Stories » Rachel Barton Pine sheds new light on 'Clement's & Beethoven's Violin Concertos'

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Rachel Barton Pine sheds new light on 'Clement's & Beethoven's Violin Concertos'

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American violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Jose Serebrier perform the world-premiere recording of a fabled and long-lost masterwork of the late Classical era - Franz Clement's Violin Concerto in D (1805) coupled with a centerpiece of the violin repertoire on which it sheds new light Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 (1806) on a new release from Cedille Records.

Beethoven & Clement Violin Concertos is a two-CD set priced as a single disc (Cedille Records 90000 106). Beethoven and Clement were contemporaries who enjoyed a close musical relationship. The pairing of the two concertos "sets Beethoven's masterpiece in an entirely new context," Pine says.

The performance of the Clement concerto is based on the first and only modern edition of the score, edited by Clive Brown and published in 2005. Clement's concerto had not been publicly performed in nearly 200 years.

Brown makes the case that although Clement's concerto is harmonically anchored in the musical world of Mozart, many elements make it the direct predecessor of Beethoven's, which, until now, appeared to exist in a mysterious, stylistic isolation from other compositions of its day. It's the missing link in an evolutionary timeline. This argument is strengthened by new information documenting the close artistic collaboration and mutual admiration between the two composers.

Similarities between the concertos include the general character of the violin writing, the treatment of the solo instrument, instrumentation, and the unusual expansiveness in the individual movements, which was characteristic of a specific type of Viennese concerto. "There are even many individual figurations in Beethoven's Violin Concerto that appear to allude directly to passages in Clement's concerto," Brown writes.

As a violinist, Clement (1780–1842) eschewed the muscular, assertive, big-toned playing in vogue at the time.  In 1805, a reviewer for a Leipzig music journal called Clement's playing "indescribably delicate, neat and elegant; it has an extremely delightful tenderness and cleanness that undoubtedly secures him a place among the most perfect violinists."

Brown observes that these same characteristics are apparent in the solo violin part of Clement's concerto, which had its premiere in 1805 at the same concert where Beethoven (1770–1827) conducted the first fully public performance of his "Eroica" symphony.

The following year, Clement conducted and performed as solo violinist in the premiere of Beethoven's violin concerto, written expressly for him. Beethoven extensively revised the score prior to its publication in 1808.  In his essay, Brown explains how "recently uncovered evidence suggests Clement's role in crafting the final version of Beethoven's concerto may have been greater than supposed."

The recording features Ms. Pine's own ingenious and meticulously integrated cadenzas. Beethoven, a pianist, never wrote violin cadenzas to the concerto, but he did write piano cadenzas when he transcribed the work for his own instrument.  Unlike virtually every other violinist who has written solo passages for this work, Ms. Pine looked to Beethoven's piano cadenza as her point of departure.  As a result, her first-movement cadenza begins by referencing the bold motif in the orchestra following the conclusions of the exposition and recapitulation rather than starting with a variation of the solo violin's first entrance, as is often the case.

"I chose to start my cadenza with this same motif, employing my own choice of harmonies," she writes in the CD booklet.  As a unifying element, she makes deft and frequent use of the four repeated notes prominently featured in the first movement. This pattern even makes a brief appearance at the end of her cadenza for the final movement, bringing the musical idea full circle.

Ms. Pine takes a Classical-period approach to the Beethoven Violin Concerto.  Reviewing a 2006 performance of the Beethoven Concerto that Ms. Pine gave in New England, a newspaper critic noted her "scrupulous attention to Beethoven's intentions heightened and shaped by a gentle romantic sentiment all her own. . . . Pine played Beethoven's music with profound regard for every brick of its architecture and every beat of its heart."

The initial impetus for the CD was a phone call Ms. Pine received in 2006 from the owner of her favorite sheet-music store, Chicago's Performers Music.  Knowing Ms. Pine's fascination with lesser-known historic repertoire, the store's proprietor, Lee Newcomer, alerted her to Professor Brown's newly published edition of Clement's concerto.

"It took only one glance to know that I had found something special," she writes in her preface to the CD liner notes. "It is an excellent composition, but what really startled me were the aesthetic similarities to Beethoven's masterpiece."

Ms. Pine mentioned her idea for a Beethoven-Clement recording to Maestro Serebrier, one of her colleagues on the Sphinx Competition jury.  Sharing Ms. Pine's enthusiasm, he approached the Royal Philharmonic, with whom he has a close relationship, and the pieces fell into place.  Cedille Records' president, James Ginsburg, was quick to embrace the idea.

This is Ms. Pine's tenth recording for Cedille Records and marks the Cedille label debut of both Maestro Serebrier and the Royal Philharmonic. Hailed by Gramophone magazine as "a magnetically imaginative artist," Rachel Barton Pine has received worldwide acclaim for her profound and thoughtful interpretations of an extremely diverse repertoire, performed with intensity and enthusiasm. She has appeared as soloist with many of the world's most prestigious ensembles and has worked closely with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Charles Dutoit, Zubin Mehta, Erich Leinsdorf, Neeme J?rvi, and Semyon Bychkov.  Notable collaborations include pairings with Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, and William Warfield, among others. Her Web site iswww.rachelbartonpine.com.

Recently hailed by Gramophone magazine ("It would be hard to imagine more sumptuous discs. Jos? Serebrier conducts thrilling, passionate performances with orchestral sound of demonstration quality"), conductor and composer Jos? Serebrier is one of today's most-recorded classical artists, amassing 34 Grammy nominations and the Latin Grammy for Best Record of the Year (for the Bizet-Serebrier "Carmen Symphony"). He was associate conductor with Leopold Stokowski at Carnegie Hall for five years, and at age 21 was hailed by Stokowski as "the greatest master of orchestral balance."  He served for several seasons as Composer-in-Residence of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell and has made international tours with the Juilliard Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Toulouse Chamber Orchestra, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Serebrier recorded with the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia, and most major orchestras in the UK, Europe and Asia. The French music critic Michael Faure recently wrote a new book about Jose Serebrier, published in France by L'Harmattan and soon to be published in several languages including English, German, and Spanish. His Web site is www.joseserebrier.com.

One of the world's most widely recorded orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was founded by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1946 to bring performances of the highest caliber to audiences throughout England. Its conductors have included Rudolf Kempe, Antal Dorati, Andre Previn, and Vladimir Ashkenazy.