Beethoven Violin Concerto

I wanted to perform all the Beethoven sonatas and concerto in recital during my time at Rice- here is the Beethoven Violin Concerto from my 3rd Master’s recital with Kyung-A Yoo! I haven’t listened to it so I’m not sure how it is- all I can say is that I love the piece and I loved performing it, and I’m sure it’s not perfect! I especially had a really great time making the program notes for it in the style of a menu for my own “Beethavern” -here is the “menu” for the Concerto:

The Beethavern

Chef: Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Co-owners: Ling Ling Huang & Kyung-A Yoo
Hirsch 7:30pm November 21, 2014

Beethoven Violin Concerto, Op. 61 in D Major

Allegro ma non troppo

Portobello mushroom burger on whole wheat bun with melted feta crumbles, heirloom tomato, lightly grilled romaine lettuce, and a sprig of rosemary

The Beethoven Violin Concerto is often referred to as one of the most noble and heroic works for the instrument. What makes this piece, and movement in particular, heroic and noble to me is the courage that is necessary to survive the fragility written all over the piece. Starting lonely with a 4-note timpani motive (an augmentation of the main motivic material from the last movement of the 7th Sonata), the piece gradually expands like a Ken Burns documentary to include all the members of a vast orchestra for an extensive tutti before zooming into the solo violin entrance, newly self-conscious in its solitude. The opening violin soliloquy is fraught with vulnerability- in order for the rising octave leaps which start the piece to ascend, each note in the scale must first descend an octave down. The violin part reaches a high G once, twice! But it loses courage on the third and cascades to the lower depths of the instrument’s range before trying to ascend again, this time, with such fragmented couplets, the energy it takes to keep ascending seems astounding. As soon as the violin part comes out from its place of interior shyness, the orchestra joins in welcome. Much like a Portobello mushroom trying to have the substance of meat in a burger, this movement continues to try having enough substance which keeps crumbling and lapsing with the fragility of feta. The development starts with the same insecure soliloquy and descends into a heart wrenching G minor section ending in an ambiguous three note figure in the solo violin part which struggles by rising half-steps to ascend, and is joined by orchestra when it finally does. The cadenza (Kreisler) is heroic in the solo violin’s efforts to be self-sufficient in its loneliness; after staggering double-stops and searching scales, the main theme returns with the violin playing its own accompaniment this time. The violin part cannot survive alone though, and is joined gently by the orchestra who tugs it along to the end, with the orchestra’s help, the violin ascends to its highest note yet before they end together.


Open-(artichoke)heart sandwich with cherry tomato pancetta jam, poached egg, and lightly steamed artichoke in a fresh-picked dill butter sauce

The most sincere, earnest, and vulnerable dish on tonight’s menu, the second movement of the Beethoven Violin Concerto is simple and unfussy like a sandwich, but each ingredient is chosen and treated with care. Though it seems very light when you order it and maintains a brightness and reserve to the end, the flavors, with each bite yield richer and deeper flavors as the hollow whispered high notes of the beginning descend into the throatier ranges of the instrument. Always threatening to break like the runny yolk of a carefully poached egg and run over in song, this movement is a wonderful meditation on the sublimity caution and suppression can inspire. Listening to the movement, we feel entirely involved in the intimate thoughts of another because of hushed dynamics more like humming or murmuring than speaking aloud, as well as the changes in gesture and ornamentation which mimic our thoughts in their spontaneity. The violin parts’ thoughts run away, becoming more elaborate while maintaining a delicacy until it goes too far and becomes insecure again, sighing in the high register of the instrument before its thoughts are intruded upon as the piano delves in to the attaca 3rd movement. !


Steak in a red wine and tart cherry reduction with creamed herb potatoes, roasted asparagus and stout


Unlike the first two movements, the last is entirely unconcerned with anything that isn’t fun. The heartiest of the meal options, this is a robust movement which starts with a full-bodied stout, light foamy effervescence at the head. The entire orchestra joins in, everyone clinking and beginning to eat. The silverware gleams and the napkins get tucked in as the steak jus and reduction start to run in constant 16ths on the plate as they are cut into. At one point, the self-conscious rising octaves of the first movement make a return, but instead of insecurity, this one is more like a digestive outburst, quickly laughed off as the stout motif returns and keeps returning as people around the restaurant re-hydrate themselves. At the end of the movement, the orchestra seems to be saying farewell in a waning dynamic, but the violin part joins in, riling everyone up again so we know the night of fun is only just beginning.


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