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Patrick Hu

The infamous Beethoven VC!

February 19, 2007 at 11:54 PM

About 4 months ago, an interesting question came up during my violin lesson. What violin concerto should I tackle next for the upcoming competition season? My teacher and I had a lengthy discussion on a couple that he introduced to me. I had already played Mend, Bruch, Tchaik., Sibelius, Dvorak, Wieniawski #1, and a handful of others...and after about a week of thinking, i came up with a list:

1) Brahms
2) shosty #1
3) Glazunov
4) Berg

He quickly ruled out numbers 2-4 saying how difficult it was to win highschool competitions with those concertos. He also then said the Brahms would definetely be a huge reach in terms of performing a polished and musical product. And in return, my teacher gave me his recommendations:

1) Beethoven
2) Saint-saens No.3
3) Vieuxtemps No.5
4) Barber

I quickly ruled out the barber, because I wanted to learn that in my senior year, and I ruled out Vieuxtemps No.5 because I had already done No.4 and was looking for a different stylistic piece. I then thought of saint-saens and that to me seemed like the most reasonable.

My teacher on the other hand, thought that I should learn the beethoven...and now folks, this is where the dilemma began. Ever since I was 13, I listened to the beethoven VC and just thought how boring and not fun this concerto was! And at the age of 16, i still had that same notion. When my teacher gave me his reasons for why he wanted me to play it (technically, i would have to do countless scales, arpeggios, etudes for string-crossings and bow control, and musically, it would be different than anything that I had played previous) I kind of thought...welll why not?!?!

Then i started to research recordings of the past and present and quickly found a couple that I had enjoyed: Oistrakh, szeryng, Menuhin, Mutter, and Grumiaux. I then started listening to these recordings day and night while learning the piece. I sort of went into this project having a hard-headed mentality, thinking that I would end up hating this piece and just wanting to throw the score out my window...but then I came to a huge realization: There is so much musical and lyrical content in the beethoven than I had ever imagined!

Personally, I love my big romantic concertos, but listening to this 'classical' concerto, I fell in love. Beethoven was truly a genius in his music. Each phrase, each movement, all was placed perfectly and meticulously. this concerto seemed to lack any faults! The third movement especially is so uplifting and joyful.

I then thought about how different my opinions were from when I was 13 vs. when i was 16. Maybe the Beethoven takes a bit of knowledge to appreciate to its full extent? Maybe you need somesort of musical maturity to realize how wonderful the beethoven violin concerto really is?

And now, 4 months later, I am going to be performing the beethoven VC, with a fondness of all my heart and soul in which i am enthralled by this piece of musical perfection this weekend in a competition-like stage. And to think that at the beginning of this journey, I absolutely wanted to nothing to do with this work!

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 20, 2007 at 12:41 AM
That's so interesting, in that I had the opposite reaction upon first hearing the Beethoven violin concerto. I loved it when I first heard it, and still do. Whereas I'm sort of lukewarm about, say, the Vieuxtemps or the Saint-Saens.

And now I'm a violist . . .

From Linda Lerskier
Posted on February 20, 2007 at 1:40 AM
I felt the exact same way when I first heard the concerto! I was like, this is the concerto everyone raves about?! o_O And 6 months later, I popped in another recording of it and wha-bam, I was caught from the first timpani notes. LOVE BEETHOVEN!
From Thomas Vu
Posted on February 20, 2007 at 1:09 PM
I don't get it. Why decide to play Barber senior year? IMO its easier than the list you provided us above. I also don't get why your teacher said Brahms would be a stretch and recommended the beethoven. I thought beethoven would be up there w/ brahms except with a different kind of difficulty.
From Rick Floress
Posted on February 22, 2007 at 5:35 PM
I believe the first movement of the Beethoven may be one of the most beautiful pieces of music written. Along the lines of your comment that you used to feel the concerto was "boring", I recently read that at the time Beethoven wrote the work, flashy concertos were very much in vogue and thus many prominent players did not want to perform the piece for fear it did not adequately show off their skills. If I remember correctly, the article said the work was only performed publicly 3 or 4 times during Beethoven's life.

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