'Big Five' Top Violin Concertos?
A friend of mine, the Chicago arts journalist Kyle MacMillan, wrote this article about the upcoming season for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
, and in it he talked about the "Big Five" violin concertos; he listed the Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos as those "Big Five."
Hmmmm. Good list, but I feel like there's room for argument here. What do you feel would be on the list of the "Big Five" top violin concertos?
I'd say Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and then Mendelssohn.
Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikowsky, Sibelius would be in my list for sure. Hard to decide for the fith one, but Mendelssohn has a good standing for rank five.
I suppose that, in the context of symphony orchestra repertoire, the "Big Five" should be scored for solo violin and a big juicy orchestra. But in an ideal world, I'd probably want to put the Bach A minor and a Mozart concerto in a top five list. I guess that's where "Big Five" and "Top Five" would be different!
I agree with Mr. Sumner-would classify them in this order of "preference" for the "modern" audience (a concept which I am not fond of):
Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Mendelssohn seem like the right list for greatest violin concertos with a big orchestra. If I had to throw one overboard to include a Mozart, I'd toss Sibelius to make room.
My personal top 5 pick: Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius, Bruch (G minor), and Mozart 3.
No room for the Rieding B Minor I guess....
I would replace Brahms with Sibelius. Don't get me wrong, I love the Brahms, but there is something magical about Sibelius.
Paul, I'm afraid not.
Replace Brahms with Sibelius?! That's a Sophie's choice if ever I heard one. I'd put Brahms and Beethoven at the very top, followed by Sibelius and Tchaikovsky and I guess Mendelssohn (although I'd rather hear or play Prokofiev (1 or 2), Bartok 2, Barber, or Mozart Sinfonie Concertante--can that last one count?)
Typical presentation of masterpiece syndrome. Basically all romantic, with Beethoven's on the edge. I think it is incredibly difficult to choose just five, but they should at least represent a decent time span. I think one of the Bach concertos is good to include. I would also vouch for Bartok and Prokofiev.
I prefer the original list of the Big five. The Sibelius has its moments, but it does not resonate with me as much as others.
Neither on the article nor in this list Vivaldi is mentioned. Of course the "big five" are the often performed, etc, but I picked up the violin when I listened to the four seasons, when I was a little kid. I cannot imagine a list without Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach however. As a matter of personal preference I would add Beethoven and Sibelius. My apologies to the Tchaikovsky Brahms and Mendelssohn fans :P
No question -- audiences love the Bruch. Sibelius is great, but I would say it's more "for music lovers" than Bruch.
I'm not quite sure why, but I very strongly dislike the Beethoven concerto. My favorite concerto by far is the Joachim Hungarian Concerto in Dm, but it's rarely played, so it wouldn't qualify. I would rather the Sibelius be up there than the Beethoven.
How about the five I always hear in auditions at the youth orchestra level? I'd make the case that these five are played more often by students than any of the others!
I like and second Gene's top five.
I guess I'll make an attempt at my five favorites in no particular order:
One of my parents' record purchases-- maybe from a club-- had what was then the big four: Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky. When Joachim listed Germany's big four, he replaced Tchaikovsky with Bruch.
My 5 Favorites:
Gene, lol yes!
For 'big' concertos I'm thinking of long duration, a weighty solo part and which pack a big 'punch'. Perhaps Brahms, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich 1 and maybe Bruch no 1 (rather than Mendelssohn).
How about Berg violin concerto? The 5 big B's: Bach A minor, Beethoven, Brahms, Berg and ...Bruch? But I do like the saturnine Shostakovich and the Sibelius, it has lovely melodic line that is very hummable.
What if they had to all be written in the last 50 years? So, since 1967...
My father's 1950s list was Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Paganini (I think he meant No 1). My teacher in my teenage years, Winifred Copperwheat, added Sibelius to make the Great Six. In those days, hardly anyone I knew put the Bruch up there! But Dad was later informally commissioned by Bosworths to make a potted first-position version of the Bruch as the first of what became his "Easy Concertos" series (All out of print now, of course, so this mention is NOT a commercial).
For a list of the best written over the last 50 years probably the Adams is a contender, also Salonen and Glass. Butterfly Lovers' Concerto is just a little outside the window (1959). Lindberg?
This is my opinion of the best four, which Itzhak Perlman considers to be the four 'main' and 'most played' violin concertos :D)
69 years ago, in my mid teens, I purchased a "music book" (Piano and Violin parts) at the local music store for $1.25. It was called "STANDARD VIOLIN CONCERTOS (Containing the Ten Violin Concertos Universally used for Concert and Study Purposes). The table of contents is listed below (as it appears on the front cover of the piano part:
Will Willy, I dont understand what a taste of purity or flavour of royalty is (i also don't see how royalty is a good thing but that is another topic) in this context. But there is such a beautiful momentum in the Sibelius concerto that is really special. Yes it is dramatic but thats not necessarily a good or bad thing by itself
Tammuz, royalty not in a sense of class or wealth. It is hard to explain as I'm not a native speaker. Sibelius is no doubt one of my all-time favourites, but I was just trying to demonstrate why it may not be as 'good' as the first four, although it enjoys great popularity as well. While I have so much delight listening to Sibelius, I feel that it's quite unique in some regards (both good and not so), and seems to have a different flavour to all other violin concertos I have heard. To me it is a bit too close to, but still within , a boundary that separates classical music with other kinds of music. However, It is no doubt one of the most famous violin concertos ever written, and I honestly meant it.
Speaking of drama, while the Sibelius tends to over-emphasize it, the Mozart violin concertos (like No 3 and 5 - best performed by Hahn and Mutter) fall into the other extreme: they boast too little drama and too much purity, and they tend towards being overly playful, platonic and innocent, lacking moments of intensity, convolution and solemnity as in the best four (Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, and Tchaikovsky in my opinion). Therefore while Mozart violin concertos are quite pleasant to hear, it is rather easy to forget them - since they don't evoke a sufficient dose of intense feelings and obsession when you listen to them.
I would disagree with the suggestion that Mozart concertos are less dramatic. In fact, the famous Mozart aria in his opera Magic Flute and Mozart 3rd share a lot of similarities, in particular the so called "Mozart sigh."
Let's hear it for the Elgar VC, on both counts of majesty and size! Not forgetting that it was written for Fritz Kreisler.
In answer to Laurie's question about concertos written since 1967:
Paul, I'm surprised that you would consider Butterfly Lovers' Concerto one of the *best written*.
Yixi, as I would expect people would come up with lots of names (many of which could be largely unknown to others), since it is quite natural, and tempting (myself included) to liken the 'biggest violin concertos' with 'my personal favourites'.
Will Willy, point taken. I just like to challenge Prof Deck from time to time, as a good student would;)
I just listened to Butterfly Lovers. NO, OH NO! :D :-))
"No room for the Rieding B Minor I guess.... "
for the viola, Hindemith or Forsyth?
(A bit out of context: the Shostakovich #2 Vln Cto is post-1967, though it doesn't sound "too modern", and the orchestration is not as heavy as in the first. I absolutely love that Concerto, even knowing it won't make any "big" lists-sadly, it is also not often performed.)
@Simon, for the first 5 in the viola list I'd add in Berlioz's "Harold in Italy" (written for Paganini).
As a college student studying violin, the big five, in my opinion, would have to be,
For Viola, there's also the Telemann, and if you include doubles, there's Brandenburg 6 and Don Quixote.
For me, Brandenburg 6 is on the same level as the D minor double violin concerto.
Aren't the last names supposed to start with (capital) letter "B"?
I would think in order of big progression,
"What happened to Khachaturian? "
I'm surprised Shostakovich 1 hasn't had a mention yet. The Passacaglia is surely up there with the most sublime works in the repertoire.
For top 5 programmed, played, or studied, it would probably be this:
(Prokofiev 1 is quite the perfect piece, though my favorite movement, the third, is to my mind one of the saddest moments in all music-bittersweet at best, if not entirely tragic. Perhaps I am a bit too melancholic. Love the work, and it should be performed a bit more often IMO, even though it's doing relatively well in the "modern" concert hall nowadays.)
If the list is "top 5 programmed, played, or studied," then Bach A minor and Mozart G major should most certainly make the list. Everyone who has reached the intermediate level has studied and played those two.
Will Willy, great stuff. But i also mentioned Sibelius and Shostakovich...both of which I love. So can you add one for each in the tally :p
@tammuz LOL you already had 5 ... tell me which two you remove so I can add Sibelius and Shostakovich in :)
One way to approach the question "what are the top 5 violin concertos" is to search Google for "violin concerto" and see in what order the concertos are returned. Indeed, back in the early days, Google became famous for the algorithm it used to rank search results (the famous PageRank algorithm). The ranking of a result is based, among other things, on how many other pages link or mention the result, or pages that link to a page that links to the result, and so on. So, you get a ranking that reflects well what is relevant from the perspective of the Web.
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