by Paul Harris

I don’t often mention my violin playing – but I did in fact get up to (and passed) Grade 8 at school!  And I once played the Mozart Clarinet Quintet (in public) with all of us playing our second instrument (in my case my third!). So, when Faber Music suggested working with the wonderful Jessica O’Leary on a book of violin repertoire I naturally jumped at the chance.

What emerged has a rather particular, and we hope, very useful and unique appeal. It’s a book that solves a problem (a number of problems in fact!). Each piece can be played in three different ways (hence Flexi Violin): violin and piano, or as a violin duet, or by the two violins with piano. And each combination provides a complete and satisfying musical experience. The duet part could be played by the teacher or another student. Though the technical requirements of the second part are sometimes a little more demanding (to ensure a complete musical experience) often students of approximately similar levels would be able to have a good crack at it.

In choosing the repertoire, we set ourselves the challenge to fill the books with a wide range of really interesting, novel and appealing music that we hope will grab the imagination of both teachers and students. Flexi Violin also offers experience in playing in all the appropriate keys and introduces most of the musical 'ingredients' students need to know and manage at these levels.

So, many happy hours were spent trawling through the vast range of music available, as well as more traditional repertoire.  Once chosen we set about arranging the pieces so that they could be played in these three varying ways, and also in a systematic and logical order taking players from the standard required for early elementary to intermediate level (Initial to Grade 5).

Of the pieces in Book 1, one of the most intriguing is Duetto by Schubert.  During our research, we came across the crossed-out manuscript below and, as far as we can ascertain, this is this piece’s first publication!

Both Jessica and I have also contributed a piece to the book. Jessica’s characterful Witches’ Waltz gives players the opportunity to enjoy some fun tremolando. I have provided Isabel’s Piece, written, not surprisingly, for Isabel, a young violinist, a little while ago, to play at a local music festival. She just wanted a nice expressive tune!

Book 2 offers a rich variety of styles, from Vivaldi and Haydn to Irish reels. During our explorations we came across a lot of music by Cecile Chaminade, which nearly Impossible to whittle down, so there are actually three of her works included: an Air de Ballet, Slavic March, and a Gavotte – all three highly engaging, which we hope will go down well and prove useful additions to the repertoire.

The book culminates with a lively arrangement of Handel’s Sonata No 4. There is something so refreshing and energising about baroque music – it seemed the perfect piece to bring these two new collections to a rousing conclusion.