In the first of two articles, Augustin Hadelich looks at direction and flow in the first movement of this notoriously simple and yet deceptively difficult work
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This is one of the greatest pieces ever written for the violin. Beethoven composed much of it in a high register that makes the sound shine with an incredible purity and transparency, in the traditional concerto form but greatly expanded. That length creates one of its greatest challenges: to sustain the long arc of the musical story, so it does not sound like an endless collection of ‘nice moments’. Through every long line, always have a goal in mind as to where the phrase is going, and always know where you are in the piece. You need to know when to move it along, and when to have moments of rest, so that you can take your listeners with you on this journey.
The work starts with a long orchestral introduction, so the soloist has to stand on stage for several minutes, just listening. I find it helpful to participate mentally during that time; I ‘sing’ silently with the joyous, lyrical theme before the solo entrance, to help me connect. Another way is to play some of the tutti with the orchestra, which is stylistically appropriate and always worth considering in a piece from this period. Either way, engage with what the orchestra is doing, so that you can feel how to shape your entrance naturally.
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