|About this Recording
8.573054 - RODE, P.: Violin Concertos Nos. 2 and 8 (Eichhorn, Jena Philharmonic, Pasquet)
Pierre Rode (1774–1830)
Jacques Pierre Joseph Rode was born in Bordeaux on 16 February 1774. The son of a perfumer, he showed early musical precociousness 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 star pupil of Giovanni Battista Viotti, the foremost violinist of the day and founder of the modern French violin school. While still a teenager, Rode probably made his solo début in 1790 with Viotti’s Violin Concerto No. 13; he also joined the orchestra at the Théâtre de Monsieur, where he met his longtime colleague Pierre Baillot. Rode’s “breakout” year was 1792. During the traditional Holy Week concerts Rode performed six times between 1st and 13 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, Rode collaborated with Baillot and Kreutzer on the manual of instruction for the violin. Rode was named violin-solo for the musique particulière of the First Consul (Napoleon) and was briefly violin-solo at the Opéra. He spent four years in Russia (1804–1808), where he was appointed court violinist to the Tsar. His 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 responded only tepidly to his playing. 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 première of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata, Op. 96, with Archduke Rudolph. Much of the period from 1814 to 1821 Rode spent in Berlin, where he met and married his wife and became an intimate of the Mendelssohn family. When Rode and his wife left Berlin, 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 his death on 26 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 works represent the full flowering of the French violin school that traced its origin to Viotti’s arrival in Paris in 1782. Rode’s greatest contribution to the violinist’s art (along with the 24 Caprices), was his thirteen violin 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 fleet passage-work 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 Seventh Concerto. 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 span his entire career as a performer and composer.
Among the staple concert and recital pieces for all professional violinists of the time were theme and variations (sometimes called airs variés), sometimes based on an original theme but often based on a folk-tune or a tune from opera. Rode composed at least thirteen such works. One of Rode’s airs variés became so well known that it was modified and regularly interpolated in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. The Variations on ‘Nel cor più non mi sento’ follows the more usual pattern: Rode uses a well-known cavatina from L’amor in contrasto ossia La molinara (composed in 1788 and usually known simply as La molinara) by Giovanni Paisiello (1740–1816). Paisiello’s cavatina attracted many adaptations, including Beethoven’s for piano (1795) and Paganini’s for violin alone (circa 1820–21). Rode’s version for solo violin with accompaniment, marked Andante and in a gentle pulsing 6/8 time, was published posthumously. The orchestra begins with a tender introduction followed by a statement of the theme by solo violin. The theme section features a short cadenza. Seven variations follow, ending with a triumphant Allegro.
The Second Violin Concerto in E major, dedicated to Rode’s colleague Kreutzer, dates from the later 1790s and follows the usual pattern of Rode concertos: four main tutti orchestral sections (the last often enclosing a cadenza) encompassing three major solo/orchestral sections. The opening tutti offers passages of strong dotted rhythm and steady 16th notes interspersed with a softer lyric passage; the solo violin enters high on the E string, arriving at a lyric theme after passagework, which intensifies after the lyric interlude. The violin presents the contrasting middle section, featuring a lengthy section in triplets and the lyric theme from the first section, followed by a tutti and the entrance of the solo violin with the same material as the opening solo section. The working out varies from the opening solo section, though the lyric theme is again prominent. The usual pyrotechnic cadenza and triumphant orchestral tutti bring the movement to a close. The 6/8 Siciliano features a gently pulsing tutti introduction that prefaces the soloist’s tender tune, which winds between contrasting sections until the tutti ending. The Rondo finale in 2/4 time exhibits what Schwarz called the “gracefulness, piquancy, and impishness” of Rode’s final movements; Schwarz especially praised the finale of the second concerto for its “accents on the weak parts of the measure”. The soloist opens the movement with the lively rondo theme, which is contrasted with tuttis and various passagework sections, including double-stopping.
The Eighth Violin Concerto in E minor is one of Rode’s most beautiful creations. It is dedicated to Josephina Grassini (1773–1850), an Italian contralto and Rode’s friend. The Moderato opening movement opens softly with a plaintive tutti theme (which acts almost as a ritornello); the soloist enters with a typical long-breathed melody. A section of sixteenth notes gives way to the lyric theme, here, as in many Rode main second melodies, marked Dolce. The orchestral tutti, after the soloist’s passagework, leads to the soloist’s middle solo, which presents contrasting material, including a passage on the g string, leading to the orchestra’s repetition of the plaintive melody. The soloist repeats the opening solo, the dolce theme now appearing in the major. The movement ends with the usual dramatic flourish. The heartfelt Adagio, featuring florid runs by the soloist, leads directly to the fleet 6/8 Allegretto moderato con spirito, which brings the concerto to a rousing conclusion.
The Introduction and Variations on a Tyrolean Air is another of Rode’s theme and variation works and was also published posthumously. After an orchestral introduction in 4/4 time, the soloist presents the Tyrolean tune (marked Andante and in 3/4 time), which features dotted rhythm punctuated by triplets. Ten variations follow, and the violinist’s technical arsenal is on display: long sixteenth note phrases, arpeggiated octaves, and double-stops. A final Adagio variation, beginning with a slightly modified repetition of the theme, leads to a jaunty coda in 3/8 time.
Bruce R. Schueneman
A note on technique in Rode’s violin concertos
Anyone wishing to tackle Pierre Rode’s works for violin and orchestra will be eager to know what technical demands they make on the violinist. What kind of technique does the composer employ in his concertos? As well as being curious about their musical content, form, harmonic structure and instrumentation (which have been described in the booklets of the Rode recordings that have already been released), this is a question I asked myself just under ten years ago, when I started researching Rode together with the American collector Jonathan Frohnen. I can remember my first encounter with a concerto by Rode (No. 7), at the age of 13.
Would Rode test left- and right-hand technique in a systematic and comprehensive manner in his concertos? Would they be (doubtless outstanding and effective) study pieces like his 24 Caprices, where special emphasis is placed on technical difficulties and “basic training” in violin technique?
As one gets to know the concertos, things become clearer. It is an attractive feature that Rode isn’t out to set any records for difficulty. There is no sign of the kind of competition that existed between Paganini and Ernst between Rode and his colleagues Pierre Baillot and Rodolphe Kreutzer. Rode’s manner is honest and always musical; what he is aiming for is verve and brilliance. For Rode, virtuosity means ease and sovereign control—nothing should sound laborious, complicated or stilted. The means by which he achieves this are as simple as they are effective. He loves fast semiquaver passages in modulating sequences—with a predilection for sextuplets in the third movements. His base material comprises triads and scales demanding a Mozartian clarity and purity. He prefers frequent string crossing to large leaps and changes of position. The violinist-composer is immediately evident: Rode’s passages sit comfortably under the hand and stay in the same register for some time, in the Classical manner. Rode skilfully exploits this to achieve an optimal tonal palette for the solo instrument. Extension fingering in passages is rare, contributing to ease of playing. Rode has a predilection for trills, dotted rhythms and articulated or bouncing bowstrokes (spiccato, staccato)—he also often employs long, legato bowstrokes, which should be interpreted as phrase marks. In some places, I took the liberty of adding ossia articulations, as recommended in Leopold Mozart’s violin method. It is striking that Rode rarely uses double stopping—evidence that in his concertos he regards the violin as a lyrical, sparkling melody instrument, embedded in the harmonic whole.
In the cadenzas that I have written, I have tried to put myself in Rode’s shoes and to extend his technique by viewing the future of virtuosity from his perspective. In doing so, I have extended range, tempo, techniques for playing fast passages and the use of double stopping.
Rode’s concertos afford the violinist excellent expressive opportunities for brilliance and melodiousness. Despite their difficulties, they sit well on the instrument and positively invite “creative virtuosity”.
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