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Felix Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64

August 9th, 2012

The Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64 composed by Felix Mendelssohn is his last large orchestral work. It forms an important part of the violin repertoire and is one of the most popular and most frequently performed violin concertos of all time. A typical performance lasts just under half an hour.

Mendelssohn originally proposed the idea of the violin concerto to Ferdinand David, a close friend and then concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Although conceived in 1838, the work took another six years to complete and was not premiered until 1845. During this time, Mendelssohn maintained a regular correspondence with David, seeking his advice with the concerto.

The work itself was one of the violin concertos of the Romantic era and was influential to the compositions of many other composers. Although the concerto consists of three movements in a standard fast–slow–fast structure and each movement follows a traditional form, the concerto was innovative and included many novel features for its time.

Distinctive aspects of the concerto include the immediate entrance of the violin at the beginning of the work and the linking of the three movements with each movement immediately following the previous one.

The concerto was initially well received and soon became regarded as one of the greatest violin concertos of all time. The concerto remains popular and has developed a reputation as an essential concerto for all aspiring concert violinists to master, and usually one of the first Romantic era concertos they learn. Many professional violinists have recorded the concerto and the work is regularly performed in concerts and classical music competitions.

Mendelssohn also wrote a virtuoso violin concerto in D minor between 1821 and 1823, when he was 12 to 14 years old, at the same time he produced his twelve string symphonies. This work, “rediscovered” in 1951 by Yehudi Menuhin, is also known as the Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra in D minor, and as Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (the E minor concerto alternately known as Violin Concerto No. 2).

History

Following his appointment in 1835 to principal conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Mendelssohn named his childhood friend Ferdinand David as the orchestra’s concertmaster. The work’s origins derive from this professional collaboration. In a letter dated 30 July 1838, Mendelssohn wrote to David: “I should like to write a violin concerto for you next winter. One in E minor runs through my head, the beginning of which gives me no peace.”

The concerto took another six years to complete. There are many possible reasons for the delay, including self-doubt, his third symphony and an unhappy period in Berlin after a request from King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Nevertheless, Mendelssohn and David kept up a regular correspondence during this time, with Mendelssohn seeking technical and compositional advice.

Indeed, this violin concerto was the first of many to have been composed with the input of a professional violinist, and would influence many future collaborations. The autographed score is dated 16 September 1844, but Mendelssohn was still seeking advice from David until its premiere. The concerto was first performed in Leipzig on 13 March 1845 with Ferdinand David as soloist. Mendelssohn was unable to conduct due to illness and the premiere was conducted by the Danish composer Niels Gade. Mendelssohn first conducted the concerto on 23 October 1845 again with Ferdinand David as soloist.

Instrumentation

The work is scored for solo violin and a standard classical orchestra consisting of two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.

Movements

The concerto consists of three movements with the following tempo markings:

  1. Allegro molto appassionato (E minor)
  2. Andante (C major)
  3. Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace

Source: Wikipedia

1º mov – Allegro (Julia Fischer violin)

BBC Symphony Orchestra (Janine Jansen violin)

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