Beethoven in 1803
Beethoven’s only violin concerto was composed in 1806. It’s his Op. 61 which places it very much in the composer’s so-called middle period (with the 3rd, ‘Eroica’ Symphony, Op. 55; 4th & 5th Symphonies (Op. 60 & 67); the three Rasumovsky Quartets, Op. 59; the 4th Piano Concerto, Op. 58; etc.)
Written for the violinist Franz Clement – whose own 1st Violin Concerto in D (you can listen to it below) had appeared the previous year in a benefit concert that also saw the premier of the Eroica Symphony – the work was composed very quickly and to a rather(?) tight deadline, so tight was this deadline in fact that (so the story goes) both soloist and orchestra were forced to sight-read for the latter half of the performance! This might go some way to explaining why the work then lapsed into obscurity and was only resurrected when a 12 year old violinist (named Joseph Joachim) and a conductor (named Felix Mendelssohn) together with the orchestra of London Philharmonic Society gave a much acclaimed performance in 1844.
Two interpretations to choose from (or you can listen to both – it’s really quite instructive to compare them). A modern recording by Perlman and Barenboim …
… and – rather a rarity – the Russian virtuoso, Leonid Kogan playing in 1966 with Louis de Froment and the ORTF orchestra:
The autograph of the opening of the concerto.
The page contains one of Beethoven’s dreadful puns, a reference to the work’s late completion, it reads:
Concerto par Clemenza pour Clement [Concerto by Clemency for Clement]
The first concerto by Beethoven’s soloist, Franz Clement:
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