Friday, September 4, 2015

The Beethoven Violin Concerto - A Genesis That Reads Like A Novel...

There  are, and have been, for the greater part of  two  centuries,  the countless performers and listeners who have considered  the one violin concerto by Beethoven to be the existential quintessence in the form called 'Violin Concerto.'  The defenders of the assertion that this work is without parallel as a dialogue between violin and orchestra are as much a reality in strength and number today as was the case, say, a century ago.
Those of you who may not be familiar with the saga surrounding the Concerto's  emergence will find the story quite fascinating; and so, read on:
To begin with,  there is evidence that a 22 year-old Beethoven had been toying with the idea of committing a violin concerto to paper, as there is a fragment of a first movement, which is all that we have - how far the great composer went beyond the fragment may never be known.
But Beethoven's "follow-through" is given us in 1806, when the debut of a full fledged violin concerto took place.
And the 1806 debut, performed by a  well-known violinist of the day; a fellow named Clement, is the only time that this  piece was performed publicly - until 1844.
Yes, indeed - this was the same work that the entire world is so conversant with today. Difficult to believe, but this masterpiece almost did not make it.
The 1806 debut was met with general indifference, and the event went quickly into obscurity.
Just a few months later, the composer Clementi suggested that the violin work be rearranged as a piano concerto, which Beethoven did shortly thereafter. For those of you who may not know of the piano version(Beethoven therefore has six piano concerti to his credit!) please find it as opus 61a.
The revivification of the original violin concerto of 1806 took place in England in 1844, with a large chamber orchestra from London conducted by no other than Mendelssohn. The violinist was the giant-to-be Joachim - aged twelve, I believe.
And we have known it ever since.
I have sometimes wondered whether Clementi suggested the re-working of the violin concerto into a piano concerto because:
he sympathized, as a composer, and offered the suggestion as a form of  palliation in order to alleviate the pain of disappointment that Beethoven may have  been going through; or - he actually  thought that it might succeed more efficiently as a piano concerto - well, I cannot find verification of either of my premises.
Oh, well...
By the way; a  recording of the piano concerto, known otherwise as the  violin concerto was done in 2012 by none other than Daniel Barenboim - Do listen to 'What Might  Have Been' as opposed to 'What Is' - 
Thank Fate for Mendelssohn!
He 'found' Bach for us in 1829 - was he responsible for 're-finding ' Beethoven's masterpiece in 1844?

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