Beethoven: Violin Concerto

Gidon Kremer / Neville Marriner

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Beethoven: Violin Concerto Review

by Mike D. Brownell

What began with something of a disappointing premiere has since become a cornerstone of the violin concerto repertoire. Beethoven's Concerto in D, his only surviving concerto for the instrument, is a marvel of innovation and elegance wrapped into a single package. Building on the innovation is Gidon Kremer's landmark 1980 performance with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Kremer's playing of the solo part is as edgy and provocative as would be expected from the trailblazing violinist. His execution is supple and nimble, while his interpretation is excitingly aggressive and driven. What truly sets this performance apart from those that came before it, however, is not just in Kremer's impeccable playing of Beethoven's writing. Beethoven left no cadenzas for the violin concerto in his own hand. Many notable violinists have created their own contributions. Kremer, always giving listeners the unexpected, turned to Russian composer Alfred Schnittke for a unique, intriguing set of cadenzas. Schnittke's writing borrows themes and motives not only from Beethoven's concerto, but several of the great concertos of the 19th and 20th centuries, making this performance almost a survey of the progression of the violin concerto since Beethoven. Though Schnittke's harmonic language is quite different than Beethoven's, the cadenzas do not seem out of place. Kremer weaves the two contrasting approaches together into a cohesive whole. Listeners who do not already have this performance in their collection would do well to pick up this Newton reissue.

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