Over the years I have purchased sheet music, borrowed violin sheet music from the library, and given away scores upon scores (pun intended) of other pieces of violin sheet music. But of all the pieces that have been given and taken away, I have found that the following five books will stay with me.
5. The Fritz Kreisler Collection, Volume I (1937 105)
In addition to Kreisler’s cadenzas for the Beethoven, Brahms, and Paganini concerti, this volume contains fourteen delightful pieces for solo violin and piano. Among these are seven of the great violinist’s most famous original compositions. The book also contains seven of his transcriptions of pieces by other famous composers (such as Mozart and Beethoven). There is a great diversity of little pieces in this book, which makes it a great collection to hold on to for those all-too-frequent occasions when people ask you to play for them. Additionally, the difficulty level of the pieces is varied; some pieces are sight-readable while others are definitely challenging recital material. I also find that a visit to this collection is often a charming repose from the denser pieces in the violin repertoire.
4. Mozart: Violin Concerti
I happily own the Schirmer edition (1348 110) of the three most popular Mozart violin concertos – nos. 3, 4, and 5. I also recommend the Urtext edition of each of these concertos, sold separately (1283 114, 1299 114, 1011 114). Even though you may not always be presented with unlimited opportunities to perform these concertos, I find that Mozart is always, always worth revisiting. Mozart’s music is simple enough that a child can play it, but it is also difficult enough that only the most mature adult can give it justice! I have found it SO helpful to keep coming back to Mozart; I always leave refreshed, with a greater understanding of phrasing, clarity, and beauty. It’s like a breath of fresh air.
3. Brahms: Violin Sonatas (1076 014)
Here are three masterpieces of the violin repertoire. They are cornerstones of recital pieces and they will always yield more fruit with each return visit. From the gentle rain of the G major sonata to the soulful melody of the D minor sonata, these sonatas may as well be part of the definition of violin music. They teach one how to sing without words. Loathe would I be to part with this music of molten gold and silver!
2. Beethoven: Violin Sonatas (1041 114, 1041 214)
Sometimes I feel sad that Beethoven only wrote one violin concerto, but then I am filled with excitement at the thought of the abundance of his sonatas! These are brilliant. Many of them are fantastic pieces for an advancing student, but the “Kreutzer” sonata and the C minor Sonata #7 are ever, ever challenging. They are great recital pieces and fantastic works for collaboration with a pianist. The sonatas are guaranteed to disclose more and more of their brilliance to you as you grow as a musician.
1. Bach: Six Sonatas and Partitas
This is obvious and non-negotiable. This may be the greatest gift that violinists can receive in one volume! I recommend the Urtext edition (0014 014); I personally use the International edition (0014 311) because it contains the facsimile of the autograph manuscript. If you are a violinist and you don’t own this, please obtain it as soon as possible. You will have it for the rest of your life.