Movement 1: Introduction quasi fantasia: Moderato –
Movement 2: Scherzo: Presto
Movement 3: Adagio, moderato
Movement 4: Allegro con fuoco
This composition follows the structural plan of Liszt’s piano concertos. It has four movements, instead of the usual three, performed with almost no break between them. The ‘Introduction quasi Fantasia’ presents the main theme in the orchestra. This subject has two contrary motifs: the first is based on a descending broken chord ending on a long note, after which comes a dotted, ‘jumpy’ rhythm. The orchestra ends its exposition with a reminder of the first motif. The soloist repeats the first motif and continues with technically demanding passagework. The element of fantasy is enhanced by the sudden changes between the quiet melodic line (based on the main theme) and the rapid virtuoso passages.
The second movement Scherzo comes without a break in fast triple time, with staccato notes first in the strings, then on the flutes. The entrance of the solo violin brings a new theme in double time. The orchestra soon introduces a new theme in a major key, also in triple time, but the soloist continues his theme and persuades the orchestra to join him before they once more go their separate ways. Finally they are reunited, the orchestra in agreement with the soloist.
A short pause leads into the Adagio third movement, which begins with a long chord above which the clarinet plays a solo passage reminiscent of the theme of the first movement. There is an unexpected outburst from the orchestra before the entrance of the soloist with a calm, romantic tune characterized by its dotted rhythm; this is repeated in different keys. The expressively melodic middle section of the movement exploits the violin’s highest register, before a recapitulation of the earlier solo material.
The final movement—Allegro con fuoco—starts with a timpani roll before the strings introduce the syncopated, chromatic main theme in fugato. The soloist enters with descending trills and unaccompanied cadenza-like passages before reaching the main theme, which serves as the basic musical element of this movement. There follows a cadenza of fearsome difficulty that recalls thematic material from all three previous movements, before the violinist plays the main subject once more. Just before the end, against the main theme in the orchestra, the soloist plays a beautiful contrapuntal melody, before exchanging roles with the orchestra in a rapid coda.
from notes by Amnon Shaham © 2003