March 12, 2012 at 2:55 PMHow can you choose between Mozart 5 and Vivaldi Four Seasons?
How can we choose between any of our favorite violin concertos? Many of you love them all; I certainly love every one that is on this list of 16 for the Tournament! These were the top 16 of 92 that all of us nominated -- that means that every single choice is in the top 17 percent. None of these line-ups will likely present an easy decision, but please vote for the concerto you'd most like to win, based on whatever criteria you feel are most important: beauty, playability, originality, audience appeal, lasting appeal for the musician, etc. And do keep in mind our larger goal: to share our thoughts, favorite recordings and editions, performance ideas, etc. about our favorite violin concertos.
Here is your first choice -- you have 24 hours to vote:
Here's a brief bit of information on each one, and some listening:
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major K219 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: This concerto gives us some of most elegant A major violin goodness ever composed; Mozart created a vehicle for milking the violin in exactly the manner it likes: with long ringing tones, passagework that seems to compose itself, simple beauty. Composed in 1775, the last movement inspired its nickname, the "Turkish" concerto, as it shows flashes of raucous Turkish music. Personally, I love the opening, which is such a celebration of the violin. The orchestra moves along, happily, for quite some time. Suddenly, everything stops, so that the violin can enter all by itself. It's as though the most beautiful girl in the world has arrived at the dance. Everyone must pause in their tracks, so that they can admire her in her stunning gown -- perfectly shaped, in exquisite taste, casting just the right color on her complexion. Suddenly the dance resumes, and the music continues merrily, with the benefit of her sparkly presence. Mozart was a violinist himself, and he wrote five concertos for violin. Generally, Concertos No. 3, 4, and 5 are played quite frequently; No. 1 and 2, less so.
This 1966 recording with is a rather Romantic interpretation of this Classical piece, but lovely. I enjoyed watching the handsome and (relatively) young Herbert von Karajan conducting the (all-male) Vienna Philharmonic in this room full of candelabras, chandeliers, heavy drapes and ornate wallpaper. I think Menuhin is at his most elegant here, and that's what Mozart calls for. Please feel free to tell us about your favorite recordings of this work as well!
Movement 1, "Allegro Aperto - Adagio - Allegro Aperto":
From the same performance by Yehudi Menuhin:
Part 2, with the rest of Movement 1: http://youtu.be/xsGbvEe9Gqw (extra credit point to anyone who can tell us whose cadenza he's playing?)
Part 3, Movement 2, "Adagio": http://youtu.be/ULSLkLwYEOE
Part 4, the rest of Movement 2: http://youtu.be/KcPydWaoVuQ
Part 5: Movement 3, "Rondo - Tempo di Minuetto": http://youtu.be/L9iS5a4SBA8
"The Four Seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi is perhaps one of the most instantly-recognizable pieces in the violin literature. What a creative endeavor it was -- composed in 1723, Vivaldi painted a musical picture of each season, even including a sonnet to describe each season. (Click here for the texts of the sonnets; most scholars think Vivaldi wrote these himself) The sound-painting includes things like birdsongs in "Spring," buzzing flies in "Summer," and the chattering of teeth in "Winter." Vivaldi was a priest (his red hair led people to call him the "Red Priest") and he wrote some 500 concertos, most of them for the girls at the Ospedale della Pietà, the orphanage for girls in Venice where he was musical director for many years.
For the Four Seasons, I've chosen to give you Julia Fischer's 2004 version with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields National Botanical Gardens of Wales, which gives you a combination of being able to watch her play and also looking at pretty nature scenes. Looks like you can get the BBC DVD if you'd like it, too.
From this same series by Julia Fischer:
Personally, I picked the dead white guy in black and white over the pretty young girl in high definition color nature scenes.
I mean, who wouldn't?! :)
Some might think (and perhaps have already implied) that the playing field has been tilted toward the Vivaldi by linking those stunning videos of Julia Fischer, who is arguably the eighth wonder of the modern world. (While you are on YouTube watch her play the Grieg piano concerto too.) But the fact is that the Vivaldi lends itself to that kind of multimedia treatment better than nearly anything else in all of classical music. There's something to that.
I was thinking about something else as I watched Fischer playing "Spring" from the Vivaldi. We often talk about how amazingly good one has to be to get a prime orchestral job. But consider the dark-haired fellow that they show several times in the video, ostensibly the concertmaster of the ensemble. Is he sitting there thinking:
(1)Heck, I could have played it just as well, or
(2)Okay, she's a little better than me, or
(3)Wow, I could never play it like that.
Finally, one more extra point to Vivaldi for holding the violin in his picture. :)
You forgot to add (4)Julia Fischer sure looks great in that multicolored dress and I wish I were 25 years younger. :)
Wikipedia says that when the Four Seasons was written the modern solo form of the concerto had not yet been defined, and this helped to define it. I'm actually not a big fan of the modern solo form of the concerto. I rarely listen to concertos, actually. But I've always loved the Four Seasons.
Is it time for partisan gloating yet?
Your argument is fair. I probably have been a little intellectually lazy in saying that the Four Seasons is not that innovative. Which puts me in the position of having to reframe my position a bit.
I just don't find the Four Seasons to be that interesting a piece. It's quite repetitive, like most Vivaldi, and doesn't develop things in a very interesting way to me. But you're probably right that it was innovative in that it expanded the concept of the concerto for its time.
As far as the Mozart 5 is concerned, I find the introduction of Turkish themes in the last movement to be quite innovative for its time. More or less innovative than the Four Seasons, I don't know. But I just love the Mozart - it is a work of art in my humble opinion.
"you know who you are..."
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