Accompanied by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the German violinist Julia Fischer plays Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. Conductor: Myung-Whun Chung. Recorded during the Saint-Denis Festival on June 19, 2014. Encore: Sarabande, one of the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 is Felix Mendelssohn’s last large orchestral work. It forms an important part of the violin repertoire and is one of the most popular and most frequently performed violin concertos of all time.
The concerto consists of three movements with the following tempo markings:
- Allegro molto appassionato (E minor). The concerto opens with the almost immediate entry of the solo violin, playing the very tune in E minor that gave Mendelssohn no peace. Following a bravura of rapidly ascending notes, the opening theme is then restated by the orchestra. There is then a frenetic chromatic transition passage as the music subsides and modulates into a tranquil second subject theme in G major. The melody is initially played by the woodwinds with the soloist providing a pedal note on an open G string. The tune is played by the solo violin itself before a short codetta ends the exposition section of the opening movement. The opening two themes are then combined in the development section, where the music builds up to the innovative cadenza, which Mendelssohn wrote out in full rather than allowing the soloist to improvise. The cadenza builds up speed through rhythmic shifts from quavers to quaver-triplets and finally to semiquavers, which require ricochet bowing from the soloist. This serves as a link to the recapitulation, where the opening melody is played by the orchestra, accompanied by the continuing ricochet arpeggios by the soloist. During the recapitulation, the opening themes are repeated with the second theme being played in the E major before returning to E minor for the closing of the movement. The music gathers speed into the coda, which is marked “Presto”, before a variant of the original chromatic transition passage ends the first movement.
- Andante (C major). The bassoon sustains its B from the final chord of the first movement before moving up a semitone to middle C. This serves as a key change from the E minor opening movement into the lyrical C major slow movement. The movement is in ternary form and is reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s own Songs Without Words. The theme to the darker, middle section in A minor is first introduced by the orchestra before the violin then takes up both the melody and the accompaniment simultaneously. The tremulous accompaniment requires nimble dexterity from the soloist before the music returns to the main lyrical C major theme, this time leading towards a serene conclusion.
- Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace (E major). Following the 2nd movement, there is a brief fourteen-bar transitional passage in E minor for solo violin and strings only. This leads into the lively and effervescent finale, the whole of which is in E major and whose opening is marked by a trumpet fanfare. This movement is in sonata rondo form with an opening theme requiring fast passage work from the soloist. The opening exposition leads into a brief second B major theme which is played by the soloist and builds to a series of rapidly ascending and descending arpeggios, reminiscent of the cadenza from the first movement. The orchestra then plays a variation of the opening melody, after which the music moves into a short development section in G major. The recapitulation is essentially similar to the exposition, apart from the addition of a counter-melody in the strings. The second theme is repeated, this time in the home key of E Major. There is almost a small cadenza near the end of the movement when the woodwinds play the main tune against prolonged trills from the solo violin. The concerto then concludes with a frenetic coda.
Julia Fischer (born 15 June 1983 in Munich, Germany) is a German classical violinist and pianist. Her mother, Viera Fischer (née Krenková), came from the German minority in Slovakia and immigrated from Košice, Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia), to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1972. Her father, Frank-Michael Fischer, a mathematician who was born in East Germany, moved in the same year from Eastern Saxony to West Germany.
She began her studies before her fourth birthday when she received her first violin lesson from Helge Thelen. A few months later she started studying the piano with her mother.
She began her formal violin education at the Leopold Mozart Conservatory in Augsburg under the tutelage of Lydia Dubrowskaya. At the age of nine, Julia Fischer was admitted to the Munich Academy of Music, where she continues to work with Ana Chumachenco.
Fischer is recognized worldwide for possessing a talent of uncommon ability and as an exceptionally gifted artist, reflected in the numerous awards and effusive reviews she has received for both her live performances and recordings, including being named “Artist of the Year” at The Gramophone Awards in 2007 and “Instrumentalist of the Year” at the 2009 MIDEM Classical Awards.
The Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France is a French radio orchestra providing music for Radio France. It specializes in contemporary music and was founded in 1937.