Tag Archives: Prokofiev

Classical Girl’s Top 10 [and then some] violin concertos

Violin Concerto CD               

The violin concerto repertoire is so rich and satisfying, I’m embarrassed to admit that, prior to becoming an adult beginner on the violin in 2005, I was only familiar with a few of them. This, from a self-proclaimed classical music fanatic. Whoops.

But maybe that’s you, too. Now, I know some of my readers are violin peeps and this list of top violin concertos will not produce any surprises, but I have a hunch there are plenty of you out there, more ballet-oriented, who are more familiar with piano repertoire. Or maybe you’re a newcomer to classical music in general. This is the list for you.

One thing I should add. Most of these hail from the Romantic Era and beyond. You therefore won’t see works before 1806, before Beethoven’s opus burst forth, eras that would include concertos by Mozart (five of them, written in his late teens), Vivaldi (something like 230) Bach (two for solo violin, one for two violins). Also I didn’t include Paganini (who wrote six) who, like Beethoven, sort of straddled the Classical and Romantic Era.

So, without further ado, here are my personal faves, in no particular order. If the composer has more than one violin concerto, I’ve highlighted the one I prefer. If you click on the composer’s name, it will bring you to a YouTube link of the concerto.

The Classical Girl

Classical Girl’s Top 10 [and then some] violin concertos

  1. Tchaikovsky (in D major, Op. 35, 1878)
  2. Brahms (in D major, Op. 77, 1878)
  3. Sibelius (in D minor, Op. 47, 1905 – A staggering piece of work – my blog + link HERE)
  4. Bruch (No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26, 1867; No. 2 in D minor, Op. 44, 1878; No. 3 in D minor, Op. 58, 1891 – and all three are worthy! Blogged about Bruch HERE)
  5. Korngold (in D major, Op. 35, 1945)
  6. Beethoven (in D major, Op. 61, 1806 – Note to self: blog about this one SOON)
  7. Barber (Op. 14, 1939)
  8. Saint-Saëns (No. 3 in B minor; his No. 1 and No. 2 aren’t often performed)
  9. Mendelssohn (in E minor, Op. 64, 1845)

And this is where it gets very tricky, because there are SO many wonderful violin concertos still, so here are ten contenders for my 10th spot:

  1. Shostakovich (No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77, 1955; No. 2 in C sharp minor, Op. 129, 1967)
  2. Britten (Op. 15, 1939)
  3. Dohnányi (No. 1 in D minor, Op. 27, 1915: No. 2 in C minor, Op. 43, 1950)
  4. Bartok (No. 1, BB 48a, 1908, but published posthumously, 1956; No. 2, BB 117, 1938)
  5. Dvorák (in A minor, Op. 53, 1879)
  6. Wieniawski (No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1853; No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22, 1862
  7. Goldmark (No. 1 in A minor, Op. 28, 1877; he composed a No. 2 that was never published)
  8. Berg (Written in twelve-tone, Op. ?, 1935)
  9. Prokofiev (No. 1 in D major, Op. 18, 1923; No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, 1935.
  10. Schumann (in D minor, published posthumously) The Stravinsky VC really belongs here but I am sentimental about the Schumann and its otherworldly story – I blogged about it HERE

And yes, I know, you violin peeps are sitting up now, exclaiming, “Wait! No Lalo? No Viotti? No Khachaturian or Elgar?” Glazunov. Hindemith. Ligeti. Nielsen. Szymanowski. Previn. Walton. And Vieuxtemps certainly deserves to be on the list; he wrote a whopping seven violin concertos. And then there are the hard-on-the-ear but well respected concertos that deserve a mention, like the Schoenberg, the Schuman (note, spelled with only one “n,” an important differentiation to recognize). Berg’s concerto, while atonal, somehow manages to conjure something beautifully expressive and bittersweet – no small feat!

And STILL there are more. That’s the fun thing about really getting to know the violin concerto repertoire, and the violin repertoire in general. There are always more treasures to discover.

Give each one a listen and let me know which one is your favorite. As for me, if I had to be stranded on a desert island with a CD player [and somehow, magically, a lifetime supply of batteries] and only three concertos, I think it would have to be the Sibelius, Brahms and Mendelssohn. Yikes. Tough choices. Maybe the Beethoven would have to switch out one of the latter two. With the Tchaikovsky next in line. Only please don’t make me choose.

I could tell a story about each and every one of these concertos and/or their composer’s creative journey, but that would make for a hell of a long blog. Instead I’ll give each one its own blog, at which time I’ll return here and leave the link. In the meantime, here are a few blogs I enjoyed reading that offer great details on their own Top 10 picks (you’ll see a lot of similarities).

  • Stephen Klugewicz at The Imaginative Conservative HERE.
  • Gramophone UK HERE

Ballet San Jose’s gala of all galas

gala-event

Saturday night at San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts was the gala of all galas for Ballet San Jose, to welcome new artistic director José Manuel Carreño, retired principal from American Ballet Theatre. The night’s lineup of dance featured a star-studded roster, the likes of which Bay Area audiences rarely get to see. I’ve already reviewed the performance (check out my review at Bachtrack here: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-nov-2013-ballet-san-jose-gala)  but there wasn’t enough room to praise everything, which is why a blog is very convenient. Here are a few more of my thoughts. In the interest of time and space, I’m going to focus on just the women. Sorry, guys! (And for the record, “NYCB” means New York City Ballet and “ABT” means American Ballet Theatre.)

NYCB’s Rebecca Krohn in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. This is a longtime favorite of mine, thanks to Yuan Yuan and Damian Smith (a performance you can see here: http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/artists-spotlight-yuan-yuan-tan/.) Krohn, with her shimmering, loose brown hair, soulful gaze and expressiveness, gave the piece the grace and gravitas it merited.

NYCB’s Ana Sophia Scheller, in Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky pas de deux.” Scheller, lovely and ever light on her feet, had a delicious way of finishing every movement, every gesture, with a crisp finesse. Loved her bright smile and rock-solid pirouettes.

Ballet San Jose dancers in Jorma Elo’s “Glow-Stop.” Elo’s choreography is fast moving, highly articulated, yet requires legato moments, too, almost slow-motion, if only for a split-second. On the violin, you’d call this rubato. Well done, principals Alexandra Meijer and Ommi Pipit-Suksun, soloists Amy Marie Briones and Jing Zhang, corps dancers Cindy Huang and Annali Rose.

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ABT’s Gillian Murphy in Swan Lake’s Black Swan pas de deux. Powerful, assured dancing, as we watch Odile play out her dark, seductive role. Murphy’s partner, Thomas Forster, is still in the corps de ballet at ABT, interesting to note. Bet that changes within the year. 

ABT’s Julie Kent in MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet balcony scene. Stunning. Poetry in motion. One of the night’s highlight performances for me. Perfect chemistry between her and partner Marcelo Gomes. I was just sighing with pleasure the entire time. 

Adiarys Almeida in the Le Corsaire pas de deux. During her solo, Almeida pounded out fouetté after fouetté, interspersed with triple (don’t quote me on this) pirouettes, which seemed to grow ever stronger and more precise with each rotation. Exhilarating to watch.

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Boston Ballet’s Lorna Feijoo in the pas de deux from Act II of Giselle. Dreamy and gorgeous. Feijoo’s bourées skimmed over the stage, tight and clean, creating a perfect spectral heroine, powerful in her restraint, the whisper-soft landing of all her precise footwork oh, so impressive.

NYCB’s Megan Fairchild in Balanchine’s “Tarantella.” Blazingly fast footwork, speed, whimsy mixed with strong technique. She and partner Daniel Ulbricht seemed to be having a lot of fun with this one. The audience did too.

ABT’s Misty Copeland in Twyla Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite.” Decked out in black dress and heels, Copeland hurled herself into her performance, committing herself wholly. Her loose limbed athleticism made her look like a rag doll being thrown around at times, amid this uneasy tango of love gone wrong. Brilliant performance.

San Francisco Ballet’s Maria Kochetkova in the Don Quixote grand pas de deux. This is a perennial favorite with crowds, and so is Kochetkova, deservedly so. With her trademark ultra-high extension and fabulous feet, her ability to hold balances and extensions, and the star power she brings to all she takes on, it was one hell of a way to end a hell of a gala.

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A note while singing the praises of this performance, this triumphant gala hailing a new era for Ballet San Jose. The company wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the hard-working efforts of founder and former artistic director Dennis Nahat, who was forced out in a very un-PC fashion, in early 2012. A blog about a gala night and the welcome of a new artistic director is no time to rehash the past, which is why I will leave it at thanking Dennis Nahat for the institution he created and for the twenty-five years of service he put into building Ballet San Jose. Thank you Mr. Nahat, and best wishes for the future, Mr. Carreño and the Ballet San Jose dancers.

And thank you for last Saturday night. You put on one hell of a gala.

**

PS: readers, did I tell all of you to check out my full review at Bachtrack? I did, huh? Well, here’s the link again, anyway: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-nov-2013-ballet-san-jose-gala

PPS: I’ve decided it’s not fair to mention only the women, who could not have performed so spectacularly without the assistance of their partners. And I already mentioned a few, so here are the rest. Gonzalo Garcia, Ask La Cour, Joseph Gatti, Joaquin De Luz, Nelson Madrigal and Taras Domitro. From Ballet San Jose, Damir Emric, James Kopecky, Jeremy Kovitch, Joshua Seibel, Maykel Solas, Kendall Teague. Well done, gents.