Is the Beethoven VC considered a Romantic one, or at least from 19th Century??

August 28, 2020, 7:30 PM · Though it was composed in 1806, I don't know if it qualifies, for instance, when you are required to play "A movement from a major concerto from the 19th and 20th centuries from the standard repertoire" or when it is specifically requested a "major Romantic one"; To have in consideration, the Paganini first VC was composed as early as in 1816, and I think it's considered Romantic. But, said "major Romantic" it's a bit subjetive, because sometimes it means the third big ones, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Brahms only, but other times it includes Bruch and Mendelssohn, or Schumann's and Elgar's, Dvorak, so it's a bit ambiguous.
Anyway, what do you think?

Replies (16)

August 28, 2020, 7:42 PM · "major concerto" encompasses the standard concert-hall works, Bruch and Mendelssohn included.

Beethoven and Paganini are both Classical-era concertos.

August 28, 2020, 8:39 PM · ""A movement from a major concerto from the 19th and 20th centuries from the standard repertoire"

I can't see how it's possible that the Beethoven wouldn't meet this criteria.

As to whether or not the Beethoven is considered Romantic, I'm not sure that there is a single clear answer, although personally I'd think so. I'd check with whoever's asking to be clear, and probably take whatever hints they give to what they want and avoid what might be risky choices.

I think the Beethoven is an interesting choice on a couple of different dimensions. First, why would you want to torture yourself with its interpretative difficulties and differences of opinion on interpretation in an audition context, unless you have something quite confidently to say in it in which case you might not care about our opinions?

The other is that the Beethoven marks a specific transition point in concertos, by large, although there were hints of things to come earlier, and of course ones after it which weren't as accomplished, so it's after some such line, and ones earlier than it would be ones more clearly disqualified.

August 28, 2020, 9:31 PM · I agree it is ambiguous, so to get rid of the guesswork it might be best to pose this question to the auditioning committee.

In my mind the Beethoven Concerto does meet both criteria of “major concerto from the 19th century” and “from the standard repertoire,” but because Beethoven is regarded as a composer who bridged two eras, his Concerto would be unlikely to meet the criteria of “major Romantic concerto” - this requirement usually implies they want to hear Mendelssohn or Bruch onwards.

Assuming this is an audition with multiple pieces required, one way to get around this is to have variety in your repertoire and make sure the other pieces fall firmly, and perhaps to the farther ends of other eras. So if Beethoven is somehow allowed as your “Romantic” concerto, have an early Mozart sonata if there is a Classical sonata requirement, or have a French sonata or even a Prokofiev sonata if there is a Romantic sonata requirement.

August 29, 2020, 5:18 AM · I think the Beethoven concerto would be the first of the Romantic Concertos.
August 29, 2020, 8:19 AM · I would call the Beethoven VC a classical work, although certainly it is one of Beethoven's most lyrical. On the one hand, if you listen to the other stuff that Beethoven wrote at about the same time (like the Razumovsky Quartets) I think you'd say comfortably that those are classical pieces. On the other hand, Beethoven is hard to pin down. He only wrote one VC and in that work you can hear a lot of musical exploration -- the gestation of Romanticism?
August 29, 2020, 11:42 AM · Razumovsky 2 totally classical?
August 29, 2020, 4:01 PM · Well, I think it's somewhat ambiguous because Beethoven himself was a hinge figure; although he has some Romantic sprinkles most of the time he's classical; in the VC the 3rd and 2nd movement are clearly classical, but the first with his unusual lenght has more room for some ideas tossed here and there. If you had to take, say, the last 3 violin sonatas, I think it would be even harder to tell, and sometimes I consider them as a wildcard for one or the other, but I don't really know.
Edited: August 30, 2020, 2:48 AM · Two points: For the specific question of the OP only the organizer of the audition in question is the only one who can deliver a useful response.

There is a general problem with the term "romantic" as used in music. It covers almost the entire musical output of the 19th century, generally excepting only Beethoven (his contemporaries Weber, Spohr, Reicha, Hummel, Onslow etc. are generally and inconsistently counted as romantics), Schubert and Debussy (I am slightly exaggerating here) but still including early Schoenberg. Literary romanticism on the other hand was a flash in the pan. One generation of writers early in the century, most of whom died young. Mostly a sort of blowback against the enlightenment, emphasizing emotion over rationality, nationalism over more global views, often full of anti-Semitism and generally reactionary politically (though there are exceptions, Victor Hugo for example). Literature produced after that is called "Victorian" in Anglosaxonia and various flavors of "realist" on the continent.

So there are wildly different composers with wildly different ideas summarized under the same label: Brahms and Liszt, Wagner and Verdi, Mendelssohn and Berlioz. The term "romantic" in music means "composed somewhere in the 19th or very early 20th century", no more, no less. Which means if you want to consider the seminal starting point of musical romanticism, Beethoven, as romantic or not is entirely a question of convention.

August 30, 2020, 3:48 AM · Yes, well said. As applied to music "romantic" is just a period, not a style. On the other hand the sea-change that came after WWI swept away musical romanticism (or "the style that evolved during the romantic period"!) leaving only a few survivors
August 31, 2020, 3:44 AM · Re Albrecht's comments - I would agree to some extent but I think it's slightly more complex than that. Charles Rosen (in his book 'The Classical Style') argues very convincingly that Beethoven's compositional methods were very much based on the classical principles exemplified by Haydn and Mozart, although with vast expansion of expressive power and timescale. So I would put Beethoven, including the VC, firmly in the Classical category.
Another anomaly is Bruckner. Robert Simpson this time - the only connection between Bruckner and the romantic era is that he happened to live at that time, but musically his connections look back to the Renaissance. I'm sure there are other important exceptions.
One element of the romantic style is the emphasis on melody, rather than motifs or development. So in late Schubert we find 'development' sections preoccupied with melodies from the exposition modulating, being re-orchestrated etc. So I would suggest that Schubert had one foot firmly in the 'romantic' camp.
Of course this is all a bit esoteric and does nothing to detract from the glorious music all of them have left us - including the VC under discussion.
August 31, 2020, 6:04 AM · If 'Romantic' suggests truly nothing in terms of style and refers only to dates, why would certain composers now and in the 20th Century bother using the term Neo-Romantic?

I think it certainly conveys useful information as to style... I use it myself!

August 31, 2020, 8:04 AM · Addressing the audition question specifically, most people will tell you not to play the Beethoven for an audition. It's both an exceptionally exposed high-wire act and yet not really a showcase for your technique. The exception might be if you are an extraordinary player, but you would be better off with a true Romantic or post-Romantic era work.

Similarly, I'd be careful with Paganini No. 1 (another nebulously Classical-era work) which is certainly a technical showpiece but gives you few opportunities to show what you can do when there aren't fireworks occurring.

September 3, 2020, 10:09 AM · Classical sounding but the cadenzas by Joachim and Kreisler sound Romantic to my ears. Beethoven’s own cadenza, for his piano arrangement, sounds more classical.
Edited: September 6, 2020, 2:40 PM · For whatever it's worth (which you may conclude is not much), my personal opinion is that when I not just listen to but deeply experience a truly exalted artistic masterpiece such as the Beethoven Violin Concerto, I do not hear an artistic "category," but rather the "voice" of a genius. What category or musical era it belongs in doesn't add much to my experiencing the music.

PS. I'm not sure that if you were still here you would know how to answer which musical style you were in when you wrote it. But anyway, Happy Birthday, Ludwig.

September 7, 2020, 6:18 AM · Classical with Romantic leanings? But the same could be said of mature Mozart..
September 8, 2020, 11:53 AM · Heavily depends on the context, no doubt.

Beethoven is canonically considered one of the big four (or five, if you count Mendelssohn) Romantic violin concertos, but if you're looking for it to, say, be a contrasting work in an audition, playing the first movements of Mozart 4/5 and Beethoven would not be advised, but Mozart 4/5 and Paganini 1 would probably be fine.

I would argue that in most audition contexts Beethoven or Pag 1 would probably be just fine, unless the audition has a specific repertoire list. But I would echo Lydia in not really wanting to play either in an orchestral audition.

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