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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67847
Recording details: November 2011
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon & Dave Rowell
Release date: September 2012
Total duration: 32 minutes 12 seconds

'In a performance as strong and imaginative as this one by Anthony Marwood its impact is considerable. The sinew of the first movement, with its bold opening statement and toughness of inner workings, is contrasted with the mellow, reflective lyricism of the central slow one and with the gentle whimsicalities of the polonaise finale. There are firm Schumann fingerprints all over the score, and it fully merits the passionate advocacy that it receives here, both from Marwood as soloist and from Douglas Boyd’s astutely balanced conducting of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. This is Vol 13 of Hyperion’s Romantic Violin Concerto series, sensibly completed with two other Schumann works. The A minor Violin Concerto is a transcription by the composer himself of his Cello Concerto, done in 1853 but never performed in his lifetime. The violin version, not surprisingly, gives the music a brighter, airier perspective than the original for cello, with a particular sparkle to the finale, and Marwood here coaxes out its expressive niceties and vitality with an assured touch' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Marwood and the BBC Scottish Symphony under Douglas Boyd go at it with a great deal of enthusiasm, with the solo line very prominent in the sound picture. The single-movement Phantasie in C is more cogent and rewarding, while the 'Violin Concerto in A minor' is a real curiosity—the composer's 1853 recasting of his Cello Concerto in the same key' (The Guardian)

'Anthony Marwood, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Douglas Boyd in alert support, makes absolutely the best case for the Schumann Violin Concerto, bringing fire where necessary to the first movement and a nice relaxation to the seraphic slow movement … the C major Phantasie for violin and orchestra … is the real McCoy: it brought to mind such pieces as the magnificent four-horn Konzertstück in its combination of inner strength, free-flowing contrasts and lyric warmth … the poise of the soloist, the responsiveness of the Scottish orchestra and the fine recording make the best possible case for yet another neglected work, as indeed they do for this release as a whole' (International Record Review)

Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO23
composer
27 September to 3 October 1853; published by Schott posthumously; first performed by Georg Kulenkampff, the Berlin Philharmonic and Karl Böhm on 26 November 1937

Langsam –  [5'57]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
As with the Phantasie, Schumann sent the score of the Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO23 (composed between 27 September and 3 October 1853) to Joachim for advice, but this time the violinist was less enthusiastic. While he praised the melody of the slow movement, for the most part he found the solo part unidiomatic (Schumann’s extensive use of arpeggiated figures perhaps reflected his recent immersion in the Sonatas and Partitas of J S Bach, for which he had devised piano accompaniments). Joachim later admitted that he thought the music showed signs of exhaustion. It was to be Schumann’s last orchestral work.

The Violin Concerto is a grandiose, minor-key counterpart to Beethoven’s example. It opens with a brooding theme played by full orchestra; the lyrical second subject then makes a brief appearance before the violin enters. The form of this movement and the relationship between soloist and orchestra is much more conventional than that of the Cello Concerto but, again, the second and third movements are connected. Here, though, it is music from the slow movement that reappears in the finale: the syncopated orchestral theme. It is somewhat surprising that Schumann did not choose to recall the soloist’s melody instead, for it had a habit of turning up in other places: it resembles the opening vocal line of Frühlings Ankunft, Op 79 No 19, the middle section of ‘Vogel as Prophet’ from Waldszenen, and the Allegro of Norbert Burgmüller’s Second Symphony, which Schumann had recently orchestrated. The melody is also strikingly similar to the one he claimed was dictated to him by the spirits of Schubert and Mendelssohn during hallucinations he experienced in February 1854, on which he wrote piano variations (commonly referred to, with some poetic licence, as the Geistervariationen).

Joachim found the finale of the Violin Concerto overly repetitious, a criticism often levelled at Schumann’s late music. Occasionally, the impression of repetitiveness resulted from the composer focusing on a limited number of thematic motifs. On other occasions, it indicates an ill-chosen tempo. In the case of the Violin Concerto, until a new edition appeared in the 1980s, performers tended to take the second movement more slowly than the autograph suggested, while pushing the finale’s polonaise forward.

Despite rehearsing the work with Hannover’s Court Orchestra, Joachim never performed the Concerto in public and recommended that it should not be published until one hundred years after Schumann’s death (a view with which his fellow-executors of the composer’s musical estate, Clara and Brahms, concurred). However, in 1933 Joachim’s great-nieces, the violinists Jelly d’Arányi and Adila Fachiri, claimed to have received instructions from beyond the grave that they should seek out Schumann’s concerto. (On a more prosaic level, they may have been aware that the first movement had been played at the tenth anniversary of the Schumann Gesellschaft in Zwickau three years earlier.) The score was located in the Prussian State Library and, against the wishes of Schumann’s daughter Eugenie, was prepared for publication by Schott, with the assistance of composer Paul Hindemith. The Violin Concerto was premiered before Nazi luminaries Robert Ley and Joseph Goebbels on 26 November 1937, played by Georg Kulenkampff and the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Karl Böhm. What for decades had been considered a failure was now, for political reasons, heralded as a masterpiece—even as a replacement for Mendelssohn’s popular Violin Concerto (which was barred from performance because of the composer’s Jewish roots). Ten days later Yehudi Menuhin—who as a Russian-American Jew had not been allowed to give the premiere in Germany—performed the concerto with piano accompaniment at New York’s Carnegie Hall; he subsequently played the full version with the St Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Menuhin recognized Schumann’s Violin Concerto as the ‘missing link’ between Beethoven and Brahms. He claimed it has the ‘same human warmth, caressing softness, bold manly rhythms, the same lovely arabesque treatment of the violin, the same rich and noble themes and harmonies’. Schumann’s debt to Beethoven can be detected in the way he embeds the solo violin within the orchestra; they work as partners, sharing material. Brahms is forecast in the way Schumann makes motivic connections between movements. We can thus hear these works for violin and orchestra less as marking the end of Schumann’s career, than as a bridge between generations.

from notes by Laura Tunbridge © 2012

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