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Concerto for violin and wind orchestra, Op 12
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Weill’s studies with Busoni formally came to an end in December 1923, by which time Busoni was already so ill with heart and kidney disease that he could not leave the house; he was to die on 27 July 1924. The distraught Weill plunged himself into work. One of the scores that resulted was the Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra, which represents a quantum advance over his music up to this point. Not the least reason for the fascination of this work is the manner in which it pulls together a number of the stylistic influences on the young Weill. The formal clarity of Busoni’s neue Klassizität (new classicality) is readily to be heard. The other main influence in the Concerto is Stravinsky, most obviously in the scoring: Stravinsky’s own Concerto for piano and wind instruments can’t be a direct influence, since it was completed in April 1924, only a month before Weill’s own concerto, but his Symphonies of Wind Instruments of 1920 and the Octet for winds of 1922–3 had already revived the eighteenth-century sonorities of the wind ensemble in Stravinsky’s dispassionate neoclassical style. A less immediate influence is Schoenberg, who took over Busoni’s composition class. The simplification of Weill’s style – to be heard at its most radical when he began to work with Bertolt Brecht in 1927 – can be sensed in embryo here, too.

Weill’s approach to the concerto uses the soloist-versus-orchestra format, especially in the first movement, where it is expressed in the nature of the material allocated to each: the violin uses an increasingly agitated lyrical line to which the wind ensemble responds with angular, brittle rhythmic figures à la Stravinsky. After this heated dialogue, the second movement provides repose – though, unusually, it is divided into three parts, Notturno (where the violin duets with a xylophone), Cadenza (where the duo partner is now a trumpet) and Serenata (with flute), the titles and the music all bringing Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat to mind. The finale, marked Allegretto molto, un poco agitato, owes further debts to Stravinsky, not least its rhythmic unpredictability and a fondness for brittle bitonality; the wind-writing recalls Busoni’s orchestral manner very directly.

Although the score bears a dedication to Joseph Szigeti, the first performance was given by Marcel Darrieux with the Orchestre des Concerts Straram conducted by Walter Straram in Paris, on 11 June 1925. But the violinist who did most to promote the work over the coming years was Stefan Frenkel; indeed, he was to return to Kurt Weill’s music in 1930, when he transcribed seven pieces from Die Dreigroschenoper for violin and piano.

from notes by Martin Anderson © 2005

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Details for CDA67496 track 1
Movement 1: Andante con moto
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-05-49601
Duration
9'20
Recording date
9 December 2004
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Vasks & Weill: Violin Concertos (CDA67496)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: October 2005
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