The 49th Parallel - Prelude Ralph Vaughan Williams Download 'The 49th Parallel - Prelude' on iTunes
Seen as one of his best pieces, Bruch composed this famous violin work in 1866 - and set himself up as something of a one-hit wonder.
This former No. 1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame has fallen from grace a little in the last few years, but still remains one of the most popular – and most beautiful – of all violin concertos. Bruch was a master of writing for string instruments (listen to his glorious Kol Nidrei for cello, or his boisterous Scottish Fantasy for violin, for further proof).
For violinists, one of the concerto’s most obvious redeeming qualities is the degree to which it acts as a profound showcase for the instrument. The dazzling, virtuosic passages, particularly in the glorious finale, really do make the violin sing as it soars again and again, almost from within the orchestra, to ever loftier heights. The second movement, meanwhile, is pure romance: beautiful, heart-breaking themes, woven delicately within soulful orchestral accompaniment.
Often referred to as ‘the Bruch Violin Concerto’, it’s easy to forget that the composer actually wrote three (excluding the concerto-esque Scottish Fantasy). The other two, though, have never equalled the No. 1 in the popularity stakes; Bruch clearly set the bar a little too high for himself with this stunning debut. Indeed, he remained frustrated about this for most of his life, feeling pigeon-holed as something of a one-hit wonder when he had, in fact, composed much more than this one piece alone