Are you wondering which are the famous viola solos?
Then you are on the right way because at least you are not one of those
who ask “are there any viola solos?” (let alone famous ones…)
First of all we have to make this clear: what do you
mean with viola solos?
A solo can be either a composition where only one
performer plays (with nobody else around), or a composition where one
performers play the most important role in a work, with some
accompaniment (usually piano or orchestra). These are generally called sonata,
Then there are some viola solos which are not sonatas or
concertos but are solos within a major composition not intended for
For example, there are some famous viola solos in the opera and
ballet repertoire, where the principal viola
in the orchestra is required to play solo.
There are also some quite famous viola solos in symphonic repertoire,
where it is the whole viola section that plays the solo,
that is, the main line.
As to orchestra solos, Berlioz, in the section about the
viola of his
Treatise on instrumentation and orchestration, pointed out the special characteristic of the viola sound and the best
ways to use the violas to obtain very good effects, like using violas
and cellos together as Beethoven did in his 5th Symphony.
Here you’ll find some works that are the most famous
viola solos. This doesn’t at all mean they are the best ones or the
only existing viola solos. Actually, the list of viola solos is much
longer than most people would imagine (in fact, a gentleman called
Franz Zeyringer made a hugely admirable job and compiled a whole book
of viola compositions, Literatur für Viola. In case you fancy
having a look at it, sometimes it is available for purchase here).
Here is our, let’s say, top 20 list
(actually, a few more). You can read more about some works by clicking
on the title or buy sheet music or CDs. The titles below are original for viola, also see all solos including transcriptions.