7 Most difficult pieces to play on the violin
From Locatelli to Paganini and from Bach to Bartok: these are the hardest violin pieces ever written
Listen how they sound and read why they are hard
The violin is known for it’s virtuosity and the many possibilities of the instrument. The hardest violin pieces have lightning fast runs high up the fingerboard, tricky left hand pizzicato passages, lots of double stops and chords and harmonics.
I’d like to show you seven hardest violin pieces ever written. Of course there are many more and it was hard to make this selection. You are free to have an opinion which violin pieces are really the hardest and why. There are way more virtuosic violin pieces to discover.
I picked out hardest violin pieces from as much different periods and performers as possible: baroque, romantic, modern, solo and orchestral pieces, new and older recordings.
Paganini – God save the King
Paganini will probably be the name you think of first when you think about the most difficult violin pieces. I could have chosen various works, like his 24 caprices, ‘I Palpiti’ or ‘Nel cor pie non mi sento’. What stands out in God save the king are the extremely fast and impossible left hand pizzicato sections accompanied by a drone and the melody in double stops.
Locatelli – Labyrinth Caprice in D Major
‘Il labirinto armonico’
Perhaps you wouldn’t expect a baroque piece in this list. Locatelli’s L’arte del violino took both violin technique and the solo concerto to whole new level. What makes this piece difficult are the endless arpeggios on tricky chords high up the violin.
Wieniawski – Violin Concerto no 1
This violin concerto includes lightning fast virtuosic runs, double stops, difficult bowing techniques like ricochet and long up-bow staccato, arpeggios and more. Wieniawski composed it at the ripe old age of… 17 years! He was inspired by Paganini, Ernst and Vieuxtemps.
Ernst – Last Rose of Summer
Being a big fan of Paganini, Ernst loved including some impossible left hand pizzicato in his music. The tune itself is a simple folk tune based on Thomas Moore’s poem. Ernst’s work includes very difficult variations on this melody with lots of double stops where it seems you hear two violins play and also arpeggios where the violin accompanies it’s melody with chords.
Ysaÿe – Violin Sonata no 6
Fast double stop runs, lots of chords and complex string crossings make this one of the most difficult violin sonatas.
Bartok – Violin Concerto no 2
This violin concerto is one the great violin concertos of the 20th century. It includes twelve-tone elements, which for violinist are hard for the ear and intonation. There are double stops passages where the violinist plays two voices.
Bach – Chaconne from Partita 2
Most monumental piece in violin repertoire. It’s not so crazy virtuosic as the previous pieces, but it’s very long and musically it’s very complex to make a meaningful performance. Technically the chords and string crossings make it difficult. At the same time it should sound with a certain serenity like it isn’t difficult.