Hyperion Records

Violin Concerto No 5 in D minor, Op 35
David’s Violin Concerto No 5 in D minor, Op 35 is—at least in its first two movements—a work of character, deploying an orchestra which (unlike that of No 4) includes trombones. Indeed, it begins Allegro serioso with a substantial orchestral tutti establishing an atmosphere of Sturm und Drang through its rising, thrusting opening theme with prominent dotted rhythm. There is a plaintive second idea, and then a chorale-like phrase on the horns introduces the violin’s first entry, with an espressivo variant of the opening theme. Throughout this work, in fact, David uses the orchestra in a more atmospheric and colourful way than in No 4, although it is still outshone by the marvellously conceived solo part. The soloist now embarks on a full-blown counter-exposition, finding pathos where the orchestra found drama, but also plenty of opportunities for bravura turns of phrase. The soloist then moves on to a more feminine dolce theme that adds a new element, and rhapsodizes up to a stern D minor tutti, marked by the first entry of the trombones. From here on begins the development, in which the violin takes up a variant of the dolce theme before re-working all the subjects with continuous bravura. The stormy, harried emotional atmosphere mounts until the dolce tune returns, sweetly indeed, in A major. Recapitulation blends with an ever more brilliant coda, the climax coming with the violin singing out ff largamente over dramatic string tremolos before the stentorian final bars.

A romantic horn solo opens the G major Adagio, leading the violin to share a touching cantilena of elevated nostalgia. Such music might be described as sentimental, but it is also beautiful, and charmingly conceived in its orchestral setting. It rises to a passionate protestation, and then an ad libitum link (it is too short to call it a cadenza) leads into the final cadence, which segues directly into the finale. Starting with excited orchestral preparation, this Vivace movement is a headlong, breathless dance that finds us seemingly among Mendelssohn’s fairies, with the violin the most brilliant elfin dancer of all. The orchestra adds enthusiastic assent to its caperings. A con grazia episode in A major moves in a slightly statelier measure, but the sense of fun is never lost. A larger tutti introduces a broader espressivo tune in F major, but the principal Peaseblossom dance soon returns. The con grazia subject comes back in D major (as if to prove the movement a sonata-rondo); and then for a moment we hear a tender reminiscence of the Adagio’s cantilena. Only for a moment, however, for the fairies are off again, into a molto animato coda of irresistible élan. This scintillating, will-o’-the-wisp affair, with its echoes of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream music, is such an original and delightful invention that one is amazed this concerto is not better known. It may be ‘violinist’s music’, but it is an example of the genre that we can all enjoy.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010

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