Violin Concerto (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven composed his Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, in 1806. Its first performance by Franz Clement was unsuccessful and for some decades the work languished in obscurity, until revived in 1844 by Joseph Joachim. Since then it has become one of the best-known violin concertos.
|by Ludwig van Beethoven|
|Date||23 December 1806|
|Location||Theater an der Wien, Vienna|
Beethoven had previously written a number of pieces for violin and orchestra. At some point in 1790–2, before his musical maturity, he began a Violin Concerto in C, of which only a fragment of the first movement survives. Whether the work, or even the first movement, had ever been completed is not known. In any event, it was neither performed nor published. Later in the 1790s, Beethoven had completed two Romances for violin – first the Romance in F and later the Romance in G.
These works show a strong influence from the French school of violin playing, exemplified by violinists such as Giovanni Battista Viotti, Pierre Rode and Rodolphe Kreutzer. The two Romances, for instance, are in a similar style to slow movements of concerti by Viotti. This influence can also be seen in the D major Concerto; the 'martial' opening with the beat of the timpani follows the style of French music at the time, while the prevalence of figures in broken sixths and broken octaves closely resembles elements of compositions by Kreutzer and Viotti.
Beethoven wrote the concerto for his colleague Franz Clement, a leading violinist of the day, who had earlier given him helpful advice on his opera Fidelio. The work was premiered on 23 December 1806 in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, the occasion being a benefit concert for Clement. The first printed edition (1808) was dedicated to Stephan von Breuning.
It is believed that Beethoven finished the solo part so late that Clement had to sight-read part of his performance. Perhaps to express his annoyance, or to show what he could do when he had time to prepare, Clement is said to have interrupted the concerto between the first and second movements with a solo composition of his own, played on one string of the violin held upside down; however, other sources claim that he did play such a piece but only at the end of the performance.
The premiere was not a success, and the concerto was little performed in the following decades.
The work was revived in 1844, well after Beethoven's death, with a performance by the then 12-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim with the orchestra of the London Philharmonic Society conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Ever since, it has been one of the most important works of the violin concerto repertoire, and is frequently performed and recorded today.
It has been said that not only in this piece, but generally, "Recordings demonstrate that ... it was the practice in the early twentieth century to vary the tempo considerably within a movement," and that in the concerto, there is "often one big trough (slowing?) in the central G major passage."
The work is in three movements:
The first movement starts with four beats on the timpani and has a duration of about 25 minutes. The second and third movements last about 10 minutes each. There is no break between the second and third movements. The entire work itself is approximately 45 minutes in duration.
Cadenzas for the work have been written by several notable violinists, including Joachim. The cadenzas by Fritz Kreisler are probably most often employed. More recently, composer Alfred Schnittke provided controversial cadenzas with a characteristically 20th-century style; violinist Gidon Kremer has recorded the concerto with the Schnittke cadenzas. New klezmer-inspired cadenzas written by Montreal based klezmer clarinetist and composer Airat Ichmouratov for Alexandre Da Costa in 2011 have been recorded by the Taipei Symphony Orchestra for Warner Classics.
- Leopold Auer
- Joshua Bell
- Ferruccio Busoni
- Stephanie Chase
- Ferdinand David
- Jakob Dont
- Isaak Dunayevsky
- Mischa Elman
- Carl Flesch
- Maxim Vengerov
- Joseph Hellmesberger Sr.
- Jenő Hubay
- Joseph Joachim
- Patricia Kopatchinskaja
- Fritz Kreisler
- Christiaan Kriens
- Airat Ichmouratov
- Ferdinand Laub
- Hubert Léonard
- Nathan Milstein
- Bernhard Molique
- Miron Polyakin
- Manuel Quiroga
- Camille Saint-Saëns
- Wolfgang Schneiderhan
- Alfred Schnittke
- Ödön Singer
- Sayaka Shoji
- Louis Spohr
- Henri Vieuxtemps
- Henryk Wieniawski
- August Wilhelmj
- Eugène Ysaÿe
Perhaps due to the Violin Concerto's lack of success at its premiere, and at the request of Muzio Clementi, Beethoven revised it in a version for piano and orchestra, which was later published as Op. 61a. For this version, which is present as a sketch in the Violin Concerto's autograph alongside revisions to the solo part, Beethoven wrote a lengthy, somewhat bombastic first movement cadenza which features the orchestra's timpanist along with the solo pianist.  More recently, it has been arranged as a concerto for clarinet and orchestra by Mikhail Pletnev. Robert Bockmühl (1820/21–1881) arranged the solo violin part for cello & played it as a Cello Concerto; Gary Karr played Bockmühl's arrangement on a double-bass tuned in fifths as a double bass concerto.
The first known recording of Beethoven's violin concerto was made in 1925 for Polydor by violinist Josef Wolfsthal, with Hans Thierfelder conducting the Berlin Staatsoper Orchestra. Hundreds of recordings have been made since, among which the following have received awards and outstanding reviews
- 1947: Yehudi Menuhin/Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler
- 1953: Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Berliner Philharmoniker, Eugen Jochum, Deutsche Grammophon – "Rosette" by the Penguin Guide
- 1954: David Oistrakh with Sixten Ehrling cond. the Stockholm Festival Orchestra in Stockholm over 10-11 June 1954. Testament CD: "David Oistrakh Beethoven & Sibelius", 1994.
- 1955: Jascha Heifetz, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Munch, RCA Victor – "Mid-price choice" by BBC Radio 3 Building a Library, September 2003
- 1959: Isaac Stern, New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, Sony "Unique cadenza in last movement"
- 1974: Arthur Grumiaux, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Colin Davis, Philips – "4 star" by the Penguin Guide
- 1980: Itzhak Perlman, Philharmonia Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini, EMI – Gramophone Award, 1981
- 1997: Thomas Zehetmair, Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Frans Brüggen, Philips – "First choice" by BBC Radio 3 Building a Library, September 2003
- 2006: Isabelle Faust, Prague Philharmonia, Jiří Bělohlávek, Harmonia Mundi – "First choice" by BBC Radio 3 Building a Library, April 2011; Diapason d'Or by Diapason, April 2011
- 2009: Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, Philippe Herreweghe, Naive 5174 (only available as download) - BBC Music Magazine Award 2010 (orchestral Category)
- 2010: Guido Rimonda (violin and conductor), Orchestra Camerata Ducale, DELOS project
- 2011: Isabelle Faust, Orchestra Mozart, Claudio Abbado, Harmonia Mundi – "Disc of the Month" by Gramophone, March 2012; "Disc of the Month" by BBC Music Magazine, April 2012; "Diapason d'Or Arte" by Diapason d'Or and Arte; Gramophone Award, 2012; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik; Echo Klassik 2012; "Highly recommended recording" by Gramophone April 2014,
- Stowell 1998, pp. 4–5.
- The Romances were published in the opposite order, the first-composed being published second, becoming "Romance No. 2"
- Stowell 1998, p. 14.
- Stowell 1994, pp. 16–19.
- Eulenburg 2007, preface, p. 3.
- Steinberg, Michael (1998). The Concerto: A Listener's Guide. Oxford University Press. p. 81.
- Philip, p. 196
- Philip, p. 198
- "Review – Beethoven: Violin Concerto / Kremer, Marriner, ASMF". ArkivMusic.com. 2010-04-22. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- "Alexandre Da Costa , Violin Concerto". warnerclassics.com. 1 August 2013. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-07.
- Berginc 2010
- Wulfhorst 2010
- Ludwig van Beethoven. Konzert für Violine & Orchester D-dur Opus 61. [Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien, Mus. Hs. 17.538] Edited, with commentary (in German) by Franz Grasberger. Graz, 1979.
- Fenech, Gerald (October 2000). "Review – Beethoven Violin Concerto for Clarinet". MusicWeb.com. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- Beethoven, Ludwig van: Concerto for Violin and orchestra in D major, op. 61. Score. Eulenburg 2007. EAS 130
- Beethoven, Ludwig van: Konzert für Violine & Orchester D-dur Opus 61. (Facsimile edition of autograph full score) Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien, Mus. Hs. 17.538. Edited, with commentary (in German) by Franz Grasberger. Graz, 1979.
- Berginc, Milan (2010). Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Cadenzas of Beethoven's Violin Concerto Op. 61 (PDF) (Thesis). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- Philip, Robert, "Traditional habits of performance in early-twentieth-century recordings of Beethoven", in Stowell, ed. (1994), pp. 195–204.
- Stowell, Robin, ed. (1994). Performing Beethoven. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (ten essays by various authors)
- Stowell, Robin (1998). Beethoven Violin Concerto. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Wulfhorst, Martin (2010). "A Comprehensive Catalogue of Cadenzas for Beethoven's Violin Concerto op. 61". Retrieved 2014-01-01.