Tuesday, September 6, 2011

David Oistrakh: Brahms Violin Concerto

Here is David Oistrakh performing the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77: First Movement. It is from a concert put on by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, conductor, in Moscow, Russia, in February 1966.

Johannes Brahms' only violin concerto was composed in 1878, and dedicated to his longtime friend, the great violinist, Joseph Joachim. By this time they had maintained a friendship for 25 years, since 1853, when Brahms was 20 and Joachim two years his senior. With Brahms at the podium, and Joachim at the violin, the work was premiered in Leipzig, Germany, on January 1, 1879. After some modifications to the score, the work was published later that year.

Here are some liner notes to the composition and the close friendship between Brahms and Joachim, from the pen of Rachel Barton Pine, an American violinist from her CD: "Brahms and Joachim Violin Concertos."
Brahms began composing his Violin Concerto in the summer of 1878, during a vacation on Lake Wörther in Pörtschach, Carinthia (Austria). On August 22, Brahms sent the manuscript of the violin part to Joachim with this note: "Naturally I wish to ask you to correct it. I thought you ought to have no excuse - neither respect for the music being too good nor the pretext that orchestrating it would not merit the effort. Now I shall be satisfied if you say a word and perhaps write in several: difficult, awkward, impossible, etc." Thus began one of the most intriguing musical exchanges in history.

By the time Joachim premiered the concerto in Leipzig on January 1, 1879, the piece had undergone considerable changes. Two middle movements had been removed and replaced by a newly written Adagio, resulting in the three-movement concerto we know today. (Both of the original middle movements are now lost. Many scholars think that the Scherzo may have been converted into the Allegro appassionato of the Second Piano Concerto.) The score was passed back and forth at least a half dozen times before the premiere, and the two friends' debate over revisions, which is clearly evident in the surviving manuscript, has been left for posterity. In the end, Brahms incorporated most of Joachim's suggested orchestral changes but considerably fewer of his revisions to the solo violin part.

As for Oistrakh and the rest of the Moscow concert, the completion of the first movement can be found here and the famous cadenza and the beginning of the second here; the completion of the second movement here, and the third movement here. All in all, the performance is both well played and strikingly beautiful.

Johannes Brahms [1833-97]: Taken in 1853 when he was twenty. "Straight-away the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see distinct themes in my mind's eye, but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies, and orchestration."
Source: Wikipedia

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