Unul dintre cei mai mari violonişti din lume: Yehudi Menuhin !
In the XlXth century the great concerts for the violin were generally written by composers who were not violonists : Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovski and others. This does not mean that the great violonists did not write for their instrument. But the violin compositions of the Kreutzers, Rodes, Spohrs, Ernsts, Vieuxtemps’ stand, as far as their proper musical value is concerned, neither up to those of the composers mentioned above, nor up to the creations of the old masters of the XVII”1—XVIIIth centuries, who were both violonists and composers of the first rank: Corelli, Vivaldi, Tartini, Bach or Mozart. The considerable development of the violin technique had as a result, for the majority of violonists, an excessive preoccupation for virtuosity, for spectacular demonstrations, in prejudice to the musical contents.
The compositions of the most renowned violonist of the XlXth century — Niccolo Paganini (1782—1840) — are no exception to this general rule. If, nevertheless, they did not remain, like most of his rivals’ works, simple scholastic exercises, but are even nowadays played everywhere in concert halls, the fact is due to quali¬ties which place them on a higher level than this ,,virtuosity” music. Without reaching down to a great depth of feeling, Paganini’s music is not without animation, imagination, and, here and there, real melodic inspiration, bordering to a great extent on Ita¬lian folk music. But even the — very frequent — passages of pure virtuosity have with him a more lively, more spontaneous, less me¬chanical aspect than with other technicians” of this instrument. They evoke a true image of what could be the mastery of Paganini, which amazed all Europe and gave rise to the most fantastic le¬gends. A self-taught musician, proceeding from no ,,school” and without pupils to follow him, Paganini passed through his epoch’s musical life like a prodigious meteor, leaving with all those who heard him the impression of a unique personality and of an amazing novelty.: ,,With Paganini everything is new, never heard of; he knows how to produce on his instrument effects that no one could have suspected and that no words can describe” said conduc¬tor Guhr. And violonist Dancla: ,,What a strange, fantastic man, endowed with an amazing power! What precision, what surety of bow, what catching warmth of the sounds! Particularly in the execution of his own compositions he was unmatched”.
In the main, these compositions are dedicated to the violin : 24 capriccios for violin solo, 12 sonatas for violin and guitar, 3 quartets for violin, viola, guitar and cello, ,,Moto perpetuo”, varia¬tions on the arias ,,Di tanti palpiti”, ,,Non phi mesta”, ,,The carnival of Venice”, ,,Barucaba”, ,,Le Streghe” (all for violin solo). To these must be added two concertos for violin and orchestra, No. 1, Op. 6 in D major and No. 2, Op. 7 in B minor, published after the musician’s death.
Concerto No. 1, probably written in 1811, is the best-known and the most happily written of Paganini’s more important works. The violin part is written in D major — but with an indication that the instrument is to be raised in pitch by a semitone above the true pitch, so as to actually sound as E flat major. This procedure, called ,,scordatura”, also used by other violonists of that epoch, leads to a greater brightness of sound.
The concerto is made up of the three traditional parts. The construction of each of them does not, however, fully fit the classical frame, as it sometimes has the aspect of improvisation. Thus, the first movement — Allegro maestoso — only vaguely approaches the ,,,sonata” form in which the initial parts of con¬certos are usually conceived.
A rather long orchestral introduction sketches an energetic, imperative motive, followed by what could be called a first theme — vivacious, tripping, having the character of a ,,cavalcade”. Re¬lated to it by its melodic structure, but completely different in expression, is the second theme, easily recognized by its broad, can-table, generous melody, obviously inspired from Italian vocal music. The other thematic elements then reappear in the reverse order. With the conclusion of the introduction, the orchestra passes to a completely secondary plane, only playing the part of a simple accompaniment — a feature which is characteristic for the whole concert. The main part is acquired by the solo part, in which a few melodic, cantable fragments, alternate with very difficult passages, in the style of the ,,Capriccios”, where the virtuoso gives free vent to his fancy: double-chords in sixths, octaves and tenths, little staccatos bursting out like a sheaf of sparks, trills, rapid scales — nothing is missing from the entire gamut of a very exacting technique, full, however, of liveliness and colour.
The second part — Adagio espressivo — begins by an impres¬sive ,,tutti” of the orchestra, with a solemn, somewhat theatrical expression. Taking over the thematic core of this introduction, the soloist winds out a broad and simple melody, which is brought close to operatic arias by its declamatory pathos. It is noteworthy that in this part, Paganini. with minor exceptions, renounces to the virtuosity demonstrations.
In exchange, they are plentiful in the Finale — Allegro spirituoso — which is nevertheless, due to its animation, ingeniosity and fancy, a successful page. Its form is that of a ,,rondo” rather freely conceived. The main theme — brisk, lively, sprightly, displayed from the start by the violin solo, — reminds by its atmos¬phere, of the well-known capriccio ,,The Hunt”. A first, very long and varied ”couplet”, in which the soloist fully displays his virtuosity (particularly double-flageolets — an effect realized for the first time in the history of the violin by Paganini — with their ethereal, flute-like sonority) creates a strange atmosphere, still more powerfully turned to account by its contrast with the rapid and tempestuous passages.
A last repeating of the refrain, prolonged by a passage of bright virtuosity concludes the concerto.