Masterclass: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto 2nd movement

Tessa Lark 2 (Credit Lauren Desberg)

Violinist Tessa Lark delves beneath the surface to discover why the concerto’s second movement is such a pleasure to perform

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After the virtuosity of the first movement, the second is all about letting the violin sing. Everything is written into the score, from the exquisite balance between orchestra and soloist to the famous held note in the bassoon that prepares the mood at the very beginning. 

The composer’s practical knowledge of the instrument is invaluable, and the balance he attains with the orchestra works in such a way that you never have to force the sound. When the orchestration does thicken and you have to make more of an effort to project, it actually serves a beautiful emotional purpose. One example is bars 23–24 and bars 37–38 where clarinets and bassoon colour the top of the phrase, and it is for the violinist to ride the swell.

Freedom to respond in the moment

When it comes to fingerings and bowings I like to have options, especially for a movement like this that isn’t particularly demanding technically. Having a different solution at hand means I can respond if the conductor has a moment of inspiration, or the orchestra hands me something different in the performance. I love improvising in that way. As much as it sounds free, though, it is a good idea to practise the different choices you might make…

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