If I were asked, musically speaking, which is the second best violin concerto of all times, I would not know what to answer: Bach? Brahms? Berg? However, if the question were, which is the best one, there would be no hesitation: that of Beethoven.
The frequently talked-about and much praised four solo timpani strokes that open the concerto but which are in fact five, has always given me room for conjecture. To reconsider the concerto with focus on the original unedited violin solo part as the point of departure seemed like a task worthy of consideration. As I had access to Kolja Blacher, we were both working at the Berlin Philharmonic at the time, it happened to be the best moment to try it out. Furthermore, Kolja had never played the piece before, so he was perfect for the experiment. The initial work on the soloist part, the most heavily edited by romantic tradition, was the beginning of a revision on articulation and phrasing of the orchestral parts. For the cadences we took the ones which Beethoven himself wrote for his own transcription of the concerto for piano as soloist. Eventually we had turned everything upside down and were ready for the final test in its interpretation. The orchestra did not react well to see their beloved violin concerto stripped of the pathos and majesty to which they were accustomed, however in the end they delivered a version committed to the new concept. The audience reacted with an overwhelmingly positive response whereas the critics were clearly divided in two: those that praised the dusting off and those that mourned the loss of their beloved concerto. Kolja and I were to continue to work together, but next time it was Prokofiev’s turn.
Conductor: Pedro Alcalde
Violin: Kolja Blacher
Orchestra: Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya (OBC)
Venue: Palau de la Música Catalana Barcelona
Date: 7th, 8th and 9th of February 1997
Joaquim Homs: Dos soliloquis
Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto op.61
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Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony nr.3 op.44