Baethoven violin concerto
Itzhak Perlman once said this piece was one of the main concertos that are performed by violinists, however I barely see people learning this piece. Does anybody know why? It's so beautiful and is virtuosic.
Edit:changed one letter in title
Because its really hard...
I have no idea why people don't learn it. In fact I didn't know they didn't.
It's not typically learned until college or later, usually after many of the other "big" concertos are learned. Its challenges are somewhat unique. Like Mozart, it must be played with perfect inflection and style to sound good, which means your bow control must be immaculate, and your interpretation mature. It also must be played with absolutely perfect intonation -- nowhere to hide. While it isn't technically as hard as some other pieces, it still has some challenging parts.
Because it is freaking hard.
For one, all three of the movements are too long to use for a lower-level audition or competition, and not flashy enough to win at an upper level audition or competition. It is very much like doing two Mozart concertos back to back, without an intermission, with some typical Beethoven awkwardness added. After playing for about 40 minutes you encounter the last page. I have enjoyed wrestling with it off and on for a lifetime, including right now during the shut down. I would disagree with those that would put it in the very difficult technical box. It is within my technical limits, while the Brahms and Tchaikovsky are out of my league.
I have heard talented highschoolers play Saint Saens 3, Khatchaturian, Prokofiev 2, and even Sibelius, but never Beethoven or Brahms.
Beethoven's concerto is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the repertoire. Rightly or wrongly it also carries an aura of "sanctity", which is to say some regard it as a work that should not be played badly, indifferently, casually in case the gods are offended. I don't subscribe to that view, but I would run a long way to escape hearing it slaughtered whereas with other repertoire pieces I might just shrug my shoulders. God knows, I've slaughtered a few pieces in my time, including this one
Around here, at least, high school students do play the Brahms, and I'd wager that's also true in the other major cities of the US.
My feeling those long 70 years ago - and thereafter - was that the notes in the Beethoven were fairly accessible, the "music," much less so.
Andrew, I was fortunate enough to listen to Hadelich's performance of Beethoven live. Words cannot do justice but if I were to explain it, I'd say it was much like falling in love with a beautiful place and that impression never leaves your heart for the rest of your life. Until then, I thought Beethoven Violin Concerto was so boring.
Yeah, it is hard. This, being the year to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth one would assume that it has been programmed for many concerts that are now cancelled.
Nathan Cole wrote that performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto was like going into battle wearing only a pair of Speedos. You have nowhere to hide! And within a minute, you can easily tell if the person playing is a good violinist, a great violinist, or an artist. I’m still “learning” this King of Concertos and doubt I’ll ever have it ready for public consumption.
It is deemed as a sort of violin concerto musical summit, and has been respected by violinists from the 19th century until now. It thus has a lot of baggage attached to it, as to whom should or not play it. Agree it should be played well, but disagree one must be 40 in order to do it justice. It must be respected indeed-but it should also be heard.
Whether you play it dramatically or seraphically, it has to be totally, cleanly, luminously in tune!
This piece seems pretty intimidating...
@Xuanyuan - you say in your OP that Beethoven's concerto is "virtuosic", rightly implying that it demands great technical expertise, but part of its appeal for me is that almost uniquely amongst the great violin concertos it doesn't pander to a player's possible desire to show off and cause the audience to gasp in amazement. Rather, we are left in a state of blissful serenity. Only in the cadenza (which Beethoven left to the player to provide) is virtuosity allowed to come to the fore. I suspect this is what accounts for its neglect in competitions.
Is it rarely programmed, though?
No discussion of Beethoven's violin Concerto can be complete without a mention of his own arrangement of it as Piano Concerto in D Op 61a. It seems that the VC was not a success in its first performance (for a start, the soloist had to sight-read his part), and for quite a while after. As a result Beethoven was asked by Clementi to write a piano version. There was probably money involved - c'est la vie.
Beethoven's cadenza was written expressly for the piano version of the concerto. This was then adapted for the violin by Wolfgang Schneiderhan amongst others
Isaac Stern playing the Beethoven concerto was part of what made me fall in love with the violin. I don't find it slow, repetitive, or anything else negative.
Yesterday evening I was listening to a recording of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, played by Jacques Thibaud and Alfred Cortot, when it occurred to me: if Beethoven had composed the Kreutzer as a violin concerto instead of a sonata for violin and piano, what would now replace the Kreutzer Sonata as the greatest violin and piano sonata ever?
"Should it be? I'm wondering if the statistic is due to the coincidence of Beethoven's 250th, or simply a consequence of his name being a potential draw."
In my recent experience, it has not been programmed a lot at Carnegie Hall for the last few years. It has (I did see one good performance of it in the last 3 years), but the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and even Prokofiev 2nd are more common than the Beethoven and Mendelssohn.
I started to learn it as the next concerto after Bruch. Perhaps I was, in Frieda's words, slaughtering it.... however, the idea of playing the Beethoven Concerto is what has kept me learning the violin for most of my life, so the chance to tick off a life goal was worth it :)
Adalberto: I think all of us have limited observation because the vast majority of the concerts we attend or even hear about are local. Certain pieces seem to have high levels of local or regional popularity for some reason.
I actually find it strangely easier to play classical era music, perhaps the scales like nature makes it easy to tune?
You know, I've kept this thread in the back of my mind, which is why I was all the more surprised when I heard a thirteen-year-old play the first movement of the Beethoven in a concert: https://youtu.be/8pK3LDC5bdw (54:50).
The reason B's violin concerto falls behind the Bruch in things like Classic FM Hall of Fame is that the number of those who'd put Kol Nidrei or Scottish Fantasy above Concerto No 1 is probably pretty small,and those who'd prefer Bruch's other works coould probaby be counted on the fingers of one hand; whereas Beethoven's violin concerto has a number of serious rivals for people's affection amongst his other works (e.g., for me, the Missa Solennis, but I played chess at school with someone who was always humming the fourth piano concerto), so votes for his violin concerto are seriously diluted. If voting was ranked first by total votes that a particular composer receives, followed by votes for the individual work, I suspect the Bruch would fall well behind Beethoven. Similarly Rachmaninoff 2 (though, for him, I suspect No 3 and the Paganini variations would probably present greater rivalry). And for me, Brahms's violin concerto is nowhere near the top of the list of his works (I'd put Song of Destiny, 4th Symphony, Four Serious Songs, D-minor Violin Sonata, and perhaps other works ahead of it) - and that's not even principally because I dont have the ghost of a chance of ever managing the notes!
I feel the Brahms is more than a violin concerto; it’s almost symphonic in its construction (and ambitions). I think it was also a collaborative effort between Brahms and Joachim, who himself was a talented composer. The first recording I heard was actually from a video featuring Yehudi Menuhin and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (I think Kurt Masur conducted).
I speak as a life-long amateur violinist and music lover with a life-long passion for the Beethoven Violin Concerto, which I truly believe is one of the greatest artistic achievements of the human race.
Loved your insights Sandy! And I completely agree with you. One common thread that runs through my favorite interpretations is this improvisatory quality you mentioned. Those that approach this concerto with excessive reverence tend to play it too carefully and slowly. The result is a boring, albeit impeccably clean performance. I prefer a heroic approach, like the Heifetz or Milstein interpretations, where risks are taken, yet the classical structure and aesthetic is respected.