Viewing: Orchestration 101: The String Section, videos 26-27.

Reference: Studying String Orchestration PDF from above course:
Viola Tuning, Range, Finger Positions, Harmonics, and Multiple Stops

Reading: Orchestration Manual, chapters on the cello.
Piston: Chapter 3.
Adler: Chapter 3 section on Viola.
Kennan: Chapter 2 section on Cello (pp. 19-23, 2nd Ed.)

Reading: 100 Orchestration Tips 83-85, 87. (save Tips 86 & 88 for next week)


There are several formulas for navigating around alto clef if you’re a beginner. You could think “Middle C in the middle, then how much up or down?” to start. There are also some formulas, like “FACEG” for lines (think about getting “egg” on your “face” if you don’t read the notes right) and “Great Big Dogs Fight” for the spaces. My old orchestra teacher, the conductor Eugene C. Shepherd, used to tell his students to “think one note higher if you’re used to treble clef, but down an octave” – so the top line of F5 in treble clef becomes G4 in alto clef. If you’re more used to bass clef, perhaps coming from playing trombone, bassoon, or cello, you could “think one note lower but up an octave” – so that the top line of A3 becomes G4. Whichever way you read, you must really get so used to reading in alto clef that you can easily score in it and score-read it with no hitch in your comprehension.

Here’s a great online page for testing your alto clef reading:


• Bach, Suite no. 1 in G for unaccompanied viola (arr. of Cello Suite no. 1 in G, BWV 1007)
The link below opens the page for Cello Suite no. 1, not “Viola Suite no. 1.” Don’t panic. Click the “Arrangements and Transcriptions” tab under the title “Sheet Music.” Download the Yokoyama arrangement “For Viola Solo” (with slurs). Scroll down 4 pages to start score-reading Suite no. 1,_BWV_1007_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian)
Recommended viewing:
Irina Yonkova is pretty good, but her Prelude is painfully slow. You get used to it after awhile.
This Lillian Fuchs version is more like it, but only includes the Prelude.

• Rolla, Idyll no. 1 for solo viola
Offenbach version is very readable.,_Antonio)
Recommended viewing:
Positively unearthly version by Hao-Sheng Yu.

• von Blumenthal, Grand Caprice for solo viola,_Op.79_(Blumenthal,_Joseph_von)
Recommended viewing:
Pamela Ryan’s very spontaneous version isn’t without flaws, and she skips most of the pages 3 and 5, but it’s a dedicated effort filmed with a superb view of her fingers so you can really grasp the technical demands.

• Vieuxtemps, Capriccio “Hommage à Paganini” for solo viola, Op. 55à_Paganini%27,_Op.55_(Vieuxtemps,_Henri)
Recommended viewing:
Nice score+audio version.
Ryszard Groblewski is the real deal, though.

• Anzoletti, Study no. 11 from 12 Studies, Op. 125
You have to scroll all the way down to p. 42. Don’t be misled by the variations that precede it.,_Op.125_(Anzoletti,_Marco)
Recommended viewing:
Lovely and soulful version by Marco Misciagna.

• Reger, Suite no. 1 for Unaccompanied Viola,_Op.131d_(Reger,_Max)
Recommended viewing:
Superb score+audio version of the first movement is some of the best solo viola playing out there.
All the same I really like intensely passionate violist’s complete performance here, with lovely shades of colour and dynamics.

Hindemith, Viola Sonatas Opp. 11 & 25,_Op.11_No.5_(Hindemith,_Paul)
Slightly weird intonation but the passion is all there.,_Op.25_No.1_(Hindemith,_Paul)
Sergey Tarashchansky is the man!


Compose a work for unaccompanied viola using the following parameters:
• 2-3 minutes in length
• focus on lyricism and strong craft
• avoid overusing any one technique or overdoing the technical virtuosity
• compose in your own artistic voice and idiom to the viola’s strengths (and yours!)
• consider that this work may be read and possibly performed
• maintain Lesson 3’s progressions of scoring approaches to tone production, scoring to the strengths of the registers, and individualising strings
• have figuration play at least a partial role in realising the motive or developing the piece