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Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor 'Dramatique', Op 21

'Hubay: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2' (CDA67498)
Hubay: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2
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Movement 1: Allegro appassionato
Movement 2: Andante ma non tanto
Movement 3: Allegro con brio – Un poco più vivo

Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor 'Dramatique', Op 21
The Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor Op 21 (‘Concerto dramatique’), dedicated to Hubay’s former teacher Joseph Joachim, was composed in 1884–5 while Hubay was in Brussels, where he was head of violin at the Conservatory. This concerto, the first of Hubay’s four, is written in the late-Romantic style and influenced by contemporary composers and violin-virtuosos. Hubay performed this work in 1908 at a concert to celebrate his fiftieth birthday, when his students Joseph Szigeti, Franz de Vécsey and Stefi Geyer performed his other three violin concertos.

The first movement unfolds a classical Sonata–Allegro form, but with the free use of solo cadenzas, these outbursts of virtuoso passages weaving between the movement’s main themes. The opening theme is introduced by the full orchestra, forte, in military style, preparing the background for the soloist’s entrance. The solo violin embarks on a short and unexpected cadenza in a free tempo, which leads to a mellow melody interrupted by further virtuoso passages. Another cadenza leads to the main theme presented by the violin. The woodwinds announce the second theme in the tonic major against a background of high-pitched trills from the soloist. This theme is elaborated in a fantasy-like development section marked by a dialogue between the soloist and orchestra. The thematic material is recapitulated, incorporating further short cadenzas from the soloist, before the movement concludes with an animated coda.

The contrasting second movement, Andante ma non tanto, is peaceful in character. It follows without interruption and begins with a dialogue between the harp and flute against a soft orchestral background. The soloist, who plays throughout the movement, presents a sweet song-like melody. The pastoral mood is interrupted only by a brief interlude of excitement, after which the main calm tune returns.

The orchestral opening of the third movement, Allegro con brio, presents a short, highly rhythmical motif which repeats itself obstinately until the soloist’s entrance. It is obstructed by short cadenzas, leading to a second theme. A slower, quieter tune is introduced by the orchestra in the major key, repeated by the soloist and then succeeded by an accompaniment of two harps. After the recapitulation of the main theme the solo violin plays the first rhythmical motif over the second movement’s theme played by the orchestra, before the work ends with a fiery coda.

from notes by Amnon Shaham © 2006

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