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Beethoven and Clement Violin Concertos
Franz CLEMENT (1780-1842)
Violin Concerto in D major (1805) [40:49]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (1806) [44:21]
Rachel Barton Pine (violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Josť Serebrier
rec. Lyndhurst Hall, AIR Studios, London, November 2007
CEDILLE CDR 90000106
[40:49 + 44:21]


Experience Classicsonline

The adventurous Rachel Barton Pine seldom ploughs solely familiar furrows in the recording studio and has a fine knack of pairing the established with the complementary but barely known. In the case of her recording of the Brahms and Joachim D minor [No.2] concertos on Cedille she paired works by two whose relationship was close and important [Cedille CDR90000068]. Now she goes if anything one better in juxtaposing Beethoven with the violinist-composer who gave the premiere of that concerto and whose own had been premiered the previous year; Franz Clement.

As Joachim and Brahms were friends and fellow composers so were Clement and Beethoven. Though he didn’t receive the dedication of the work he premiered – Beethoven dedicated it to Stephan von Breuning – Beethoven did add his inscription ‘par Clemenza pour Clement’ on the autograph score. The two were close, with Beethoven adding in a letter; ‘Nature and art vie with each other in making you a great artist.’ Not lightly won praise.

Clement’s own concerto receives its first ever commercial recording. He was assuredly immersed in Beethoven’s concerto writing – but in terms of the first three Piano Concertos of course. And yet despite this and the proximity of Beethoven’s own Violin Concerto a year later Clement’s has features more in common with earlier stylistic imperatives. That said there are especially deft features throughout; the way the solo violin’s first entry gently slides in for example rather then Beethoven’s perilous broken octaves. There’s plenty of demanding passagework for the soloist and strong solid themes. The orchestration is lucid and imaginative though light. No cadenzas survive so Barton Pine has provided her own. The limpid wind writing of the central movement ushers in a rather bel canto feel for the soloist – plenty of lyricism with a contrasting B section with plentiful arabesques showing the athletic virtuosity of the soloist. This moves seamlessly back to the initial lyrical unfolding with no bumps at all. The finale is light hearted and dashingly aerial – tuneful, enjoyable, not on the same level perhaps as the preceding movements but enjoyable nonetheless.

There are certainly some slight resemblances to the Clement in Beethoven’s own Concerto. Not only is this revealing and fascinating in itself but the fact that the Clement emerges in so good a light is a testament to its validity as a work. That we should have waited two centuries for its first recording is a matter of amazement; all credit then to these forces for doing the honours so well.

The Beethoven is rather deliberately moulded and gets off to a slow start. Barton Pine has a small, sweet tone, well focused and Serebrier gets from the RPO tuttis, for instance, that are malleable but not forceful. It’s a keynote of the performance which is rather reigned in if not restrained. The second subject is quite slow and veiled. The slow movement is delicate and refined, the finale pleasurable but not really ebullient or sharply etched. It’s been my experience that Barton Pine tends to take her time in canonic nineteenth century concertos. As with the Clement she plays her own cadenzas.

The Clement is a very fine archaeological reclamation from these forces and well worth your time; the recorded sound for the Clement is slightly more forward than in the slightly mushier Beethoven.

Jonathan Woolf



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