Do you want to learn more about practicing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto? 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!
The second round of orchestral auditions will often require a Romantic concerto, typically from a selection of about six or seven famous works.
This lesson focuses on Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, but in an audition, it’s vital to choose the concerto you are most comfortable with and can play under pressure.
In an audition, your main aim should be to let the music speak for itself and avoid doing anything too extraordinary or profound.
The introduction to this concerto is quite florid with an improvisatory character, but violinist David Kim, who teaches the associated lesson, likes to demonstrate the architecture and rhythm built into the melody.
Feel the offbeat as the violin enters in measure 23, and another offbeat leading into measure 24, which arrives with a group of triplets.
Make sure these rhythmic elements are accurately communicated without blurring too freely. The introduction concludes in measure 27 with another offbeat A, held with a fermata.
As the first main section begins in measure 28, maintain the piano dynamic and keep things calm.
Play a little louder for the second part of the sequence (starting m. 30) but still within the piano range. Measure 31 is marked “dolce,” so don’t let the energy boil over too soon.
Even after the crescendo, the dynamic level reaches only a mezzo forte by measure 35. As with the introduction, keep a clear distinction between the different rhythmic elements (triplet, four sixteenth notes, etc.) Through measures 35 to 39, emphasize the ”middle notes” (low eighth notes C-sharp, G, C-sharp B, B-flat).
Measure 41 (rehearsal letter A) brings in the second iteration of the main theme.
Try not to exaggerate the Romantic character of the concerto, and just allow the elegance of the melody to come through. With exertion, this can result in too much vibrato or an aggressive, scratchy tone.
Although there are plenty of dynamic and expression markings, keep these changes subtle and organic, blending rather than abruptly contrasting.
In measure 54, the music changes to B minor, so this is an opportunity for a more obvious mood change. Be careful not to let the tempo carry you away, either with your own playing or from the accompanist.
Measure 59 (rehearsal letter B) should be played with a held, Russian feel.
Kim suggests bowing in measure 63 with a Martelé stroke and double down-bows, giving this segment a slightly heavier, grounded feeling. He also recommends practicing the thirty-second note runs with very articulated separate notes, which makes the melodic runs very clean when the slurs are added back in. The left hand here should also provide maximum articulation, "popping down on the fingerboard".
From measure 67, make sure you feel the offbeats properly.
The second theme starting in measure 69 should be slower and somewhat operatic. Think of the grand melodies in Swan Lake or some of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic works.
Several fingering options are available, but your priority should be finding something that works for you — particularly under pressure — while maintaining a musical logic. (Kim prefers first position, third position, open strings, and tends to avoid second and fourth positions if possible.)
Again, be precise with the various rhythms: sixteenth notes, triplets, etc.
The added tenuto in measure 74, for example, helps to differentiate the two eighth notes from the triplets. Measure 75 brings in a bassoon solo and tends to move along a touch faster.
Many players like to slow down in measure 80 (approaching rehearsal letter C), but Kim recommends maintaining a steady tempo.
This brings the new section (starting m. 81) at a stable tempo before pulling back at measure 83. Starting at measure 84, gradually (poco a poco) return to tempo by measure 89.
Find fingerings that work for you under pressure. The last thing you want is to have a slip simply because a fingering you’re using is harder than it needs to be.
As most auditions will only require up to measure 97, some players like to bring in a slight accelerando from measure 95.
It is equally acceptable to maintain a steady tempo, but (as always) make sure you are fully committed to your ideas, whichever you choose.
In the second round of auditions, this concerto would usually be played with an accompanist provided by the orchestra.
In this scenario, you may be offered ten minutes with the pianist before the audition. In this short time, try to establish some good chemistry between yourselves.
Make sure there is communication and eye contact at important moments in the music, and lock into the beat comfortably.
This will signal to the auditioning panel that you are a collaborative musician who pays attention to your potential colleagues. Use your time wisely, and speak freely (yet diplomatically) about what you need from your accompanist: hold back the tempo, more support, etc.
Now that we’ve gone over these tips, you should be ready to handle your audition with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with ease.
If you’d like to watch the lesson on this topic for free, just click here.
If you’re ready to learn more about similar violin repertoire, and get to the next level on the violin, start your tonebase membership with a free 14-day trial.
Inside tonebase, you’ll find 100s of in-depth lessons and structured courses, LIVE weekly workshops, and tons of digital PDF scores and workbooks to help you become the violinist you’ve always dreamed of being.
Get complete access to everything tonebase has to offer by starting your trial today!