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The work is deeply lyrical. Barber dispenses with the conventional orchestral tutti, giving the opening first subject directly to the soloist. The delicacy of the orchestral scoring by no means precludes contrapuntal interest. The second subject, presented first by the clarinet, bears the distinctive stamp of American folk music with its fourths and a dotted snap. The material is developed extensively, with opportunities provided for the soloist to melt the heart, rather than merely to dazzle. A brief cadenza marks the start of the coda.
The character of the expressive slow movement is laid down by the oboe, with the melodic line taken up subsequently throughout the orchestra. The soloist is obliged to wait until the arrival of the second subject to make his presence felt. The cadenza at the conclusion of the development section is accompanied by long, held notes in the 1st horn and 1st bassoon, demanding the lung-power of a synchronised swimmer.
The Finale is a true moto perpetuo, similar in concept, if not in style, to the Finale of Ravel’s Violin Sonata. The orchestra, too, has to maintain full alertness and vigilance. The story that Barber asked a student, Herbert Baumel, to learn the solo part and play it to him within two hours appears to be true. It seems to have been only up to bar 94 (1’48” see Barbara Heyman, Samuel Barber: The Composer and his Music, 193-4), but that was enough for Barber to proclaim that it was playable. The final bars introduce even faster notes and the work concludes with a dazzling arpeggio disappearing into the upper atmosphere.
from notes by Adam Chambers © 2011
|Walton & Barber: Violin Concertos|
Walton’s Violin Concerto was composed during a stay at the stunning Villa Cimbrone on Italy's Amalfi coast, and reflects this environment in different ways—some more apparent than others. The piece has endured as one of his most popular works, and ...» More