Aaron Rosand, Violin
Robert Koenig, Piano

By Lawrence Budmen

"Adagio," K.261 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
"Rondo," K.373 (1756-1791)

In 1776 Mozart penned an Adagio in E for the Italian violinist Antonio Brunetti as a substitute slow movement for "Violin Concerto No.5 in A Major," K.219 - the "Turkish" concerto. Brunetti was Mozart's successor as concertmaster of the Salzburg Court Orchestra. Five years later, in Vienna, Mozart wrote a gracious Rondo in C for Brunetti. The tempo marking Allegretto grazioso aptly describes the Rondo's aristocratic elegance.

"Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano," Opus 47 "Kreutzer"
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Beethoven referred to his A Major Violin Sonata as a "Concerto-Sonata." The score has an almost orchestral grandeur and symphonic stature. With this work, the sonata genre was changed forever. Beethoven abandoned the finely chiseled elegance and intimacy of the salon for the majesty of the concert hall. The sonata was composed so rapidly, according to Beethoven's friend Ferdinand Ries, that, at the premiere on May 24, 1803 in Vienna, the mulatto violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower and Beethoven were sight reading from sheets of music paper on which the ink was still wet. Bridgetower was the son of Frederich de August, the page of Prince Esterhazy. Apparently a pupil of Haydn, Bridgetower had been a great success in London, where he performed in the Haydn concerts in the 1790's organized by Johann Solomon. Bridgetower visited his mother in Dresden in 1802 (where he was brother was a court cellist) and, later, gave the premiere performance of Beethoven's new sonata in Vienna. 

When the score was published in 1805, Beethoven dedicated the work to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, a pupil of the Mannheim composer Anton Stamitz and first professor of violin at the new Paris Conservatoire. Beethoven had heard Kreutzer play in 1798 in Vienna, when he visited as part of the entourage of Count Bernadotte, Napoleon's ambassador. Beethoven wrote to his publisher Simrock on October 4, 1804 "This able violinist is a dear good fellow who, while here, gave me great pleasure. I find his undemanding and natural behavior greatly preferable to the superficiality of most virtuosi." Kreutzer never played the work. Strangely, his only legacy was Beethoven's immortalizing his name through this sonata.

The bold opening Adagio and the furious Presto of the first movement make clear Beethoven's symphonic intentions. This is music that tests the limits of instrumental technique. The second movement is a songful Andante in F - four variations on a syncopated theme. The Rondo-Finale was originally composed for the Violin Sonata, Opus 30, No.1 - a score that was dedicated to the Tsar. The tarantella like theme (in 6/8) has an inexorable sense of momentum. The entire score reaffirms the instrumental sonata in a bold, innovative manner. (This is Beethoven the Titan.) Beethoven's music continues to be Mount Olympus for violin virtuosi. 

"Poeme," Opus 25 Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)

Ernest Chausson was the most gifted of the post Cesar Franck composers in 19th century France. His early death, in a bicycle accident, deprived the world of a potentially great creative talent. His "Symphony in E-flat" and "Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet" are masterpieces that deserve more frequent performances. Chausson's "Poeme" was composed in 1896 and dedicated to the great Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaye, who performed the work's world premiere. Although based on a story by the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev (a tale of a musician's unrequited love, travels to the Far East, and heady intoxication in Asian wine), Chausson did not want to encumber the performing artist with a program. The composer wrote "There is no description, no story, nothing but sensation." This beautiful, ultra-Romantic score opens and closes quietly with a more agitated middle section. This is quintessentially Romantic music with a decidedly French accent - at once elegant and passionate. 

"Preghiera" Sergei Rachmaninoff
Arr. Fritz Kreisler

Sergei Rachmaninoff was one of the world's great piano virtuosos. His many preludes and solo piano works were composed for his European and American tours. In this rare transcription the great Viennesse violinist-composer Fritz Kreisler has taken the thematic material of the second movement of Rachmaninoff's beloved "Piano Concerto No.2" and turned it into an elegant salon piece for violin and piano - the perfect melding of Russian passion and Vienesse schmaltz. 

Modest Moussorgsky (1839-1881)
Arr. Rachmaninoff 

Modest Mussorgsky, a member of Russia's Mighty Five (composers of profoundly nationalistic tendencies) was one of music's most singularly original voices. Best known for his great opera "Boris Godunov" and the piano cycle "Pictures at an Exhibition" (later orchestrated by Maurice Ravel, Leopold Stokowski, and numerous others), Moussorgsky left many scores unfinished at his death. One of these was the comic opera "Sorochinsky Fair," based on a story by Gogol. The composer worked on the score from 1874 through 1880. Cesar Cui (also one of the great Five) orchestrated and completed the work in 1917. The lively Russian dance Hopak has become widely popular in Cui's colorful orchestral version. Rachmaninoff's virtuosic transcription has been championed by Nathan Milstein and numerous other violin virtuosi. 

"Valse Sentimentale"
Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Arr. Jacques Press

The "Valse Sentimentale" was one of Tchaikovsky's "Six Morceaux," Opus 19. Originally composed for solo piano in 1882, this waltz has long been a popular salon piece. Indeed it seems to have been tailor made for the sweet tones of the modern concert violin. 

March from "The Love for Three Oranges"
Sergei Prokofieff (1891-1953) 

Although renowned as a pianist and composer of film, orchestral, and ballet scores, Prokofieff found success as a composer of opera and Music Theater works to be elusive. He devoted much of his creative energies (throughout his career) to writing operas. Posthumously, "War and Peace" and the satirical "Love for Three Oranges" have been acclaimed as masterpieces. (The Russian conductor Valery Gergiev continues to make a case for "The Fiery Angel" and "Semyon Kotko.") "The Love for Three Oranges" was composed in 1919. During an American tour, Prokofieff conducted the unsuccessful premiere at Chicago's Civic Opera House. The famous March has long had a musical life outside of its original operatic context. (It even served as theme music for an early television series.) Jascha Heifetz popularized the music as a violin piece.

"Zigeunerweisen" ("Gypsy Airs"), Opus 20
Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908)

The Spanish violin virtuoso extraordinaire Pablo de Sarasate was among the most highly prized string players of the 19th century. Bruch, Saint-Saens, Lalo, Dvorak, and Wieniawski all dedicated works to him. He was also a formidable composer and arranger. His Spanish dances and fantasies on music from Bizet's "Carmen" and Gounod's "Faust" are bravura pieces that only the most gifted virtuosos need attempt.

His "Zigeunerweisen" ("Gypsy Airs") was published in 1878 in Leipzig. Following in the tradition of Johannes Brahms, Joseph Joachim, Franz Liszt, and Antonin Dvorak, this is original music that evokes the Gypsy fire of Romany life. The work is in three parts: a Magyar recitative; a haunting, lyrical middle section; and a bravura finale with dashing left hand pizzicato passage work. In the words of the violinist Sarah Chang "Sarasate makes the violinist jump hoops - he really understood what the violin could do." Here is one of the truly great violin showpieces.

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