About this Recording
8.573993 - VIEUXTEMPS, H.: Violin and Orchestra Works - Souvenir de Russie / Old England / Duo brillant (Kuppel, Bogatyrev, Qatar Philharmonic, Bosch)
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Henry Vieuxtemps (1820–1881)
Works for Violin and Orchestra


Henry Vieuxtemps, son of a weaver and violin maker, was born in Verviers, near Liège, Belgium on 17 February 1820. Vieuxtemps began violin instruction with his father at age four. Vieuxtemps’ talent was immediately evident, and with the support of a local aristocrat he was able to study with a professional violinist, Lecloux-Dejonc. Charles de Bériot, a leading violin virtuoso of the time, heard him play in 1828 and invited him to study in Brussels. When Bériot traveled to Paris in 1828–29, Vieuxtemps accompanied him, making his Paris debut in February 1829. During an 1830 tour of Germany and Austria, he met the violinist/composer Louis Spohr and heard Beethoven’s Fidelio – both seminal experiences for the young musician. In March 1834 he performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto at the Vienna Musikverein, only the second time the Concerto had been performed publicly since Beethoven’s death. After hearing the 14 year old violinist, Schumann wrote in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik that Vieuxtemps ‘holds us in a kind of magic circle that encloses us …’ In 1834 Vieuxtemps heard Nicolò Paganini play in London and wrote that ‘my admiration increased to the borders of the improbable’, and no doubt the tremendous technique in Vieuxtemps’ work is partly due to the influence of Paganini. Briefly a composition student of Anton Reicha, Vieuxtemps composed the first of his seven violin concertos (Concerto in F sharp minor, published as No. 2) in 1834. After touring Belgium and Germany in 1836–37, he extended his tour to Russia in spring 1837, performing often in St Petersburg. He returned to Russia in 1839 with his fellow countryman and cellist Adrien-François Servais. In Russia he completed the Concerto in E major (No. 1), which was much praised by Wagner, Chopin, and Berlioz. In the winter of 1842–43 Vieuxtemps made his first tour of the US, and while in America composed Souvenir d’Amerique, Op. 17. In 1844 Vieuxtemps married the Viennese pianist Josephine Eder, and two years later accepted the post of court violinist in St Petersburg. Though bound to the Russian court by a six-year contract, he was allowed to give concerts during his annual holiday and continued to travel across Europe during this Russian period. While in Russia, he premiered one of his best-known concertos (Concerto No. 4 in D minor) and formed a string quartet that performed, among other works, Beethoven’s last quartets. Leaving Russia in 1852, Vieuxtemps first settled in Brussels for two years before moving to Dreieichenhain, a town near Frankfurt am Main, and this remained his ‘home base’ for over a decade. During his second (1857) US tour, he performed 75 times in less than three months—a gruelling schedule Vieuxtemps later called a ‘crime against music’. Nevertheless Vieuxtemps kept up a rigorous concert schedule, performing often in Paris, London, Russia (again), Stockholm and numerous other places. Because of an increasingly difficult political situation, Vieuxtemps left his home near Frankfurt in 1866 and settled in Paris. His wife died of cholera in 1868, but he hardly paused in his intense concert schedule. He embarked on his third tour of the US in 1870, influenced to accept another US tour in part by the outbreak of the Franco- Prussian War; during this American tour Vieuxtemps played 121 concerts in half a year. In 1871, after having twice before refused formal teaching positions, Vieuxtemps finally accepted a post at the Brussels Conservatoire. His most famous pupils were Eugène Ysaÿe and Jenö Hubay. In September 1873, while in France for a charity concert to help casualties of the Franco-Prussian War, Vieuxtemps suffered a stroke and lost the use of his right arm. He went to live in Paris with his daughter and son-in-law, gradually returning to composing and even playing (though not publicly). After an abortive attempt to return to his classes at the Conservatoire, he moved to Mustapha Supérieur in Algeria. The violinist Wilma Norman-Neruda (the dedicatee of his Sixth Concerto) and his old student Hubay visited him in Algeria, and he composed until the end. In June 1881 he suffered his fourth stroke and died on 6 June 1881.

Vieuxtemps was one of a long line of master 19th century-violinist/composers, a line that stretches from Viotti, Rode, Bériot, and Paganini in the early years of the century to Wieniawski, Kreisler and Ysaÿe at the end. Vieuxtemps was a towering figure among these violinist/composers, and was one of the first to use the full Romantic orchestral palette in the composition of concertos and other orchestrated works with soloist, a Romantic fullness evident in the works on this album. This ‘symphonic’ conception of violin solo with orchestra, while not sacrificing the heritage of the virtuoso school that culminated in Paganini, nevertheless sought to create a musical whole, not simply a display piece (though these works are certainly that as well). Though best known today for his seven violin concertos (praised in their time by both Berlioz and Tchaikovsky), Vieuxtemps wrote numerous works, among them two cello concertos, paraphrases on opera tunes, miscellaneous salon pieces, string quartets, a violin sonata, a viola sonata, and solo études. He continued the formal innovation in concerto writing of his mentor Bériot, adding a scherzo to his Fourth Concerto and composing the Fifth Concerto in one continuous movement. Vieuxtemps’ works require the virtuoso’s full technical arsenal: every sort of off-the-string bowing, double and triplestops, harmonics, lightning speed, and a pure singing tone.

The Fantaisie, Op. 21 ‘Souvenir de Russie’ (originally titled ‘Souvenir de Moscou’), was written and premiered in Russia in 1840. The Fantasy is partially the result of Vieuxtemps’ acquaintance with Alexey Nikolayevich Verstovsky (1799–1862). Vieuxtemps especially admired Verstovsky’s opera Askold’s Grave (1835), which was the most popular of his six operas and even rivalled the popularity of Glinka’s operas in mid-19th century Russia. Vieuxtemps’ work begins with an opening tutti (Andante Moderato in B minor), followed by a tuneful melody stated by solo violin, which is elaborated with more virtuosic material in two variations. These musical elements are followed by tunes derived from the opera: a dance section based on Torop’s song in Act III (When the Breeze Blows); another Torop song from Act III, a romantic Andantino in D major (Near the Town of Slovensk); and an energetic folk dance, also based on material from Act III (The Goblets Passed Round the Table).

The caprice in G major, Old England, Op. 42, features various English tunes from the 16th and 17th centuries. A short orchestral tutti is followed by a solo introduction; this is followed by a quiet unadorned rendering of The Oak and the Ash by solo violin. This tune dates from at least 1608 and perhaps earlier. A song of nostalgia and home, it features the chorus: ‘Oh the oak and the ash and the bonnie ivy tree / They flourish at home in my own country’. The tune is soon given full virtuosic treatment, including harmonics, double and triple stops, and demisemiquaver arpeggios accompanying the orchestra’s statement of the theme. A tutti leads to a quiet solo rendering of Sally in Our Alley, a love song composed by Henry Carey (1687–1743), a poet, dramatist and songwriter (sometimes credited with God Save the King). Carey’s original tune was soon superseded by a tune known as The Country Lass, and that is the tune used by Vieuxtemps. The caprice ends with a rousing version of The British Grenadiers, a tune of uncertain origin but apparently from the 17th century. Though the tune may be older, the words cannot be older than 1678, as that is the date of the founding of the ‘Grenadier Company’. The famous tune is first heard softly in the orchestra and then taken up by the soloist; the music growing in intensity until the stalwart fortissimo conclusion.

Duo brillant, Op. 39, was composed in 1861 (published in 1864) and first performed by Vieuxtemps and Adrien- François Servais (1807–1866). Vieuxtemps had collaborated on an earlier 1855 composition with great success, a violin/cello duet on themes from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots. Walter Kolneder, in his Das Buch der Violine (1972), wrote that Vieuxtemps’ Duo brillant served as the inspiration for Brahms’ Double Concerto (1887). The Duo brillant is a ‘mini’ double concerto in A major in the usual three movements. The opening movement begins Maestoso in the orchestra, followed by a dramatic forte entrance of the violin, the cello soon joining in. The brief opening movement is followed by a lovely Adagio, the theme first stated by cello. The stately Finale: Allegretto which is longer than both the previous movements combined, features a dual cadenza before the rousing finish.

Andante et rondo, Op. 28 in E major, was published in 1853 in both violin/orchestra and violin/piano versions. Initially two of Vieuxtemps’ works were designated Opus 29: the Andante et rondo, and the 3 Fantaisies sur Opéras de Verdi, probably published in 1854. Opus 28 is now the correct designation for Andante et rondo since it is so listed in the May 1853 Hofmeister’s Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht. The lovely opening Andante is followed by the Rondo (Allegro moderato), a sparkling energetic rondo tune varied with contrasting episodes.

The Air varié Op. 6 in D major, was published in 1837. The full title is Air varié avec introduction de l’opéra ‘Il Pirata’ de Bellini, and as the title suggests the theme is derived from Vincenzo Bellini’s 1827 opera Il pirata (‘The Pirate’). Like the Andante et rondo, it was published simultaneously for violin/orchestra and violin/piano. The orchestra opens moderato and fortissimo, winding down to a quiet adagio and the entrance of the soloist, who plays a lyrical theme punctuated by scale runs. The orchestra intones the theme, which is soon taken up by the soloist. Four variations follow before the triumphant coda.

Hommage à Paganini, Op. 9 for violin and orchestra was published in 1846. The piece employs two Paganini themes, and features octaves, fast alternating bowed and pizzicato notes, liberal use of harmonics, and various off-the-string bowings.

Bruce R. Schueneman

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