Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Saint-Saëns - Violin Concerto No. 2 in C Major

The time of publication of compositions doesn't necessarily follow in the chronological order in which they are written. Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto No. 2 is a case in point. His '1st' concerto was written in 1859, and was published with the opus number of 20. The '2nd' concerto was written a year earlier (1858) but was not published until 1879 and had the opus number of 58.  This is a fairly common occurrence, as the two piano concertos of Chopin were published in the reverse order in which they were written. The same goes for Beethoven's first two piano concertos.  This is of no great import, but it is a curiosity and something to keep in mind if the listener wants to examine how a composer progressed throughout their career by listening to their works in chronological order.

By the time Saint-Saëns composed this concerto he was 23 years old and an accomplished composer having written three symphonies and numerous other works.

The 2nd Violin Concerto is in three movements -
Allegro moderato e maestoso - a tempo piu allegro - The concerto begins with the orchestra quietly presenting an accompaniment for the soloist who enters after two measures. The movement is in sonata form similar to Mendelssohn's violin concerto. The cadenza is not left to the soloist to provide, but is written by Saint-Saëns. Towards the end of the cadenza, the timpani signals the return of the orchestra for the end of the movement.
Andante espressivo - Trombones and harp are added to this movement written in A minor. It begins with a short statement by the orchestra, then the violin enters with the harp accompanying. The violin sings a melancholy song that is lightly punctuated by episodes for the harp and orchestra. The music rises to a passionate climax, after which there is an episode in A major. The music suddenly shifts gears after a short episode for the oboe and segues directly into the finale.
Allegro scherzando quasi allegretto -  The rondo finale brings the concerto to a shimmering close.

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