Ludwig Van Beethoven – Concerto Et Romances Pour Violon Et Orchestre
About these Works:
Beethoven wrote his Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (1806), at the height of his so-called “second” period, one of the most fecund phases of his creativity. In the few years leading up to the violin concerto, Beethoven had produced such masterpieces as the Symphony No. 3, Op. 55 (1803), the Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 58 (1805-1806), and two of his most important piano sonatas, No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 (“Waldstein,” 1803-1804), and No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (“Appassionata,” 1804-1805). The violin concerto represents a continuation — indeed, one of the crowning achievements — of Beethoven’s exploration of the concerto, a form he would essay only once more, in the Piano Concerto No. 5 (1809).
By the time of the violin concerto, Beethoven had employed the violin in concertante roles in a more limited context. Around the time of the first two symphonies, he produced two romances for violin and orchestra; a few years later, he used the violin as a member of the solo trio in the Triple Concerto (1803-1804). These works, despite their musical effectiveness, must still be regarded as studies and workings-out in relation to the violin concerto, which more clearly demonstrates Beethoven’s mastery in marshalling the distinctive formal and dramatic forces of the concerto form.
Characteristic of Beethoven’s music, the dramatic and structural implications of the concerto emerge at the outset, in a series of quiet timpani strokes that led some early detractors to dismiss the work as the “Kettledrum Concerto.” Striking as it is, this fleeting, throbbing motive is more than just an attention-getter; indeed, it provides the very basis for the melodic and rhythmic material that is to follow. At over 25 minutes in length, the first movement is notable as one of the most extended in any of Beethoven’s works, including the symphonies. Its breadth arises from Beethoven’s adoption of the Classical ritornello form — here manifested in the extended tutti that precedes the entrance of the violin — and from the composer’s expansive treatment of the melodic material throughout. The second movement takes a place among the most serene music Beethoven ever produced. Free from the dramatic unrest of the first movement, the second is marked by a tranquil, organic lyricism. Toward the end, an abrupt orchestral outburst leads into a cadenza, which in turn takes the work directly into the final movement. The genial Rondo, marked by a folk-like robustness and dancelike energy, makes some of the work’s more virtuosic demands on the soloist.
At the prompting of Muzio Clementi — one of the greatest piano virtuosi of the day aside from Beethoven himself — Beethoven later made a surprisingly effective transcription of the violin concerto as the unnumbered Piano Concerto in D major, Op. 61a, famously adding to the first movement an extended cadenza that employs tympani in addition to the piano.
Beethoven’s reputation as a pianist often obscures the fact that he was a very capable violinist. Although not an accomplished master, he possessed a profound love for and understanding of the instrument, evident in his ten violin sonatas, the violin concerto, and numerous quintets, quartets, and other chamber works. The two Romances for violin stand out because they are single-movement works in concerto settings. The Romance in G major was published in 1803 by Hoffmeister & Kühnel in Leipzig; the date of its first performance is not known. Despite the lower opus number, it was composed at least five years after the Romance in F, Op. 50, which was published in 1805. He retained the early Classical orchestra he employed for his earlier Piano Concerto in B flat, Op. 19: one flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, and strings. Often described as a “preparation” for the Violin Concerto, Op. 61, of 1806, the Romance in G stands as a fine work in its own right, clearly demonstrating Beethoven’s mastery of the high-Classical style of Mozart and Haydn. Furthermore, Beethoven creates subtle connections between disparate sections of a work.
Cast in a two-episode rondo format (ABACA coda), the Romance in G is not imbued with sonata-form characteristics, as are many of Beethoven’s later rondo movements. The rondo theme (A) is in two parts, each performed first by the soloist then repeated by the orchestra. Descending sixteenth notes in the solo part mark the beginning of B, in which the orchestra is relegated to a purely accompanimental role, creating unity by including figures from the rondo. Section B spends a significant amount of time on the dominant (D major); however, this does not represent a modulation but a preparation for the return of the rondo in G major. Again, the soloist performs both segments of the A section alone, this time including a running eighth note accompaniment under each of the literally repeated themes. Beethoven set the second episode, C, in E minor. The minor mode, dotted rhythms, and staccato passages give the section a “gypsy” music tinge. The foray into a new key area ends with the return of the G major rondo theme, again played by the soloist, but with accompaniment by the orchestra. Beethoven forgoes the repetition of each of the two parts of the rondo and ends the work with a brief coda featuring a lengthy trill in the solo violin. The three fortissimo chords that close the piece seem oddly, possibly comically, out of place in this generally quiet work, but they do resemble the orchestral string parts at the end of each rondo section.
Not published until 1805 (Bureau des Arts et d’Industrie, Vienna), the Romance in F was probably first performed in November 1798; so, although it bears the designation, “Romance No. 2, ” and a later opus than its G major sibling, it is actually the earlier of the two compositions. The orchestral scoring Beethoven chose for the Romance in F major is the same as that for his early Piano Concerto in B flat, Op. 19 (one flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, and strings). Possibly because of its early conception, the Romance in F is less adventurous in conception than the later Romance in G, Op. 40, and still includes lengthy transitions between sections. However, the Romance in F contains a richer harmonic vocabulary than its later counterpart.
As he would for his Romance in G, Beethoven chose a two-episode rondo format (ABACA coda) for the brief, lyrical Romance in F. The rondo section (A) features an antecedent-consequent theme performed first by the soloist, with orchestral string accompaniment, then by the entire orchestra. The melody itself is highly decorated, with numerous trills, turns and grace notes. A forceful, dotted-rhythm figure that closes each appearance of the rondo acts as a transition to the ensuing episode. Episode B maintains the lyric character of the rondo theme, adding large, dramatic leaps followed by descending scales and arpeggios. A glimpse of F minor precedes a literal return to the rondo, this time performed with a lighter accompaniment. The minor mode at the end of episode B proves to be portentous, as episode C begins in the tonic minor. Beethoven makes full use of the “flat” key area by presenting the rondo theme on D flat major, initiating an extended transition back to F major for the final return of the rondo theme. The coda, while never venturing from the tonic, acts as something of a summation when the soloist borrows the triplet motion prominent in episode C and performs a dramatic, trilled figure from the end of episode B.
1. Concerto pour violon et orchestre en ré majeur op.61 / Allegro (25:39)
2. Concerto pour violon et orchestre en ré majeur op.61 / Larghetto (10:19)
3. Concerto pour violon et orchestre en ré majeur Op.61 – Rondo – Allegro (9:47)
4. Romance pour violon et orchestre – No.1 Romance en sol majeur (6:44)
5. Romance pour violon et orchestre – No.2 Romance en fa majeur (8:14)
Orchestra Philarmonica Slovenia
Alberto Lizzio: conductor
Alexander Pervomaisky: violin
Stereo, DDD, mp3, 320 kbps, 142.96 Mb, 60:43 minutes. Covers included.