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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: 21 minutes 43 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 A minor, Op 129
composer
1850; Schumann's own 1853 arrangement for Joseph Joachim of his Cello Concerto, Op 129

Nicht zu schnell  [10'22]
Langsam –  [3'54]
Sehr lebhaft  [7'27]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 129 is an arrangement by the composer of his Op 129 Cello Concerto, with a straightforward recasting of the solo part. This was the first orchestral work Schumann composed after taking up his post as Music Director in Düsseldorf in September 1850 (the Concerto was completed between 11 and 24 October). The move marked a fresh start for the composer, who had spent the first half of the year mostly composing songs. Now, in response to his new public role, his focus changed to large-scale works: the Cello Concerto was swiftly followed by the ‘Rhenish’ Symphony No 3, Op 97, and the Overture to Schiller’s Braut von Messina, Op 100.

After hearing the Concerto played through by the cellist Christian Reimers, Clara praised its Romanticism, verve, freshness and humour; an 1855 review in the Neue Berliner Musikzeitung recognized Schumann as a representative of the so-called new-Romantic school. The work’s novelty lay in its reconfiguration of the relationship between soloist and orchestra, the formal arrangement of the movements and its adventurous harmonies (particularly in the finale). Soloist and orchestra seem at first to exist in separate spheres: the former reflective and rhapsodic, the latter trying to chivvy the music along by introducing livelier themes. Gradually the orchestra takes up fragments of the soloist’s melody, especially its opening ascent, the reappearance of which marks the transition between the second and third movements. By the sonata-rondo finale, soloist and orchestra work more closely together, sharing themes, and indicating that Schumann conceived the concerto on symphonic, rather than purely virtuosic, terms.

Despite the high regard in which the Cello Concerto is held today, Schumann found it impossible to arrange a premiere. Correspondence with Frankfurt-based cellist Robert Bockmühl and with Franz Messer, director of the Cäcilienverein, came to nothing: they thought the work too hard to perform, even after Schumann had reduced the tempo of the first movement and altered the cadenza. The Cello Concerto was not heard in public until 1860, when it was played by Ludwig Ebert at the celebrations in Oldenburg for what would have been the composer’s fiftieth birthday. Schumann had prepared a transcription of the Cello Concerto for violin in 1853, probably in the hope that it would be performed by Joachim. No such event has been recorded, but working on the score did lead Schumann to revise the cello version for publication by Breitkopf und Härtel in 1854.

An early review of the score, by violinist and composer Karl Böhmer, suggested that the Concerto might have been better suited to piano accompaniment. Many critics have questioned Schumann’s skills as an orchestrator (indeed, Dmitri Shostakovich re-orchestrated the Cello Concerto in 1963), but comparing the versions for cello and violin reveals how carefully he arranged soloist and orchestra—particularly in the original. There are no substantive differences between the cello and violin versions: the orchestral score remains the same, with the solo line simply transposed up an octave or two. However, the transcription for violin alters the instrumental colours, or timbre, of the work. In the first version, the relatively low register of the cello means its melodies sit in the middle of the orchestral texture; by contrast, the violin stands proud, above the orchestra. The change is particularly evident in the slow movement, where there is a prominent cello accompaniment: in the Cello Concerto, the two lines entwine; in the violin equivalent, high and low voices are divided.

A fair copy of Schumann’s transcription of the Cello Concerto, bearing annotations by the composer, was discovered among Joachim’s papers in 1987, after which an edition was prepared by Joachim Draheim. It was first performed in Cologne that year, by Saschko Gawriloff with the Westfälischen Symphony Orchestra under Walter Gillessen.

from notes by Laura Tunbridge © 2012

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