Part 1: Allegro non troppo
Part 2: Cadenza
Part 3: Adagio – Allegro con fuoco
A finely sculpted orchestral introduction exploits the ‘tragic’ possibilities of the A minor tonality to set out three powerful and memorable themes, then subsides into relative stasis as if becalmed. The violin first enters with reflective rising arpeggios, but is soon giving vent to full-blooded virtuoso writing before it bends to the matter in hand, developing the substance of the orchestra’s exposition as an anxious first subject. A transition of brilliant passage-work leads to a yearningly lyrical second subject in C major. A passionate development ensues with the violin taking the lead in soloistic pyrotechnics, followed by a fairly orthodox recapitulation and coda save that the violin continues to expatiate against this background in its most flamboyant vein.
The orchestra breaks off for the cadenza, which begins with the opening theme of the work but develops into a magnificent polyphonic meditation, by no means simply a display piece, upon the first movement’s materials. A few bars of orchestra link into the Adagio, in which the violin first sings an almost operatic solo against a hushed pizzicato accompaniment. It modulates to C major to sing a hauntingly beautiful melody, adapted by Vieuxtemps from the aria ‘Où peut-on être mieux qu’au sein de sa famille?’ in André Grétry’s opera Lucille. After various episodes of touching pathos (here, as throughout, Vieuxtemps’s plangent scoring for woodwind is noteworthy), the ‘Grétry’ melody appears transfigured in A major, and the orchestra then hurries us into the A minor finale. Marked Allegro con fuoco, this is more of a bravura coda than a movement in its own right, a brief effusion alluding to the themes of the first movement while hurrying us to a triumphant close.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010