- Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
What began with something of a disappointing premiere has since become a cornerstone of the violin concerto repertoire. Beethoven's "Concerto in D," his only surviving concerto for the instrument, is a marvel of innovation and elegance wrapped into a single package. Building on the innovation is Gidon Kremer's landmark 1980 performance with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Kremer's playing of the solo part is as edgy and provocative as would be expected from the trailblazing violinist. His execution is supple and nimble, while his interpretation is excitingly aggressive and driven. What truly sets this performance apart from those that came before it, however, is not just in Kremer's impeccable playing of Beethoven's writing. Beethoven left no cadenzas for the violin concerto in his own hand. Many notable violinists have created their own contributions. Kremer, always giving listeners the unexpected, turned to Russian composer Alfred Schnittke for a unique, intriguing set of cadenzas. Schnittke's writing borrows themes and motives not only from Beethoven's concerto, but several of the great concertos of the 19th and 20th centuries, making this performance almost a survey of the progression of the violin concerto since Beethoven. Though Schnittke's harmonic language is quite different than Beethoven's, the cadenzas do not seem out of place. Kremer weaves the two contrasting approaches together into a cohesive whole. Listeners who do not already have this performance in their collection would do well to pick up this Newton reissue.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The catalog is overflowing with terrific recordings of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. So why might one entertain acquiring this 1980 Kremer version? It's a perfectly acceptable reading, thoughtfully organized and very well played. It does possess one unique feature which may tip the balance one way or the other. Kremer interpolates the first and last movement cadenzas especially composed for him by his friend and colleague, Alfred Schnittke. Have no doubt, these cadenzas are pure Schnittke, that is to say harmonically and coloristically quite modern not to mention filled with transmogrified references to other Beethoven works, even other composers , a re-imagining if you will. Schnittke's approach, which he referred to as "polystylism" is quite at odds with Beethoven's classic conception. The controversy which greeted this disc upon its initial release has never really subsided. Adventurous listeners may find this invigorating while traditionalists will probably disapprove. Sir Neville and ASMF provide A-1 support. The Philips derived recording is airy and full bodied with a natural perspective afforded the soloist. Annotations are quite informative and well written. Recommended for those with an open mind; purists may want to sample first.