In the first of a two-part article, Antje Weithaas discusses mystery and contrast in the first movement of this great work
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This piece presents one of the biggest challenges in the whole violin repertoire. I have had a long journey with this work: I first learnt it around 30 years ago, and I had a completely different approach then. I grew up in East Germany, so my interpretation was far more Russian – heavier and slower – than it is today. Now I have realised that, although the violin part is very important to the music, it should always be treated as a part of the overall score. It is similar to the Beethoven Violin Concerto in that respect: it is like a symphony with a solo violin part. The challenge is to bring out every note that Brahms wrote, but to treat the solo violin as a second voice that supports the orchestra to make it more lively, emotional or beautiful – from bar 152, for example, and again from bar 179. As with most of Brahms’s 3/4-time allegro movements, I like to count the tempo in one, to enhance the resistant feeling of his hemiola rhythms.
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