Recorded on 03/19/2000, uploaded on 03/18/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto was not only his sole concerto for the instrument. It was also the only concerto at all that he wrote during his entire career. Sibelius was himself an accomplished violinist, having begun study of the instrument when he was fifteen years of age. Though he always felt he had begun learning the violin to late in life to become a great virtuoso, he nonetheless was able to put his knowledge of the instrument to good use in composing his concerto.
Completed in 1904, Sibelius intended for the concerto to be premiered by Willy Burmester, the renowned German violinist and former pupil of the great Joseph Joachim. Conflicts arose in scheduling, and the premiere ultimately took place in Helsinki on February 8, 1904 with Victor Nováček, who taught violin at the Helsinki Institute of Music, and the composer himself conducting the orchestra. Though an accomplished violinist, Nováček was no virtuoso, and the great technical demands of the work combined with little time to prepare led to a disastrous premiere. Sibelius, then, immediately set to work on revising the concerto. In its new form, in which it is best-known today, the work was given another performance in Berlin in October 1905 with Karl Haliř and Richard Strauss conducting. An American premiere followed in 1906, but the concerto failed to initially catch on with audiences, even in its revised form. However, since Jascha Heifetz championed the work in the 1930s, it has since become one of the most popular Romantic concertos for the instrument.
Unlike some concertos of the 19th century, Sibelius favored a more balanced approach in which soloist and orchestra unite in artistic expression instead of the work being merely a vehicle for the technical display of a virtuoso. Yet, that is not to say Sibelius’s concerto is without its challenges, and there are many technical hurdles the soloist is required to surmount. It is cast in the tradition three-movement form, with dramatic and energetic outer movements framing a lyrical middle movement. Joseph DuBose
Recorded live. At the time of the recording Elizabeth Woo was 11.
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