Julia Fischer plays Dvořák's Violin Concerto

Dvořák – Violin Concerto (Julia Fischer)

Accompanied by the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, German classical violinist and pianist Julia Fischer performs Antonín Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53 (B.108). Conductor: David Zinman. Recorded during the BBC Proms 2014. Encore: Paul Hindemith – Violin Sonata in G Minor, Op. 11 No. 6, the 3rd movement.

The Violin Concerto in A minor is considered one of the masterpieces of Dvořák’s so-called Slavic period. It was written in 1879, in close proximity to his first series of Slavonic Dances, the Czech Suite, the Slavonic Rhapsodies and Symphony No. 6 in D major, with which it shares its compelling folkloric melodies and overall positive expression.

The work was premiered in Prague in 1883 by the Czech violinist and composer František Ondříček (29 April 1857 –12 April 1922), who also gave the Vienna and London premieres. Today it remains an important work in the violin repertoire.

The concerto’s structure is the classical three movements of fast-slow-fast.

  1. Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Adagio ma non troppo
  3. Finale: Allegro giocoso ma non troppo
Joseph Joachim
Joseph Joachim (28 June 1831 – 15 August 1907) was a Hungarian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher. A close collaborator of Johannes Brahms, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant violinists of the 19th century. Photo: wikipedia

Dvořák was inspired to write the concerto after meeting the Hungarian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher Joseph Joachim (28 June 1831 – 15 August 1907) in 1878, and composed the work with the intention of dedicating it him. However, when he finished the concerto in 1879, Joachim became skeptical about it. Joachim was a strict classicist and objected, inter alia, to Dvořák’s abrupt truncation of the first movement’s orchestral tutti. Joachim also didn’t like the fact that the recapitulation was cut short and that it led directly to the slow second movement. It is also assumed that he was upset with the persistent repetition found in the third movement. However, Joachim never said anything outright and instead claimed to be editing the solo part. He never actually performed the piece in public.

Tonhalle Orchester Zürich

Tonhalle Orchester Zurich
Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. Photo: hardstudios.ch

One of Switzerland’s leading orchestras, the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich (Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich) is a Swiss symphony orchestra based in Zürich. Its principal residence is the Neue Tonhalle, a concert hall in Zurich. It was founded in 1868.

The first principal conductor of the Tonhalle-Orchester was Friedrich Hegar, who served from its founding in 1868 through 1906. His successor, Volkmar Andreae, served an even longer tenure as chief conductor, from 1906 to 1949, the longest in the orchestra’s history, directing around 1,300 concerts with the orchestra. Andreae’s tenure featured the first family concerts by the orchestra, beginning in 1928. In 1947, the city of Zürich formalised performances of concerts for young people by the orchestra, as part of the agreements for city funding and subsidy of the orchestra. More recently, during the chief conductorship of David Zinman, the orchestra established its “tonhalleLATE” series of late-evening concerts that combine shorter-length symphonic concerts with socializing afterwards to electronic music.

In the interregnum between the chief conductorships of Hiroshi Wakasugi and David Zinman, Claus Peter Flor served as principal guest conductor from 1991 to 1995. Zinman became chief conductor in 1995, and remained in the post until July 2014, the orchestra’s longest serving chief conductor since Andreae. The orchestra made its debut at The Proms in September 2003 with Zinman, and his final concert as chief conductor was a July 2014 Proms appearance. During his tenure, Zinman introduced elements of Historically informed performance into the orchestra’s playing style and greatly expanded their recording presence. In October 2012, the orchestra named Lionel Bringuier as its next chief conductor, as of the 2014-2015 season, with an initial contract of 4 years. Concurrent with the advent of Bringuier as chief conductor in the 2014-2015 season, Esa-Pekka Salonen began his tenure in the newly created post of Creative Chair of the orchestra.

The orchestra and Andreae made a small number of recordings in the late 1920s, of music of Vivaldi and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In 1947, Franz Lehár recorded a number of 78-rpm discs of his music with the orchestra for Decca Records. The discs were issued in the U.S. by London Records, initially in the 78-rpm format and then on LPs. Some of the recordings are now available through Naxos Records on CD. The orchestra’s recording profile has expanded most prominently during the tenure of Zinman, with many recordings for such labels as Arte Nova and RCA. In particular, his recordings for Arte Nova of the complete Beethoven symphonies achieved notable renown, as one of the earliest recorded cycles to use the new Jonathan Del Mar edition of the symphonies, with observation of Beethoven’s metronome markings.

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