About this Recording
8.570767 - RODE, P.: Violin Concertos Nos. 3, 4 and 6 (Eichhorn, Jena Philharmonic, Pasquet)
English  French  German 

Pierre Rode (1774–1830)
Violin Concertos Nos. 3, 4 and 6


Jacques Pierre Joseph Rode was born in Bordeaux on 16th February, 1774. The son of a perfumer, he showed early musical precocity and was taken to Paris at the age of thirteen by his teacher André-Joseph Flauvel. Shortly after his arrival in Paris, Rode became the favourite pupil of Giovanni Battista Viotti, the foremost violinist of the day and founder of the modern French violin school. While still an adolescent, Rode probably made his solo début in 1790 in Viotti’s Violin Concerto No. 13. He also joined the orchestra at the Théâtre de Monsieur where he met his future longtime colleague Pierre Baillot. Rode’s “breakout” year was 1792. During the traditional Holy Week concerts, Rode performed six times between 1st and 13th April, including two concertos of Viotti. During the next sixteen years Rode lived the life of a travelling virtuoso, though he also joined the violin faculty of the newly organized Paris Conservatoire. While associated with the Conservatoire, he collaborated with Baillot and Kreutzer on a manual of instruction for the violin. Rode was named solo violinist for the musique particulière of the First Consul, Napoleon, and was briefly solo violinist at the Opéra. He spent four years, from 1804 to 1808, in Russia, where he was appointed court violinist to the Tsar. Rode’s return to Paris after his Russian sojourn marked a change in his fortunes. Instead of the wave of success he had ridden since he emerged from Bordeaux at the age of thirteen, the public only gave him a luke-warm reception. Spohr, who heard him both before and after the Russian adventure, wrote that after Russia he found Rode’s playing “cold and full of mannerism”. Rode again began travelling across Europe in 1811 or 1812. In Vienna at the end of 1812, he gave the first performance of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata, Op. 96, with Archduke Rudolph. Much of the period from 1814 to 1821 he spent in Berlin, where he met and married his wife and became an intimate of the Mendelssohn family. When Rode and his wife left, Mendelssohn’s mother wrote that the “charm of our musical winter evenings…dwindled completely”. In 1821 Rode returned to the Bordeaux area where he now lived in semi-retirement. In 1828 he made a last attempt at a public concert in Paris. The concert was such a fiasco that some commentators believed it hastened Rode’s death on 26th November, 1830.

Rode composed almost exclusively for his own instrument. His works include sonatas, quartets, airs variés, thirteen violin concertos, various miscellaneous works, and pedagogical works, most notably the 24 Caprices in the Form of Etudes. Rode’s compositions represent the full flowering of the French violin school that traced its origin to Viotti’s arrival in Paris in 1782. His greatest contribution to violin repertoire, along with the 24 Caprices, was his thirteen concertos. Roeder, in his History of the Concerto, described Rode’s concertos as “technically somewhat more demanding of the soloist than those of Viotti, while displaying a thorough idiomatic understanding of the instrument”. Rode’s technique tends toward rapid passagework and sustained lyricism rather than double-stops or harmonics, and his bowing is always varied and tasteful. Rode, and the French School generally, had a wide influence on the romantic sensibility of the nineteenth century. Beethoven was quite familiar with the French School and dedicated his most famous violin sonata to Rodolphe Kreutzer, as well as placing the première of his Opus 96 Sonata in the hands of Rode. The French School, as Boris Schwarz has shown, also influenced Beethoven when he came to write his own violin concerto. Rode’s continuing relevance for a later generation of violinists is demonstrated by Wieniawski’s cadenza for the Violin Concerto No. 7. Rode and his French colleagues have had a long-lasting and salutary influence on violin technique and music for the violin.

Rode‘s thirteen concertos date from 1794 or 1795, when he was about twenty, to just before his death in 1830. Boris Schwarz called Rode’s Violin Concerto No. 1 “a remarkably mature work”, and continued: “Though his handling of form became more concentrated, his expression more supple, his technique more finished, he remained unchanged in the fundamental aspects of his musical personality, and later progress seems small compared to his astonishing Opus 1”. The Violin Concerto No. 3 in G minor, written about 1798, shows the grandiose side of his art to full effect. The first movement, Allegro moderato, is one of the longest that Rode ever wrote—nearly fifteen minutes’ playing time. The movement begins with forte half notes (minims) in the orchestra, continued by a dotted rhythm. Eventually the clarinets sound a gentler note; the dotted rhythm returns and the soloist enters after about 100 measures of tutti. As is often the case in Rode’s concertos, the soloist’s first entry is a dramatic flourish, consisting mostly of dramatic half notes (minims) followed by sixteenths (semiquavers). The flourish is repeated, though the continuation uses triplets that resolve into a more lyrical passage lower in the violin’s register. This theme is repeated two octaves higher before a scampering of sixteenth notes (semiquavers) leads to the true lyric heart of the movement, a sweetly-sung theme repeated in several registers. This theme is interwoven with passage-work, followed by an extended tutti, again featuring a dotted rhythm. The middle section features the soloist playing the dotted rhythm characteristic of the tuttis, extended passage-work, and a theme similar to the lyric theme of the exposition but now with triplets. After another tutti, the violin enters as in the exposition. The materials of the exposition are reworked with some new added thematic materials, which lead to a cadenza and a brief tutti to end the movement. The second movement, Adagio, shows Rode’s lyricism to fine effect. The movement is in A-B-A form. Interestingly, after a full tutti introduction, the soloist is accompanied only by strings until the final tutti just before the cadenza. The full orchestra acts as “bookends” to the soloist’s lyric statement. Rode’s finales, as musicologist Boris Schwarz wrote, “sparkle with gracefulness, piquancy, and impishness. The invention is charming, the elaboration artful, and the whole treatment unconventional…” The Polonaise that ends the Third Concerto is no exception. The soloist begins immediately with the polonaise tune, entering at first quietly with minimal string accompaniment, then repeating the theme fortissimo with full orchestra; the remainder of the movement is a delightful pulsating dance.

Violin Concerto No. 4 in A major probably dates from 1798-1800. The first movement, Allegro giusto, begins with the usual orchestral tutti and dramatic entrance of the soloist. Unusual for Rode is the double-stopping that follows the upward thrusting triplets during the initial flourish. The exposition features several lyrical themes, the second and most important having been played by the flutes during the opening orchestral tutti. Rode has tightened his structural sections as compared to the Third Concerto: not only is the opening tutti forty measures shorter but the tutti connecting the exposition to the middle or development section is only fourteen measures. The middle section relies heavily on filigree passages in triplets, and the soloist plays without cease into the final recapitulation. The Adagio displays Rode’s lyric gift to full effect, and the Rondo finale displays his usual energy and grace.

Violin Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, along with Violin Concerto No. 7, is perhaps the most famous of Rode’s concertos. It is dedicated to the Queen of Spain, so almost certainly derives from Rode’s visit to Spain in 1799-1800. The opening Maestoso begins with a forte tutti, mostly material never taken up by the soloist (Rode’s concertos contain baroque structural elements, and the orchestra often acts more as a ritornello than will be the case as the concerto develops throughout the nineteenth century), except for a brief peek at the dolce con anima theme that is the main lyric statement of the movement. The soloist’s dramatic entry, beginning with upward-moving sixteenth notes (semiquavers), lands high on the E string. A lyric first theme, followed by passage-work, leads to the dolce con anima theme. After continuing passage-work and a tutti (echoing the ritornello-like orchestral statement of the beginning), the soloist begins the middle section by singing an extended passage on the G string, then continues with triplets and a brief more lyric section. The tutti-ritornello leads to a repeat of the soloist’s opening flourish, though now with a different continuation and a shorter statement of the dolce con anima theme. A cadenza and final tutti end the movement. The Adagio features one of Rode’s most winsome lyric statements, and is played in various octaves and with a slightly contrasting middle section. The Allegretto finale is one of Rode’s inventive and good-humoured finales, and contains various statements of the rondo tune alternating with passagework and contrasting melodies and ending with a delightful coda.

Bruce R. Schueneman

We were very pleased with the positive response to our first recording of violin concertos by Pierre Rode, Violin Concertos Nos. 7, 10 and 13, (Naxos 8.570469). These concertos by the French virtuoso, never previously recorded, are a surprise in many respects. While one could have imagined that they would be purely technical compositions for the violin—after all, all violinists from their student days know Rode’s 24 Caprices—his richness of invention, the expertness of his instrumentation of the orchestral parts, as well as their colourfulness and authority, were unexpected. In his violin concertos it is apparent that Rode does not come across merely as a strict teacher who in his Caprices declines the whole canon of violin technique into 24 self-contained keys, academically and methodically, albeit spellbindingly!

Alongside their extreme virtuosity Rode’s concertos are conceived in a cantabile style and the solo parts are set within orchestral writing of an astonishing variety which is heard to best advantage in the orchestral tuttis and wind solos in dialogue with the violin. The brilliance and conception of the solo parts far exceed the scope of socalled “studies”. The fact is that the latter impose the highest technical demands on the player in order to prepare him for artistically weightier matters, whereas in his concertos Rode puts virtuosity at the service of musical expression. He presents his instrument, the violin, in the most favourable light. He uses the particular register of the violin in an extremely flattering way and his orchestration is transparent and supple.

Structurally Concertos Nos. 3, 4 and 6 are laid out in the same way. The first movements are a fusion of sonata and ritornello forms. Of special interest is the introduction of Concerto No. 4, which was in the repertoire of Charles de Bériot. Rode begins the dynamic opening tutti with a piano prologue. The second movements of the concertos are written in an arioso manner in which he exploits to the full the singing qualities of the violin. The third movements are sweeping rondos.

Unlike the concertos on our first disc, those on this recording allow for cadenzas in the first and middle movements as well as presenting us with countless opportunities for embellishments in the pauses, which I gladly seized upon. While I had great pleasure in coming up with virtuoso cadenzas for the first movements of Concertos Nos. 3 and 4, in writing the cadenza for the Sixth Concerto I took inspiration from Bach’s Chaconne on which I was working at the time. In the Chaconne there is that wonderful arpeggiated cadenza across 32 bars which is arguably the greatest chord-sequence in the history of violin-playing. One can discern the by-product of my “parallel work” on both Rode and Bach in my cadenza. We wish all listeners much pleasure in discovering this “new” old music.

Friedemann Eichhorn
English translation: David Stevens

Close the window