Masterclass: Nils Mönkemeyer on Stamitz First Viola Concerto
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.