Hyperion Records

Violin Concerto in D minor
1896; commissioned by the Norwich Festival and first performed by Tivadar Nachéz, who wrote the cadenzas, on 7 October 1896

'Cliffe & Erlanger: Violin Concertos' (CDA67838)
Cliffe & Erlanger: Violin Concertos
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Movement 1: Allegro moderato – Cadenza – Molto tranquillo – Molto allegro
Movement 2: Andante (poco lento)
Movement 3: Lento (recitativo) – Allegro energico – Poco andante (tranquillo) – Allegro

Violin Concerto in D minor
When his Violin Concerto was commissioned by the Norwich Festival of 1896 Cliffe was already the composer of two noted symphonies. The concerto was performed by the Budapest-born violinist Tivadar Nachéz on 7 October. The first London performance was given by Nachéz at a Philharmonic Society concert six months later, on 7 April 1897. After its initial success it remained unheard for nearly a century, until revived by Philippe Graffin and the Lambeth Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Fifield, in May 2007.

Completed in the Swiss valley of the Engadine, surrounded by high mountains, only weeks before its first performance, the first movement is launched with a sixteen-bar statement of the first subject, immediately repeated by the soloist. In fact there are three ideas, the second being a romantically rising tune and the third a variation on the first. The tug between rhythm and melody builds to a bold climax quickly followed by the lovely, lyrical second subject (molto espressione—tranquillo ma espressivo), the key now F major, the relative major, which Prout had doubtless taught him to be the orthodox key for a second subject. The development section which follows is worked on at some length before the first subject returns. The extended cadenza which Nachéz wrote for the work leads to an idyllic statement of the second subject before a dazzling coda reviews earlier themes.

The expressive main theme of the ternary slow movement is heard on the solo violin at the outset over quietly muted strings. The tune passes to the woodwind and is decorated by the soloist’s running semiquavers. The soloist has a second theme—really an extension of what we have already heard, an idea that will return at the end of the third movement—before the middle section presents a new idea first heard as a dialogue between cellos and horn. At a climax the second idea from the first section is heard again, and the music returns to the opening theme and fades to a crepuscular close.

‘Appassionata, quasi fantasia’ is Cliffe’s instruction to the soloist at the beginning of the finale, for the three-bar introduction of Lento violin recitative (lasting some forty seconds on this recording), as if musing before the Allegro energico of the Hungarian-sounding first subject. The wide-spanning second subject follows. During the development there are passing references to the slow movement before all the material, including the opening recitative, is reviewed in turn. The soloist soars through flashing headlong passagework in the brilliant coda, underlining the gypsy feel of the music, but the wraith of the slow movement is still heard on the trumpets and horns before the throwaway close. Published in an arrangement for violin and piano by Schott of Mainz, the concerto is dedicated: ‘à son cher ami Sir Arthur Sullivan de son élève dévoué’.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2011

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