Richibi’s Weblog

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a couple of violin concertos‏

a violin concerto is of course the same thing as a piano
concerto with a violin however where the piano would
be, performing histrionics before an orchestra for the
length of several movements, traditionally three, usually
fast, slow, fast, for reasons of presentation psychology,
a fast, arresting introduction, then a slow, languorous
beat to forcefully display an alternative musical sensibility,
then fast again for a big, splashy, electrifying finish, leaving
no question about outsized either compositional or
interpretive capabilities, or rather, about outright,
manifest, wizardries 
Beethoven and Tchaikowsky give us again the big ones,
Rachmaninoff, essentially a pianist, didn’t write for the
violin, composing to be able to play himself his own works, 
superbly in fact, even definitively, his performances of his
piano concertos are matchless 
Anne-Sophie Mutter, one of the brightest stars in
Herbert von Karajan‘s Deutsche Grammophon galaxy,
the company that he put on the international map in
the sixties to cast, magisterially, the richness of our
musical heritage upon that unsuspecting decade, and  
beyond, still commands rapt attention internationally 
though her mentor died in 1989, leaving the world
with less charisma, I might add, less glamour and
authority, less power and panache, in his musical
wake, though other concert luminaries shine
illustriously still, only without now the power of his
charged magnetism, his inspired musical sensibility
and the consummate ability to market his own and
his artistic community’s wares to an often otherwise
distracted audience
here he is a divinity overseeing the motion of the sun,
the moon, the stars in a universe of his own creation,
he is extraordinary, he is composed, supremely
confident, while his eyelids reveal the reaches of his
Anne-Sophie Mutter is impeccable, evidently a star
pupil in her master’s stable 
Sarah Chang, a mere child, is no less dazzling in her
piece, an old spirit in the guise of a sprite, she polishes
off a fiendish Tchaikowsky, an electrifying work, with
the invaluable help of her own conductor, the eminent,
Charles Dutoit, you can see it in her trusting, ever
soulful intermittent gaze 
be assured you will be dazzled 
the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which accompanies
her, is a symphony orchestra of the Netherlands, considered
one of the very best in the world  



Tchaikowsky piano concerto no 1 in B flat minor, opus 23‏

the piano concerto no 3 of Rachmaninoff was written in 1909,
a hundred years after Beethoven’s piano concerto no 5, the
, 1811, to the attentive ear the intervening years
are present in the evolution of the music

the most evident structural alteration, sensed now rather
than consciously heard, though this change would’ve been
glaring during that period, is the often elastic rhythm, the
hesitation, the reserve, the recapitulation of forces before
a surging onslaught, before a turbulent apotheosis, as a
movement returns to its fundamental tempo

the beat ever essentially reigns

this will change

let me point out here that this rallentando wouldn’t’ve been
even conceivable before the invention of the piano, which
happened around the time of Mozart, the harpsichord before
that couldn’t do that, it was confined, you might say, to
only rallentandon’ts, the harpsichord didn’t provide the
possibility of resounding a note, neither of moderating of
course its volume, which the piano, by very definition, did,
“piano” means “soft”, “pianoforte” “soft loud”, the very
foundational elements of the instrument, the elaboration
of beat would thus perforce henceforward play a major role

between Rachmaninoff and Beethoven, these two pillars of
our musical Trinity, there is the mighty, the third supreme
immortal, Tchaikowsky, a Late Romantic, of all composers
perhaps to us the most familiar, his piano concerto no 1 in
B flat minor, opus 23, written in 1875, is the concerto most
associated with my generation, Van Cliburn was a rock star
then, after winning the Tchaikowsky Piano Competition in
Moscow, 1958, an achievement of the very highest order
for an American in that historical context

and his performance of it was spectacular

the most salient aspect of Tchaikowsky‘s music to my mind
is the charged dramatics, which is not surprising when you
consider that he wrote the music for “The Nutcracker”,
“Swan Lake”, musical story-telling, you’ll note he evokes
this dramatic tension by sustaining, withholding, then
unleashing the beat before a storm of prestidigitatori

Tchaikowsky tells grandiose stories, Rachmaninoff opens
an anguished heart, Beethoven speaks with God, they are
our foundational musical poets, our sonic oracles

the formidable Emil Gilels, 1916 – 1985, plays Tchaikowsky,
he is electric, he is epic, he is extraordinary

Alfred Wallenstein conducts