Do you want to learn more about practicing Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 on violin?
In this blog post, we’ll share more about specific ways for you to approach the piece and nail your violin auditions.
If you’d like to see the lesson this blog post is based on, click here to watch it for free — otherwise, read on!
Prokofiev’s Symphony is fearsome in its difficulty.
It requires technical accuracy and a great variety of bow strokes. In terms of character, many rules of thumb are the same as a Mozart excerpt: a lot of “phrasing off,” nothing held to full value, and a lot of elegant, sautillé strokes.
Many candidates feel perplexed by the difficult bowings, but you can change them!
Use whatever bowings allow you to play effortlessly and comfortably.
For example, violinist David Kim, who teaches the associated lesson, likes to play the slurs in measure 30 as separate bows because he’s more confident under pressure:
Don’t overplay the first chord. Decide whether you want to start on or off the string, and then refrain from using too much bow pressure. Rely on bow speed.
Kim doesn’t play the bottom octave in m. 27 because it doesn’t make much of a difference in sound (and it’s common practice to leave out bottom octaves in orchestral auditions).
Prokofiev intended m. 45 to be with the tip of the bow, and this should feel awkward! It should sound a little bit tight, though still elegant.
Letter E should be as romantic and charming as possible.
Use the upper half of the bow for better control of the sound. Put the grace notes before the beat in letter D.
Don’t use too much vibrato, if at all – this is all about the bow arm. For anything that is extra awkward, like this section for the right hand, using less bow is generally helpful.
While this excerpt can feel overwhelming for many auditioners, we can’t let the character disappear.
If you play with a looseness and commitment to the character, the work immediately becomes charming (not to mention, this probably puts you above 95% of the other applicants!)
If you aren’t already in an orchestra and haven’t played this music before, use YouTube, physical CDs, or records to get as much familiarity with as many recordings of this piece as possible.
This symphony is about sparkling, charming, classical playing.
Watch the concertmaster in a live performance and see how they negotiate any tough bowings.
Now that we’ve gone over these tips, you should be ready to handle your violin audition with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 with ease.
If you’d like to watch the lesson on this topic for free, just click here.
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