Classical and Modern Music

Format: CD

Šifra: 114731

EAN: 3838898114731


Max Bruch (1838–1920) wrote over two hundred works, but very few of them have survived the test of time. Among them, the Violin Concerto in G minor stands out and remains one of the most popular concertos in the repertoire today. It achieves its effect comprehensively and with ease, but the path to its final form was anything but easy and actually it took Bruch many years to complete. In letters to his teacher, Ferdinand Hiller, he complained that he did not feel sufficiently secure in this genre. The concerto was first performed by Otto von Königslöw under the composer’s baton in Koblenz on 24 April 1866. However, Bruch was not satisfied with what he heard and immediately withdrew the work. He sent the manuscript to Joseph Joachim, who was not only an excellent violinist, but also a composer. As a teenager, he had revived the Beethoven violin concerto, and he later also made a substantial contribution to the completion of Johannes Brahms’s concerto. Joachim responded to Bruch with a detailed list of suggestions for improvements and corrections, most of which Bruch followed. According to Bruch, he revised the composition at least six times before it was finally presented to the audience on 7 January 1868 in Bremen, performed by Joachim under the baton of Carl Reinthaler. The concerto won the audience over and overshadowed all of the composer’s other works, a fact that was not particularly pleasing to Bruch. Perhaps that is why he recklessly sold the score and therefore did not benefit from the wealth it later generated with royalties. Bruch ended his life in difficult material conditions.

Bruch’s concerto builds upon the works of his predecessors. The opening solo timpani in the first movement is reminiscent of Beethoven, while the unbroken connection of the movements recalls Mendelssohn. In terms of structure, however, the concerto differs significantly from its precursors. It is unusual that all three movements are more or less loosely conceived as variants of sonata form. The first movement, Vorspiel: Allegro moderato, has a slightly rhapsodic character and is formally the freest of the three movements. In fact, Bruch originally intended to call the composition a “fantasy”, but Joachim convinced him that, due to the formal sophistication of the second and third movements, the title “concerto” was more appropriate. The first movement is a prelude to the second movement, Adagio. It is in sonata form with three themes and an extremely reduced development section, thus resembling a sonata rondo. It represents the expressive centre of gravity of the concerto, and is one of the most beautiful slow movements in the repertoire. In terms of form, the concluding Finale: Allegro energico is a sonata movement without a development section. The first “gypsy” theme strongly recalls Bruch’s older colleague Brahms, but it turns out that Bruch was actually the first of the two to use this kind of melody.


When Felix Mendelssohn became the principal conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1836, he remembered his young friend, the superb violinist Ferdinand David, and engaged him in the orchestra as concertmaster. Two years later, he mentioned to David in a letter that he would like to write a violin concerto for him. However, it took six years for the work to be completed. It is clear from their correspondence that David provided a great deal of assistance to the composer in creating the solo part, as well as offering compositional advice in general. David gave the premiere performance of the concerto in Leipzig on 13 March 1845 under conductor Niels Gade, as Mendelssohn was sick at the time. The performance was a great success and the concerto immediately won a place in the concerto repertoire, which it still retains today.

The Violin Concerto in E minor represents a new stage in the development of this form. Although Mendelssohn retained the traditional tripartite structure, he introduced a series of innovations. Instead of the then customary double exposition in the first movement, the theme is introduced for the first time by the soloist after only one and a half bars of orchestral introduction. In addition, Mendelssohn placed the cadenza, which usually preceded the coda, between the exposition and the recapitulation, thereby integrating it more tightly into the tissue of the overall movement. Another innovation was the further development of ​​the interconnection of movements, an approach Mendelssohn had already experimented with the Scottish Symphony. There are no longer the usual interruptions between movements. Although the links between the movements are rather loose, the composer nonetheless paved the way for the development of the single-movement concerto.

The Concerto in E minor is Mendelssohn’s last large-scale and important work. Its special quality lies in the fact that the solo part never resorts to a mere display of skills; despite the fact that it is anything but easy, the technique always serves the musical ideas. In the first movement, Allegro molto appassionato, written in classical sonata form, Mendelssohn’s extraordinary melodic gift comes to the fore, supplementing his general compositional mastery. He also wrote a cadenza, although it is rarely performed today. The first printed edition of the concerto included a cadenza by Ferdinand David, which today is considered an integral part of the work. The contrasting second movement, Andante, is a lyrical assuagement before the boisterous Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace, which, in a noble way, revives the virtuoso concertante tradition.

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor had a powerful influence on other composers. Echoes of the work can be detected in the violin concertos of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Jan Sibelius, as well as in the second piano concerto by Franz Liszt.


Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was not at all enthusiastic when publisher Willy Strecker suggested that he write a violin concerto for Polish violinist Samuel Dushkin. Like many other composers, he felt that he did not know the instrument well enough for such a feat. Only after being persuaded by Paul Hindemith that a lack of knowledge of an instrument can even be an advantage to a composer in some circumstances, and after Strecker’s assurance that Dushkin would assist in creating the violin part, did Stravinsky give in. He met with Dushkin on several occasions. At one of their meetings, Stravinsky wrote a triple stop on a paper napkin and asked Dushkin if the chord was playable on the violin. When Dushkin replied that it was impossible, the composer was visibly disappointed, as he had intended to use the chord as an introduction to each of the four movements of his concerto. When Dushkin arrived home, however, he decided to try to play the chord, and was surprised to find that it was in fact possible to play on the violin, and was not even particularly problematic. He immediately telephoned Stravinsky, who was very happy to hear the violinist’s revised opinion. He began work on the concerto and completed it in September 1931. Dushkin gave the premiere performance the following month with the Berlin Radio Orchestra conducted by the composer.

Unlike most violin concertos, which have a three-movement structure, Stravinsky’s concerto has four movements. It is written in a Neoclassical style and differs greatly from concertante works by the composer’s predecessors. Whereas the nineteenth century witnessed a shift away from the classical type of concerto towards a more symphonic conception, Stravinsky’s work has very distinctive features of chamber music. The character of the movements and their interplay also differ from the usual models. Each of the movements begins with the aforementioned triple stop. The first movement, Toccata, draws its inspiration from the Baroque, but is at the same time thoroughly modern. There follow two strongly contrasting movements marked Aria. Somewhat surprisingly, the first aria has an even faster tempo than the toccata, and is written in the spirit of elegant salon music, while the second aria is a kind of reflection of the Adagio movements of Bach’s concertos. The final movement, Capriccio-finale, provides a brilliantly virtuoso conclusion to the work.

Dr. Borut Smrekar


Max Bruch (1838-1920):                                                                                                    Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26*
1       I    Vorspiel: Allegro moderato                 8:15
2       II    Adagio                                               8:28  
3       III   Finale: Allegro giocoso                      7:23

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847):
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64⁰
4       I   Allegro molto appassionato                          13:35  (
5       II  Andante                                                        8:01
6       III  Allegro non troppo – Allegro molto vivace   6:43

Igor Stravinski (1882-1971):
Violin Concerto in D major ●
7       I     Toccata                        13:35
8       II     Aria I                             8:01
9       III    Aria II                             6:43
10     IV  Capriccio                        6:43


Dejan Bravničar, violin

RTV Ljubljana Symphony Orchestra * ⁰                                                                             Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra ●

Samo Hubad, conductor*
Uroš Prevoršek, conductor ⁰                                                                                                   Edgar Doneux, conductor ●                        


Recorded: Slovenska filharmonija, 1964 (4-6), 1969 (1-3), 1968 (7-10).