September 2008

Violinist and Conductor Robert 'Bud' Emile, 1928-2008

September 25, 2008 14:14

A friend from Lincoln, Nebraska, called to tell me that longtime Lincoln (Nebraska) Symphony conductor and violinist Robert "Bud" Emile had died Sept. 12 at the age of 80.


Musicians will hold a memorial concert for Bud Emile on Sunday in Lincoln.

All I can say is, what a character! I played in the Lincoln Symphony from 1992-1996, a time that overlapped with his very long tenure as conductor, from 1975 to 1993. That orchestra had its ups and its downs, but one thing could be relied upon: that Bud would always say something amusing or semi-outrageous from the podium. He brought the wit and wisdom of a rather colorful lifetime, which included quite a range of gigs: U.S. Army, Chemical Corps, 1951-55; Bandsman in the U.S. Military Academy; Director of West Point Chapel Choir and Women's Glee Club; many musical endeavors in San Diego, Calif., including Concertmaster, San Diego Opera, 1964-75; Founding Director, San Diego Symphonic Chorale, 1961-72. And of course, his activities in Lincoln: Professor of Violin and Theory and Conductor of University of Nebraska at Lincoln Orchestra, 1975-1998 and Music Director and Conductor, Lincoln Symphony Orchestra, 1975-1993. He had a B.A. In International Relations from Yale and an M.A. and D.M.A. from the Eastman School of Music, and he loved sailing.

I remember when we were playing Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto, and out of nowhere Bud crooned, "Full mooooon, and empty arms.... " I didn't know this song; it was rather before my time. But sure enough, every time I play that piece, Bud steps up from the back of my mind to make me giggle and think of a song from 1946.

The "Bud-isms" were so amusing and numerous that a few musicians decided to document these podium utterings, which they read back to Bud at his 80th birthday. I thought they would make for a light-hearted tribute to Bud, who had such a good sense of humor, as well as fun reading for everyone who has ever played in an orchestra. So here are some gems from the podium of Bud Emile, with thanks to fellow musicians Tracy Dunn, Randy Fischer, Frank Seligman and Kim Salistean for documenting them:


"Violins—strong but silent—sort of the John Wayne approach to violin playing."

"Violins, your ppp sounds so washed out. It must sound like an exciting party is going on behind closed doors."

"Get ready quietly and carefully, like you're about to cut open someone's scalp…Surgically, of course."

"After all this crisis management, you have to get softer."

"Separate. Dusty. From a distance."

"Like lightning bolts, not marshmallows—pink ones, even. Sparks must fly off the anvil here!"

(Cymbal crash a beat late in Grand Pause) "Anybody hurt?" (pause)
"Will you get out your pencil?"

"Use the bow! Don't let it just sit in your hand waiting for your fingers to get intelligent."

"Completely equal notes. Like Army food: always the same, never changes."

"Trombones, take it easy on the long notes. They don't mean a thing. I'm sorry, but it's true."

"Violas, burn up your fingerboard there."

"Violins! What are you doing? It doesn't say 'take it', it says 'tacit.'"

"You end as if you're expectorating."

"It must sound like scales, cascades of notes, not like scrubbing dirty socks."

"Ewh! Not so hard on the accent in the cellos. Nothing can live after that."

"That was wonderful! That's plenty. One of you played, and that is enough."

(Looks up at rumbling in the basses) "Di-gel, anyone?"

"Flute entrance softer. Could you come in like fog? "

"Sounds like our ox cart has pneumatic tires. More archaic, pesante. It's under a crushing burden and no power steering."

"Like Kreisler, violins. Fritz. You've heard of him. Not Crisler who played fullback for Michigan. Kreisler. Violinist. Elegant."

"Free bowing, I said. Not like rowing on a crew, all pulling together."

"Sounds like you're grinding your molars. Get some sound! You're sweating but your bows aren't moving. What good is that? Who can hear sweat?"

"Much less, cellos. You're laughing at a funeral! What you're doing is marvelously accurate, but hopelessly happy."

"Cellos, out of 12 possible notes it's amazing what you come up with."

Cellist plays one extra note in the Grand Pause; Bud holds baton still a moment: "Bakers' dozen, eh?"

"Off quickly, as if you said something you shouldn't…and you probably will if you miss it."

"Pick an 8th, 16th, or 32nd, but don't play cream of nowhere."

"You're trying to make a melody out of this nonsense?"

"There is a B double flat there. Shake hands with it, and come out fighting."

"Basses, I don't see any double stops written….?"

"You must know their part better than they do. Play it communally."

"May I urge you to have less reality there. Just float on top of the surface. Like down; soft, but warm. Not so messy. Satin-y."

Pizzicato in "Swan of Tuanela" by Sibelius: "Cold, frigid, brittle, to the extreme. Like water dropping on ice so cold it freezes instantly. 48 below and no wind chill."

"Nimrod," from Elgar's Enigma Variations: "You're surrounded by greatness and you play it like McDonald's."

"Place everything gently—like a 'lady' sitting down."

(Drops his baton) "Forgot to rosin it."

"People will be wondering "what was that?" Please, a little stronger."

"Start vibrating when you take the fiddle out of the case, violins!"

To the second violins: "You're at the tip of your bow. All your money spent on the second day of your budget."

"Violas, it sounds like you're sliding sideways down the highway."

"Young and vital! Not old and tired—I know the feeling."

"Put a skull and crossbones at the subito p—your own, of course!"

"Sound immediately—like when you open a music box, it's there."

"It's like bad bortsch at this point. You can't tell what's in it."

"Like Fischer-Dieskau. He never sang an accent in his life."

"This is a happy piece. Right now, your marcato sounds like you're stabbing cockroaches."

"Don't pontificate on the half notes. How many times can you say ‘I love you' in eight measures?"

"Relax. It's not the Boy Scout oath."

"Violas—It sounds like you're chewing watermelon with the seeds still in it."

"Soloists, I feel sorry for your accompanists. Not sympathetic, just sorry."

"I'm afraid this is becoming a chewing gum match, strings."

Pizzicato: "…like a pot of hot boiling sauce popping."

"It's a new tempo! You can't rely on habit."

"Not so slow with the tremolo. That sounds like a '38 Chevy that needs a valve job."

"Don't pay any attention to me at all there. Really. I'm not being facetious at all. You're belief in me is wonderful, but it's entirely misplaced."

(A moment of silence, and slow grin) "I was going to say something…….but I guess I won't."

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On tour with the Jonas Brothers

September 16, 2008 13:27

What is it like to be in a Rock 'n' Roll band, to tour the country, to play for thousands upon thousands of screaming fans?

When my fellow symphony violinist friend, Melissa Reiner, told me that she'd be spending her summer on tour with the outrageously popular Jonas Brothers, I jumped at the chance to get the inside scoop on what it's really like to live the pop music life. Since she started life as a classical musician, I talked with her about her background, how she broke into the pop scene, and about what it was like to tour with the JBs.


Laurie Niles: Where are you originally from, and how old were you when you began playing the violin?

Melissa Reiner: I'm originally from San Francisco and began studying the violin at the age of 2 1/2, when my parents moved our family to a small town in Northern California called Eureka. I later attended boarding school outside of San Francisco (for my last two years of high school) so I
could study with a violin teacher at the San Francisco conservatory.

Laurie: Where did you study violin? Does a classical training have any value for someone wanting to go into pop music? Is it in any way a detriment?

Melissa: I began serious studies of the violin as a 14-year old student of Dorothy DeLay at the Aspen Summer Music Festival, and 3 summers as a DeLay student at Aspen (during high school) made me realize that I needed a high-powered teacher all year long, which led me to study with Isador
Tinkelman (in San Francisco) during high school, and then on to the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University for my bachelor of music degree.

For a string player, classical training is absolutely essential to play any kind of music well, especially pop music, which needs to sound and look effortless the first time one performs with a band. Only a solid classical background can give a string player a beautiful tone and perfect intonation. It also instills confidence when faced with sight-reading or having to improvise a part on the spot: if I ever get nervous in a pop setting, I remind myself that if I can sight-read Mahler symphonies and perform the Prokofiev concertos, then I can handle anything a pop star can throw at me!

The only detriment to classical training is that it can make us snobby and narrow-minded about the value of pop music or the talent of pop stars. Yes, there are plenty of poor musicians taking over the radio airwaves, but there are also plenty of fantastic musicians and song-writers. It is possible to have as much fun performing professional pop/rock music as it is to perform professional classical
music. They are two different genres, and do not need to be compared - simply enjoyed! I recently played a sold-out show outside of Cleveland (with the Jonas Brothers) at the Blossom Festival, on the very same stage where I performed with the Cleveland Orchestra 12 years ago, and I was just as happy and proud of my part in the performance with the JBs as I was back in my strictly classical days.

Laurie: What drew you to pop music?

Melissa: I first started actively listening to non-classical music with my fellow Aspen students as a teenager, and the first band I really loved was U2. I began to realize that pop/rock music is just as powerful and moving (to me personally) as classical music; it is a completely different experience. But I didn't ever think that I would perform non-classical music professionally until I moved to Los Angeles after college and discovered that there were many entertaining and lucrative jobs in the pop/rock genre, and it helped to have interest and knowledge in a genre outside of classical music.

Laurie: When did you start playing for pop bands, and what bands have you played for?

Melissa: I first started playing for pop bands at some point after moving to Los Angeles in 1998, and I am happy to say that I have performed/recorded with too many popular bands to list them all here! But here is an eclectic sampling of bands/singers on my resume: Christina Aguilera, David Lee Roth, Mariah Carey, NSYNC, Dishwalla, Justin Timberlake, Destiny's Child, and Priscilla Ahn.

Laurie: How did you land this particular gig?

Melissa: The Jonas Brothers' agent is an old friend of mine, and when the JB's manager asked their agent to recommend female string players for their summer tour, he recommended me. The JBs checked out my website, liked what they saw (it's quite comprehensive, with sound clips, pictures and credits) and hired me to be the lead violinist and string contractor. It's been an incredible experience, both professionally and personally.


Laurie: Does having string back-up change the sound of the Jonas Brothers? Why did they want strings?

Melissa: I think the JBs wanted to try something completely new for this tour, which is their first headlining arena tour; the concerts have all been sold out and the audiences are between 13,000-30,000. They definitely wanted to add a unique sound and look for such a huge tour, but it was
an experiment for them. They had never toured with girls in their band, and had never toured with string players at all. I am happy to say that they are so pleased with our playing and positive attitude that they decided to have us play a little bit of classical music in the show so the strings could be featured on their own! We gave them a couple of accessible and flashy classical options to choose from, and they picked an excerpt from the third movement of Vivaldi's "Summer", which we played towards the end of the show. After we played, the JBs asked the audience if any of them played stringed instruments and told them to keep practicing so they can sound like us someday. I hope that the thought of someday performing with the Jonas Brothers is inspiring some young girls out there to practice!

Laurie: What did you look for when you were hiring other string players for this tour by the Jonas Brothers? Did you want a certain educational background? I know that it's a bit of casting call as well as an audition, how flexible could you be in the "look"? What non-violin abilities did these performers need to have?

Melissa: When I was hired to be the leader as well as the contractor, I was pleased to be able to hire friends for a really great job, but also nervous since I needed to keep my employers happy by hiring the right girls for the job. There were a lot of factors in my decision-making process, but the most important thing to me was their musical ability. Every single girl I hired has conservatory training and three of them attended my alma mater, Peabody. It was imperative to me that I hire girls who have impeccable intonation and technique, because with a crowd of 20,000 screaming girls, it can be very hard to hear yourself hit the right notes, therefore my players need to be people who are confident that they can play beautifully and accurately under somewhat adverse circumstances!

The other factors were looks (this is pop music after all) and flexible, considerate personalities. When you are spending 10 weeks traveling around the country in a tour bus with eight girls, every single person needs to be nice, or it can be a very uncomfortable tour. We are eight girls out of 15 people on stage, and there are about 100 people total involved in the tour this summer (lights, sound, catering, wardrobe, etc.), so there is no room for diva-ish behavior. It is also important to remember that we are there to support and literally "back up" the JBs; the show is about them, not us, and the audience is there to see THEM. So I needed to hire girls that were willing to play their best, but also be willing to participate in other ways, like having fun onstage, even when we are not playing on a song. Performing pop music is about putting on a show, not just playing well. The boys helped to make it a positive experience every night because they are so talented and enthusiastic and HAPPY, which is infectious. The JBs and their band perform at an incredibly high level, yet manage to enjoy themselves, so we did too. Plus it's easy to want to play well when there are 20,000 people screaming their approval!

As for a "look", I picked seven other girls that I think are beautiful, and they happen to be a really diverse-looking group. I did have to submit my choices to the JBs and their management, and I was pleased that they agreed with me. I had to keep the look as young and hip as possible, since the JBs are all under 21, and their band is really young as well. Socially we have integrated very well and it is a true family atmosphere - we all eat meals together and play card games, wiffleball, etc...It's essential to hire girls that are able to have fun both onstage and off, and if you look at our Facebook page or any Youtube videos from the concerts, I think you can see that we are having a wonderful time doing our job, and we really like hanging out together too!

Laurie: What is the craziest thing that happened on the Jonas Tour? How about the most gratifying?

Melissa: Well, there were a few crazy incidents and many gratifying things, but I will try to narrow it down. The "Burnin' Up" tour involved 15 performers and about 85 other people making it happen every night (lights, sound, wardrobe, crew, catering, etc.), so when putting on a show of that magnitude, one must allow for a couple of crazy nights. Surprisingly there were very, very few problems: no one was injured and almost no equipment was damaged (no stringed instruments were harmed, thank God). For me, the craziest incident occurred in Woodstock, New York, when a giant metallic "Jonas Brothers" logo (which was illuminated with flames every night during the last song) accidentally set off the sprinkler system on stage! This was not the fault of our crew, but apparently due to one of the local stagehands forgetting to de-activate the sprinkler system for that night. As soon as we string players felt a drop of what we assumed to be rain, we dashed offstage to protect our instruments. Then of course we realized that it was a sprinkler system, as there was a mass exodus by everyone on stage! Luckily it was the very end of the show, so the audience only missed out on one encore, and unbelievably, considering all of the keyboards, drum sets and other musical accoutrements on stage, very little equipment was damaged.

In terms of general craziness, the Jonas Brothers fans reach unprecedented levels of screaming and fan intensity. Our tour buses were chased by girls in cars, and legions of fans seemed to discover every single hotel in which we stayed. I have a feeling that it goes beyond even Beatlemania!

The most gratifying thing was the high level of appreciation between the Jonas Brothers and the entire crew. The entire Jonas family is incredibly gracious, genuine and thoughtful, and they make a real effort to surround themselves with like-minded people. The tour truly had a family atmosphere and it was a joy to be a part of it...It felt less like work and more like a summer festival on wheels. All of the eight string players had done many tours before with a wide variety of different artists and ensembles, and we all agreed that this tour was comprised of an unusually easy-going and cool group of people! The Jonas Brothers deserve all the success in the world.

Laurie: What surprised you most about doing this tour?

Melissa: As an addendum to the above question, the most surprising thing about the tour was the incredibly positive and supportive atmosphere! I thought that we would have fun, but it exceeded all of my expectations. Even after 10 weeks, it was still really fun to put on the same show with the same people. The high level of talent and enthusiasm on stage was very infectious, so even if I had low energy on a certain day, it was very easy to be inspired by the other performers and rise to the occasion.

Laurie: Is it easier to play a pops concert than a classical one? A loaded question, I know!

Melissa: This is an interesting question, since one must consider the definition of "easier." I think that performing as a soloist is always going to be demanding and difficult, whether in a violin concerto, an opera aria, or a "pop" song. Obviously, there is an extremely high level of talent and focus required to sing or play ANYTHING perfectly/accurately, especially night after night. There are many celebrated performers in every genre who have given terrible performances due to stress, illness, lack of preparation, etc. We have all seen famous violinists fall short of expectations. It is also a matter of the audience, how discriminating it is, why they attended the concert (Are they fans? Do they know the music? How good are their ears?), etc. Some audiences are more critical than others, which may make a concert more daunting for the soloist.

When performing in a section, whether playing a Prokofiev symphony or a Sheryl Crow song (she took an orchestra on the road), it is of course easier to "get away" with things, like playing wrong notes or spacing out. However, there are a lot more visual cues when performing pop music, because the audience expects a complete spectacle. If you look grumpy or slovenly during a pop concert, more people will notice. During classical concerts, one is almost supposed to look grumpy, since classical music is "serious." So I suppose my opinion is that there are different challenges for pop vs. classical performances. Technically, it is harder to play the Brahms violin concerto than to play a solo "lick" in a pop song. However, I think there are more requirements when playing a pop song, like smiling and connecting with the audience. "Easier" is really a matter of personality and what one feels comfortable doing on stage. And of course how prepared one is!

Laurie: What has been the biggest adjustment for you as a player, in going from classical music to pop?

Melissa: The biggest adjustment is not to take myself too seriously, without letting my abilities suffer. Being relaxed in the studio or on stage does NOT mean playing out of tune or being unprepared. There is a much more social and supportive environment on a lot of pop gigs, but it is just as important to be completely professional in all aspects, the way I am on my classical gigs. In my 10 years of playing pop gigs in Los Angeles (or on tour), I have seen people fired for being late, or not playing well, just the way they would be at a symphony gig. I continue to practice and perform classical music, because that is the best way to keep my technique up for any gig. In fact my first solo classical album is available on iTunes this month (it's called "Great Love Constant Thought" and features music by Piazzolla, Korngold and Dvorak). I am happy to say that some interesting classical music that I have recorded in the past (like Ysaye sonatas) has helped me to get pop gigs. Most great and open-minded musicians are impressed by good playing in any genre.

The other adjustment is being flexible, which is also almost as important as good technique. The most important things that I learned post-conservatory are: being able to improvise (not like Miles Davis, just the ability to come up with parts on the fly), which is basically knowing how to work without sheet music, and generally being able to communicate with musicians who are fantastic but may not have the same classical training as you. I also discovered how to write songs and arrange strings for other song-writers, which is something that I had thought was beyond me during my conservatory training. Then I realized that I didn't have to aspire to be Beethoven, just more like my first favorite band, U2. Not that I would ever compare myself to U2 - but I know if I ever got hired to play with them, I would know how to do the job well, and love doing it! Isn't that why we all wanted to become musicians in the first place - because we loved to play music and happened to be good at it? I want to continue to play both pop and classical music at the highest level possible, and have a good time while I'm at it. I'm honored to add bands like the Jonas Brothers to my resume... and it's been a fantastic summer.

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A Close Encounter with John Williams

September 15, 2008 10:43

The nine-year-old "Star Wars" fan in me just had a big thrill: playing a concert of John Williams film scores Saturday night, with John Williams himself conducting. Williams conducted the event at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif., as a benefit for the Pasadena Symphony and Pops Orchestras.

The rather older violinist in me also had the thrill that comes from playing a concert after one rehearsal, which let out 45 minutes early. (Mr. Williams said, "Oh you guys sound great; you know this stuff," after rehearsing er, well, most of the pieces we would play.)

Actually, Williams was right, most of us had played many of the pieces, which included excerpts from "Star Wars," the Olympic Fanfare, "Close Encounters," "Harry Potter," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Indiana Jones," "Schindler's List," and "E.T."

And even those I had never played – yes, Iknew them. Like you know your mother's face. Of course, any film score feels familiar by the end of the movie, but most of Williams' scores have followed me well out of the movie theater and taken residence in my own life, illustrating its various dramas and also periods of time. For example, "Summertime 1982 in Cleveland with my grandparents" emerges in striking detail from my memory when I hear Williams' music from "E.T.." This is obviously not its intended backdrop; actually I found the movie itself to be almost unbearably corny! But what comes to mind for you what you hear, say, "Princess Leia's theme"? The Bun Queen, or something else? Yeah, I thought so.

Back to John Williams. He was right; he didn't need to over-rehearse.

It wasn't because the music is easy; it has some challenges, particularly at Williams' brisk tempos. There is some serious noodling required: a little double-speed Kreutzer-like action in the Olympic theme, and some sextuplets in "Close Encounters" that begin to require vaguely R. Strauss-ian types of exertions. And when Harry Potter's owl, Hedwig, takes off, the owl takes off, motored by 32nd notes, in 3/8, counted in one. We had the music in advance, so at least anything unfamiliar could get a little wood-shedding before the rehearsal.

But even if everyone in the orchestra is prepared, professional and ready, one individual can make or break it: the conductor. What made this show run smoothly was John Williams -- he's a good conductor! I'd only ever thought of him as a composer, despite the fact that he was Music Director for the Boston Pops for 14 seasons. He has something that many conductors don't seem to realize they need: the ability to communicate, not so much with the audience, but with the musicians. As far as stick technique, all that normal conductor stuff, it just seems irrelevant. I get the feeling he knows what he wants and he'll do what's needed to get it, no more and no less.

Maybe his spare and utilitarian conducting technique comes from directing musicians in a studio, as opposed to conducting in front of an audience. Sometimes he stopped conducting altogether and watched us play. He would lean over the desk, listening and intent, looking straight at the musician or section of relevance, offering the occasional gesture, only when needed. He communicated a descrescendo with just a look. A little finger wiggle showed the harpist precisely how to place each pluck in an unrehearsed ritardando during the concert. He ended a piece simply by lowering his outstretched hand, as though he were placing a lid on it.

Not only that, but his sense of timing and placement was so good and right, it was almost uncanny. It went beyond a composer knowing the "right" way to play his own work. You'd think any conductor could ape the tempos in a film score that everyone's heard a million times, but they never can. The "Star Wars" Main Title all but falls apart between mm. 68-82 in the hands of two out of three conductors, but of course not with Williams. But that's not even the entire point. He seems to hold the drama, placement, movement, gesture right in his hands, and it fits together organically. No need to impose anything, it just goes that way, it's just so right. Even if it's a little different every time.

Before going on stage, we musicians were talking about some of the quirks of this music. Funny little runs, all in one measure, with 11 to a beat, then 6 to a beat then 7 to a beat. And crazy shifts, intervals that just don't lay well.

"There are arrangements of these pieces," said a friend, another violinist. "and in the arrangements, the runs are evened out, and everything is made easier. It can be so much easier." He paused. "But it isn't the same, is it? If you listen, it's so much richer, so much better WITH all that stuff."

Yes, and FUN. An exhilarating challenge. And not just for the violins. For example, the woodwinds in "Nimbus 2000," what a thrill to see them do that live!

And then comes the best violin part in all Williams' work: "Schindler's List," which our concertmaster, Aimee Kreston, played beautifully.

Williams told the audience that upon seeing it for the first time, "Schindler's List" moved Williams so much that he didn't feel up to writing the film score. "I told Steven Spielberg, 'You have to find a better composer than me for this film. Steven said, 'John, I know.'

'But all of those composers are dead!'"

That's not just humility, it's wisdom from a composer who, without a doubt, stands on the shoulders of those composers.

I can remember a friend sneering that everything from Star Wars is "ripped off" from somewhere else, that it's all "derivative." I'll argue that ALL music is derivative, that none of us is the Maker of this music. As Rachel Barton Pine illustrated for us last week, not even Beethoven composed everything straight from his head; his compositions were a product of his environment. Even with music as novel as Schoenberg's: the man took a scrambled world and made scrambled music. You have to embrace your musical inheritance first (and he did) in order to push that hard against it.

What good are the great composers to us, dead? We have to bring music to life, whatever its source. The question is what do we make of this tremendous body of work called classical music? Do we lock it in a vault? Or do we make it relevant, build on it, and incorporate it into our world? That ability to commandeer the best of music, to make it his, and then to place it precisely in everyone's path at precisely the right moment, that is John Williams' brilliance.

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Rachel Barton Pine talks about the Beethoven and Clement violin concertos

September 9, 2008 13:34

Just a few months ago, Rachel Barton Pine talked with us about life as a touring musician, Maud Powell, and funky fiddles like the rebec. Since then she's been touring and teaching, and she even offered up her own version of Cowboys from Hell for the metal-heads among us. ;-)

Today Rachel releases her new album, featuring the Beethoven and Clement concertos for violin. Here she fills us in on the very well-known Beethoven, the lesser-known Clement, and the relationship between the two. (By the way, we'll be having a little contest to give away Rachel's CD next week, so stay tuned! :)

Rachel Barton Pine's new album

Laurie Niles: Tell us about your new album!

Rachel Barton Pine: My new album is the Beethoven violin concerto, paired with the world premiere recording of the violin concerto by Franz Clement, who was Beethoven's dedicatee. What's fascinating about it is that both concertos were written for the same annual benefit concert for the orchestra where Clement served as concert master, exactly one year apart. Clement's came first. It's in the same key, it's the same length, the same instrumentation and the same aesthetic approach to the violin as Beethoven's concerto.

Beethoven is positioned almost equidistant from Mozart and Mendelssohn, in terms of musical time periods. But we really don't hear many concertos from the time of Beethoven, except, very rarely, maybe a Rode, Kreutzer -- some of the French violin school, which was a very different aesthetic. The French aesthetic was much more full-blooded, very much more flashy in its virtuosity, much more the idea of the soloist playing the melody line at all times with the orchestra being much more complementary.

Clement's concerto, however, has all those characteristics with which we associate Beethoven's. The violin solo part plays very much in the upper registers of the instrument, with very delicate figurations. Actually, it has many of the exact same figurations as Beethoven's concerto.

Laurie Niles: And the Clement came before the Beethoven?

Rachel Barton Pine: Clement's concerto came one year earlier. It was actually premiered the same night Beethoven's Eroica Symphony was premiered.

By the way, that story about Clement, that he supposedly played his violin upside down in between the first and second movements of Beethoven's concerto when he gave the world premiere performance -- that's an urban legend. I've seen it repeated in almost every program, when I've performed at Beethoven. But Clement didn't play his own composition in the middle of Beethoven's concerto; he didn't play his own composition till the second half of the concert that night. I don't know how that story got started, but the fact that everybody accepts it as fact does kind of a disservice to Clement, portraying him as sort of a vaudeville violinist.

It's very clear, looking at his concerto, that he was a serious artist. His violin concerto certainly has a number of virtuosic elements, but it's clearly written as music for the sake of music, not showing off for the sake of showing off. This was very different from the French school. Also, the orchestral instruments play the melody a lot of the time, with the soloist playing descant. This is something that we consider so radical in Beethoven's concerto, but in fact, Clement did it a year earlier. It's fascinating to realize how Beethoven was so obviously influenced by the particular violinist (Clement) for whom he was writing.

For another example, look at Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata. In fact, the Kreutzer was premiered by George Bridgetower, together with Beethoven. The original dedication actually was to Bridgetower. In my Black music research, I've read everything there is to read about Bridgetower, for whom the sonata was actually written. It really should be the Bridgetower Sonata; Kreutzer never even played the thing! But Beethoven ultimately withdrew the dedication to Bridgetower and slapped Kreutzer's name on the Sonata No. 9, and now we don't even remember that Bridgetower existed.

If you read the old accounts from, for example, ladies' diaries, members of the aristocracy who used to go to his concerts when Bridgetower was a young artist, they all talk about what an amazing technician Bridgetower was, and how much intensity there was in his playing. This is exactly what you hear in the Kreutzer Sonata. If you read accounts about Clement's playing, they talk about his refinement and delicacy. This is exactly what you hear in Beethoven's concerto.

Laurie Niles: Interesting.

Rachel Barton Pine: Then we have Clement's concerto to make it even more obvious. Of course, Beethoven had his own very individual voice in everything he wrote, but also he very obviously tailored what he was writing to who was going to be playing it. The score to Clement's concerto was only recently published a couple of years ago by AR Editions. In his forward to the published score, the musicologist (Clive Brown) who pieced it together from the original source actually lists all the concordances. (Brown) also wrote the liner notes to my CD.

There's a long standing theory that the rondo theme of Beethoven's last movement was actually written by Clement. Some people say that that must be so because it's a more lightweight melody then what Beethoven himself would have written. But why shouldn't Beethoven also write a catchy tune? Why should everything he compose be full of Sturm und Drang?

On the other hand, maybe there is something to that story, because if you look at the theme to the last-movement rondo of Clement's D Major Violin Concerto, it's very similar. But does that mean that Clement wrote Beethoven's theme? Or does that mean that Beethoven wrote his theme based on wanting to write something that sounded like Clement? It's either one or the other, and both are equally exciting, because one realizes that they had such a close collaboration.

All historical interest aside, the Clement concerto is a very worthy piece in its own right, completely separate from its relationship to Beethoven and his concerto. If you didn't know anything about any of that musicological stuff and you just heard it as a piece of classical period music you've never heard before, you'd say, "Oh this is a gorgeous piece." It can definitely stand on its own two feet. Of course, it's not a Beethoven, but I would say that it's every bit as good as everything else from the time that also wasn't Beethoven. It's really a great piece.

Also, I wrote my own cadenzas for both concertos. I'm especially excited to be able to share my cadenzas to the Beethoven.

Laurie Niles: Are you going to make them available to other violinists? Put them online maybe?

Rachel Barton Pine: Nothing's been finalized yet, but I'm working on publishing a collection of all of my cadenzas and encores. I've written a number of virtuoso pieces, following in the tradition of Vieuxtemps and Ernst and those guys, and I've also composed cadenzas to Brahms, Beethoven, Paganini, Mozart, etc. I've now written enough stuff that enough people have asked for various ones. So I feel like it's time to go ahead and publish a collection of them.

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