Masterclass: Nils Mönkemeyer on Stamitz First Viola Concerto

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The German violist looks at how to tackle the challenges in the first movement of this important audition piece with style, panache and calm

I don’t have fond memories of this concerto from my time as a student: it was stressful, particularly because being able to play it well at auditions could make the difference between getting a job or not. I remember very clearly the first time I performed it, without any worries, at a class concert when I was 18 years old. Afterwards, the other students came up to me and said, ‘Oh my goodness, you managed the octaves – well done!’ When I came to play it in my first ever competition, I had to wait backstage beforehand and listen to a couple of people who were ahead of me. They both messed up that passage, so I was extremely freaked out about it myself by the time I was on stage. 

That is one of the things about the Stamitz Concerto: there are a few spots that everyone is really afraid of, even though you will probably be fine if you don’t think about them too much. It’s a concerto that requires very good bow control – it can be difficult to make it sing – so players often choose the Hoffmeister for auditions instead, because they think it’s easier. Many people struggle with the Stamitz, but it’s a popular audition piece and I think it’s one of the most important pieces of repertoire for students to work on.

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