About this Recording
8.553216 - ROMANCE


Disappointingly enough the word romance, in the history of music, has often held a more prosaic meaning than its modern connotations imply. By the eighteenth century, however, earlier poetic meanings had largely given way to the descriptive use of the term to denote a lyrical slow movement. Romance most aptly describes the slow movement of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night-Music), modestly titled and written in 1787. Equally apt is the use of the word to describe the two slow movements for solo violin and orchestra written by Beethoven in the following decade, intended, it has been suggested, for an early violin concerto that was never completed. The Romance in F major, the second of the pair, is marginally better known than the first. Mozart used the term earlier to head the slow movement of his fine Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466, one of the only two concertos he wrote in a minor key, composed during the optimistic earlier years of his last decade, spent in precarious independence in Vienna, where he at first established a reputation as a composer and keyboard- player. Carl Stamitz, here represented by the slow movement of his Cello Concerto No.2 in A major, was eleven years Mozart's senior. His father, Johann Stamitz, had been responsible for the pre-eminence of the Mannheim orchestra, a strong influence on Mozart, who visited the place in 1777 and 1778. By then, however, Carl Stamitz, having earlier established himself in Paris, with his brother Anton, had moved to London. A prolific composer, he wrote some sixty concertos that reflect, in their clarity of texture, contemporary style, and did much to help the popularisation of the viola, an instrument on which he won a wide reputation as a performer.

The nineteenth century might seem to be above all the age of romance, with the independence of its musicians and artists, now generally freed from earlier reliance on rich patrons. The Polish composer and pianist Fryderyk Chopin, son of an emigre French father in Warsaw, might seem typical of the period. He spent the greater part of his career in Paris, where, for some nine years, he enjoyed a liaison with the romantic novelist George Sand (Aurore Dudevant), although their relationship clearly brought less romantic moments, as her children by her husband became older, finding in Chopin either a rival or an ally in family quarrels. The slow movement of the first of Chopin's two piano concertos is characteristic of his style of writing for the piano alone, a dreamy nocturne. His concertos belong to the 1820s, before his departure from Warsaw, when it seemed that he would need compositions for piano and orchestra in furtherance of a proposed career as a virtuoso pianist.

From the second half of the nineteenth century, Tchaikovsky has come to occupy an unrivalled position in romantic musical repertoire, not least through his three colourful ballets, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker. His inspiration is essentially Russian, although he was never a member of the group of nationalist composers nick-named the Mighty Handful and dominated by Balakirev. His Romance in F minor is one of those short piano pieces that brought nineteenth-century composers more money than their more ambitious works.

Nationalism of another kind is an essential part of the music of Dvorak, a Czech composer, born in a village of Bohemia and later in life director of the Prague Conservatory, after a stint at the American National Conservatory in New York. Dvorak's Romance in F minor, for violin and orchestra, is an extended and colourful work, if less overtly Czech than some of his music.

The Norwegian violinist and composer Johann Svendsen, a contemporary of Grieg, occupied an important position in the music of Scandinavia, with his Romance in G major remaining an essential part of the repertoire of music for violin and orchestra.

Also included in the present progamme are the anonymous Romance d'amour, familiar from a recent French film and the Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich's Romance from his score for the 1955 film The Gadfly.

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