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12 Amazing Viola Solos You Must Hear

The viola is the classic middle child. Seemingly always overshadowed by the feistier “younger” sibling violin or its more authoritative-sounding older sibling, the cello.  Through it all, the viola is there, content to add its own unique depth to the family dynamic while receiving little acclaim.

Well, no more. 

Here are 12 examples of the viola taking center stage and rocking it madly.  

  1. “Her voice is full of money.” So said Gatsby of Daisy in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Take a listen to David Aaron Carpenter playing Bach’s Suite No. 3 on a viola with a voice full of money. $45 million to be exact, is the worth of the Stradivari viola he’s playing. 
  1. Russian composer Michael Kugel has transcribed and composed many works just for the viola. In this clip, violist Dana Zemtsov performs Kugel’s Prelude-Ysaye, which was part of her 2014 album “Enigma.” The work showcases the viola’s darker, more temperamental side. You can see a much younger Zemtsov, only 13 years old, here.
  1. The Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra: This example of late 20th century composition is performed by Teng Li and The Esprit Orchestra. The work is filled with double stops and will challenge anyone’s technique and is a great example of modernist energy. 
  1. In this viola "Tango", Marco Misciagna doesn’t even pick up his bow until almost a minute into it. The piece was composed by Francisco de Asís Tárrega y Eixea, a Spanish composer and classical guitarist. The work was written for the classical guitar, but Misciagna transcribed it for viola. 
  1. Continuing with a Spanish theme, enjoy Israeli violist Amihai Grosz performing Richard Strauss’s “Don Quixote” with the Berlin Philharmonic. This famous tone poem is a great chance to show off the viola’s more playful side. 
  1. Violinist and violist Max Baillie performs Bach’s “Chromatic Fantasia and Fuguein D minor” (BWV 903) on the viola, of course! Bach composed this piece for the harpsichord, but Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály helpfully transcribed it for the viola in 1950. Baillie is a self-confessed Bach-maniac, his performance of this work has been described as …an exquisitely executed rendition, and one which had its audience utterly transfixed.” 
  1. Have you met ThatViolaKid? The real name of this YouTube/Insta-famous violist is Drew Alexander Forde. His YouTube channel is heavy on the vlogs, taking you into his Julliard audition and sharing tips on performing and creating a music career for yourself. Here, he’s pairing up with cellist buddy Nathan Chan to perform a cover of Adele’s “Hello,” and another video of ThatViolaKid playing the Game of Thrones theme at a half-time show. If you want to see him go classical, here he is performing Brahm’s Viola Sonata in F Minor (Part 1). 
  1. Another violist rocking social media to gain an audience is violist Jeremy Green. In this video, he covers Ed Sheerhan’s “Shape of You.” 
  1. And now for a jazzy interlude…Belgian Tcha Limberger musician takes on all the parts, including the viola solos, of this gypsy jazz piece composed by his compatriot Eduard 'Bamboula' Ferret. 
  1. For a contemporary jazz composition, here’s Myles Wright performing his “Scherzo for Viola and Jazz Drummer.” Myles is the jazz drummer and Kathy C., is the violist. We loved this clip, but Kathy C. remains a bit of a mystery! 
  1. The viola has even found its place in show tunes! David Lasserson plays “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music,” accompanied by Stephan Large on piano, with nice little tremolo opening. 
  1. We’ll close things off with some electric viola, because why not? Daniel Morris, a self-declared street performer with a fondness of playing on the Santa Monica pier provides this cover of The Chainsmokers’ “Closer.” 

What do you think? Tempted yet to switch to the viola?

Top Photo: Max Baillie playing Bach's Chromatic Fantasy, courtesy of Youtube capture.

This article sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld

Violins on the wall