What is your favorite violin duet for amateur or semi-professional players? For beginners, there are a lot of duet books available. But for more advanced players, it can be difficult to find good repertoire.
Violin duets are a brilliant, less-known part of chamber music that are great to listen to. This is the first article in a two-part series on violin duets. There are actually a few key differences between these 2 types of duet. A violin duet is actually just for two solo violins, but a violin’duet will usually be orchestral or have a continuo accompaniment.
In classical music, there are many different types of duets; you can have a violin-viola, violin-cello, viola-cello and many other variations with different types of instruments. Instrumental duets are very rare. They are not played enough, not recorded enough, and most people underestimate them.
The repertoire of the solo violin-violin duet is relatively small. It was in the 20th century when composers began to make chamber music for smaller ensembles. It’s unsurprising that many musicians from the first and second world wars either stayed home or became soldiers themselves. A majority of them were eventually victims of the war.
These 20th-century violin duets, in contrast to those by other classical composers, are more harmonious and experimental.
Top Violin Pieces in Existence Review
Duets are a common form of music performance in folk music genres. The violin duet is slightly different where two musicians perform a piece of music work with one or two violins. Violin duets are the same as violin duo’s but with two violins instead!
A duet obviously needs an emphasis on the instruments, which is why the music will usually have more than just two players. There will be an orchestra and sometimes a continuo to add more forces to fill out that sound. Violin duets concerto repertories are comparatively small in length but make a massive difference in overall performance.
The next section has some more classical violin duets. They are suitable for both professionals and newcomers, who should enjoy the challenge. The only downside is that these pieces are slightly difficult to play.
1. Arthur Honegger: Sonatine pour deux violons (1920)
This is an experimental piece that is not often performed. It’s possible that Arthur Honegger’s piece has never been professionally recorded.
Though it is included on this list just because of that, these three movements also have moments where they seem to encapsulate the complexity and difficulty of the material while also showcasing striking clarity and beauty.
2. Amy Beach – Violin Sonata
“Amy Beach was an American composer who was born in 1867.” She was really respected in her time, but unfortunately not many people have read her work since. Her Violin Sonata is a great example of her Romantic style where she effortlessly combines passion, virtuosity haunting melodies across the three movements.
3. Bach – Partita No. 2, Chaconne
Few moments in music are as dramatic as the opening from this devilishly tricky unaccompanied work. Those jazz chords are so cool and they give a feeling of unease before reaching the moment of completion. It’s tough, only the best can do it.
4. JS Bach: Concerto for Two Violins, Strings, and Continuo in D Minor (BWV 1043)
JS Bach’s music is so incredible, that even beginners should know this song. That’s about par for the course for this type of composition. Most up-and-coming violinists try and master it at the start of their careers. It makes sense that they would. You can find this piece written by JS Bach in almost every music school’s syllabus.
This is a piece where the strings and the continuo intertwine with each other to create a rich symphony for two violins. One of the things that makes Bach’s music so powerful is his use of Baroque elements.
5. Bartok – Violin Concerto No. 2
Thanks to his anti-fascist views, Bartok was constantly attacked in Hungary and grew very confused and this is reflected in this challenging (but rewarding) concerto. From his creative 12-tone themes to the exciting climax, it’s a technical workout like no other. But with the context provided by fiery playing, players are able to put that deep musical knowledge into practise.
6. Béla Bartók: 44 Duos for violin (1931)
This series of 44 duos intended for performance. As opposed to composing them for use in concerts, Bartók made these pieces for teaching purposes. They’re intended to be taught and studied by violin students. Erich Doflein, a German violin teacher, commissioned four books of these pieces.
A lot of Bartók’s duos take inspiration from folk dances regularly found in Eastern European regions. It’s fair to say that they duos basically use more dissonant intervals than most student works. This is why they’re great for folk who want to get into modern music, as it gives them a pretty good introduction.
7. Beethoven – Violin Sonata No. 9 (‘Kreutzer’)
Beethoven’s personality is very interesting. His character changes a lot in this particular sonata. While he is more well-known for his dramatic use of colour, Van Gogh shows different facets of himself in this work. They include the innovative use of colours and more intimate scenes like the violin and piano piece.
8. Berg – Violin Concerto
This violin concerto captures the composer at a moment of internal struggle. A war is going on and he’s struggling to find some balance between 12-tone music that’s not particularly listener-friendly, and more “normal” romantic music.
9. Biber – Mystery Sonatas
These 15 pieces for violin have a mystical feel to them, which is what their title says. Don’t worry, you can still tell that some of the composition was done in celebration of Biber’s talent at the violin. Since he was an innovator of his time and was able to do things that other violinists couldn’t do, Biber is often considered one of the best. The Mystery Sonatas show him at his strongest!
10. Brahms – Violin Sonata No. 3
Composed near the end of his career, this last violin sonata has a lot of melancholic beauty & some really gentle melodies. If you’re playing it well, it can make your violinist feel just as emotional as the audience does.
11. Bruch – Violin Concerto No. 1
Although there are many technical challenges for any violinist (and the exuberance), I enjoyed the note duration and how the different speeds related to each other. Nailing the tricky aspects behind these notes is just as hard, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be doing well.
12. Georg Philipp Telemann: 6 Canonical Sonatas (1727)
Telemann’s 6 Canonical Sonatas are a popular piece for many different types of instrumentalists. Telemann himself wrote the piece for either two violins or two recorders. Since then, these sonatas have been published for almost any instrument combination.
In earlier music, you often see treble instruments used in unique combinations. One reason is that it was difficult to find the best musicians, so performers often had to play on instruments they weren’t trained on. Composers didn’t focus on getting a specific timbre until later. This was a much simpler time for music!
13. Glass – Violin Concerto No. 1
This a musical masterpiece that some people love and others are totally against. Whilst it certainly has an aura, some people have argued that the artist is simply overrated. Some people find it intriguing and some people find it annoying, but there’s no denying that it’s been the center of a lot of debate.
14. Darius Milhaud: Duo for Two Violins op.258
Darius Milhaud was a French violinist who found Brazilian pop music to be inspiring. He wrote a piece for two violins called Op. 258 in 1945.
The rhythm of this group is crazy. The first movement starts with Gai, which lasts for about one minute. Besides, the next move is of romance, and in the finale, you get a Gigue. The sounds of Darius Milhaud are all over these three tracks.
15. Darius Milhaud: Le Boeuf sur le toit, Op. 58
The ox on the roof is a surrealist ballet and it has an English name of The ox on the roof. Darius created a score for Charlie Chaplin’s movie. Like most of his other films, this was also a silent film.
Even though it was in Darius Milhaud’s composition that gave voice to a silent movie. Some pieces for the piano are also written with a version as accompaniment for a chamber orchestra.
16. Max Reger: Drei Canons und Fugen im alten Stil für 2 Violinen (1914)
Here’s a set of three canons and fugues by German composer Max Reger for two violins that are played together. Bach’s influence is evident in these 20th century compositions.
The second canon and fugue is just like Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins, but in D minor. It also has a direct quote of the first movement and begins with that.”
Reger’s works look back at the Baroque period, but there are some contemporary elements that make for quite an interesting mix.
17. Moritz Moszkowski: Suite for 2 Violins and Piano, Op. 71
Despite the popularity of his music in his times, Moritz Moszkowski was never really appreciated for the work that he did. He wasn’t rated very highly during his lifetime. It took a lot of time for people to realize how talented he was. Suite for 2 Violins and Piano, Op. 71 is an example of Brahms owning his skill.
The composer starts off with a romantic, big theme right at the beginning of the piece. Meanwhile, in the second movement, elegance is very prevalent. And the third and fourth movements show a contrast. I like how things start off slowly, but then there’s this really uplifting ending.
18. Paganini – Caprice No. 24
Some violinists believe that Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 is the perfect way to show off the instrument’s many features. It contains more technical wizardry in one song than most other composers could hope for during a whole lifetime, so it could be worth listening to if you’re interested in this instrument.
19. Clara Schumann – Three Romances for Violin and Piano
Clara Schumann was best know for her time as the world’s most famous piano player. But in these three chamber musicians, you can also enjoy her proficiency when it comes to writing violin scores. Clara’s gone on tour with a great violinist called Joseph Joachim – and they even played in front of the King of Hanover. Apparently, he was “completely ecstatic” when she did.
20. Charles De Beriot: Three Duo Concertante Op.57
A “Three duo concertante” is more commonly referred to as a “Grand Duo.” A Violin Duo is a two-person string instrument act, consisting of one violinist and one partner on the viola. Belgian composer Charles De Beriot wrote this piece. The target platform for this concert’s piece is a stage.
However, the simplicity of the music and orchestral arrangement make it easily adaptable to all mediums, including other concerts and classical music recordings. If you’re a novice or want to learn a difficult song that sounds simple-but-monstrously difficult, this one should be at the top of your list.
21. Saint-Saëns – Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso
This piece was originally written for Sarasate, a legendary violin player who can also be found on this list. In the opening minutes of this work, there is an insane arpeggio sequence.
22. Sarasate – Zigeunerweisen
This is a really exciting piece by Sarasate. It’s super fiendish and fun, making it perfect for finishing off the concert. It will be great to hear all of the fireworks at the end.
23. Sibelius – Violin Concerto
People sometimes draw a lot of focus to the last movement of Sibelius’ violin concerto. But the first two movements are equally impactful and beautiful. A competition favorite for violinists looking to establish themselves, it’s a perennial showstopper.
24. Sergei Prokofiev: Sonata for two violins in C (1932)
He felt the violin sonata was poorly written, so he wrote his own that elaborated on the concepts of the original score in an interesting way. This work has a lot of thematic material and can be organized into 4 movements.
The first theme that is introduced in the piece is haunting. It reappears latter on in a more playful way. The second movement is intense and rhythmic in character, but it contrasts the lyrical and beautiful third.
25. Henryk Wieniawski: Études-Caprices for two Violins (1862)
Eugène Ysaÿe: Duo Sonata (1915). The Études-Caprices for two violins are a series of 8 very challenging violin solos.
Etudes are a handy tool to teach students because they allow teachers to accompany their students while they practice.
This list is different because the violin parts are not equally weighted. Even though they’re saying they’re studies, the duos are really great to listen to. They come across just as well on their own!
26. Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
A string of Vivaldi’s concertos has been composed and arranged to excellence, showcasing the violin in ways that other composers couldn’t quite match. You’ll have to remind me.
27. Williams – Schindler’s List
Despite all his big Hollywood blockbuster soundtracks over the years, John Williams is respected mostly for his more low-key moments. This haunting, country-style tune is incredibly simple on the surface but when considering the context of Steven Spielberg’s film it just becomes heartbreaking.
28. Wieniawski: Etude-Caprices For Two Violins, Op.18 – No.4 In A Minor
Etudes-Caprices are set of eight studies put together. Wieniawski composed the etudes in a way that the second person always carries the violin.
This duet is perfect for two students and teachers. If played correctly, it can be soothing to the ear. As a budding violinist, practicing etudes is always going to be beneficial since they’re easy but still skillful. These etudes can help you reach your next level by giving you exercises to work with.
29. Ysaye – Violin Sonata No. 3
All of Ysaÿe’s sonatas in this set are dedicated to legendary violinists and this particular one is dedicated to the great Georges Enescu.
30. Eugène Ysaÿe: Duo Sonata (1915)
Elisabeth had a taste for the classics, so it’s no wonder she commissioned such a beautiful duo violin sonata by Ysaÿe. The composer not only proved himself to be an expert composer and virtuoso violinist, but also made sure to honour the Belgian noble’s taste with elegant pieces like this one. It’s not entirely clear if this piece ever had an official public performance.
This work showcases various styles, namely Romanticism, Impressionism and Expressionism. This piece has a lot of beautiful, moving harmonies. Definitely worth listening to!
The violin can be a hard instrument to choose because every kind has its own quirks. If you’re thinking about learning, it may seem even harder! So, going with someone you know can be a great choice, but don’t worry if your favorites change.
FAQ for Best Violin Duets for Advanced Players
What is the best violin duets?
The best violin duets are those that have been written specifically for the instrument and not any other instrument. This means they will be played with a bow and not with fingers or any other type of instrument.
What are the most famous violin duets?
Violin Duets are a form of instrumental music that is usually played by two violins. The violin duets are usually played in pairs, with one violin on the right hand side of the other. Violin duets are typically written for two violins, but can also be played by more than two violins, or even with a piano accompaniment.
The most famous violin duets include:
- Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major (BWV 1001)
- Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor (Opus 108)
- Mendelssohn’s Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major (Opus 40)
What is the best violin duets for beginner?
If you are just starting to learn the violin, the best violin duets for beginner can be a great way to start learning how to play.
The best violin duets for beginner are usually designed for two violins and are often designed for beginners. The music is usually in a simple key and has an easy melody. This way, you can focus on playing the notes rather than reading them.
Some of the best violin duets for beginner include:
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G Minor
- Joplin Ragtime Dance No. 2 in A Flat Major, and Bach Minuet in G Major
Who wrote the most famous violin duet?
The most famous violin duet is the “Kreutzer” Sonata by Beethoven.
The Kreutzer Sonata is a violin duet by Ludwig van Beethoven, and is one of the most famous and popular pieces of music in history.