Showcase May-June 2014 - page 15

may 15, 16, 17
Program Notes
Mendelssohn proceeded very carefully on this concerto,
revising, polishing and consulting with David, his
concertmaster at the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, at
every step of its composition. He completed the score
while on vacation in Soden, near Frankfurt, during
the summer of 1844, and David gave the premiere in
Leipzig on March 13, 1845. Mendelssohn was ill at the
time and could not conduct, so his assistant, the Danish
composer Niels Gade, led the first performance.
We do not normally think of Mendelssohn as an
innovator, but his Violin Concerto is as remarkable
for its originality as for its endless beauty. It is deftly
scored: he writes for what is essentially the Mozart-
Haydn orchestra, and he keeps textures transparent and
the soloist audible throughout. But he can also make
that orchestra ring out with a splendor that Mozart and
Haydn never dreamed of.
allegro molto appassionato.
The innovations begin in the
first instant. Mendelssohn does away with the standard
orchestral exposition and has the violin enter in the
second bar with its famous theme, marked
Allegro
molto appassionato
and played entirely on the violin’s
E-string; this soaring idea immediately establishes the
movement’s singing yet impassioned character. Other
themes follow in turn: a transitional figure for the
orchestra and the true second subject, a chorale-like
tune first given out by the woodwinds.
The quiet timpani strokes in the first few seconds, which
subtly energize the orchestra’s swirling textures, show
the hand of a master. Another innovation: Mendelssohn
sets the cadenza where we do not expect it, at the end of
the development rather than just before the coda. That
cadenza—a terrific compilation of trills, harmonics and
arpeggios—appears to have been largely the creation of
David, who fashioned it fromMendelssohn’s themes. The
return of the orchestra is a masterstroke: it is the
orchestra
that brings back the movement’s main theme as the
violinist
accompanies the orchestra with dancing arpeggios.
andante.
Mendelssohn hated applause between
movements, and he tried to guard against it here by
tying the first two movements together with a single
bassoon note. The two themes of the
Andante
might
by themselves define the term “romanticism.” There
is a sweetness about this music that could, in other
hands, turn cloying, but Mendelssohn skirts that danger
gracefully. The soloist has the arching and falling opening
melody, while the orchestra gives out the darker, more
insistent second subject. The writing for violin in this
movement, full of double-stopping and fingered octaves,
is a great deal more difficult than it sounds.
allegretto non troppo—allegro molto vivace.
Mendelssohn
joins the second and third movements with an
anticipatory bridge passage that subtly takes its shape
from the concerto’s opening theme. Resounding fanfares
from the orchestra lead directly to the soloist’s entrance
on an effervescent, dancing melody so full of easy grace
that we seem suddenly in the fairyland atmosphere of
Mendelssohn’s own incidental music to
A Midsummer
Night’s Dream
. Several other themes appear along the
way, some combined in ingenious ways. But it is the
sprightly opening melody that dominates as the music
seems to fly through the sparkling coda to the violin’s
exultant three-octave leap at the very end.
Instrumentation:
solo violin with orchestra comprising 2 flutes, 2 oboes,
2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings
Program note by
Eric Bromberger
.
15
MAY / JUNE 2014 MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA
oth as man and artist, Richard Wagner was a
personality of force, vision and contradictions.
His biography reads like a soap opera, and his
operas, woven from a rich fabric of leitmotifs,
demanded the unheard-of from the orchestra,
singers and stage designers. By his own testimony,
the basic medium in which the drama resides is the
orchestra—“the moving matrix of the music”; the
poetic words, he said, “float like a ship on a sea of
orchestral harmony.”
Richard Wagner
Born:
May 22, 1813, Leipzig
Died:
February 13, 1883, Venice
The Ring, An Orchestral Adventure
,
compiled by Henk de Vlieger
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