4. So how much music is there for a viola quartet?

PREPARE TO BE AMAZED!

Originals v. Arrangements v. Transcriptions

You may be forgiven for thinking there’s not a lot of repertoire for a viola quartet (you’d be wrong of course, but in the absence of evidence to the contrary you might think it), and you may also think such repertoire that does exist is confined to the odd piece by lesser known mid-twentieth century composers. Wrong again. So where does our lengthy repertoire list come from?  Are they all arrangements or transcriptions? Certainly not. Read on…

…We are very choosy about what pieces to include in our repertoire, and they come from many sources…

Original viola quartet, Piano, Orchestral, Consort, Musical, Keyboard, Concerto, Traditional, Quartet, Folk, Vocal, Sonata, Piano trio, Gamba, Brass, and more.

Over the years we seem to have attracted the attention of a number of composers, who have written music for us, which is highly flattering. And we have our very own resident composer, Sancho Engaño.

Regarding arrangements:

For an arrangement to succeed, it mustn’t sound like an arrangement. No, indeed! It is vital that it sounds, plays, and feels as if the composer had set out from the start to create, say, a viola quartet. With each new arrangement you have to study their style of writing, their idiosyncrasies and nuance, get right into their mind and be that composer. Nothing less will do.” (Sancho Engaño)

There is no greater reward for any composer than to have their music published and played. Sadly, even for many of the greats, the only way they ever got to hear their music was to play it themselves at home on the piano. Hence there is a lot of keyboard music that at its heart would like to be something that involves a proper ensemble.

When an ensemble works well you experience something that is much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s utterly wonderful.” (Sancho Engaño)

There’s no better example than Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an exhibition”. It is a superb piano work but it took the vision, the imagination, and consummate skill of Ravel to transform it into the symphonic masterpiece that we all know. Conclusion: The original is great, but also so is the arrangement. I rest my case. Oh, and you can see our own version, created by Engaño, right here in the music shop. Ta da!

The viola may not have the range of, for example, the piano (very few instruments do), but it can do a lot of things that a piano cannot: sustain, crescendo, vibrato, glissando, quarter tones, a wide range of attack and timbre, pizzicato, ponticello, and more. A skilful arrangement can unveil aspects of a piano piece that give it a totally new dimension. 

Much of the repertoire listed below is available to purchase from Our Sheet Music Shop and is marked with *

Zequinha AbreuTico-tico no fubá*
Tomaso AlbinoniSinfonia in D (3 movements)*
Anon.Country Dance Galliard
Emanuel AdriaenssenAlmande for viola ensemble
Constanzo AntegnatiLa Battera
Carl Philipp Emanuel BachQuartet in A minor*
Johann Sebastian BachAlla Duodecima*, Andante, Contrapunctus*, Cum Sancto Spiritu*, Minuet and Badinerie*, Prelude Adagio*,  Prelude and Fugue in C minor*, Quartet Sonata*, Three Fantasias for viola quartet*
Bálint BakfarkTwo Fantasies for viola quartet
Simon BainbridgeBirthday Fragment
Adriano BanchieriLa Feliciana
Béla BartókFifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs*
Ludwig van BeethovenAndante Cantabile*, Arietta Variations Boogie*, Für Elise for viola quartet*,  Für Elise (plus) for viola quartet*,  Prometheus Overture*, Quartet Op. 111*, Rondo*,  Rondo a Capriccio Op.129* (movie clip),
Satz für Bratschenquartett*, Serenade (7 movements)*, Symphony No. 5*
John BennetMadrigal
Hector BerliozCanon libre à la quinte*, Fugue à trois sujets, Hungarian March*, Hymn pour lévévation, Reverie et Caprice
Heinrich Ignaz Franz BiberHarmonia Artificiosa – Ariosa
Georges BizetCavatina for viola quartet*,  La Fleur que tu m’avais jetée, Menuetto*
Luigi BoccheriniSonatina (3 movements)*
York BowenFantasie for Four Violas
Alexander BorodinNocturne Polka for viola quartet*
William BoyceIntroduction and Allegro
Johannes BrahmsAdagio from 2nd Symphony*, Appassionata Op. 120*, Four Hungarian Dances*, Poco Allegretto (from 3rd Symphony)*, Quartet in A Minor*, Variations on a theme by Haydn*
Thomas BrewerPavin for four violas
Frank BridgeCradle Song MotoPerpetuo*
Max BruchAdagio on a Celtic Melody*, Romanze for viola quartet*, Quartet Concerto (3 movements)*
Anton BrucknerFantasie for viola quartet*, Prelude in D minor
Benedikt BrydernPedestrian Crossing
David BurndrettTasty Tango for Viola Quartet
George ButterworthThe Banks of Green Willow*
Dietrich BuxtehudePassacaglia for four violas
William ByrdSuite for viola quartet (5 movements)*
Emmanuel ChabrierBoureé Fantasque* Danse Villageoise
Marc-Antoine CharpentierConcert pour quatre parties de violes
Amédée-Ernest ChaussonQuelques Danses*
Luigi CherubiniSonatina for viola quartet*
Fryderyk ChopinFantasy for viola quartet*  Polska*
Eric CoatesSong
Arcangelo CorelliChristmas Concerto*, Four Concerti for Viola Quartet
François CouperinLes Baricades Mystérieuses
Claude-Achille DebussyPetite Suite (4 movements)*
Three Pieces for Viola Quartet
Léo DelibesPizzicati for viola quartet*
Frederick DeliusSonatina
August Carl Ditters von DittersforfNoturno for four violas
John DowlandIn darkness let me dwell*
Guillaume DufayL’homme armé
Antonín DvorákCapriccio*, Dumka*, Elegie*, Largo from the New World*, Song to the Moon*
Edward ElgarFive Pieces for viola quartet*, “Nimrod” for viola quartet*, Romance for bassoon and viola quartet,
Three Charming Viola Quartets*
Sancho Engaño (our associate composer)Bach for Oscar, Bach in the Dark Bacchanale*,  Beads for voice and viola quartet, Blues Suite (4 movements)*, Blue Syncopation, Dance Suite (5 movements), El Rezo del Soldado, Fanfarria, For Four, Fugal Schmugal*, Happy Classical Birthday*, Heading for Home,
Hello Sailor, Hurdy-Gurdy, Insomnio, Noche de Música,  Pizzipeezy*, Polkadotty, Spanish Quartet, Story of Two Minstrels* (video clip),
Tango Bach*, Tap Dance, Tricksy Pizzi*, The Gypsy Viola*, Two Canons, Ukulele
Manuel de FallaPièces Espagnoles (4 mvts)*
Giles FarnabyFour Pieces for viola quartet*
Johann Freidrich FaschSonatina for viola quartet (4 mvts.)*
Gabriel FauréFantasie Op.79*,
Four Pieces for Viola Quartet* Panvane
FolkFolk Music Album (6 movements)*
César FranckHumoresque*
Two Melodies for viola quartet
Giovanni GabrieliSonata XXI In Ecclesiis Quattro Canzoni*
Claude GervaisePavane – La Venissiene
George N. GianopoulosHatzlacha Rabbah for viola quartet
Alaxander GlazanovTheme and Variations*
Mikhail GlinkaRondino Brillante*, Ruslan and Ludmila Overture*
Christoph Willibald GluckPizzicato*
Louis Moreau GottschalkLe Bananier
Charles GounodMarche Pontificale
Enrique GranadosThree Spanish Dances*
Edvard GriegFour poetic tone pictures*
Giovanni Battista GrilloThree Canzoni for viola ensemble*
George Frideric HandelLarghetto in F Major, Overture from Alexander’s Feast, Messiah Concerto*, Saraband*, Sinfonia*
Franz Joseph HaydnThe Joke, Romance, Serenade*, Viola Quartet in D major (3 movements)*
Gustav HolstSuite for viola quartet (3 movements)*
Johann Nepomuk HummelPotpourri for Viola Quartet*
Engelbert HumperdinckWiegenlied*
IrishTraditionalThe Drunken Sailor, The Green Groves of Erin,
A Hard Road to Travel*, Rolling on the Ryegrass*, Sheahan’s Reel
Leos JanácekZdenka Variations
Scott JoplinRagtime Dance*, Weeping Willow*
Friedrich KalkbrennerRondo for Viola Quartet
Rodolphe Kreutzer“Number Two” for viola quartet*
Edouard LaloGuitare, Two Folk Melodies for viola quartet*
Orlando di LassusMatona mia cara, Pensieri di pace*
Jean Marie LeclairSaraband et Tambourin*, Tambourin for viola quartet
Franz LehárHungarian Fantasy*
Franz LisztCsárdás Macabre
Pietro LocatelliSinfonia Funebre for viola quartet (5 movements)
Patrick LoiseleurRâga nº1 bis for viola quartet
Hamish MacCunnHornpipe for viola quartet*
Gustav MahlerLändler (from First Symphony)*, Trauermarsch
Marin MaraisSuite for viola quartet (5 movements)*
Florentio MascheraCanzona
Jules MassenetÉlégie for viola quartet, Meditation*, Suite for viola quartet (4 movements)*
Felix Mendelssohn-BartholdyFingal’s Cave*, March for Viola Quartet, Rondo, Saltarello*, Scherzo*, Sinfonia in B flat major (3 movements)*, Sinfonia in D major (3 movements),
Symphony No. 4 (4 movements), Viola Quartet in C minor (3 mvts)*
Thomas MorleyCanzonetta
Wolfgang Amadeus MozartAdagio in F Minor, Allegro Spiritoso*, Fugue K.173, Overture to Don Giovanni*, Romance K. 466, Rondo alla Turca*, The Magic Flute Fantasy*, Symphony number 40 (complete)*, Viola Quartet in C Major, Viola Quartet in C Minor
Modest Petrovich MussorgskyMeditation,  Pictures at an Exhibition*,  Souvenir d’Enfance,  Three pieces for viola quartet
Ulrich NehlsSlicky Slide Swing
Carl NielsenRomance Six Miniatures for viola quartet*
Ottokar NovácekEight Bulgarian Dances for viola quartet*
Johann PachelbelFantasia in C Minor, Fugue in D Minor,
Gigue for four violas
Niccolò PaganiniLa Campanella, Moto Perpetuo, Rondo
Charles Hastings Hubert ParryLady Radnor’s Suite*
Giovanni Battista PergolesiLarghetto for viola quartet*
Giovanni Pierluigi da PalestrinaFour pieces for viola ensemble*
Michael PraetoriusBransle de Villages*, Fantasia for four violas*
Serge ProkofievVisions Fugitives (4 movements)
Giacomo PucciniDue Canzoni Lente (Crisantemi & Pregheira)*
Henry PurcellFantazia, Pavane and Chaconne*,
Three Fantasias for viola quartet*
Sergei Vasilievich RachmaninoffCanon for Viola Quartet, Polka for Viola Quartet*, Vocalise for Viola Quartet*
Jean-Philippe RameauLes Indes Galantes (8 movements)*
Maurice RavelSuite pour Quatre Altos (5 movements), Valses Nobles et Sentimentales*
Max RegerPrelude and Fugue*
Renaissance Album(12 pieces)*
Ottorino RespeghiAntiche Danze ed Arie (4 movements)*, Rhapsody*
Nikolay Rimsky-KorsakovFlight of the Bumble-bee*, In the Monastery, Variations and Fugue*
Salomone RossiCanzon
Gioachino Antonio RossiniAndante and Variations*, The Barber of Seville Overture*,  Semiramide Overture, William Tell Overture*
Albert RousselPrelude and Fugue*
Camille Saint-SaënsDanse Macabre*, Two Fugues for viola quartet*
Pablo de SarasateZapateado
Erik SatieJack in the box (3 movements)*, Quatre Morceaux Lent
Domenico ScarlattiSonata in F, Suite for viola quartet (4 movements)*
Arnold SchoenburgChromatische Pfade
Franz Schubert‘Arpeggione’ Quartet (3 movements)*, Moments Musicaux*, Overture in the Italian Style*, Tarentelle*
Clara SchumannViola Quartet in three movements*
Robert SchumannMärchenbilder for viola quartet*,  Suite for four violas (5 movements)
Alexander ScriabinTwo Mazurkas for viola quartet*
Jean SibeliusSuite for viola quartet (5 movements)
Bedrich SmetanaDance of the Comedians*, Five waltzes for viola quartet*, Fugue for viola quartet*
John Philip SousaThe Liberty Bell March, Two Melodies*
Louis SpohrFantasie for viola quartet*
Johann Strauss ILorelei Rheinklänge*, Radetzky March*
Johann Strauss IIVioletta*, Die Fledermaus Overture*, The Blue Danube Waltz*
Richard Giorg StraussBratschenquartett*
Franz von SuppéPique Dame*
Suo GânWelsh folk song*
Tielman SusatoIl etail une fillett, Six Dances for viola ensemble*
Giuseppe TartiniAdagio Cantabile, Viola Quartet in C minor (3 movements)*
Peter TaylorPrelude Calypso
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky1812 Overture*, Andante Semplice, Aveu Passionné, Canzona from 4th Symphony, Czardas from Swan Lake*, Romeo and Juliet Overture*, Suite for viola quartet (4 movements), Valse Sentimentale, Waltz from Swan Lake*
Georg Philipp Telemann4 Concerti à 4 viole*, Viola quartet in G major,
Don Quixote Suite (8 movements)*
Guiseppe VerdiAve Maria*,  Nocturne*, Requiem Fantasy*
Ángel VilloldoFour Tangos for viola quartet*
Antonio VivaldiEt Misericordia*, Concertino for Viola Quartet (3 movements)*, Largo from ‘Winter’, Sinfonia per quattro viole (3 movements)*
Richard WagnerPrelude*, Romanze*
Geoffrey WalkerAbsolute Zero Rag*, Loco Motif*, Paganini Fireworks*
Thomas “Fats” WallerEffervescent for viola quartet
Peter WarlockCapriol Suite (6 movements)*
Carl Maria von WeberAndante & Hungarian Rondo Concertino for viola quartet*
Anton WebernControverse
Thomas WeelkesPavan for four violas
Welsh TraditionalSuo Gân*
Henryk WieniawskiReverie*
Max von WeinzierlNachtstück für 4 violen, Op.34
John WilbyeSix Madrigals for Viola Quartet*

Here is a more detailed catalogue of our ensemble library.

Got any questions about viola repertoire? Get in touch: abzeroviolaquartet@gmail.com