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Performer Guides: Viola

Use this guide to find resources for music performance, including LC call number browsing ranges for repertoire, books, and journals..

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Finding Repertoire for the Viola:

If you're looking for new repertoire to perform, it is often helpful to browse the Music Library's scores. The following call number ranges are for viola music; individual works within these numbers are arranged alphabetically by composer or arranger:

  • M45-M49, Viola alone
  • M224-M228, Viola and piano
  • M351, String trios
  • M452, String quartets
  • M1014, Viola with orchestra (full score)
  • M1015, Viola with orchestra (piano reduction)
  • M1114, Viola with string orchestra (full score)
  • M1115, Viola with string orchestra (piano reduction)

Excerpts, etudes, and instructional materials are classified in the MT range and housed in the same location as books:

  • MT280, General works
  • MT282, Systems and methods
  • MT285, Studies and exercises
  • MT286, Orchestral studies (excerpts)

Digital Score Apps:

The Wilson Music Library provides Blair students, faculty, and staff with free access to nkoda and Henle through our subscription. Follow the instructions below to start using these popular apps today.

Selected Books on the Viola and Violists:

A Notebook for Viola Players

In A Notebook for Viola Players, Ivo-Jan van der Werff offers a guide to playing the viola with the greatest freedom, dexterity, and ease. It includes right and left hand exercises to build a sound technique, sections on how to practice them, how to hold the viola and bow, how to think about good posture, how to create a good sound, how to play with the least amount of tension, how to deal with anxiety, and thoughts on wellness and practice techniques. Alongside these are photographs and a companion website of video demonstrations of the exercises played by the author, as if in a lesson. Interspersed throughout the book are lively and illuminating anecdotes of van der Werff's own experiences as a student and as a professional musician, as well as a number of blank pages and staff paper for the student to literally 'make notes' and write down their own ideas, offering a space for creative expression using the skills they learn in reading and playing along with the text. Bringing together decades of teaching and performance experience from one of the most respected figures in viola pedagogy, A Notebook for Viola Players is a master class in viola ideal for any player hoping to perfect the fundamental areas of their practice.

Notes for Violists: A Guide to the Repertoire

Notes for Violists: A Guide to the Repertoire offers historical and analytical information about thirty-five of the best-known pieces for the instrument, making it an essential resource for professional, amateur, and student violists alike. With engaging prose supported by fact-filled analytical charts, the book offers rich biographical information and insightful analyses that help violists gain a more complete understanding of pieces like Béla Bartók's Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, Rebecca Clarke's Sonata for Viola and Piano, Robert Schumann's Märchenbilder for Viola and Piano, op. 113, Carl Stamitz's Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in D Major, Igor Stravinsky's Élégie for Viola or Violin Unaccompanied, and thirty other masterpieces. This comprehensive guide to key pieces from the viola repertoire from the eighteenth through the twentieth century covers concertos, chamber pieces, and works for solo viola by a wide range of composers, including Bach, Telemann, Mozart, Hoffmeister, Walton, and Hindemith. Author David M. Bynog not only offers clear structural analyses of these compositions but also situates them in their historical contexts as he highlights crucial biographical information on composers and explores the circumstances of the development and performance of each work. By connecting performance studies with scholarship, this indispensable handbook for students and professionals allows readers to gain a more complete picture of each work and encourages them to approach other compositions in a similarly analytical manner.

Cover of The Violin and Viola with color picture of a violin or viola.

The Violin and Viola

Comprehensive view of the violin and viola by a professional violinist, teacher, and author details the historical development and changing structure of the two instruments. Text covers the contributions of Stradivarius and the legendary Cremona school of makers; techniques and improvements advocated by such celebrated teachers as Geminiani, Tartini, and Leopold Mozart; the great schools of players — from Corelli to Paganini; and the demands imposed by the growth of the 19th-century orchestra. Includes music examples and 11 diagrams. 24 halftones.

Pale lavender cover of The Early Violin and Viola with drawing of a performer in Baroque costume with wig playing a violin or viola.

The Early Violin and Viola

This practical guide is intended for all violinists and viola players who wish to give - or to understand and appreciate - historically aware performances of early music for their instruments. It comprises discussion of the literature, history and repertory of the violin and viola, the myriad relevant primary sources and their interpretation, and the various aspects of style and technique that combine to make up well-grounded, period performances. It also considers various related family instruments, contains practical advice on the acquisition of appropriate instruments, and offers suggestions for further reading and investigation. Many of the principles outlined are put into practice in case studies of six works composed c.1700–c.1900, the core period which forms this series' principal (though not exclusive) focus. Music by Corelli, Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms is examined with a view to recreating performances as faithful as possible to the composer's original intention.

Cover of Lionel Tertis with color photograph of Tertis playing the viola.

Lionel Tertis

Lionel Tertis (1876-1975) stands in the company of Ysae, Kreisler, Casals, Thibaud and Rubinstein as one of the greatest instrumentalists - and arguably the greatest viola player - of all time. Such composers as Arnold Bax, Holst, and Vaughan Williams all wrote significant works for him; he was a member of a number of prominent string quartets; and he was later to design and promote his own 'Tertis model' viola. He is virtually synonymous with the increasing importance of the viola as a solo and recital instrument alongside the violin and the cello. This biography, the first full-length survey of his life, tells how he rose from humble beginnings to become 'the father of the modern viola'. It explores in detail his long and distinguished career, persuading composers to write works for the viola, arranging existing works for the instrument, editing and performing the music, teaching and coaching in Great Britain, and his performances in the United States. 

Dark green cover of Playing and Teaching Viola with a close up color photograph of a bow on the strings above the bridge of the instrument.

Playing and Teaching the Viola: A Comprehensive Guide to the Central Clef Instrument and Its Music


"As its name suggests, 'Playing and Teaching the Viola' is truly a comprehensive resource for violists--and those who want to be. We [the publishers] are convinced that this must-have volume of more than 230 pages will become known as THE definitive source of practical information on the viola. In the words of its editor, 'Students of all ages who refer to this book will have opportunity to share the wisdom of artist-teachers who prepared the major chapters on beginning, intermediate, and advanced playing. Hundreds of practice tips accompany the skills and exercises discussed in the text. Teachers will profit from new ideas, detailed explanations, photographs, and drawings to complement the exercises that describe specifics of playing, learning, and teaching.'"--Publisher's website.

Cover of Music for Silenced Voices with a black and white photograph of Shostakovich and two other people.

Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets

Most previous books about Dmitri Shostakovich have focused on either his symphonies and operas, or his relationship to the regime under which he lived, or both, since these large-scale works were the ones that attracted the interest and sometimes the condemnation of the Soviet authorities. Music for Silenced Voices looks at Shostakovich through the back door, as it were, of his fifteen quartets, the works which his widow characterized as a "diary, the story of his soul." The silences and the voices were of many kinds, including the political silencing of adventurous writers, artists, and musicians during the Stalin era; the lost voices of Shostakovich's operas (a form he abandoned just before turning to string quartets); and the death-silenced voices of his close friends, to whom he dedicated many of these chamber works. Wendy Lesser has constructed a fascinating narrative in which the fifteen quartets, considered one at a time in chronological order, lead the reader through the personal, political, and professional events that shaped Shostakovich's singular, emblematic twentieth-century life. Weaving together interviews with the composer's friends, family, and colleagues, as well as conversations with present-day musicians who have played the quartets, Lesser sheds new light on the man and the musician. One of the very few books about Shostakovich that is aimed at a general rather than an academic audience, Music for Silenced Voices is a pleasure to read; at the same time, it is rigorously faithful to the known facts in this notoriously complicated life. It will fill readers with the desire to hear the quartets, which are among the most compelling and emotionally powerful monuments of the past century's music.

The Standard Viola

Historical basis and Vatrinate for a standard Viola, for players and Violinmakers.

Plain blue book cover used as placeholder when no other cover image available.

Works for the Viola by Pulitzer Prize Winning Composers

The Pulitzer awards in music have been representative of America's best composers since 1917. Prize winners have written compositions for viola solo, viola with keyboard, and for viola with orchestra. This annotated bibliography catalogues each Pulitzer award winner's compositions for these instrumentations. Only compositions originally designed for viola solo, viola with keyboard, and for viola with orchestra are included.

Plain burgundy cover of A Bibliographical Guide to Spanish Music with text in gold.

A Bibliographical Guide to Spanish Music for the Violin and Viola, 1900-1997

Meeting the existing need for a resource on Spanish violin and viola music, this guide provides the teacher and performer with information on approximately 300 works for violin and viola in solo, with piano, and with orchestra. The annotated entries provide practical information with regard to level of difficulty, musical language, and duration and number of movements. An overview of Spanish music in this century, including a brief examination of violin and viola activity in Spain, places the work in historical context and introduces major names in Spanish musical history. Short biographical sketches on composers complement the historical information presented about Spanish viola and violin music of the 20th century. Each entry contains a list of the composer's compositions and is annotated with information pertaining to the publisher, musical style, and date of the premiere. 

Cover of String Syllabus v. 1 with a picture of a musical score against a dark green background.

String Syllabus, Vol 1

This follows the popular ASTA String Syllabus, Vol. One: 2003 Edition, which has been ASTA's top seller and most requested publication for the past five years. The new version was carefully and thoroughly updated and revised by David Littrell, ASTA past president. Members will also appreciate that new material was added for Alternative Styles. 140 pages.

Cover of the String Instrument Owner's Handbook with a painting of a luthier crafting a string instrument.

The String Instrument Owner's Handbook

In The String Instrument Owner's Guide, Michael Pagliaro surveys the complete "ownership life cycle" of bowed string instruments. A touchstone work for uninitiated and advanced players, The String Instrument Owner's Guide provides a roadmap for every step of the owning process, from selecting and buying (or renting ) to maintaining, repairing, modifying, upgrading and even re-selling your instrument. The String Instrument Owner's Guide answers, chapter by chapter, such key questions as: Where did string instruments come from? How do they work? What are the different kinds of string instruments? How they are made? How should you choose one? How do you care for string instruments? What accessories are needed and what do you need to know about them? How do string instruments compare to one another? How does one learn to play? And so much more. This work should sit in the library of not only every professional musician but also of students, teachers, technicians, and parents.

The Baroque Violin and Viola: A Fifty Lesson Course

In the early seventeenth century, enthusiasm for the violin swept across Europe - this was an instrument capable of bewitching virtuosity, with the power to express emotions in a way only before achieved with the human voice. With this new guide to the Baroque violin, and its close cousin, theBaroque viola, distinguished performer and pedagogue Walter Reiter puts this power into the hands of today's players. Through fifty lessons based on the Reiter's own highly-renowned course at The Royal Conservatory of the Hague, The Baroque Violin and Viola, Volume I provides a comprehensiveexploration of the period's rich and varied repertoire.Volume I covers the basics of choosing a violin, techniques to produce an ideal sound, and sonatas by Vivaldi and Corelli. Practical exercises are integrated into each lesson, and accompanied by rich video demonstrations on the book's companion website. Brought to life by Reiter's deep insight intokey repertoire based on a lifetime of playing and teaching, The Baroque Violin and Viola, Volume I: A Fifty-Lesson Course will enhance performances of professional and amateur musicians alike.

Beethoven for a Later Age: Living with the String Quartets

Beethoven's sixteen string quartets are some of the most extraordinary and challenging pieces of music ever written. Originally composed and performed between 1798 and 1826, they have inspired artists of all kinds--not only musicians--and have been subject to endless reinterpretation. But what is it like to personally take up the challenge of these compositions, not only as a musician, but as a member of a quartet, where each player has ideas about style and expression? To answer this question, Edward Dusinberre, first violinist of the renowned Takács Quartet, offers a rare peek inside the workings of his ensemble, while providing an insightful history of the compositions and their performance. Founded in Hungary in 1975 and now based in Boulder, Colorado, the Takács is one of the world's preeminent string quartets, and performances of Beethoven have been at the center of their work together for over forty years. Using the history of both the Takács Quartet and the Beethoven quartets as a foundation, Beethoven for a Later Age provides a backstage look at the daily life of a quartet, showing the necessary creative tension between individual and group and how four people can at the same time forge a lasting artistic connection and enjoy making music together over decades. The key, Dusinberre reveals, to a quartet crafting its own sound is in balancing continuity with change and experimentation--a theme that lies at the heart of Beethoven's remarkable compositions. In an accessible style, suitable for novices and chamber music enthusiasts alike, Dusinberre illuminates the variety and contradictions of Beethoven's quartets, which were composed against the turbulent backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath, and he brings the technical aspects of the music to life. Beethoven for a Later Age vividly shows that creative engagement with Beethoven's radical and brilliant quartets continues to be as stimulating now as it was for its first performers and audiences. Musicians and music lovers will be intrigued by Dusinberre's exploration of the close collaboration at the heart of any great performance.