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II. Violin Concerti

David Itkin University of North Texas Press PDF
II. Violin ConcertiSamuel BarberConcerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14

As any conductor surely knows, R.M. is one of the, if not the, foremost interpreters of this work. His experience with the piece spans decades of performances, and he was a close colleague and friend of the composer’s. As such, he is uniquely qualified to share his thoughts and ideas about this concerto, one of the most important works in this genre by an American composer. Instead of dissecting this score that he knows so well, R.M.’s comments serve as a general, and very cogent, guide for study, rehearsal, and performance of this piece:

 “[It is] the most genuine attempt at beauty that anyone’s every made. It’s the most perfectly imperfect concertoI’ve ever played. I think that’s the basis from which to start, for both conductor and soloist. He didn’t know how to write for the violin and he over-orchestrated the piece, but it’s still an honest attempt at beauty. We all want to do what the composer wants, and we all want to be great stewards of the composer’s work, but what you really want to accomplish can’t be accomplished if the sound is too thick. See All Chapters
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I. Piano Concerti

David Itkin University of North Texas Press PDF

I. Piano Concerti

Frederick Chopin

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 11

1st movement.

T

he considerable orchestral exposition of this movement presents some interesting musical challenges. First, and perhaps most important, is the subject of Chopin’s orchestrating, which is an issue throughout his works for orchestra. In this exposition, as well as many other places in his concerti, his elegant and charming musical ideas are somewhat undermined by his less than expert skills in orchestration. This subject cannot help but lead us to consider the more immediate question: how do we keep this lengthy exposition engaging and musically relevant in spite of a certain orchestral “lumpiness.”

Most conductors, of whom I am certainly one, shy away from exhibiting such hubris as to re-orchestrate the works of great composers. However, this exposition may be a place for some delicate helpful touches. One of the “fixes” that can be beneficial is to reinforce the first violins with a portion of the second violin section during the first twelve bars. The same technique can also be employed in other similar passages that are heavily orchestrated but have left only

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IV. Other Works

David Itkin University of North Texas Press PDF

IV. Other Works

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Concerto in C Major, Op. 56 (Triple Concerto)

I

will begin this chapter by making a confession, and it is one of which I am not proud: as a young musician, I hated this piece.

I found it long, repetitious, and unsatisfying as musical narrative. I don’t know if this was because I had never heard a really compelling performance of the piece or because I was simply not mature enough to appreciate its unique elegance and beauty. Perhaps both. In spite of this rocky start to our relationship, I have come to love this piece over the years, and have enjoyed many satisfying performances with wonderful colleagues. In spite of this love, or perhaps because of it,

I can also honestly assess the work’s shortcomings. As a more mature musician, I can now reflect more soberly on the fact that, as a younger person, I was not entirely wrong. The piece is long, and it is rather repetitious. One’s relationship with a great work of music, especially one as important as this, has similarities to our relationships with other human beings. We don’t love the people who are dear to us because they are perfect; we love them because of their good qualities, their positive effect on our life, and in spite of their shortcomings. As we mature, we may even learn to embrace some of those imperfections as endearing qualities. And, perhaps, we may work subtly to help our loved ones overcome them. Much of this philosophy can be applied to music, and, for me, it certainly applies to this concerto.

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III. Cello Concerti

David Itkin University of North Texas Press PDF

III. Cello Concerti

Samuel Barber

Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra, Op. 22

1st movement.

B

eing careful that the preceding upward gesture contains no discernible ictus, the baton descends sharply to dictate the empty downbeat of the first bar. In the second bar, the second beat can contain virtually no rebound at all, allowing the third beat to be indicated by a gentle lift of the baton that nicely communicates the new dynamic and the more lyrical feel of the third bar.

Many passages in this movement (the eight bars preceding 1 are a good example) contain a simultaneous contrast between a highly lyrical line that dominates the texture and a subtle, but highly rhythmic, figure below. The baton must reflect both of these qualities simultaneously by elegantly maintaining legato and style for the melody without ever sacrificing complete accuracy and solid mathematics.

Even though Barber does not specify it, the first note in the fifth bar after 2 should be played rather short and quite delicately. This note functions as the final note of the previous phrase, and for this reason it needs to be executed as a logical part of the diminuendo just preceding it; a small space follows this note, helping to define the beginning of the next phrase.

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