- Violin Concerto
- Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
The violin concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven and Alban Berg are, on the surface, more different from one another than two compositions could ever probably be. Yet both stand as titans within the violin repertoire and broke incredibly significant new ground. Beethoven's lone "Violin Concerto" was different than anything that came before it and set the tone for virtually every concerto written after it for nearly a century. By its sheer length alone, Beethoven tossed out the rule book, but he also put forth a finished product that did not focus on virtuosity for the sake of virtuosity, though many violinists in his time found the work to be unplayable. By contrast, Alban Berg's concerto, which he wrote at the very end of his life, breaks new ground by being the first violin concerto to be written using a twelve-tone row. Unlike other serial composers, Berg gave hints at tonality throughout his concerto; although it is, strictly speaking, an atonal work, these hints offer listeners something to hold onto and guide them through the powerful work. Straddling these two landmark compositions on this Orfeo album is violinist Arabella Steinbacher and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln under Andris Nelsons. In both concertos, Steinbacher's supple and elegant technique guides listeners to focus not on the challenges of the music in front of her, but the deep musical messages each imparts. Interpretively, Steinbacher's Berg is intense, dark, and engaging. Her tempo selections in the Beethoven, however, are very laid-back, and for some listeners they may come across as entirely too slow.