Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wieniawski - Légende For Violin And Orchestra

Henryk Wieniawski was one of the most famous of the 19th century violin virtuosos, and like many virtuosos of the time he composed music for his own use. While he spent some years as a teacher, Wieniawski lived the life of a traveling virtuoso for most of his life, which was not the most conducive style of life for composing as he has only 24 opus numbers to his credit, but some of those pieces are staples of the literature for the violin.

He composed his Légende For Violin And Orchestra in Leipzig before he accepted an invitation from Anton Rubinstein to come to St. Petersburg to perform and teach. The story behind the composition is a romantic one. Wieniawski wanted to marry Isabella Hampton, but her parents did not think marrying a traveling musician would be good for their daughter and made their disapproval known. Isabella's parents heard Wieniawski play the piece in concert and as a result the beauty and heart-felt emotion of the piece changed their minds. Wieniawski and Isabella were married in 1860 with the parent's blessing.

The work is in ternary form with the first section in the key of G minor. Playing andante, two bassoons begin the work in a mood of tense motion, playing in tandem a 6th apart.  The soloist enters and plays a melancholy theme while the orchestra lightly accompanies with fragments of the tense motive first played by the bassoons. The bassoons return and the first section repeats itself until the soloist takes up the tense motion of the bassoons which leads to the second section of the work. This middle section is in two beats to the bar, the key changes to G major and the tempo changes to allegro moderato.  The mood of the music has changed as the orchestra plays in a march-like rhythm while the soloist outlines a new theme in double stops and chords. This new theme continues until it reaches a climax in the orchestra. After a chromatic downward scale for the soloist and short transitional material, the music reverts back to three in a bar, G minor and andante tempo as the first section is repeated.  The soloist once again plays the tense motive of the bassoons which leads to the orchestra playing a soft accompaniment while the soloist plays gentle arpeggios. Everything slows as the soloist reaches a G high in the stratosphere of the violin's range, and the music softly ends.

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