AN 2 2020-1

Concertos for Violin: Sibelius, Glazunov, Prokoviev, Kabalevsky (2CD)

Album information

Conceived in the classic tradition of three movement, Kabalevsky’s First Concerto for violin and orchestra, intended for the great Soviet virtuoso David Oistrakh, who assured its creation and recorded it in 1951 with the National Orchestra of the U.S.S.R. under the direction of its composer, was composed in 1948. In this work, the violin exchanges lively dialogues with the orchestra, dissolves in the sweeping phrases of the strings, or leads the movement with inexhaustible vigour.

Though finished in 1903, the Concerto underwent thorough revision and was only published in 1905. Despite its strongly modern character and modified sonata form, the concerto belongs to the romantic tradition of the 19th century. The opposition of violin and orchestra is almost unique in its contrasts. The rhapsodic mood of the first movement is promptly set in the melodic sweep of the first theme, played by the solo violin against a sombre background. The second movement is in the nature of a romanza. The finale is an impetuous rondo on two themes.

A child prodigy, born into a family of Russian publishers, Alexander Glazunov studied theory and composition with Rimsky-Korsakov, who observed his progress daily. He began work on his only violin concerto in 1904, which was completed early the following year. “I myself saw the work take shape,” wrote Leopold Auer, the famous Hungarian-born violinist and teacher to whom the work is dedicated and who played it for the first time at a concert of the Imperial Russian Musical Society, in St. Petersburg, on March 4th, 1905, with the composer conducting. This concerto, with its three movements of uninterrupted fluidity, reveals a mastery of his art. In the first movement, a lyrical theme for the solo violin appears at the beginning accompanied softly by clarinets and bassoons. The second movement opens as an aria on the G string of the solo violin. The mood later changes, and an agitato appears, teeming with complicated passage-work for the solo instrument. The third movement is reached with a bridging cadenza of ornate design for the solo violin. A sort of dialogue ensues between trumpet and violin on the notes of the principal theme, and is subsequently given a fortissimo emphasis by the entire orchestra.

The Parisian public became acquainted with the music of Russian composer Serge Prokofiev in 1921, when his compatriot, Serge Koussevitzky, conducted the Scythian Suite. The work was received with some reservation, but the composer’s reputation would later grow, thanks to works like the Chout ballet and the Concerto No. 1 for violin and orchestra. Prokofiev had begun his concerto in 1913 but completed it only in 1917. However, it was Joseph Szigeti who was to popularize the work, performing it in Prague in 1924 and in Boston the following year. With the exception of the central movement, a dizzying scherzo where the virtuosity of the soloist is harshly put to the test, the concerto is noteworthy for its lyrical strains.

Before writing his unique concerto for violin, Tchaikovsky found himself being asked for a new work by Leopold Auer, the famous virtuoso and teacher. He accepted this invitation by composing the Sérénade mélancolique for violin and orchestra in 1875. Although this work is dedicated to Auer, it was Adolf Brodsky who premiered it in Moscow on January 28, 1876, Auer considering the work “unplayable.” The Sérénade mélancolique offers two themes of astonishing strength, detailed with great artistry and sincere emotion. Originally written for violin and piano, Méditation was arranged for orchestra in 1878 by Glazunov. Its lyricism calls to mind the most tormented parts of the Eugene Oneguine opera.

© Gilles Potvin

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Angèle Dubeau
AN 2 2020-1
AN 2 2020-1
AN 2 2020-1

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