4. So how much music is there for a viola quartet?


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 of course, 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 piece by 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, Folk, Vocal, Sonata, Piano trio, Gamba, Brass, and more.

Over the years we seem to have attracted the attention of a number of composers, who have written music for us, which is highly flattering. And we have our very own resident composer, Sancho Engaño.

Regarding arrangements:

For an arrangement to succeed, it mustn’t sound like an arrangement. No, indeed! It is vital that it sounds, plays, and feels as if the composer had set out from the start to create, say, a viola quartet. With each new arrangement you have to study their style of writing, their idiosyncrasies and nuance, get right into their mind and be that composer. Nothing less will do.” (Sancho Engaño)

There is no greater reward for any composer than to have their music published and played. Sadly, even for many of the greats, the only way they ever got to hear their music was to play it themselves at home on the piano. Hence there is a lot of keyboard music that at its heart would like to be something that involves a proper ensemble.

When an ensemble works well you experience something that is much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s utterly wonderful.” (Sancho Engaño)

There’s no better example than Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an exhibition”. It is a superb piano work but it took the vision, the imagination, and consummate skill of Ravel to transform it into the symphonic masterpiece that we all know. Conclusion: The original is great, but also so is the arrangement. I rest my case. Oh, and you can see our own version, created by Engaño, right here in the music shop. Ta da!

The viola may not have the range of, for example, the piano (very few instruments do), but it can do a lot of things that a piano cannot: sustain, crescendo, vibrato, glissando, quarter tones, a wide range of attack and timbre, pizzicato, ponticello, and more. A skilful arrangement can unveil aspects of a piano piece that give it a totally new dimension. 

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

Zequinha AbreuTico-tico no fubá*
Tomaso AlbinoniSinfonia in D (3 movements)* Viola Quartet in C Major (3 movements)*
Emanuel AdriaenssenAlmande for viola ensemble
Constanzo AntegnatiLa Battera
Carl Philipp Emanuel BachQuartet in A minor*
Johann Sebastian BachAlla Duodecima*, Andante, Contrapunctus*, Cum Sancto Spiritu*, Minuet and Badinerie*, Prelude Adagio*,  Prelude and Fugue in C minor*, Quartet Sonata*, Three Fantasias for viola quartet*, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor*
Bálint BakfarkTwo Fantasies for viola quartet
Simon BainbridgeBirthday Fragment
Adriano BanchieriLa Feliciana
Béla BartókFifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs*, The Village Dance*
Arnold BaxCountry Tune*
Ludwig van BeethovenAllegretto from 7th Symphony*, Andante Cantabile*, Arietta Variations, Boogie*, Coriolan Overture*, Finale from 7th Symphony*, Finale from 9th Symphony*, Für Elise for viola quartet*,  Für Elise (plus) for viola quartet*,  Irish Album (10 songs)*, Prometheus Overture*, Quartet Op. 111*, Romance in F Major*, Rondo*,  Rondo a Capriccio Op.129* (movie clip),
Satz für Bratschenquartett*, Scottish Album (10 songs)*, Serenade (7 movements)*, Symphony No. 5*, Viola Quartet Op54 (2 movements)*, Viola Quartet in F Major, Op.17 (3 movements)*, Welsh Album*
John BennetMadrigal
Alban BergVier Stucke für Bratschenquartett*
Irving BerlinThree Songs for Viola Quartet*
Hector BerliozCanon libre à la quinte*, Fugue à trois sujets, Hungarian March*, Hymn pour lévévation, Les Nuits D’eté (6 movements)*, Reverie et Caprice, Un Bal*
Heinrich Ignaz Franz BiberHarmonia Artificiosa – Ariosa
Georges BizetCavatina for viola quartet*,  L’Arlésienne Suite No1*, La Fleur que tu m’avais jetée, Menuetto*
Luigi BoccheriniSonatina (3 movements)*, Viola Quartet in D Major*
Mélanie Hélène BonisPensées d’Automne*
Lili BoulangerDeux Morceaux pour quatuor d’altos*
Edwin York BowenFantasie for Four Violas
Alexander BorodinNocturne Polka for viola quartet*
William BoyceIntroduction and Allegro
Johannes BrahmsAdagio from 2nd Symphony*, Appassionata Op. 120*, Finale from the First symphony*, Four Hungarian Dances*, Poco Allegretto (from 3rd Symphony)*, Variations on a theme by Haydn*,
Viola Quartet in A Minor (4 movements)*, Viola Quartet in E Minor (3 movements)*
Thomas BrewerPavin for four violas
Frank BridgeAn Irish Melody*, Cradle Song, Moto Perpetuo*, Suite for Viola Quartet*, Three Miniatures*
Max BruchAdagio on a Celtic Melody*, Kol Nidrei*, Romanze for viola quartet*, Quartet Concerto (3 movements)*
Anton BrucknerFantasie for viola quartet*, March (from 4th Symphony)*, Prelude in D minor
Benedikt BrydernPedestrian Crossing
David BurndrettTasty Tango for Viola Quartet
George ButterworthThe Banks of Green Willow*
Dietrich BuxtehudePassacaglia for four violas
William ByrdGalliard, Misis Marye Brownlo*, Pavans and Galliards*, Suite for viola quartet (5 movements)*
Emmanuel ChabrierBoureé Fantasque* Danse Villageoise, Larghetto*
Marc-Antoine CharpentierConcert pour quatre parties de violes
Amédée-Ernest ChaussonQuelques Danses*
Luigi CherubiniAve Maria for Viola Quartet*, Sonatina for viola quartet*
Fryderyk ChopinFantasy for viola quartet*  Polska*
Samuel Coleridge-TaylorEight Negro Melodies*
Arcangelo CorelliChristmas Concerto*, Four Concerti for Viola Quartet*, La Follia*
François CouperinLa Sultane*, Les Baricades Mystérieuses
Claude-Achille DebussyClair de Lune*, Petite Suite (4 movements)*, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune*, Rapsodie*,
Three Pieces for Viola Quartet
Léo DelibesPizzicati for viola quartet*
Frederick DeliusSonatina
August Carl Ditters von DittersdorfNotturno (3 movements)*
John DowlandIn darkness let me dwell*
Guillaume DufayL’homme armé
Paul DukasThe Sorcerer’s Apprentice*
Antonín DvorákCapriccio*, Dumka*, Elegie*, Largo from the New World*, Scherzo from the New World*, Scottish Dances*, Slavonic Dances Op.46 Nos.1-4*, Song to the Moon*
Edward ElgarFive Pieces for viola quartet*, “Nimrod” for viola quartet*, Romance in E Minor*, The Dream of Gerontius Prelude*,
Three Charming Viola Quartets*, Viola Quartet Concerto (4 Movements)*
Sancho Engaño (our associate composer)Bach for Oscar, Bach in the Dark, Bacchanale*,  Beads for voice and viola quartet, Blues Suite (4 movements)*, Blue Syncopation, The Board Meeting*, Dance Suite (5 movements), El Fantasma Danzante*, El Rezo del Soldado, Fanfarria, For Four, Fugal Schmugal*, Happy Classical Birthday*, Heading for Home,
Hello Sailor, Hurdy-Gurdy, Insomnio, My Baby Sleeps, Noche de Música,  Pizzipeezy*, Polkadotty, Spanish Quartet, Staccato Fugato*, Story of Two Minstrels*,
Tango Bach*, Tap Dance, The Board Meeting*, Tricksy Pizzi*, The Gypsy Viola*, Two Canons, Ukulele
Manuel de FallaPièces Espagnoles (4 mvts)*
Giles FarnabyFour Pieces for viola quartet*
Johann Freidrich FaschSonatina for viola quartet (4 mvts.)*
Gabriel FauréDeux Petites Mélodies*, Fantasie Op.79*,
Four Pieces for Viola Quartet*, Madrigal*, Papillon*, Panvane
FolkFolk Music Album (6 movements)*
César FranckHumoresque*
Two Melodies for viola quartet
Giovanni GabrieliSonata XXI In Ecclesiis Quattro Canzoni*
Carlos GardelPor Una Cabeza*
George GershwinPromenade, Walking the Dog*
Claude GervaisePavane – La Venissiene
George N. GianopoulosHatzlacha Rabbah for viola quartet
Alaxander GlazanovTheme and Variations*
Mikhail GlinkaRondino Brillante*, Ruslan and Ludmila Overture*
Christoph Willibald GluckPizzicato*
Louis Moreau GottschalkLe Bananier
Charles GounodMarche Pontificale
Enrique GranadosThree Spanish Dances*
Edvard GriegFour poetic tone pictures*, Two Nordic Melodies*
Giovanni Battista GrilloThree Canzoni for viola ensemble*
George Frideric HandelLarghetto in F Major, Overture from Alexander’s Feast, Hallelujah for Strings*, Messiah Concerto*, Music for the Royal Fireworks*, Saraband*, Sinfonia*
Franz Joseph HaydnThe Joke, Largo*, The London Quartet 104 (4 movements)*, Romance, Serenade*, Viola Quartet in D major (3 movements)*, The Surprise Quartet (4 movements)*
Gustav HolstA Fugal Quartet (3 movements)*, Jupiter*, St. Paul’s Suite (4 movements)*, Suite for viola quartet (3 movements)*
Johann Nepomuk HummelPotpourri for Viola Quartet*
Engelbert HumperdinckNocturn*, Wiegenlied*
Vincent d’IndyLied*
Irish TraditionalThe Drunken Sailor, The Green Groves of Erin,
A Hard Road to Travel*, Rolling on the Ryegrass*, Sheahan’s Reel
Leos JanácekSuite (6 movements)*, Zdenka Variations
Scott JoplinAlbum for Viola Quartet (12 titles)*, Ragtime Dance, Weeping Willow
Friedrich KalkbrennerRondo for Viola Quartet
Jerome David KernSelection for Viola Quartet (8 songs)*
Rodolphe Kreutzer“Number Two” for viola quartet*
Edouard LaloGuitare, Two Folk Melodies for viola quartet*
Orlando di LassusMatona mia cara, Pensieri di pace*
Jean Marie LeclairSaraband et Tambourin*, Tambourin for viola quartet
Franz LehárHungarian Fantasy*, Vilja*
Franz LisztCsárdás Macabre, Two Little Folk Melodies*
Pietro LocatelliSinfonia Funebre for viola quartet (5 movements)
Patrick LoiseleurRâga nº1 bis for viola quartet
Matthew LockeSuite in B Minor*
Hamish MacCunnHornpipe for viola quartet*, Land of the Mountain and the Flood*
Gustav MahlerKindertotenlieder*, Ländler (from First Symphony)*, Trauermarsch
Alessandro MarcelloViola Quartet in C Minor (3 movements)*
Marin MaraisSuite for viola quartet (5 movements)*
Florentio MascheraCanzona
Jules MassenetÉlégie for viola quartet, Meditation*, Suite for viola quartet (4 movements)*
Emilie MayerTonweller*
Felix Mendelssohn-BartholdyAllegro, Chorale, and Fugue in D Minor*, Fingal’s Cave*, March for Viola Quartet, Perpetuum Mobile*, Rondo, Saltarello*, Scherzo*, Sinfonia in B flat major (3 movements)*, Sinfonia in D major (3 movements),
Symphony No. 4 (4 movements), Viola Quartet in C minor (3 mvts)*
Thomas MorleyCanzonetta
Wolfgang Amadeus MozartAdagio in F Minor, Allegro Spiritoso*, Divertimento in C Major*, Fugue K.173, Overture to Don Giovanni*, Romance K. 466, Rondo alla Turca*, The Magic Flute Fantasy*, Symphony number 40 (complete)*, The Jupiter Finale*, Viola Quartet in C Major, Viola Quartet in C Minor
Modest Petrovich MussorgskyMeditation,  Pictures at an Exhibition*,  Souvenir d’Enfance,  Three pieces for viola quartet
Ulrich NehlsSlicky Slide Swing
Carl NielsenRomance, Six Miniatures for viola quartet* Suite for viola quartet (3 movements)*, Three Melodies*
Ottokar NovácekEight Bulgarian Dances for viola quartet*
Johann PachelbelFantasia in C Minor, Fugue in D Minor,
Gigue for four violas
Niccolò PaganiniLa Campanella, Moto Perpetuo, Rondo
Charles Hastings Hubert ParryLady Radnor’s Suite*
Giovanni Battista PergolesiLarghetto for viola quartet*
Giovanni Pierluigi da PalestrinaFour pieces for viola ensemble*
Michael PraetoriusBransle de Villages*, Fantasia for four violas*, The Terpsichore Dances*
Serge ProkofievToccata*, Visions Fugitives (4 movements)
Giacomo PucciniDue Canzoni Lente (Crisantemi & Pregheira)*, Pucciniana*
Henry PurcellDido and Aeneas Fantasy*, Fantazia, Pavane and Chaconne*,
Three Fantasias for viola quartet*
Sergei Vasilievich RachmaninoffCanon for Viola Quartet, Polka for Viola Quartet*, Vocalise for Viola Quartet*
Jean-Philippe RameauLes Indes Galantes (8 movements)*
Maurice RavelSuite pour Quatre Altos (5 movements), Valses Nobles et Sentimentales*
Max RegerPrelude and Fugue*
Renaissance Album(12 pieces)*
Ottorino RespeghiAntiche Danze ed Arie (4 movements)*, Rhapsody*
Nikolay Rimsky-KorsakovFlight of the Bumble-bee*, In the Monastery, Serenade*, Variations and Fugue*
Salomone RossiCanzon
Gioachino Antonio RossiniAndante and Variations*, The Barber of Seville Overture*,  Semiramide Overture, William Tell Overture*
Albert RousselPrelude and Fugue*
Camille Saint-SaënsDanse Macabre*, Two Fugues for viola quartet*
Pablo de SarasateZapateado
Erik Satie3 Gymnopédies*, Jack in the box (3 movements)*, Quatre Morceaux Lent
Domenico ScarlattiSonata in F, Suite for viola quartet (4 movements)*
Arnold SchoenburgChromatische Pfade
Franz Schubert‘Arpeggione’ Quartet (3 movements)*, Moments Musicaux*, Overture in the Italian Style*, Symphony No. 5 (4 movements)*, Symphony No.8 (2 movements)*, Tarentelle*, Viola Quartet in A Major (4 movements)*
Clara SchumannViola Quartet in three movements*
Robert SchumannFive Folk Tunes for viola quartet*, Märchenbilder for viola quartet*,  Suite for four violas (5 movements), Symphony No.3 (5 movements)*, Viola Quartet Concerto in A Minor (3 movements)*
Alexander ScriabinTwo Mazurkas for viola quartet*
Bedrich SmetanaDance of the Comedians*, Five waltzes for viola quartet*, Fugue for viola quartet*
Alice Mary SmithAndante for Viola Quartet*
John Philip SousaThe Liberty Bell March, Two Melodies*
Louis SpohrFantasie for viola quartet*
Johann Strauss ILorelei Rheinklänge*, Radetzky March*
Johann Strauss IIVioletta*, Die Fledermaus Overture*, Perpetuum Mobile*, The Gypsy Baron Overture*, The Blue Danube Waltz*
Richard Giorg StraussBratschenquartett*, Viola Quartet in F Major*
Arthur SullivanOverture, H.M.S. Pinafore*, The Gilbert and Sullivan Album for viola quartet*
Suo GânWelsh folk song*
Franz von SuppéPique Dame*
Tielman SusatoIl etail une fillett, Six Dances for viola ensemble*
Thomas TallisAlbum for String Ensemble*, Three Sacred Melodies
Giuseppe TartiniAdagio Cantabile, Viola Quartet in C minor (3 movements)*
Peter TaylorPrelude Calypso
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky1812 Overture*, Andante Cantabile*, Andante Semplice, Aveu Passionné, Canzona from 4th Symphony*, Capriccio Italien*, Czardas from Swan Lake*, March from 6th Symphony*, Quartet Concerto*, Sérénade Mélancolique*, Serenata Opus 44*, Suite for viola quartet (4 movements), Valse Sentimentale, Waltz from Swan Lake* Winter Daydreams*
Georg Philipp Telemann4 Concerti à 4 viole*, La Bouffonne Suite (8 movements)*, Viola quartet in G major,
Don Quixote Suite (8 movements)*
Various ComposersChristmas Album for Strings*, Two Early Viola Quartets*, Three Seventeenth Century English Aires*
Guiseppe VerdiAve Maria*,  Nocturne*, Requiem Fantasy*
Ángel VilloldoFour Tangos for viola quartet*
Antonio VivaldiAutumn (3 movements)*, Et Misericordia*, Concertino for Viola Quartet (3 movements)*, Largo from ‘Winter’, Sinfonia per quattro viole (3 movements)*, Spring (3 movements)*, Suite in D (4 movements)*, Summer (3 movements)*, The Four Seasons Complete (12 movements)*, Viola Concertante in A Minor*, Viola Quartet in C Minor*, Viola Quartet in G Major*, Winter (3 movements)*
Richard WagnerPrelude*, Romanze*, Viola Quartet in C Major*
Émile WaldteufelThe Skater’s Waltz*
Geoffrey WalkerAbsolute Zero Rag*, Loco Motif*, Paganini Fireworks*
Thomas “Fats” WallerEffervescent for viola quartet
Peter WarlockCapriol Suite (6 movements)*
Carl Maria von WeberAndante & Hungarian Rondo, Concertino for viola quartet*, Romance*
Anton WebernControverse
Thomas WeelkesPavan for four violas
Welsh TraditionalSuo Gân*
Henryk WieniawskiReverie*, Two Melodies*
Max von WeinzierlNachtstück für 4 violen, Op.34
John WilbyeSix Madrigals for Viola Quartet*
Hugo WolfScherzo for viola quartet*

Here is a more detailed catalogue of our ensemble library.

Got any questions about viola repertoire? Get in touch: abzeroviolaquartet@gmail.com