Twisted History: Female violinists and the Brahms concerto

Brahms, Soldat, two string players

Tatjana Goldberg takes a closer look at the group of female violinists spreading Brahms’s violin concerto worldwide

Violin concertos of the 19th century can broadly be put into one of two categories: first, the so-called virtuoso concertos, written primarily by violinist–composers for their own use (the best among them by Paganini, Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps and Ernst) and which contributed significantly to the idiomatic development of the violin; secondly, those works born out of a performer– composer relationship, such as the Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák and Elgar violin concertos. In the case of the Brahms Violin Concerto, the inspiration and guide was the leading violinist of the day, and the composer’s lifelong friend and confidant, the violinist Joseph Joachim. The Concerto in D major op.77 is Brahms’s only violin concerto, and Joachim thought it one of the four great German violin concertos next to the Beethoven, Mendelssohn’s op.64 and Bruch’s Concerto no.1…

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