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8.223373 - JOACHIM: Violin Concerto No. 3 / Overtures, Opp. 4 and 13
Joseph Joachim (1831-1907)
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major
Overture "Hamlet", Op. 4
Overture "In Memoriam Heinrich von Kleist", Op. 13
The violinist Joseph Joachim has a secure place in the history of violin-playing and in the wider history of music because of his close association with Brahms and his clear influence on the latter's writing for the violin and on his techniques of orchestration.
Joachim was born in 1831 in Kittsee (Kopscesny) near Pressburg, the old Hungarian Coronation town (the modern Bratislava). He was the seventh of eight children of Julius and Fanny Joachim and with the encouragement of his parents, not unusual in a Jewish family, he started the violin at the age of five, studying with Serwaczyński in Pest, where the Joachims had moved in 1835. In 1839 Joseph Joachim played in public with his teacher, performing a double concerto, the Concertante by the Mannheim violinist Eck, written to be played with the composer's brother.
The same year, 1839, took Joachim to Vienna to study with Miska Hauser and later with Hauser's own teacher, Georg Hellmesberger, a leading figure in the Viennese school of violin-playing in the nineteenth century. It was, however, from Joseph Böhm, a man who played for Beethoven and for Schubert, a pupil of Rode, that he was to learn the foundations of his technique and repertoire. A move to Leipzig, where Mendelssohn directed the Gewandhaus Orchestra, enabled him, from 1843 to study with Ferdinand David and benefit from the possibility of working with Mendelssohn. In August 1843 he played at a Gewandhaus concert in the distinguished company of Pauline Viardot, Turgenev's inamorata, Clara Schumann and Mendelssohn, performing a work by Bériot. In the same year he played Ernst's Othello-Phantasie at another concert in the Leipzig series, and in 1844 made his first visit to England, a country with which he established a connection that was to last until the end of his life.
Joachim's later career took him first to Weimar, in 1849, as leader of the Grand Duke's orchestra, the position involving him closely with Liszt, who was established in the Duchy as Director of Music Extraordinary. Three years later he accepted the position of violinist to King George V of Hanover, and it was there, in 1853, that the violinist Reményi, a school-friend of Joachim, introduced him to the young Brahms. It was to be through this introduction that Joachim was able to arrange for Brahms to be received by Liszt at Weimar, and later by Schumann in Düsseldorf. His own friendship with Brahms was only later marred by disagreement, when Brahms espoused the cause of Joachim's estranged wife, the singer Amalie Weiss, in divorce proceedings instituted by Joachim.
Joachim's association with Brahms and his sympathy with the classicism of Mendelssohn and with Schumann led to the famous breach with Liszt and the so-called neo-German school, with its broader and less purely musical ambitions. As a player, indeed, he was the antithesis of the virtuoso Liszt, his performance studiously avoiding any suggestion of technical brilliance for its own sake. Hanslick, the Viennese critic, writing of Joachim's first adult appearance in Vienna, in 1861, when he played Beethoven's Concerto and the then little known Romances, praised his modest, unadorned greatness, while suggesting that the playing of others might appeal more to the heart than Joachim's unbending, Roman earnestness.
In 1868 Joachim moved to Berlin as head of the Hochschule für Ausübende Tonkunst and it was there, for the next 39 years, that he remained, active in the duties of his position, while continuing his career as a player, and, in particular, as leader of a new quartet, the Joachim Quartet, an ensemble that reached great distinction, renowned for its performances of the later Beethoven quartets and with a natural understanding of the chamber music of Brahms.
As a composer Joachim wrote primarily for the violin, with three cancertos, the second of which, the so-called Hungarian Concerto, was long part of the standard repertoire. His first Violin Concerto, in G minor, a work in one movement, was written during his time in Hanover, and performed in Leipzig in 1855, while the Hungarian Concerto was reviewed by Hanslick after his first performance in Vienna in 1861. The Violin Concerto in G Major expresses clearly enough the classical seriousness of Joachim. It was written in mourning for the death of Frau Gisela Grimm, a daughter of Bettina von Arnim, sister of Clemens Brentano, and was performed in England in a Crystal Palace concert in 1875 and in Berlin in 1889, receiving its first performance in the United States of America in 1891.
The first movement of the concerto makes use of a song by Bettina von Arnim as its principal subject, the solo violin entering after the briefest of orchestral introductions, to repeat the theme, with its own elaborations of increasing technical complexity .The whole movement, while canceived in the spirit of Schumann, has distinct traces of the kind of idiom that would have proved popular with English audiences.
The second movement, an Andante, was conceived as an elegy for Frau Grimm, solemnly announced, with a figure that may remind us of Mozart's herald of death in Don Giovanni. The music that unfolds is imbued once again with the kind of noble serenity that was suitable both to the subject and to the temperament of the composer.
The Finale possesses the energy and mood of its marking - Allegro giocoso energico - perhaps reminding us, at certain moments, of Joachim as a pioneer of Beethoven performance in the nineteenth century, with his playing of the Violin Concerto at the age of thirteen in Leipzig. The echoes are only momentary, since the movement is conceived in a spirit which derives rather from Spohr, whose concertos he had studied with David. It forms a conclusion of fitting brilliance and technical difficulty to a concerto that makes strenuous demands on a violinist.
Joachim always showed a considerable interest in matters of general cultural interest and was never limited, as some of those who show early talent as instrumentalists may be. By his background Brahms had been deprived of the kind of opportunities that Joachim enjoyed, but during their early friendship they were able to share something of Joachim's wider literary preoccupations.
Something of this is demonstrated in the early Overtures written by Joachim to Hamlet, to Demetrius and to Henry IV, the two latter arranged for piano duet by Brahms. He wrote his concert overture Hamlet in 1853, the year in which he introduced the young Brahms to Schumann in Düsseldorf. The latter praised the poetic conception of the work, with its deep-sounding French horns? The Elegiac Overture, Opus 13, was written during the later part of Joachim's career, after he had established himself in Berlin. Undated, it seems to have been composed at about the time of the Kleist centenary in 1877, followed, as it is, by the Scenes from Schiller's Demetrius, written in 1878 for his wife Amalie Weiss.
The music of the Overture speaks for itself, in clear, classical terms. The man it commemorates. Heinrich von Kleist, born in 1777, had committed suicide in 1811, leaving a legacy that was to prove of the greatest importance in the development of the Romantic movement in Germany. His work has served as a source of musical inspiration, particularly the patriotic Hermannsschlacht, Penthesilea and the Novelle Michael Kohlhaas.
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. After studying with her father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student of Shinichi Suzuki, the creator of the famous Suzuki Method of violin teaching for children. Subsequently she went to Japan's famous Toho School of Music, and to the Juilliard School in the United States, where she studied with Joseph Fuchs.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists in the world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz Kreisler Edition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by Du Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Bériot, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
Born in Lodz, Poland in 1949 Meir Minsky was only a few months old when his family emigrated to Israel. He graduated from the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem in conducting and composition. In 1977, he was awarded a diploma from the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome after graduating from Maestro Franco Ferrara's prestigious "Corso di Perfecionamento". He also participated in conducting master classes at the festivals of Siena and Ravello, at the Teatro "La Fenice" in Venice and at the Conservatory in Cologne (opera conducting).
He has won prizes and awards from the Florence International Conducting Competition, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the American Israeli Cultural Foundation, the Ravello Festival, and others.
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