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Violin Concerto in D minor, Op 17
1902; first performed by Hugo Heermann

'Cliffe & Erlanger: Violin Concertos' (CDA67838)
Cliffe & Erlanger: Violin Concertos
Movement 1: Allegro moderato e maestoso – Andantino con moto – Cadenza
Movement 2: Andante – Cadenza – Adagio
Movement 3: Allegro molto – Allegro poco più moderato – Vivo

Violin Concerto in D minor, Op 17
D’Erlanger’s Violin Concerto was the work of a significant emerging composer when it was written in 1902. It was first performed by Hugo Heermann, then still the long-standing professor of violin at the Hoch’sche Konservatorium in Frankfurt, and he played it in Holland and Germany before it was taken up by Fritz Kreisler and given its British premiere at the Philharmonic Society concert at Queen’s Hall on 12 March 1903. Published by Rahter of Hamburg in 1903, it was later played at Bournemouth in 1909, 1920 and 1928, as well as at the Queen’s Hall Proms (by Albert Sammons) in 1921.

Notable for the transparency of its scoring, d’Erlanger’s concerto launches straight into the first subject, announced by the soloist in triple- and double-stopped chords without an orchestral introduction. The soloist soars away in running semiquavers, eventually presenting a more lyrical version of the theme and immediately moving on to the singing second subject. A succession of rising trills by the soloist leads to a cadenza-like unaccompanied middle-section before the first subject reappears in the orchestra. The lyrical second subject returns in various keys and with a short coda, Allegro animando, the horns herald the close and a brief gesture of dismissal.

The composer’s treatment of the orchestra—with constantly varied touches of instrumental colour, and often with only two or three instruments playing, typically answering each other—is particularly characteristic in the gorgeous slow movement. A nine-bar introduction creates a nocturnal atmosphere with bell-like notes on flute and harp over hushed strings. The cor anglais then sings the plaintive first subject, immediately repeated and extended by the soloist. After thirty-one bars it is taken up by the clarinet, the soloist now accompanying with arpeggiated chords across the strings. The second subject follows on the strings with rising decorations by the soloist. The first theme is repeated, now in F minor, with muted accompanying strings. A haunting romantic motif is heard on the horns and will be heard several times before the end. Eventually a cadenza-like passage of running semiquavers presages the return of the cor anglais and a brief orchestral climax before, musing on the horn’s romantic motif, the music fades on the soloist’s long-held pianissimo top C.

The finale comes as a great surprise—a diaphanous scherzando, all fairy gossamer. The music falls into a succession of sixteen related short episodes. The first theme starts in 9/8 and proceeds in 6/8, its leaping triplet motion giving it the feel of a saltarello. A contrasted theme in 12/8 appears in the strings in the fifth episode, and in the next the first theme of the first movement returns in staccato crochets. The writing for the soloist is brilliant throughout, though d’Erlanger does not feel the need for another cadenza.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2011

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67838 track 3
Allegro molto – Allegro poco più moderato – Vivo
Recording date
1 April 2010
Recording venue
BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales
Recording producer
Adrian Peacock
Recording engineer
David Hinitt
Hyperion usage
  1. Cliffe & Erlanger: Violin Concertos (CDA67838)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: February 2011
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