Monday, August 2, 2010

8/2 Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61

Beethoven only wrote one violin concerto, Opus 61 in D.  It was not a success.

The Zeitung fur Theater, Musik and Poesie in January 8, 1807 wrote:
"The educated part of the audience marveled how Clement (the violinist) could have lowered himself to indulge in the sort of tricks and stunts which might amuse the plebs, since he is capable of expressing beauty and nobility in good music.  We do not disagree with that opinion.  A division of opinion exists about Beethoven's concerto; some acknowledge much beauty in it, others feel that it's continuity seems frequently to be torn apart and that needless repetition of a few commonplace passages prove...fatiguing...."

(Fortunately this reviewer died before the minimalism movement came around.)

In any case B's Violin Concerto is nowadays a staple of the repertoire and considered a "Mount Everest" of violin concert pieces.  A notable recent recording is one by Patricia Kopatchinskaja with Philippe Herreweghe's period orchestra.  This recording recently won a BBC Music Magazine award for 2010.  Take my word for it, it's got B's revolutionary spirit, if you know what I mean.  It's wild and superb.  Of course the Heifetz/Munch on RCA is one that never gets dusty.

On Dominique Prevot's indispensable Beethoven website I found Michele Trenti's detailed analysis of this concerto.  (Make sure you click on the "movement" links after you read the presentation).  For some reason or another I've always found the formal structure of this work elusive.  I think it's because it's melodies are so seductive that my left hemisphere brain shuts down and I just enjoy the journey. But this is a great visual analysis with commentary (and pastel colors) so definitely worth checking out. 

You can watch to the full concerto below (pretty solid performance by Vadim Repin and Valery Gergiev) while following along with Ms Trenti's analysis:

Playlist here.


  1. B's violin concerto is not a piece I can listen to over again. It is far too repetative.

  2. I would say "somewhat" repetitive, perhaps?

  3. I listen to, and love, the Violin Concerto--repeatedly!!! My current fave recording is with Christian Tetzlaff/Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich/ Zinman, 2006, on Arte Nova Classics. They even use B's cadenza, which he wrote for the piano cto. version---cute musical timpani there!

  4. I had the Tetzlaff/Zinman on my iPod for a good month before the Kopatchinskaja/Herreweghe came along. She uses the B cadenza as well and Herreweghe uses a similar period orchestra style. They're both great!. I've got an upcoming post about the different cadenzas for Opus 61 waiting in the wings...

  5. Ok you've got me convinced about the Kopatchinskaya/Herreweghe (whew--let's just call it K/H)---going to get it! Looking forward to the cadenza post!