Viktoria Mullova performs Sibelius Violin Concerto

Sibelius – Violin Concerto (Viktoria Mullova)

Accompanied by the Dutch Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Radio Philharmonic Orchestra), Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova performs Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47. Conductor: Dmitri Slobodeniouk. Recorded during AVROTROS Vrijdagconcert on April 22, 2016 at TivoliVredenburg Utrecht. Published by AVROTROS Klassiek.

Jean Sibelius
Jean Sibelius in 1918. The picture was taken shortly after Sibelius had suffered in the food shortages during the Finnish Civil War of that year. Photo: wikipedia

This is the only concerto that the Finnish composer wrote. It is written in 1904 and scored for solo violin, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani and strings. Traditionally, the work is in three movements:

  1. Allegro moderato (with many tempo changes throughout) in D minor, in 2/2 mostly, with some sections in 6/4 and 4/4 time The first movement, marked Allegro moderato, opens with a cushion of pianissimo strings pulsating gently. The soloist then enters with a characteristic IV-V-I phrase, in D minor G-A-D. The violin announces the theme and is briefly echoed by clarinet, then continues into developmental material. More low woodwind and timpani accompany the soloist in several runs. Almost cadenza-like arpeggios and double stops and more runs are accompanied by more woodwind restatements of the theme. The strings then enter brazenly for the first time, announcing a second theme. Developmental material leads to a cadenza which then opens into the recapitulation. The ‘Allegro molto vivace’ coda ends with restatements of past themes.
  2. Adagio di molto in B-flat major and in 4/4 time The second movement (‘Adagio di molto’) is very lyrical. A short introduction by clarinets and oboes leads into a singing solo part (on the G string) over pizzicato strings. Dissonant accompaniments by the brass dominate the first part of the song-like movement. The middle section has the solo violin playing ascending broken octaves, with the flute as the main voice of the accompaniment, playing descending notes simultaneously.
  3. Allegro, ma non tanto in D major and in 3/4 time It opens with four bars of rhythmic percussion, with the lower strings playing ‘eighth note ‒ sixteenth note ‒ sixteenth note’ figures. The violin boldly enters with the first theme on the G string. This first section offers a complete and brilliant display of violin gymnastics with up-bow staccato double-stops and a run with rapid string-crossing, then octaves, that leads into the first tutti. The second theme is taken up by the orchestra and is almost a waltz; the violin takes up the same theme in variations, with arpeggios and double-stops. Another short section concluding with a run of octaves makes a bridge into a recapitulation of the first theme. Clarinet and low brass introduce the final section. A passage of harmonics in the violin precedes a sardonic passage of chords and slurred double stops. A passage of broken octaves leads to an incredibly heroic few lines of double stops and soaring octaves. A brief orchestral tutti comes before the violin leads things to the finish with a D major scale up, returning down in flatted super-tonic (then repeated). A flourish of ascending slur-separate sixteenth notes, punctuated by a resolute D from the violin and orchestra concludes the concerto.

Viktoria Mullova

Viktoria Mullova
Viktoria Mullova

Viktoria Yurievna Mullova (born 27 November 1959) is a Russian violinist. She is best known for her performances and recordings of a number of violin concerti, compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, and her innovative interpretations of popular and jazz compositions by Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, the Beatles, and others.

Mullova studied at the Central Music School of Moscow and the Moscow Conservatoire. Her extraordinary talent captured international attention when she won first prize at the 1980 Sibelius Competition in Helsinki and the Gold Medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1982 which was followed, in 1983, by her dramatic and much publicized defection to the West. She has since appeared with most of the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors and at the major international festivals. She is now known the world over as a violinist of exceptional versatility and musical integrity. Her curiosity spans the breadth of musical development from baroque and classical right up to the most contemporary influences from the world of fusion and experimental music.

Her interest in the authentic approach has led to collaborations with period instrument bands such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Il Giardino Armonico, Venice Baroque and Orchestre Révolutionaire et Romantique. Viktoria has a great affinity with Bach and his work makes up a large part of her recording catalogue. Her interpretations of Bach have been acclaimed worldwide and led Tim Ashley to write, “To hear Mullova play Bach is, simply, one of the greatest things you can experience…” in the Guardian. Her most recent disc of Bach Concerti with the Accademia Bizantina and Ottavio Dantone has been highly praised and her recording of Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas represents a significant milestone in Viktoria’s personal journey into this music. The recording received 5-star reviews from all over the world and she has embarked on an international several season-long, series of solo Bach recitals.

Her ventures into creative contemporary music started in 2000 with her album “Through the Looking Glass” in which she played world, jazz and pop music arranged for her by Matthew Barley. This exploration continued with her second album “The Peasant Girl” which she has toured around the world with the Matthew Barley ensemble. This project shows a different side to Viktoria as she looks to her peasant roots in the Ukraine and explores the influence of gypsy music on the classical and jazz genres in the 20th Century. Her most recent project, “Stradivarius in Rio” is inspired by her love of Brazilian songs by composers such as Antonio Carlos Jobin, Caetano Veloso and Claudio Nucci. A CD of the same name has been enthusiastically received and she is now presenting the project in planned concerts throughout Europe. As well as her own projects, she has also commissioned works from young composers such as Fraser Trainer, Thomas Larcher and Dai Fujikura.

This rich musical diversity has been celebrated in several high-profile residences, including London’s Southbank, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, Musikfest Bremen, Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and Helsinki Music Festival.

Highlights of her 15/16 season include a tour of Asia with the BBC Philharmonic and appearances with Orchestre de Paris, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, London Symphony, Geneva Chamber Orchestra and the Bergen Philharmonic amongst others. Viktoria will also give duo recitals with Katia Labèque throughout Europe and South America.

Mullova’s extensive discography for Philips Classics and Onyx Classics has attracted many prestigious awards. Her recording of the Vivaldi Concertos with Il Giardino Armonico and directed by Giovanni Antonini, won the Diapason D’Or of the Year award for 2005 and her recording featuring Beethoven’s Op 12 No 3 and Kreutzer Sonatas with Kristian Bezuidenhout won immense critical acclaim. Other discs have included the Schubert Octet with the Mullova Ensemble, “Recital” with Katia Labèque, Bach Sonatas with Ottavio Dantone and “6 Solo Sonatas and Partitas” by Johann Sebastian Bach. Mullova’s most recent all-Prokofiev disc (released in August 2015) has already received critical acclaim.

Viktoria either plays on her ‘Jules Falk’ 1723 Stradivarius or a Guadagnini violin.

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