Listening Recommendations

Listening Recommendations from Rick

I know that most of my students go directly to YouTube when I make a listening recommendation.  I go to YouTube myself, and it is a valuable resource. There are many fine performances on YouTube, but there are also many inferior student-level and amateur performances.  The quality of sound reproduction is also inferior. I recommend that you actually purchase recordings, whether it be on iTunes (or similar download) or on a CD. That way, the performer gets paid, and the quality of the performance, and the sound quality, is assured. I wrote the post below during the “age of the CD”. I am sure that all, or almost all of the performances are still available in other various digital download formats. – RL 6/29/2017


It is important that our students listen to the violin repertoire other than the “Suzuki” literature.

Recordings of great music by great artists can motivate. (So can live performances!)

Below is a short list of CD’s that will make a great addition to your listening library.

This list is by no means comprehensive. It is just a beginning.  –R.L.

I. Shorter Works for the Violin

These are the romantic tunes and flashy showpieces of the violin repertoire. Some of these pieces are works that the advanced violin student will play, either following the “Suzuki” repertoire, or in conjunction with it!

However, I begin with a recording of two very important longer works: the two last violin concertos of Mozart, which Dr. Suzuki placed as Volume 9 and 10 in his sequence of violin study. There are many recordings of the Mozart violin concertos, but the one I have chosen is that of Oscar Shumsky, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier, on Nimbus Records, NIM 5009. Shumsky’s playing is delicate and expressive, the accompaniment is sensitive, and Shumsky plays the standard cadenzas (improvisatory-sounding solo passages) by Joseph Joachim that we teach.
There is some overlap in the repertoire between some of the CD’s listed below. You won’t mind.

The Kreisler Album, Joshua Bell, violin; Paul Coker, piano; Decca (London) #444409. Wonderful recording of short romantic works by Fritz Kreisler (of Kreisler Highway fame). There are many good recordings of these pieces , including those by Kreisler himself, but this CD is stunning!

Aaron Rosand plays Sarasate; Aaron Rosand, violin; SW German Radio Orchestra, Rolf Reinhardt, cond.; Eileen Flissler, piano; Vox; ACD 8160. The showpieces of the 19th century Spanish violinist/composer Pablo de Sarasate are endearing works, and an important part of our repertoire. I grew up with this recording by Rosand, who made his reputation playing this music.

The Romantic Violin, Vol. 2; Arthur Grumiaux, violin; Istvan Hajdu, piano; Philips 422 283-2. Short, sweet, lyric music, played by a master of tone and phrasing. Get this, and you’ll be playing it every day!

The Romantic Violin (popular title, eh?); David Oistrakh, violin; Vladimir Yampolsky, piano; Monitor Collectors Series; MCD 72003. May be hard to get. We will be recommending many recordings by Oistrakh, one of the truly great violinists of all time.

Virtuoso Vengerov; Maxim Vengerov, violin; Itamar Golan; Teldec Digital. This is the showy stuff, played by a violinist who has got the chops! Some lesser known music is interspersed with the chestnuts.

Bernstein West Side Story Suite; Joshua Bell, violin; Philharmonia Orchestra, David Zinman, conducting; Sony Classical SK 89358. Bell had arrangements done of some of Bernstein’s music from West Side Story, Candide, and On the Town. They are excellent. More importantly, this album includes Bernstein’s “Serenade after Plato’s Symposium”, which is really a concerto.

II.  The Big Romantic Violin Concertos

The pieces: the great concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch #1 in G minor, Mendelssohn, Paganini #1; Saint-Saens # 3 in B minor, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Wieniawski #2.

The artists: David Oistrakh, Gil Shaham, Nathan Milstein, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Sarah Chang and Joseph Swenson. This is a short list, with which you can’t go wrong . There are many other good recordings.

Samples of specific CD’S:

Well, maybe not so specific: ANY recording of the above pieces by David Oistrakh will be great.

Tchaikovsky and Brahms Concertos, Nathan Milstein, violin; Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; William Steinberg conducting. Angel #69035. Luscious performance of the Brahms–I don’t know the Tchaikovsky performance (I have the Brahms on an LP)- but I know this great Russian violinist is perfect for the greatest of all Russian concertos. Steinberg’s accompaniment is excellent.

Mendelssohn and Bruch Concertos; Joshua Bell, violin, Decca #421145.

Brahms, Bruch, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Paganini, and Tchaikovsky, all in one set!; Itzhak Perlman, violin, EMI Classics #64922.

Sibelius, Tchaikovsky; Gil Shaham, violin; Deutsche Gramophon DG #437540.

Beethoven Concerto and Two Romances for Violin and Orchestra; Joseph Swenson, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Andre Previn conducting; RCA Victor #7777-2-RC.

Sibelius Concerto, (+ other Sibelius pieces); Anne-Sophie Mutter; Staatskapelle Dresden Andre Previn conducting; Deutsche Gramophon D 112075.

Mendelssohn and Sibelius Concertos; Sarah Chang, violin; EMI 56418.

And… not technically on the Romantic Concerto list, but a CD you will love:
“Carmen-Fantasie” (Sarasate Carmen Fantasy, Wieniawski Legende, Massenet Meditation, Ravel Tzigane and more); Anne-Sophie Mutter; Vienna Philharmonic, James Levine, conducting.

III.  Solo Works

The Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. Works of genius. Many of these are in the advanced student’s repertoire.

Hilary Hahn has recorded half of these: the E Major and D Minor Partitas, and the C Major Sonata; on Sony Classical.
Christian Tetzlaff has them on all on Virgin Classics.
There are many other good recordings of these Bach pieces. Ask us.

The 24 Caprices of Paganini are the ultimate flashy showpieces. Michael Rabin’s recording on EMI Classics is a gem.

IV.  20th Century Violin Music

The Violin Concerto by the great American composer Samuel Barber. There are many good recordings, including those by Robert MacDuffie and Elmar Oliviera. I have chosen the recording by Gil Shaham (despite the fact that I haven’t actually heard it!), because I trust his playing, and because of what is on the “flip side”–the Erich Korngold Concerto. Warning: the Barber concerto is addictive! Parents: you will be listening this piece when your kid isn’t even home!

The music of Bela Bartok, represented by a recording by Mark Kaplan, on Arabesque. I have chosen this CD because Kaplan’s playing is excellent, and because it includes the Two Rhapsodies- crazy, wild, folksy pieces with the flavor of Hungary- AND the Rumanian Folk Dances, which is a piece some of our students will be playing even before completing the “Suzuki” literature! This CD also includes the Sonata for Solo Violin, which is a bit gnarly for the listener unaccustomed to Bartok, and is regarded by many violinists to be The Hardest Piece Ever Written.

As I write this, I’m listening to a CD done by Pittsburgh Symphony concertmaster Andres Cardenes. It’s called It’s Peaceful Here, and is collection of 19 “little gems”, all of them less than 5 minutes long, most of them written in the 20th century. There are cute little Kreisler pieces mixed in with sweet melodies from Rachmaninoff and Debussy, and crazy little things like Copland’s Ukelele Serenade and Schedrin’s “Imitation of Albeniz”. It’s beautifully done and it’s on Arabesque.