Apart from Berlioz’s Harold in Italy and a very brief visit to a concerto for viola d’amore by Vivaldi, I’m conscious of the fact that I haven’t really touched on the viola as solo instrument. So, in a last minute attempt to redress that imbalance, here are two of the most famous twentieth century concertos written for the instrument – the Bartók and the Walton.
And to finish with, as well as the Corelli, Vivaldi, Mozart and Mendelssohn variations on the concerto form, here’s one more transformation of the genre for us to consider. We’ve already encountered it in the Berlioz piece I just mentioned and also in last week’s Lutosławski Cello Concerto (though I think that particular composer would deny it!) – the concerto as tone poem.
This is mostly a twentieth century phenomenon and I’ve given two examples below – the famous Berg concerto and the not quite so famous Concerto funebre of Karl Amadeus Hartmann.
You can follow the score here on YouTube (Serly edition; Timothy Ridout, viola). Again, you’ll need to be eagle-eyed for some pages.
As with the Bartók, you can follow the Walton score here on YouTube (Simonide Braconi, viola). And once more, you’ll need occasionally to be eagle-eyed.
Berg’s Violin Concerto deals with the short life and tragic death of Manon Gropius, daughter of Alma Mahler and her second husband Walter Gropius. Manon died of infantile paralysis in 1935 aged 19. The work is dedicated Dem Andenken eines Engels – to the memory of an angel.
You can follow the score here on YouTube (Perlman performance). The same ocular warnings apply!
Written in 1939, the Concerto Funebre was Hartmann’s reaction to the occupation of the Sudetenland and the subsequent invasion of (the then) Czechoslovakia. It uses two musical quotations, appearing in the Introduction and the final Choral, melodies that have also appeared in the works of other composers:
The Hussite hymn (Ktož jsú boží bojovníci/Ye Who Are Warriors of God) in Smetana’s Tábor (from Má vlast) and…
The ‘Immortal Sacrifice’ a Russian song which became associated with the 1905 Revolution and is quoted in Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony.
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