Classical and Modern Music



Format: CD

Šifra: 114717
EAN: 3838898114717


It is quite incredible that Spanish folk melodies, with their distinctive rhythmic and melodic colouring, gained their best expression in the works of French and not domestic composers. We need only recall Bizet’s Carmen and Chabrier’s Espagne, as well as many works by Debussy, Ravel and others. It is probably a unique example of enriching one culture with another. It is less known, however, that this “Spanish wave” was triggered by Édouard Lalo (1823–1891) with his Spanish Symphony.
Lalo studied music against the will of his parents and developed into an excellent violinist. He performed in elite chamber ensembles, occasionally joined by musicians such as Clara Schumann, Camille Saint-Saëns, Anton Rubinstein and others. He also studied composition and received second prize in the Prix de Rome, but after completing his studies as a composer he was somehow unable to break through. Until the age of fifty, he was little more than a peripheral figure on the Parisian music scene. However, an encounter with Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate, with whom he quickly struck up a friendship, turned out to be fateful. Lalo initially wrote a few shorter pieces for the Spanish musician, before completing the now forgotten Violin Concerto in F minor. As the concerto was well received, he followed it up with the Spanish Symphony for solo violin and orchestra.

Rather than being a genuine symphony, the Spanish Symphony is more like a violin concerto in five movements. The composer called it a “symphony” mainly due to its larger dimensions. Sarasate gave the premiere on 7 February 1875. The violin writing was a perfect match for Sarasate’s playing, and the composition was an extraordinary success, triggering a wave of intense interest in Spain and Spanish culture in Paris. It was in fact performed earlier than Bizet’s Carmen, which only heightened the “Spanish fever”. The influence of the work reached far beyond the French borders, and, among others, inspired Tchaikovsky in writing his own violin concerto. Lalo later wrote a series of compositions inspired by the melodies of various European nations, but he never repeated the success of the Spanish Symphony.
Lalo used Spanish rhythms and melodies mainly as a tribute to his friend Sarasate. Almost every movement of the symphony contains a characteristic Spanish dance rhythm. The first movement, Allegro non troppo, is the most symphonically conceived of the five movements. It sparkles with Iberian colouring, with characteristics of the malagueña in the first violin theme, and is reminiscent of the flamenco. The second movement, Scherzando: Allegro molto, with a somewhat serious central section, is in the rhythm of the seguidilla. The third movement, Intermezzo: Allegretto non troppo, is based on the habañera and was for a long time omitted in performances of the work, being regarded as rather long-winded and not belonging to the whole. Yehudi Menuhin reintroduced the movement in the 1960s, and it now forms an integral part of performances. The fourth movement, Andante, has a more melancholy character and is somewhat distant from Spanish colouring, while the final Rondo: Allegro, which has often been defined as an Italian saltarello, again introduces the characteristics of the malagueña and the habañera.

One hundred years after the creation of the Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 by Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), more than fifty different recordings of the work were available on the shelves of record shops. It is probably the most frequently performed violin concerto of the twentieth century.
The composer first mentioned that he was planning a violin concerto in his correspondence of 1899, but another five years passed before he managed to realise his idea. Thus, on 8 February 1904, the Violin Concerto in D minor gained its premiere performance in the hands of Hungarian violin pedagogue of Czech descent Victor Nováček in Helsinki, under the baton of the composer. However, the performance was not a success, probably largely due to the soloist, who simply was not up to the demands of the work. Sibelius had in fact tried to arrange the premiere with another violinist abroad, but the venture proved to be too expensive and Nováček was therefore a last resort. Nor was Sibelius satisfied with the work itself, and he revised the concerto the following year. The second and third movements were not subjected to significant changes, but the first movement was severely shortened. The most substantial revision concerned the orchestration, with Sibelius making the orchestral sound significantly lighter. The revised version was first performed by soloist Karel Halíř and the Berlin Court Orchestra led by Richard Strauss on 19 October 1905 in Berlin. In spite of the successful performance, the concerto only really established itself in the 1930s, when it was recorded by Jascha Heifetz. Since then, it has taken its place in the standard concert repertoire. In the early 1990s, the composer’s heirs allowed a performance of the original version for the first time, but still only rare orchestras have permission to perform it.
Sibelius conceived the work as a concerto with symphonic tendencies, distributing the material equally between the soloist and the orchestra. He retained the traditional three-movement scheme, while, as in the composer’s other works, the formal definitions of the movements can only be applied conditionally. The introductory, dark Allegro moderato is designed in sonata form. This is probably the only concerto in which the soloist enters with a dissonance. Following the example of Mendelssohn, the solo cadenza is organically integrated into the movement at the transition from the development to the recapitulation. The subsequent lyrical Adagio di molto is in simple binary form with a short coda. It is very difficult to define the third movement, Allegro ma non tanto, in terms of form. It floats between sonata form and rondo, with a contrasting rhythmically emphasised continuation and a temperamental conclusion.

Few concertante compositions have met with such a violent response in the composing community as the rhapsody for violin and orchestra Tzigane by Maurice Ravel (1875–1939). The work was commissioned by Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, a distant relative of the celebrated Joseph Joachim. The original version was written with piano accompaniment, with the optional use of the luthéal, a special device inserted between the piano strings and the dampers, making the sound of the piano approach that of the Hungarian cimbalom. The first performance of the rhapsody with piano accompaniment using the luthéal was in London, with Jelly d’Arányi as soloist. The response was remarkable, although critics were far from kind. Ravel later orchestrated the piano part and the new version of Tzigane was first performed in Amsterdam on 19 October 1924, with violinist Samuel Dushkin and conductor Pierre Monteux.
Composers who represented more innovative tendencies regarded Tzigane as a betrayal of their efforts, as, in their view, the composition belonged to a bygone era. They were apparently unable to grasp the fact that Ravel was simply enthusiastic about Gypsy music and the Central European violin tradition, and therefore wrote the work as a genuine tribute. Fortunately, such reservations eventually turned out to be completely unjustified, and more a reflection of the limitations of Ravel’s critics. Today, Tzigane is one of the most popular virtuoso compositions for the violin and an indispensable part of concert programmes.

Dr. Borut Smrekar


Édouard Lalo (1823-1892):
Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op. 21 *
1       I     Allegro non troppo                               8:20
2       II    Scherzando: Allegro molto                   4:31
3       III    Intermezzo: Allegretto non troppo        6:06
4      IV    Andante                                                6:34
5       V   Rondo: Allegro                                       8:34

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957):
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 ⁰
6       I     Allegro moderato                                    15:07
7       II    Adagio di molto                                         7:50
8       III    Allegro ma non tanto                                7:17

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937):
9  Tzigane, Concert Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra⁰     9:52  (


Dejan Bravničar, violin

Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra*
RTV Ljubljana Symphony Orchestra⁰
Uroš Lajovic, conductor *
Samo Hubad, conductor ⁰

Recorded: Slovenska filharmonija, 1980 (1-5, 9); Maribor – ive recording, 1980 (6-8).

Price: 11,07 EUR

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