How much repertoire is there for a viola quartet?

Prepare to be amazed!

Originals v. Arrangements v. Transcriptions

You may be forgiven for thinking there's not a lot of repertoire for a viola quartet (you'd be wrong, but, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, you might think it), and you may also think such repertoire that does exist is confined to the odd aberration from lesser-known mid-twentieth century composers - wrong again. So where does our lengthy repertoire list come from?  Are they all arrangements or transcriptions? Certainly not. Read on…

…We are very choosy about what pieces to include in our repertoire, and they come from many sources…

Original viola quartet, Piano, Orchestral, Consort, Musical, Keyboard, Concerto, Traditional, Quartet, Cello, Vocal, Sonata, Piano trio, Gamba, Brass.

The largest category are purpose-written for the viola quartet (indeed, many for Absolute Zero Viola Quartet). Next to that, we have raided the piano archives (since they have far more than they need already). We have to be very careful, however, to choose the right piece; "for an arrangement to work, it mustn't sound like an arrangement" (Sancho Engaño). The viola does not have the range of the piano (hardly any instruments do), but it can do a lot of things that a piano cannot: sustain, crescendo, vibrato, glissando, quarter-tones, a wider range of attack and timbre, pizzicato, ponticello, and more. A skilful arrangement can unveil aspects of a piano piece that give it a completely new dimension.

 

As for the orchestra: Less is more (it's chamber music thing!). Once again, we choose very carefully. Distilling a symphonic work into a viola quartet must give it a real chamber quality: intimacy, soloistic, dialogue, personal, sensitivity, dynamics.

It must draw the audience in, make them part of the performance. Something that the vastness and anonymity of an orchestra finds hard to achieve.

Mozart modernised Handel's Messiah, Schubert and Bach frequently recycled their fabulous melodies. Indeed, many of the great composers liked to arrange and re-arrange their own music, often a great work is known best in its arranged form; Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky is best know in its scored version by that unsurpassed master of orchestration, Maurice Ravel. Bach's Art of Fugue is not scored for any particular instrument, rather any combination that can preserve the linear integrity of the four human voices, and we've lost count of how many composers have helped themselves to Paganini's Twenty-Fourth Caprice. Folk music is always up-for-grabs, and early music originally scored for instruments that are passed their use-by date could do with a new airing. The challenge is to see just what a viola quartet can do with a piece. I believe we have succeeded.

We call it 'violaization', i.e. the conversion of a piece of music into the language of the viola quartet.

Here is a rather extreme example from Beethoven: the third variation from his amazing Opus 111 Piano Sonata. Not an easy piece to read, you must agree. And note the unusual time signature! After some careful 'violaization', and without changing a single note, it became Beethoven Boogie. The title was Ross's fault. He was having his mid-life crisis at the time and thought it was just begging to be called Boogie - admittedly, perfectly understandable if you've heard it. It later became the 7th track on the CD album.

Much of the repertoire listed below is available to purchase from Our Music Shop and are marked with *

Zequinha Abreu
Tico-tico no fubá*
Tomaso Albinoni

Sinfonia in D (3 movements)*

(live sound-clip)

Anon.

Country Dance

Galliard

Emanuel Adriaenssen
Almande for viola ensemble
Constanzo Antegnati
La Battera
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Quartet in A minor*

Johann Sebastian Bach

Alla Duodecima*

Andante

Contrapunctus*

Cum Sancto Spiritu*

Prelude Adagio*

Prelude and Fugue in C minor*

Quartet Sonata*

Bálint Bakfark
Two Fantasies for viola quartet
Simon Bainbridge
Birthday Fragment
Adriano Banchieri
La Feliciana
Béla Bartók Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs

Ludwig van Beethoven

Arietta Variations

Boogie*

Quartet Op. 111*

Rondo a Capriccio Op.129(movie clip)

Satz für Bratschenquartett

Serenade (7 movements)*

Symphony No. 5*

John Bennet
Madrigal
Hector Berlioz

Fugue à trois jujets

Hymn pour lévévation

Reverie et Caprice 

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
Harmonia Artificiosa - Ariosa*

Georges Bizet

La Fleur que tu m'avais jetée

Menuetto*

Luigi Boccherini
Sonatina (3 movements)*
York Bowen
Fantasie for Four Violas
Alexander Borodin
Nocturne
William Boyce
Introduction and Allegro

Johannes Brahms

Adagio from 2nd Symphony*

Appassionata Op. 120*

Four Hungarian Dances*

Quartet in A Minor*

Variations on a theme by Haydn*

Thomas Brewer
Pavin for four violas
Frank Bridge
Cradle Song
Max Bruch

Adagio on a Celtic Melody*

Romanze for viola quartet*

Anton Bruckner
Prelude in D minor
Benedikt Brydern
Pedestrian Crossing
David Burndrett
Tasty Tango for Viola Quartet
George Butterworth
The Banks of Green Willow*
Dietrich Buxtehude
Passacaglia for four violas
William Byrd
Suite for viola quartet (5 movements)*
Emmanuel Chabrier

Boureé Fantasque*

Danse Villageoise

Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Concert pour quatre parties de violes
Amédée-Ernest Chausson
Quelques Danses*
Luigi Cherubini
Sonatina for viola quartet*

Fryderyk Chopin

Polska*

Eric Coates
Song
Arcangelo Corelli
Christmas Concerto*

Four Concerti for Viola Quartet 

François Couperin
Les Baricades Mystérieuses
Claude-Achille  Debussy
Three Pieces for Viola Quartet*
Frederick Delius
Sonatina
August Carl Ditters von Dittersforf
Noturno for four violas
John Dowland
In darkness let me dwell*
Guillaume Dufay
L'homme armé
Antonín Dvorák

Capriccio*

Dumka*

Elegie 

Largo, from the New World*

Edward Elgar

Five Pieces for viola quartet*

Romance for bassoon and viola quartet

Sancho Engaño

(our associate composer)

Bach for Oscar

Bach in the Dark

Beads for voice and viola quartet (live sound-clip)

Blues Suite (4 movements)*

Blue Syncopation

Dance Suite (5 movements)

El Rezo del Soldado

Fanfarria

For Four

Fugal Schmugal*

Happy Classical Birthday*

Heading for Home

Hello Sailor

Hurdy-Gurdy

Insomnio

Noche de Música 

Pizzipeezy*

Polkadotty

Spanish Quartet

Story of Two Minstrels* (video clip)

Tango Bach*

Tap Dance

Tricksy Pizzi*

The Gypsy Viola*

Two Canons

Ukulele  (Live sound-clip)

Gabriel Fauré

Fantasie Op.79*

Four Pieces for Viola Quartet*

Panvane

Folk
Folk Music Album (6 movements)*
César Franck
Two Melodies for viola quartet
Giovanni Gabrieli

Sonata XXI

In Ecclesiis

Quattro Canoni*

Claude Gervaise
Pavane - La Venissiene
Alaxander Glazanov
Theme and Variations*
Mikhail Glinka
Rondino Brillante*
Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Le Bananier
Charles Gounod
Marche Pontificale
Enrique Granados
Three Spanish Dances*
Edvard Grieg
Four poetic tone pictures*
George Frideric Handel

Larghetto in F Major

Overture from Alexander's Feast

"Messiah" Concerto*

Saraband*

Sinfonia*

Franz Joseph Haydn

The Joke

Romance

Serenade*

Viola Quartet in D major*

Gustav Holst
Suite for viola quartet (3 movements)*

Irish Traditional

The Drunken Sailor

The Green Groves of Erin

A Hard Road to Travel*

Rolling on the Ryegrass*

Sheahan's Reel

Leos Janácek Zdenka Variations

Scott Joplin

Ragtime Dance*

Weeping Willow*

Friedrich Kalkbrenner
Rondo for Viola Quartet
Rodolphe Kreutzer
"Number Two" for viola quartet*
Edouard Lalo

Guitare

Two Folk Melodies for viola quartet*

Orlando di Lassus
Matona mia cara
Jean Marie Leclair

Saraband et Tambourin*

Tambourin for viola quartet

Franz Liszt
Csárdás Macabre*
Pietro Locatelli
Sinfonia Funebre for viola quartet       (5 movements)*
Patrick Loiseleur
Râga nº1 bis for viola quartet
Hamish MacCunn
Hornpipe for viola quartet*

Gustav Mahler

Trauermarsch

Marin Marais
Suite for viola quartet (5 movements)*
Florentio Maschera
Canzona (live sound-clip)
Jules Massenet

Élégie for viola quartet

Suite for viola quartet (4 movements)* 

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Fingal's Cave*

March for Viola Quartet

Rondo

Saltarello*

Scherzo*

Sinfonia in B flat major (3 movements)*

Sinfonia in D major (3 movements)*

Symphony No. 4 (4 movements)*

Thomas Morley
Canzonetta

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Adagio in F Minor

Allegro Spiritoso*

Fugue K.173

Romance K. 466

Rondo alla Turca

The Magic Flute Fantasy*

Symphony number 40 (complete)*

Viola Quartet in C Major

Viola Quartet in C Minor

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky

Meditation 

Souvenir d'Enfance 

Three pieces for viola quartet*

Ulrich Nehls
Slicky Slide Swing
Carl Nielsen

Romance

Six Miniatures for viola quartet*

Ottokar NovácekEight Bulgarian Dances for viola quartet*
Johann Pachelbel

Fantasia in C Minor

Fugue in D Minor

Gigue for four violas

Niccolò Paganini

La Campanella*

Moto Perpetuo*

Rondo

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Larghetto for viola quartet*
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Four pieces for viola ensemble*
Michael Praetorius

Bransle de Villages

Fantasia for four violas*

Serge Prokofiev
Visions Fugitives (4 movements)
Giacomo Puccini
Crisantemi
Henry Purcell

Fantazia

Pavane and Chaconne*

Three Fantasias for viola quartet*

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff

Canon for Viola Quartet

Polka for Viola Quartet*

Vocalise for Viola Quartet*

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Les Indes Galantes (8 dances)*

Maurice Ravel
Suite pour Quatre Altos (5 movements)
Renaissance Album
(12 pieces)*

Ottorino Respeghi

Antiche Danze ed Arie (4 movements)*

Bachanalle

Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

Flight of the Bumble-bee

In the Monastery

Salomone Rossi
Canzon
Gioachino Antonio Rossini

Semiramide Overture

William Tell Overture

Albert Roussel
Prelude and Fugue*

Camille Saint-Saëns

Danse Macabre*

Pablo de Sarasate
Zapateado
Erik Satie

Jack in the box (3 movements)*

Quatre Morceaux Lent* 

Domenico Scarlatti

Sonata in F

Suite for viola quartet (4 movements)*

Arnold Schoenburg
Chromatische Pfade

Franz Schubert

'Arpeggione' Quartet*

Moments Musicaux*

Overture in the Italian Style*

Tarentelle*

Robert Schumann
Suite for four violas (5 movements)*
Alexander Scriabin
Two Mazurkas for viola quartet*
Jean Sibelius
Suite for Viola Quartet (6 movements)*
Bedrich Smetana
Five waltzes for viola quartet*
John Philip Sousa
The Liberty Bell March
Johann Strauss I
Lorelei Rheinklänge*
Johann Strauss II

Violetta*

Die Fledermaus Overture*

Franz von Suppé Pique Dame*
Tielman Susato

Il etail une fillett

Six Dances for viola ensemble*

Giuseppe Tartini

Adagio Cantabile

Viola Quartet in C minor (3 movements)*

Peter Taylor
Prelude Calypso

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

1812 Overture*

Andante Semplice

Aveu Passionné

Suite for viola quartet (4 movements)*

Valse Sentimentale

Waltz from Swan Lake 

Georg Philipp Telemann

4 Concerti à 4 viole*

Viola quartet in G major

Don Quixote Suite (8 movements)*

Guiseppe Verdi

Nocturne*

Requiem Fantasy*

Antonio Vivaldi

Largo from 'Winter'

Sinfonia per quattro viole  (3 movements)*

Richard Wagner

Prelude*

Romanze*

Geoffrey Walker

Absolute Zero Rag*

Loco Motif*

Paganini Fireworks*

Peter Warlock
Capriol Suite (6 movements)*
Carl Maria von Weber
Andante & Hungarian Rondo
Anton Webern
Controverse
Thomas Weelkes
Pavan for four violas
Henryk Wieniawski
Reverie*
Max von Weinzierl
Nachtstück für 4 violen, Op.34
John WilbyeSix Madrigals for Viola Quartet*

Much of this music is available to purchase. Visit Our Music Shop.

Here is a more detailed catalogue of our viola ensemble library.

Be sure to join our mailing list by entering your contact details in the boxes on the Homepage. We will then send you a FREE sample of viola ensemble Sheet Music from our private library. You can also request any (or all) backdated freebies by sending us an email with the numbers you'd like, and we'll email them to you. How amazing is that?

If you have any questions or thoughts about viola quartet repertoire, then please send an email to: info@absolutezeroviola4.com  We answer every email. It would be a pleasure to hear from you.

 

Got any questions about viola repertoire? Send us a message, we always reply:

info@absolutezeroviola4.com