Recorded on 02/12/2008, uploaded on 01/09/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Ludwig van Beethoven composed two single-movement romances for solo violin and orchestra—one in G major, op. 40, and a second in F major, op. 50. Like other works among his oeuvre, their opus numbers do not indicate the order of their composition. Published in 1805, the Romance No. 2 in F major was actually the first to be written, dating from the late 1790s and likely premiered in 1798, and thus preceding the Romance in G major by roughly four years. Thus it has more in common with earlier pieces such as the first two piano concertos than the heroic works of the first decade of 19th century which the work’s opus number would suggest are its neighbors. Though both are beautiful pieces in their own right, the two Romances are sometimes seen as “study pieces” leading to the grand Violin Concerto in D major written in 1806.
For the Romance in F major, Beethoven chose an orchestra of modest proportions, consisting only of two each of flutes, oboes, bassoons and horns, and the usual strings. Its form is also quite straightforward and simple, making it less adventurous than its companion piece, yet imbues the work with a graceful elegance. A simple rondo, the Romance hardly deviates from the tonic key of F major. The refrain features a dolce melody, begun without announcement, given first by the soloist atop a simple chordal accompaniment. It is then repeated by the orchestra with an added vigor culminating in dramatically descending fifths and marked by a stern rhythm that may possibly draw the listener’s mind momentarily forward to the opening theme of the Ninth Symphony. The first episode retains both the key and lyrical quality of the refrain. However, this time the melody is more florid with wide leaps and ornamental passagework. The second episode, on the other hand, is more passionate, modulating into the key of the tonic minor. Its turbulent demeanor, however, is suddenly quelled by a return of the refrain in the key of D-flat major. This appearance of the rondo’s principal melody is only a false return as the orchestra steps into to effect the modulation back to the tonic key of F. The final statement of the refrain is moderately embellished and leads into a florid coda that brings the Romance to a quiet and gentle close. Joseph DuBose
The Romance in F Major was first published in 1805, but probably received its premiere performance before that, perhaps in 1798. Originally composed for violin and chamber orchestra, the Romance is one of two works that Beethoven composed that bear this title. Pastoral and florid in nature, the Romance in F contains melismatic and highly ornamented melodic lines and dialogue between the soloist and orchestra. A brief exploration of F and C minor add color to the texture. This work is often performed with piano accompaniment, and sounds very effective when played on the viola. Michael Cansfield
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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