Felix Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto, Op. 64 (1844)

From the first page of the MS of Mendelssohn's violin concerto.

From the first page of the MS of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto.

Felix Mendelssohn’s last major orchestral work, the violin concerto, in that exceptional key of E minor, is one of the foremost of the genre, and incorporated several alterations to the violin concerto form, in particular the telescoping of the usual two expositions, one for orchestra, a second for the soloist, through the introduction of the solo violin at the beginning of the concerto, and its thereafter continuous participation in the music There are precursors for this, perhaps most notably in the second and fourth Brandenburg Concertos of Bach.

There are three other significant innovations, which have, though, precursors in Beethoven’s works, i.e., the immediate entrance of the soloist (as in Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto) and the bridging between movements, with the bassoon link to the slow movement, in the same manner as Beethoven links orchestrally to final movement of his fifth piano concerto, and, a written-out cadenza, as one also finds in the opening movement of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto. These linkages were designed to discourage the interrupting effect of applause between movements, an approach Richard Wagner also favoured, but, although he is sometimes credited with it, was neither the first to invent or advocate.

The concerto is unceasingly beautiful and technically challenging. Note, for example, the double stopping in the slow movement that produces a marvellous sound and motion.

For those who think masterpieces simply fall from the mind through to the pen or computer keyboard, it is useful to note that it took Mendelssohn six years to compose this work. And that towards the end of his life.

 

 

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