What makes The Beethoven Violin Concerto so good
At my last lesson, my teacher asked me what my favorite piece of violin music was. I answered her with Beethoven Violin Concerto, it's not only my favorite violin piece, but it's my favorite piece of music in general. Her next question was "Why is it your favorite?" And I had no response other than the typical "Oh, because it's beautiful!" It really bothered me that I couldn't describe why I like this piece so much. So I would like to know what your thoughts on this piece are.
The Beethoven Violin Concerto has that simple yet majestic melody that picks you up strongly and gently brings you down in a peaceful and calming way.
Beethoven violin concerto requires a lot of humility. There is nothing worse that playing this piece arrogantly (as some of the biggest stars do).
Totally agree with the two keywords: majestic and humble. And it’s insanely difficult to achieve both of these qualities in one musical piece - which is what makes the Beethoven concerto special.
For me, the Beethoven concerto is like a very long Mozart concerto, perfectly constructed, that requires great maturity and technical control.
“Teachers don't assign it often enough, possibly because each movement is too long for the typical audition or contest.”
Teachers don't assign it very much because it is really, really hard. I have students currently playing Wieniawski, Saint-Saens, and Bruch. In the past I have also taught Sibelius, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. Not one of those students, past or present, would have been ready for the Beethoven.
This great Beethoven work is one of the great violin concertos, but for that very reason-as well as for Beethoven's traditional worship as the Best Composer Who Ever Lived-it is widely regarded as the Epitome of Violin Playing-ehich ironically means that it doesn't get as perfoemed as the other "lesser" concertos.
@David, I thought the four major concertos that are frequently mentioned were Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms? Is Sibelius in place of Brahms?
There are five major concertos. Take your list and add Sibelius to it.
@jason yes in my personal observation, people mostly say the above 4 but when the fifth is mentioned, opinions on the fifth seem to be a bit more diverse. Sibelius seems to get the most nomination, followed closely by Bruch and Mozart.
Will, I tend to agree with Jason. Everyone has her own choice. Mine, for example, changes from time to time : )
I think your reason for liking it is a great one. Sometimes stuff just appeals to you - Maybe it's melodies or structures, or it all just comes together in a way that resonates with you. It wasn't a piece I initially cared for much, but I never get tired of it, and it just gets better with more listening.
David, you’re right!
I think Will's "majestic and humble" summed it up very well, I completely agree with it.
The Beethoven concerto is so demanding because it combines most of the technical challenges of later Romantic concertos with much of the transparency of Classical pieces. More recent concertos may be more technically difficult, but if something is just a little bit off in Beethoven, it sounds much worse.
“Teachers don't assign it very much because it is really, really hard.”
Andrew, I would think each person has his own choice. For example, Itzhak Perlman (who is perhaps the best contemporary expert and soloist on violin concertos I suspect) dismisses Sibelius outright from the top 4 ‘main’ concertos in one of his YouTube videos. Link below, at 0:19 secs.
I'm not talking about personal preference, I'm talking solely about the frequency with which professional orchestras program the concertos... at least in the places where I've lived. I'm actually a little tired of constantly seeing Sibelius and Tchaikovsky programmed (and outright dislike Tchaikovsky's), but I have to assume that the most frequently performed concertos on professional orchestra programs are "major" ones.
Andrew, I know our experience is shaped by the types of concertos being played most in our places, but I also doubt if everyone would agree that being played regularly would equate to being the ‘major’ concerto. From when I was born, I have been exposed to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons countless times in various settings, from orchestras to schools to movies to restaurants and supermarkets :-)
Just for the record, I'm talking about concert programming in three major cities in two US states over about 20 years, including 10 years in Los Angeles.
I posted the following on a previous discussion about the Beethoven Violin Concerto. I think it's appropriate here, too. So.....enjoy:
I have held off a few days in responding to this thread because the Beethoven Violin Concerto has meant so much to me for so long.
Andrew, thanks! I have always enjoyed your wonderful posts.
The other day i came across this video of Perlman talking about the Beethoven violin concerto and some aspects that make it special for him.
Thanks for the link to the Perlman video, David -- it's great to hear his comments and perspective on it. But one might conclude from it that it should simply be played technically perfectly with the least amount of variance from the score, which though valid, could be greatly misleading about the expressive beauty and potential of this piece.
I think opinion on how something like a concerto should be played is diverse. Personally I’m not a fan of Hahn playing the Beethoven (and her general playing style up to now) for two reasons.
I really enjoyed that performance and think Hilary Hahn is amazing. I'm slightly less enamored of her Bach for some reason but I applaud her for playing something so clean and simple as an encore–-it didn't get in the way of the Beethoven.
Stable, even, and unvaried is how I feel about Hahn’s style. J Ray, did you say Hahn shows some variance in her Beethoven concerto rendition? I wonder what that is.
Stern's recording with Bernstein is my favorite, but I do enjoy Hilary and Perlman as well. Hahn is my favorite Bach player by far, however. I love her vibrato, bowing, and general measured-ness in Bach.
There are so many wonderful performances - past and present - of this masterpiece. So many are different from each other, but each valid and great in its own way. But to say that one or a handful of them are "the best" is not the way I look at it.