano in E flat major, Op. 5, №3
Mendelssohn: Sonata for Viola and Piano in c minor, MWV Q14
Rochberg: Sonata for Viola and Piano
Reger: Sonata for Viola and Piano in B flat major, Op. 107
Schubert: Sonata in a minor “Arpeggione”
Schumann: Märchenbilder, Op. 113
Shostakovich: Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 147a
C. Stamitz: Sonata in D major
Vieuxtemps: Sonata for Viola and Piano in B flat major, Op. 36
Vieuxtemps: Unfinished Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. Posth
Some of the sonatas mentioned above are originally played on violin, such as Franck’s Sonata in A major. It is said that the manuscript of this piece can be seen in a library in France, and the work was composed for viola at the beginning. But no one played the piece at that moment. Therefore, it was published as a sonata written for violin.
The information about Franck’s sonata came from a professor from France. I did not see the manuscript of this piece. The sheet music can be seen in a French museum, and it shows that the work was written for viola.
Most of the sonatas I introduced above are not easy to play. But Mendelssohn’s Sonata for Viola and Piano in c minor is easier compared to other sonatas. Viola beginners can try to play this piece. Besides, Hummel’s Sonata for Viola and Piano in E flat major and Stamitz’s Sonata in D major are melodious and not very difficult to play. Apart from these 3 pieces, the other ones are all hard to play in some way, and require various techniques.
Glinka’s Sonata for Viola and Piano was not finished. The composer only wrote the former 2 movements of the work. All the sonatas I mentioned above can be found online.
Here is the list of the concertos I recommend to the students:
J.S.Bach: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in c minor
Bartók: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Berlioz: Harold in Italy
Benda: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in F major, LorB 314
Bowen: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, Op. 25
Bloch: Suite for Viola and Orchestra
Zelter: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in E flat major
Forsyth: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in G Sharp minor
Handel: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in b minor
Hindemith: Der Schwanendreher
Hoffmeister: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in D major
Hoffmeister: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in B flat major
Kraus: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in C major, VB 153b
Kraus: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in E flat major, VB 153c
Martinu: Rhapsody-Concerto, H. 337
Penderecki: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Rolla: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in E flat major, Op. 3
Schnittke: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
J. Schubert: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in C major
C. Stamitz: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in D major, Op. 1
Telemann: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in G major
Vanhal: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in C major
Vaughan Williams: Flos Campi
Walton: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Last year, I published a book containing some concertinos, among which more than a half are originally played on violin. The concertinos are suitable for the beginners to play. Most viola concertos are not easy for the viola beginners.
Telemann’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in G major is frequently played by the beginners, but it is quite difficult to play the piece well. My students who just start to play the viola tend not to choose this work, since they can not find the musicality while playing it. Telemann’s works are even more difficult to play than Bach’s pieces.
There are various concert pieces for viola. The students can find below the list of the concert pieces I recommend:
Enescu: Concert Piece
Bartók: Rhapsody, №1
Bowen: Phantasy, Op. 54
Britten: Lachrymae, Op. 48
Bruch: Romanze, Op. 85
Manuel De Falla: Suite Populaire Espagnole
Hummel: Fantasy for Viola and Orchestra
Clarke: Passacaglia on an Old English Tune
Clarke: Chinese Puzzle
Liszt: Romance oubliée
Reger: Romance for Viola and Piano
Paganini: La Campanella
Paganini: Sonata for Grand Viola and Orchestra
Prokofiev: Selected Pieces from the Ballet “Romeo and Juliet”
Schumann: Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70
Vieuxtemps: Elegie, Op. 30
Hindemith: Trauermusik for Viola and Orchestra
Beethoven: Notturno in D major ,Op. 42
Weber: Andante e Rondo Ungarese
Paganini’s Sonata for Grand Viola and Orchestra was composed for 5-string viola and orchestra. But at present, we can play the piece on the normal 4-string viola, since our playing has been improved greatly.
The concert pieces I mentioned above are the most frequently played ones. Most of them are written for viola. Some opuscula are not included.
Here is the list of the duets I recommend to the students:
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto №6 for Two Violas and String Orchestra
Beethoven: Duet with Two Eyeglasses Obligato WoO 32
Bruch: Double Concerto in E minor for Clarinet and Viola, Op. 88
Handel/Halvorsen: Passacaglia for Violin and Viola
Mozart: Duos for Violin and Viola, K 423/424
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, K 364
I have published several books containing some duets, but the included pieces are not on the list above. The duets I mentioned above are the most well-known ones. Some pieces are familiar to the viola players, such as Passacaglia for Violin and Viola. There are various versions of this Passacaglia, including the versions for two violins, for two violas, for violin and cello, for viola and cello, etc.. The version for violin and viola is likely to be the original one.
Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra is hard to play on viola. The melodious piece requires players to change positions frequently. Actually, the piece is played in D major on viola, and in E flat major on violin. The composer made some adjustments on the notation so that the sound produced by viola can be clear and pleasant to hear.
That’s all for my sharing today. All the viola sheet music I introduced above can be found online. In the next two sessions, I will talk about the career planning of students who major in music. Please stay tuned!
Wing Ho: Actually, this piece is one of the must-play works for the postgraduates. It requires various viola techniques. Many students like the work, but it is very difficult to play it well. My students tend to play it only after going to college.
Wing Ho: Are you talking about switching to viola from violin, or playing on higher positions on viola? I talked about the notation in the former sessions. You can check out the sessions then, and find the answer.
Wing Ho: I have published about 60 books. Some of them are currently out of print. Only a few of the published books can be found now.
Wing Ho: It depends on your own level of violin playing. If you are at a lower level, you would better start from scratch. If you are at a higher level, you can choose the pieces you like.
Viola etudes may not be very difficult for you if you are at a higher level, but it is important for you to know as soon as possible how to produce good sound on viola. Although some students have switched to viola from violin for some years, they still tend to produce the sound which is similar to that of violin.
As for the recommended books, I have introduced some books in the former sessions. You can find out the names of the books then.
Wing Ho: Yes, there are some Chinese viola pieces, and also some Chinese violin pieces played on viola. There are some books published by Shanghai Conservatory of Music containing some Chinese viola pieces. You can search for the books then.
Audience: Are there any authoritative people in the 20th century who did research on the history of viola? Or is there any literature on the history of viola published in the last century?
Wing Ho: A professor named Wu Yishen translated a book about the history of viola written by a Russian author. The book is quite old and comprehensive.
There are some books published in the 20th century which are about some composers such as Bartók, Hindemith, and other viola performers. But it seems that there are few books about the history of viola.
In fact, viola started to develop only after 1980s. Before 1980s, there were only Hindemith and a few other composers who played the viola. After 1980s, there were much more viola performers and viola pieces. But as far as I know, until now, no one has ever formally done research on the development of viola.
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