Scheherazade Opus 35 (1) Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
Written in 1806, Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major was premiered by his colleague Franz Clement, just before Christmas of that year, on 23 December.
Nine symphonies, five piano concertos, thirty-two piano sonatas, stacks of chamber music and plenty more besides. Beethoven’s output in nearly every musical genre was prolific – so it’s perhaps surprising that he wrote only the single concerto for one of the most popular instruments of his day: the violin.
This work, which is now so firmly accepted as one of the greats of the repertoire, was something of a slow burner. Unlike many other pieces by the great composer, it certainly didn’t become an instant hit. The concerto was rattled off by Beethoven in a remarkably short space of time. He took just a few weeks to compose it in the winter of 1806, and it was premiered within days of its completion on 23 December. This was a fairly rushed affair. The soloist hadn’t had time to learn his part, so spent a good deal of the concert sight-reading. It’s hard to imagine Beethoven being too pleased with such an approach.
Beethoven’s only two other works of note for the violin were his Romance in G Opus 40, and Romance in G Opus 50, completed a few years before this concerto. Lyrical and spacious in tone, they couldn’t be more different from the Violin Concerto’s most famous movement: a zesty, spirited finale making dazzling use of the instrument’s melodic range.