While I know a good amount of works where the viola is a prominent instrument, I didn’t know of any for the viola alone. That’s most likely because any violin piece can be transposed for viola, so most of viola soloists are violin works. But the register of the viola, between the violin and the cello, feels warmer to me. It sounds closer to the human voice, so when the melodies play, they *sing*.
Vieuxtemps - Capriccio “Hommage à Paganini”
Even though capriccios are expected to be lively, the great violinist Paganini used them in the same way Chopin used the étude to elevate technical exercises to poetic statements. And while Vieuxtemps wrote this capriccio as a homage to Paganini’s set, he didn’t write it for the violin. And he wrote this almost like an elegy, a longing melody accompanied by gigantic chords throughout, and while there are a few virtuosic flourishes here and there, none are done for the sake of difficulty or showing off, they are [again, like Chopin did wrote] natural transitions that add more to the expression, rather than taking anything away.
Stay tuned this week for more music for the viola, the mysterious instrument, here on Musica in Extenso! - Nick Olinger