The Four Seasons was already popular before Nigel Kennedy, half-violinist, half rock-star, turned it into a cultural phenomenon in the 90s. Today Spring from 'The Four Seasons' is the quintessential violin solo, even though that famous melody is actually played by the whole ensemble:
The should be a feeling of lightness and 'bounce' in this piece. The repeated crotchets (for example, bars 1 and 3) should be a tiny bit detached. Vibrato should also be used rather sparingly, as a little colouring on the longer notes (for example, bars 2 and 4).
When the Saints Go Marching In
This tune became the quintessential New Orleans-style jazz piece, especially as played by Louis Armstrong and his Hot 5 and 7 groups.
Have fun with it! The rhythmic feel should be very loose - you don't need to play it exactly as notated, it should be felt rather than read. It may be repeated a number of times. You can experiment with the tempo too, perhaps by starting slowly and gradually speeding up.
This is probably the most emotionally-charged melody from Tchaikovsky's famous ballet. It has been widely used in popular culture, perhaps most famously in the final moments of the film Billy Elliot:
Expressivity is everything in this beautiful melody. Make sure you observe every slur and articulation mark and leave enough space (i.e. don't start too loud!) for the big crescendo before the climax at B.
House of the Rising Sun
House of the Rising Sun is a traditional folk tune originating from New Orleans, USA. It was made famous by the Animals cover of 1964:
Listen to the original song before playing - it will help you to work out the phrase structure. Watch out for those duplets at bars 24, 26, 30, 32 and 34 - they should be played evenly against the triplet rhythms in the piano.
Beethoven - Violin Concerto 3rd movement
This is perhaps the best-known movement from one of the greatest violin concertos. Listen to Hilary Hahn's superlative performance of it with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra:
As you can hear, it is very tricky indeed! However, you will be able to impress an audience if you can play that gorgeous main theme. Luckily the 8notes version has been specially arranged with this in mind.
Even this version is quite tricky, however, so it will still need serious practice. Play slowly to start, not just to get the notes under your fingers, but because absolute metrical accuracy is required when playing with the tricky off-the-beat accompaniment. There should be a sense of lightness throughout.
David Bruce - Cool Blues
This twelve-bar blues is also a great for practising your improvising. Listen to this imaginative performance, for example:
Notice how the soloist doesn't try to make the improvisation too difficult, instead concentrating on giving it a convincing musical shape, for example by marking its beginning with a long note and saving the highest note for its end.
Beethoven Fur Elise
Originally for piano, the piece adapts beautifully for the violin:
When playing, ensure that the arpeggios split between the piano and violin (for example at bars 2 and 3) join together if they were one flowing movement. The section at bar 18 may be played with more movement. The transition back to the opening material at bars 23 to 24 should be played gradually more slowly before returning to the opening tempo at bar 25.
Pachelbel - Canon in D
Originally written for three violins and basso continuo, it has nevertheless become hugely popular as a solo. The key here is to set a steady tempo at the beginning and stick to it - it gets tricky later on, so if you've started too quickly you will soon regret it!
The melody was originally sung, so make sure that your playing reflects this. You might, for example, consider adding some slurring to this arrangement. When doing so, take into account that phrases occur every four bars, at which point a singer would breathe. Also, if possible, play with a warm vibrato.
Beethoven Moonlight Sonata
The opening of Beethoven's three movement Sonata No. 14 in C# Minor is another work originally written for piano that makes a great violin solo:
The key here is a smooth bowing arm and a sweet vibrato, especially on those long notes. You can take some liberties with the dynamics. In the video, for example, you will notice the dotted notes (bars 5 and 6) are played quite loudly, with the long notes ebbing and surging in their intensity.
Strauss II - The Blue Danube
Strauss's melody was already hugely popular before Stanley Kubrick's used it in his seminal film 2001. You may also hear it being played as part of the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day concert at the Musikverien, Vienna.
To work well the piece must seem effortless, but it should also be played very fast. A difficult combination! The key is practise very slowly to start with, gradually building the speed with a metronome.
This old Christian Hymn has become immensely popular, both in church and concert hall:
Again this should feel as if were being sung, so a warm vibrato and a smooth bow changes are essential. Be sure to try playing with the 8notes band backing, it's a lot more fun!
O Holy Night
If you are looking for a seasonal piece that is more interesting than your average carol, O Holy Night, written by French composer and critic Adolphe Adam in 1847 is an excellent choice. It has been widely covered, for example by Mariah Carey in 2009:
Though the dynamic shape is indicated, with the high point at bar 37, you might also think of adding your own touches - e.g. the new idea at bar 12 could be emphasised with a louder, warmer sound whilst a crescendo towards bar 20 followed by a diminuendo to bar 23 would also be very effective.