About this Recording
9.70288 - BEETHOVEN, L. van: Romance Cantabile, WoO 207 / Violin Concerto, WoO 5 (Haniková, Junek, Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Pardubice, Štilec)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Romance cantabile, WoO 207 • Violin Concerto in C major, WoO 5


Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770. His father was still employed as a singer in the chapel of the Archbishop- Elector of Cologne, of which his grandfather, after whom he was named, had served as Kapellmeister. The family was not a happy one, with his mother always ready to reproach Beethoven’s father with his own inadequacies, his drunkenness and gambling, with the example of the old Kapellmeister held up as a standard of competence that he was unable to match. In due course Beethoven followed family example and entered the service of the court, as organist, harpsichordist and string player, and his promise was such that he was sent by the Archbishop to Vienna for lessons with Mozart, only to be recalled to Bonn by the illness of his mother. At her death he assumed responsibility for the family, the care of his two younger brothers, with whose subsequent lives he interfered, and the management of whatever resources came to his father from the court.

In 1792 Beethoven returned to Vienna. He had met Haydn in Bonn and was now sent to take lessons from him. He was an impatient pupil and later claimed to have learned nothing from Haydn. He profited, however, from lessons with Albrechtsberger in counterpoint and with Salieri in Italian wordsetting and the introductions he brought with him from Bonn ensured a favourable reception from leading members of the nobility. His patrons, over the years, acted towards him with extraordinary forbearance and generosity, tolerating his increasing eccentricities. These were accentuated by the onset of deafness at the turn of the century and the necessity of abandoning his career as a virtuoso pianist in favour of a concentration on composition.

During the following 25 years Beethoven developed his powers as a composer. His early compositions had reflected the influences of the age, but in the new century he began to enlarge the inherent possibilities of classical forms. In his nine symphonies he created works of such size and intensity as to present a serious challenge to composers of later generations. Much the same might be said of his piano sonatas, in which he took advantage of the new technical possibilities of the instrument, which was now undergoing a number of changes. An increasing characteristic of his writing was to be heard in his use of counterpoint, an element that some contemporaries rejected as ‘learned’, and in notable innovations, some of which, in contemporary terms, went beyond mere eccentricity.

Socially Beethoven was isolated by his deafness. There were problems in the care of his nephew Karl, after the death of the boy’s father, bringing litigation with the latter’s mother. His loudly voiced political indiscretions were tolerated by the authorities in the repressive years that followed Waterloo, and he continued to enjoy the support of friends, including his pupil Archduke Rudolph. In Vienna, in fact, he became an institution, at the passing of which, in 1827, there was general mourning.

Beethoven’s Romance cantabile, in E minor, seems to have been intended a slow movement for a concerto. It is scored for piano, concertante flute and bassoon, two oboes and orchestra and has been dated to 1786/87, the period when Beethoven was sent for his first visit to Vienna and possible lessons with Mozart.

The unfinished fragment of a Violin Concerto, in C major, belongs either to the years in Bonn or to Beethoven’s early days in Vienna. It includes an orchestral exposition, the first solo passage, a further orchestral intervention and material for the soloist, followed by a transition. It has been suggested that the movement may have been completed, but that the following pages have been lost.

Keith Anderson

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