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Thread: The Violin Concerto: A Historical Journey

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    Default The Violin Concerto: A Historical Journey

    Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy recently inspired a journey: to understand the violin concerto, by starting at its roots, with Vivaldi. Piecing together who influenced whom, how the concerto evolved over time, and which recordings to listen to has been challenge. So I've come here to share what I've learned and ask you to share your expertise.

    I started with the Four Seasons: specifically the historically informed performances of Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima. Wow. Such a different sound from traditional recordings I've heard. It seems that Vivaldi set the form for the modern concerto: fast-slow-fast, dialogue between solo instrument and the group, ritornello form. Does anyone else find the slow movements dull?

    Bach seemed like the obvious next choice. He transcribed Vivaldi, after all. But his A minor and E concerto (Hillary Hahn here), feel mechanical to me. That might be echoes of the piano inventions I was forced to play as a child. The double concerto feels much more stirring -- with its interesting fugues.

    Haydn would be next, right? Few have recorded his violin concertos (he, after all, was more of a symphony man). So I went for Giuliano Carmignola. These pieces seem sweet but a bit repetitive. Something to play in 18th-century elevators Am I missing something?

    Which brings us to Mozart. Primarily concertos 3-5. And Isabelle Faust, another modern historically informed performance. Stronger melodies and lots of life here: dancelike and joyous. So much space given to the solos, taken slowly with dramatic pauses.

    Where I should I go next? Beethoven? And beyond?

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    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    Paganini and Sibelius perhaps?

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    Paganini 3
    Bruch 1
    Prokofiev 2
    Shostakovich 2
    Gubaidulina 2
    Last edited by Art Rock; May-02-2018 at 06:53.
    No internet (and therefore no TC) for me from end October until end November.

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    Taking a look at Bernstein's concerto might also be good.
    Of course Bruch, Brahms and Dvorak are a given as well.

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    Senior Member Headphone Hermit's Avatar
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    Maybe try a different approach - why not grab hold of a box set of a particular violinist (such as the Milstein EMI box - but there are many others such as Oistrack on DG, Heifetz and on and on and on) and listen to a variety of pieces that go beyond 'concerto' ... it is a good way to explore the repertoire and to uncover gems that you might otherwise overlook ... and it can be relatively inexpensive. Who knows, you might even discover that Haydn was more than 'a symphony man'!
    "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Berlioz, 1856

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    Senior Member Headphone Hermit's Avatar
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    ^^^ just spotted this ten CD set by Schneiderhan for only 12 Euros .... .... got to be worth a listen, surely?
    Last edited by Headphone Hermit; Jun-01-2018 at 08:54.
    "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." Berlioz, 1856

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    If you're game?, I’d be happy to take you (& anyone else that's interested) on a tour of the violin concerto repertory from the Italian Baroque to today, since it’s a genre that holds a special interest to me. Though I’ll have to post in several installments, as there’s so much important repertory to cover. (& hopefully, I’ll do better than Wikipedia--though you'll be relieved to know that I won't list as many composers as they do.) Of course, my posts aren't intended to be listened to all at once, but gradually over time. I’ll also try to provide links to a range of exemplary recordings (from You Tube & Amazon)—by top period violinists & ensembles (and later, from top orchestras & conductors). Exploring the history of violin concertos is a wonderful way to better understand all the various changes in musical styles over the centuries, from the Baroque era to today's composers (& yes, the genre is still very much alive).

    Part 1—The Italian Baroque:

    A. Baroque violin concertos didn’t begin with Vivaldi! While Vivaldi was certainly a major influence on the German Baroque composers, especially J.S. Bach, and possibly Telemann too, the Italian composer Giuseppe Tortelli should be credited with composing some of the earliest violin concertos, and for influencing Vivaldi.

    Tortelli: Concerto for 4 Violins in A minor, Musica Antiqua Kölin, Reinhard Goebel:

    Tortelli Concertos: Collegium Musicum 90, Simon Standage:

    Tortelli, Op. 5:

    Another priest/composer that strongly influenced J.S. Bach in the development of the “invention”, was Francesco Antonio Bonporti, whose violin concertos are worth hearing:

    B. Antonio Vivaldi:


    1. “L’Estro Armonico”, Op. 3 (one of Vivaldi's masterworks):

    There are lots of excellent recordings of the Op. 3 concertos to choose from, so you can take your pick (I tend to lean towards Europa Galante & Accademia Bizantina myself, at least in Op. 3):

    Accademia Bizantina, Stefano Montanari, Ottavio Dantone:

    Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi:

    Tafelmusik, Jeanne Lamon, Elizabeth Wallfisch:

    L’arte dell’arco, Federico Guglielmo:

    Ensemble 415, Chiara Banchini:

    Christopher Hogwood and The Academy of Ancient Music, and Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert are recommendable too (I may slightly prefer Pinnock here):

    2. “The Four Seasons" (from the 12 Concertos, Op. 8):

    Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca, Giuliano Carmignola. Carmignola recorded The Four Seasons a 2nd time with the Venice Baroque Orchestra on Sony, but I prefer his earlier recording on Divox Antiqua, which is my present favorite:

    Drottingholm Baroque Ensemble, Nils-Erik Sparf (Sparf's violin playing makes a nice compliment to Carmignola's--as interpretatively, he's a bit more wild & unleashed):

    La Serenissima, Adrian Chandler:

    The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock:

    An all-Stradavari performance, from violinist Salvatore Accardo & company:

    3. “Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’invenzione” ("The contest between harmony and invention"), 12 Concertos, Op. 8 (which includes The Four Seasons):

    Raglan Baroque Players, Monica Huggett, Nicholas Kraemer:

    Accademia Bizantina, Stefano Montanari, Ottavio Dantone:

    The Avison Ensemble:

    The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock:

    4. “La Cetra”, Op. 9 (this set of violin concertos tends to get underrated, IMO. I think it's Vivaldi at his most imaginative):

    Raglan Players, Monica Huggett, Nicholas Kremer:

    L’Arte dell’Arco, Federico Guglielmo:

    5. “La Stravaganza”, Op. 4

    Arte Dei Suonatori, Rachel Podger (Arte Dei Suonatori is also terrific in Handel’s Concerti Grossi, Op. 6.):

    C. More excellent Vivaldi:

    “Concertos for the Emperor”, Andrew Manze, Academy of Ancient Music:

    “Concert for The Prince of Poland”, Andrew Manze, Academy of Ancient Music:

    “Concerti per due violini” Giuliano Carmignola & Amadine Beyer, Gli Incogniti:

    Late Violin Concertos, Volume 1: Giuliano Carmignola, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Andrea Marcon:

    Late Violin Concertos, Volume 2--from the same ensemble above:

    Vivaldi: “Concerti per le Solennita” 6 Concerti per violino, Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca, Giuliano Carmignola, on the Divox Antiqua label:

    Concerto for Violin, Strings, and Basso Continuo in G minor, RV 320, La Magnifica Comunità, Enrico Casazza violin:

    Concerto per violino “La caccia” ("The Hunt"): from Academia Montis Regalis, with violinist Enrico Onofri:

    D. Italian composers other than Vivaldi:

    “Concerto Italiano”: Dall’Oglio, Michele Stratico, Pietro Nardini, Antonio Lolli—performed by Giuliano Carmignola, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Andrea Marcon:

    Albinoni, Pergolesi, Locatelli, Tartini, Nardini, Veracini, and Benedetto and Alessandro Marcello also wrote violin concertos. Violinists Elizabeth Wallfisch, Giuliano Carmignola, and Simon Standage have recorded extensively within this repertory.

    Albinoni, Op. 9:

    Locatelli: "L'Arte del Violino", 12 Concerti, Op. 3:


    Perogolesi: Violin Concerto for Violin in B Flat Major:

    Alessandro Marcello (who was another Italian composer that influenced J.S. Bach):

    etc. etc.

    E. Finally, I'd be remiss not to mention Arcangelo Corelli, who was one of the great Italian Baroque composers, arguably even better than Vivaldi. Corelli wrote brilliant music for the violin. So, at some point, I'd urge you to hear his 12 Concerti Grossi, Op. 6 (which influenced Handel), along with his 12 Violin Sonatas, Op. 5—as they’re essential Baroque masterworks—although Corelli didn’t compose violin concertos, per se. (One of Corelli’s students, Francesco Geminiani also wrote Concerti Grossi that are worth hearing.)

    Next up, Part 2: German, French, & English Baroque Violin Concertos.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Jun-04-2018 at 05:22.

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