VC MASTERCLASS | Aaron Rosand, Curtis Institute, 'The Lost Art of Violin Recital Programming'


The Violin Channel recently caught up with American violin virtuoso Aaron Rosand, from the Curtis Institute of Music, who provided some fascinating thoughts on the 'lost art of violin recital programming'.

“I feel it's unfortunate that we have chosen to neglect the great music written expressly for the violin," Mr Rosand has told VC, "… a recital should be a one man show where you show how well you play your instrument – [and] for my taste, recital programs are a bore these days.”

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I'd like to talk today about programming – which has become so radically different from programs that we used to consider 'standard' not too many years ago.

My personal preference in a recital program is to always begin with something that will immediately show 'tone' - and the type of sound that you have. I always felt it will not only warm up the audience - but also warm up yourself.

I used to do early Italian works, or a Handel, Bini Pasquale, Corelli or Tartini Sonata – the 'Devil's Trill' Sonata is an old favourite of mine as a concert opener.

Then I would plan one of the major sonatas – by Brahms or Beethoven or whoever it might be that I would be featuring.

In fact, in my generation, we sometimes played concertos in recitals. I often programmed Bruch's 'Scottish Fantasy' with piano - which we rarely see any more.

The second half I always chose to begin with solo violin, inevitably a solo sonata by Bach or Ysaye or some other solo violin pieces - before then getting into the virtuoso repertoire of Wieniawski, Sarastate or Paganini.

I feel a recital is not complete until you show what the music written for the violin can do for the instrument.

For me, when I see programs today I often can't understand how it is written up as a 'violin recital', because when I see three or four sonatas for violin and piano, the piano is actually playing the major role - and for me that doesn't make a lot of sense.

And, the thing that actually offends me, is that most of these recitals are being played with the music stand and reading the sonatas from music.

It's one thing to say that it's an equal part with piano, but the pianist doesn't include a violin sonata when they program their own recitals, so I don’t understand why the violinist can't play the sonata without any music.

I used to talk about this with Nathan Milstein, and he would laugh and in simple words say: 'They don't know the music!'

The programming I find today is often quit boring for the audiences.

Recitals used to be very popular 50 or 60 years ago because of the show pieces that were actually played – not so much for the major work on the program. People couldn't wait to hear the virtuoso repertoire.

For example when Vladimir Horowitz was doing a recital, it didn't matter if he played Rachmaninoff, Chopin or Scriabin Sonatas, people couldn't wait for him to play his version of the 'Stars and Stripes Forever' – because that was the thing they went home singing.

I feel it's unfortunate that we have chosen to neglect the great music written expressly for the violin.

I feel this cannot be just resigned to an encore – the music of Wieniawski or Henri Vieuxtemps deserves to be put on the programme.

Pianist don’t neglect their great composers, Liszt and Chopin in recitals – but the violinists have somehow pushed the best repertoire for the instrument onto the back burner and I dont understand the reasons for it.

A recital should be a one man show where you show not only how you play Bach or Beethoven or Brahms but also how well you play your instrument – and this is something that I feel strongly should come back into being, because for my taste recital programs are a bore these days.



Mr Rosand has enjoyed a prolific recording and performance career spanning more than 7 decades | He has been described by The New York Times as ‘one of the great living exponents of Romantic violin music’ – with Gramophone Magazine suggesting he has made ‘some of the greatest recordings of the (20th) Century’ | Now 86 years old, Mr Rosand has served a distinguished teaching position at the Curtis Institute of Music since 1981 – his famed students including Alex KerrBenjamin Schmid and Stephanie Jeong and VC ‘Young Artists’ Ray ChenStephen WaartsRichard Lin, Dami Kim and Zeyu Victor Li |