Scion of the French violin school, pupil of Viotti, and one of
the great violinistic figures of the first quarter of the nineteenth
century Pierre Rode is best known for his 24 Caprices for solo
violin. His thirteen extant violin concertos have apparently never
been recorded, according to Naxos, and I canít
find any evidence of it either, though I do know that Isako Shinozaki
and her piano accompanist S. Nagayo recorded a piano reduction
of No.7 on Fontec EFO2025. Itís the kind of thing likely to have
happened, given that these are works more performed in the practice
room than on the concert stage or recording studio.
we have three of them, including the most popular, No.7, in
modern instrument performances. The Seventh Concerto opens with
requisite Sturm und Drang, powerful and terse, before
ushering in the soloist for copious amounts of dashing passagework
and subsequent dolce legato phrasing. Rode ensures deft
variation of material and if he doesnít quite banish feelings
of repetition he knows when to unleash arresting orchestral
fusillades. Those stirring orchestral chords that open the Adagio
are certainly granitic but itís plain that the composerís heart
is not in it and a song without words unfolds untroubled, refined.
The finale is a frolicsome finger-twister, saucily spun, to
which Eichhorn responds with aplomb.
Tenth Concerto dates from c.1804-08. Again this has a tense,
rather troubled orchestral introduction Ė a Rode speciality
that ultimately hints at depths the works canít quite sustain
Ė with trumpets strikingly to the fore. The violinís opening
panache-driven statements soon give way to the similar kind
of dolce lines that animate so much of Rodeís virtuoso
writing. Warmth and elegant charm predominate before the portentous
start of the slow movement appears and itself gives way quickly
to a wandering lyric line. Rode was fond of giving the soloist
a cadential passage at the end of the slow movement and leading
straight into the finale as he does here to good effect. The
Polacca is playful, virtuosic, with the orchestra offering plausible
the time of the final concerto we find some more classical drama
in the orchestral introduction. Itís more of the same really
for the soloist along with strong sinewy orchestral responses
in the tuttis. As ever Rode manages seemingly effortless lyric
lines for the soloist in the slow movement and he serves up
a vibrant finale complete with hunting horn motifs.
performances are deftly accomplished; no period style bow grip
or set up here but no obviously distracting gestures either.
The trouble with Rodeís concertos in the end is the persistence
with which he infuses ornaments into the lyric writing, which
emerges sounding more decorative than it might Ė or, arguably,
should. Still, thatís no excuse for ignoring for so long these
exemplary examples of the French Classical School; a fine case is made for them in these performances.
see also Review
by Kevin Sutton